Functionalism and the Problem of Occurrent States
Department or Administrative Unit
Philosophy and Religious Studies
In 1956 U. T. Place proposed that consciousness is a brain process. More attention should be paid to his word ‘process’. There is near-universal agreement that experiences are processive—as witnessed in the platitude that experiences are occurrent states. The abandonment of talk of brain processes has benefited functionalism, because a functional state, as it is usually conceived, cannot be a process. This point is dimly recognized in a well-known but little-discussed argument that conscious experiences cannot be functional states because the former are occurrent, while the latter are dispositional. That argument fails, but it can be made sound if we reformulate it with the premise that occurrent states are processive. The only way for functionalists to meet the resulting challenge is to abandon the standard individuation of functional states in terms of purely abstract causal roles.
Bartlett, G. (2017). Functionalism and the Problem of Occurrent States. The Philosophical Quarterly, 68(270), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1093/pq/pqx043
The Philosophical Quarterly
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Scots Philosophical Association and the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved.