Understanding the Sciences Through the Fog of “Functionalism(s)”

  • Carl Gillett
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 363)


Versions of “functionalism,” and their frameworks, have come to dominate many philosophical debates. Unfortunately, there is now a damaging interpretive “fog” where “functionalism(s)” is applied because it widely assumed that what I term the Standard Picture is true of the metaphysics of “functionalism” and hence that there are unitary notions of “functional property,” “causal role,” and “realization” based around the machinery of topic-neutral Ramseyfication and second-order properties. In this chapter, I use the case of the special sciences, and a version of “functionalism” based upon them, to show that the Standard Picture is deeply flawed. I show that the functional properties found in mechanistic explanations in the special sciences, as well as the versions of “functionalism” built upon them, fail to fit under the Standard Picture. I also highlight the flawed arguments about special sciences that have recently been driven by using the Standard Picture. In concluding, however, I outline some general meta-methodological lessons that can finally help to lift the “fog” enveloping “functionalism(s)” to ground more productive approaches in future work.


Functional Property Causal Role Mechanistic Explanation Mental Property Special Science 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

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