Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Vehicles, Psychology, Machine, Functionalism, Theory, Human, Mind, Technology

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/17

According to Terence Horgan, Functionalism is the principle stating that any mental state are not dependent on the internal processes of the mind, but to that of the role or “function” it plays in the mental system. The functionalism theory passes that the state of the mind is more of a work of function rather than work of the elements. This theory asserts that mental state is determined by the effect of other sensual stimulations, behavior and similarly defined mental states (Horgan, 1984). The functionalist theory supports the idea that there is a rational link between mental state and factors such as other stimuli, behavior and other mental states. Mental states are best described as inputs and outputs, such that the inputs are the stimulus and the output is the resulting behavior. However, the stimulus and behavior does not encompass all that is needed for the mental states to be formed because a certain mental state has an underlying interdependency to other mental processes as well.
Functionalism is one of the most significant theories proposed in the 20th century as it offered conceptual explanations on the science of cognition. This theory was first promoted by Putnam and Fodor who upheld that “mental states in terms of an empirical computational theory of the mind” (Polger). It is one of the most superior theories of the mind compared to other theories because of the focus on the function of cognition. For example, behaviorism emphasized the study of behavior to gather data that will be used to study the human mind and from which to base other theories. Functionalism, on the other hand, is concerned with the observation of mental phenomena and other rational processes citing the concept that mental occurrences are the function of other mental functions. The advocates of functionalism make this theory clear by saying that an individual’s behavior is a product of interrelated mental states, in short, the mental state undergoes processes that affects how one behaves in specific circumstances.

The Concept of Turing Machine

As defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Turing machines are simple abstract computational devices that are made with the purpose of helping to investigate the extent and limitations of what can be computed (Turing, 2012). It was named after Alan Turing who was then interested to find out what it means for a task to be computable, hence his proposal of the Turing Machine. It is to be noted that a Turing machine is not a physical object rather it is a mathematical computation. The Turing machine has unique properties that have made scholars relate it to human account of the mind.
The importance of the Turing machine in the theories of computation and algorithm has enticed scholars to compare it to the processes of the human mind. This mathematical computation demonstrates that it can execute mechanical methods that can be compared to that of the performance of the human intellect. In short, Alan Turing claimed that the machine can work as efficiently as the human brain, further strengthening his assertion by stating that the human perception is a result of biological computation. The apparent usefulness of the machine to scholars has made it popular since its invention and was then promoted as a universal computer. Alan Turing and other advocates of the relationship of Turing machine and functionalism refer to the fact that the machine does not rely on the physical presence of the machine in order to process the mechanical computation. It was decided that every cognitive behavior can be replicated by the language of the machine. Note that the only needed aspect in order to make use of the machine is a) the input b) the state of the machine during the specified time c) the state table. It is to be observed that the state of the machine is a result of the relational function of the inputs, outputs and other machines states (Eliasmith, 2002).

Turing Machine and Functionalism

The lead of several scholars on the analysis of the relationship of the Turing machine and functionalism basically lay on the similarity of the need for input, output, and other mental states as mentioned. In comparison to the machine, functionalism maintains that the mental cognition functions as a result of functional relationships among several factors (Eliasmith, 2002). The importance of Turing machine as models of the mind cannot be underemphasized by scholars. This is because the machines were able to illustrate how to simultaneously define a system of inner states. This is the characteristic of the functional theory that elevates it above the behaviorist theory: functionalism considers the internal relations of inputs and outputs. In addition to that, functionalism presents how to comprehend the internal processes and define them in order that they can be realized through physical attributes.
Despite its popularity and seeming validity, there are many scholars who have shunned away from comparing the Turing machines with the workings of the human mind. This is because the Turing machines remain to have different features from that of the human brain. There is a correct analogy of the between the similarity of the brain and that of the machine, but scholars found out that difficulties may arise at such association. This is because while machines tables can only be defined one state at a time, the human brain can think and be in several states at the same time. For this reason, the analysis between the human mind and that of the Turing machine and other software for that matter are now viewed by scholars differently (Philosophy).


Eliasmith, C., (2002). The Myth of the Turing Machine. retrieved from http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca
Horgan, T., (1984) Functionalism, Qualia, and the Inverted Spectrum. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2107613
Philosophy 156: Turing Machines and Machine Tables, Retrieved from http://www.jimpryor.net/teacjing/courses
Polger, T., Functionalism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu
Turing Machines. 2012. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.plato.stanford.edu

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Free Essay About Functionalism. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/free-essay-about-functionalism/. Published Nov 17, 2020. Accessed October 04, 2022.

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