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Putnam’s Functionalism

Putnam: “Brains and Behaviour”

Putnam sets out his functionalist manifesto by attacking the three prior alternatives: dualism, materialism and (logical) behaviourism. Functionalism is the doctrine that mental states are differentiated by what they do and not by what they are made of. Putnam takes it as read that behaviourism, and its motivations, have done enough to show that the first two options are unsatisfactory. This leads him to focus on challenging behaviourism in order to clear the way for his functionalist alternative.

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The challenge to logical behaviourism starts from Wittgenstein-type points around the impossibility of private languages in the ‘beetle in the box’ variant. There can be no security, on this line, that my pain and Jones’s pain or my pain at different times, are type-identical or even similar. So I cannot learn `pain’ or other mental words by ostension. How then do I know the intension of `pain’, and what is it?

Correlations between pain and `pain-behaviour’ are unreliable and in any case, a correlation is not a definition. Similarly, even if some brain events cause pain behaviour, the brain events are not identical with pain behaviour or pain. There is an analogy between mind words and disease names, in that while diseases normally but not invariably produce a characteristic set of symptoms, the existence of pain may normally but not invariably produce a characteristic set of behaviours.

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What if super-Spartans were possible who could suppress all external expression of pain-behaviour?

We cannot do that, but this shows nothing about other possible worlds. Do these super-Spartans still feel pain? If so, then behaviourism is false, since there is pain which does not ever, let alone normally, issue in behaviour. Therefore pain is not translatable into pain behaviour.

See Also:

What Ontological Conclusions Does Sartre Present In His ‘Pursuit Of Being’ And With What Justification?

Biased Non-Arguments: Nagel Equality And Partiality Chs. 1, 2

Anscombe on Intentionality of Sensation: Summary

Zahavi: Shame And The Exposed Self

By Tim Short

I am a former investment banking and securitisation specialist, having spent nearly a decade on the trading floor of several international investment banks. Throughout my career, I worked closely with syndicate/traders in order to establish the types of paper which would trade well and gained significant and broad experience in financial markets.
Many people have trading experience similar to the above. What marks me out is what I did next. I decided to pursue my interest in philosophy at Doctoral level, specialising in the psychology of how we predict and explain the behaviour of others, and in particular, the errors or biases we are prone to in that process. I have used my experience to write The Psychology of Successful Trading. In this book, I combine the above experience and knowledge to show how biases can lead to inaccurate predictions of the behaviour of other market participants, and how remedying those biases can lead to better predictions and major profits. Learn more on the About Me page.

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