Functionalism and Multirealizability on Interaction Between Structure and Function

  • Joëlle Proust
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 165)


Functionalism plays a crucial role in psychology by allowing a precise and hopefully operational definition of a mental state. The main idea of functionalism as the term is employed in psychology is derived from a causal analysis of mental states: the concept of a mental state “involves essentially the idea of a state being able to cause certain effects or to be the effect of certain causes and reduces to it” (Armstrong 1981). What mental states causally determine are behaviors. For example, the desire to read leads one to buy a book, or to go to the library, or more plainly to take a book from the shelf at home and open it. There are two species of causes contributing to determining a mental state; one is the objects and events present in the environment, perceived consciously or not and shaping the behavior of the subject. The second is the other mental states which in interaction with each other induce the mental state considered. For example, the desire to read may be in part due to the sight of a book, the memory of particular work to do, by the belief in the relevance of that book for that work, and so on.


Mental State Causal Role Mental Property Propositional Attitude Theoretical Term 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joëlle Proust
    • 1
  1. 1.CREAParisFrance

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