Minds and Machines

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 255–271 | Cite as

Mechanisms and Functional Brain Areas

  • Gregory Johnson


Explanations of how psychological capacities are carried out often invoke functional brain areas. I argue that such explanations cannot succeed. Psychological capacities are carried out by identifiable entities and their activities in the brain, but functional brain areas are not the relevant entities. I proceed by assuming that if functional brain areas did carry out psychological capacities, then these brain areas could be included in descriptions of mechanisms. And if functional brain areas participate in mechanisms, then they must engage in activities. A number of ways in which we might understand the claim that functional brain areas engage in activities are examined. None are successful, and so one conclusion is that functional brain areas do not participate in mechanisms. Consequently, they are not the entities that carry out psychological capacities.


Functional brain area Mechanism Psychological capacity Neurobiological explanation 



Thanks to Tom Polger, John Bickle, Bob Richardson, and Jenefer Robinson for comments on earlier versions of this material.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Drexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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