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The Waning of Materialism$
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Robert C. Koons and George Bealer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556182

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556182.001.0001

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The Self‐Consciousness Argument: Functionalism and the Corruption of Content

The Self‐Consciousness Argument: Functionalism and the Corruption of Content

Chapter:
(p.137) 6 The Self‐Consciousness Argument: Functionalism and the Corruption of Content
Source:
The Waning of Materialism
Author(s):

George Bealer (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556182.003.0006

This chapter targets functionalism as the most cogent form of contemporary materialism. In particular, it takes aim at ‘ontic’ or reductive functionalism: a theory that attempts to specify the essences of mental states, in a non-circular fashion, by means of physicalistic functional definitions (i.e., by means of the Ramsification of causal theories of the mind). The chapter points out that functionalism must account for thoughts that have psychological attitudes embedded within them. It effectively sets asides worries that the intensionality of the context of thought renders the argument invalid. It also draws attention to the devastating consequences of the other strategies for avoiding the dilemma. including language-of-thought functionalism. When the language-of-thought theorists attempt to define the content-of relation, they face a dilemma concerning the content of psychological predicates in the language. The language-of-thought theorist must either accept a definitional circularity incompatible with materialism, or resort again to Ramsified definitions that misdescribe the contents of self-conscious thoughts. In addition, such language-of-thought functionalism readily leads to epiphenomenalism. Finally, attempts to avoid the definitional circularity by means of something like a Tarskian hierarchy of distinct psychological attitudes founder on the type-free nature of introspection. The chapter concludes that the only viable functionalism is a non-reductive one that accepts mental properties as ontologically primary, on a par with physical properties.

Keywords:   functionalism, language-of-thought, epiphenomenalism, definitional circularity, Tarskian hierarchy, psychological attitudes, type-free nature, functional definitions, mental properties

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