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Functionalism in philosophy of mind: history and philosophical analysis

Grant number: 23/03526-5
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2023
Effective date (End): April 30, 2025
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - Metaphysics
Principal Investigator:Osvaldo Frota Pessoa Junior
Grantee:João Felipe Santana Rasi
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


This project aims to study in depth an important philosophy of mind theory: functionalism. Such a position argues that all mental states can be defined from the causal relationships between mental states, inputs, and outputs. In other words, the mind would only be the result of the organization of the brain, and not of its materiality, so that the human mind could exist in a machine or even in a computational virtual world. We will begin by rescuing this philosophical position at the beginning of the 20th century, with Wilhelm Wundt, discussing the difference between the so-called psychological functionalism of the time. We will also study the defense of the "homogeneity thesis" among mid-century neurophysiologists XX. We will finally analyze the rise of functionalism in the 1960s, which became one of the strongest positions in the Philosophy of Mind. We will study some of the most recurrent functionalist conceptions in the literature, such as Hilary Putnam, David Lewis, and David Armstrong. We will pay special attention to some more recent objections that the functionalist theory of mind suffers, referring to subjective qualities or qualia, specifically those made by Ned Block and Jerry Fodor, known in the literature as absent qualia and inverted qualia. Analyzing some responses given to these objections are intended to form a diagnosis, positive or negative, about functionalism in the face of qualia criticism. Finally, looking at the discussion in the area of scientific studies of consciousness, we argue that most theories of consciousness are functionalist, such as the global workspace theory (Baars's global workspace) and the integrated information theory (Tononi ).

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