7. Four Challenges to Functionalism
3 things that are functionallly like us but psychologically unlike us. As
such they constitute challenges to F-ism.
The Chinese Room
Is the thing really psychologically unlike us?
Does it contradict F-ism, or just some kinds of F-ism?
each Chinese person is given the running instructions for a neuron of your
brain. The population of
this China Brain (CB) be fed inputs from an exact android simulacrum of
yourself, and the outputs go to this androidís limbs, etc. The android
behaves just as you do, but all its brainwork is outsourced to
CB have M states like you?
Then F-ism must be false.
Denying the intuition
trust that intuition? It results from our being impressed by irrelevant
differences such as sheer size or speed.
that weíre not necessarily concerned with consciousness here. We may
only be talking about M states such as belief and desire. This seems
easier to attribute to CB, since its actions are thus explicable.
Connection to the environment
the android is omitted. Then the functions are not connected to the
environment and the functions are purely abstract. This is like the case
that we said was in danger of excessive liberalism Ė mere
number-crunching canít produce M states.
Suppose there was a room in which there was a
person who knows only English. The room has a slot in the door through
which from time to time there comes a piece of paper with strange
squiggles drawn upon it. In the room there is also a large book that has a
set of instructions in English about what to do if someone sends you a
scrap of paper with squiggles on it. The person follows those
instructions. It turns out that what is happening when the person is doing
this is that heís participating in a conversation conducted in Chinese.
Does the system of the person
plus all the other paraphernalia understand Chinese?
Searle says NO, the person in the room is simply
manipulating symbols; and yet the CR is passing the Turing Test for
thinking. (Note that we can elaborate the instruction book as required to
produce memory, flexibility, etc)
For understanding we need semantic capabilities that the CR doesnít have. It is a syntactic
A further embellishment
Give the room causal connections to the world.
Connect the room to an android as we did for the CB, and let the inputs be
environmental data and the outputs be actions.
A system that does not understand Chinese
Now the intuition is that the CR plus
the android body understands Chinese.
Searle would say: let the man memorise the
instructions. He now is the
CR+body. Does he understand? Searle says No, but isnít this pretty
similar to multiple personalities? We should say Yes.
A computer analogy
We should think of this as being like a Mac
emulating an MS Windows PC. The Mac doesnít really know what itís
producing in the way that the PC would, but it does the same thing
What we have now is a system that our intuitions
tell us might understand Chinese (even if the person in the CR never
earlier saw that EF-ism that is too restrictive of internal organization
is possibly chauvinistic. Can we make it so that the only constraint on
internals is that they are responsible for there being the right
relationship between inputs and outputs? This we might call input-output
or stimulus-response functionalism.
It is like Behaviourism, but makes M states internal causal states.
fact Ned Blockís Blockhead example shows this is not a possibility.
Good chess versus being good at chess
that chess grandmasters create a look-up tree that gives the best moves in
response to all possible moves by a chess opponent. Anyone with such a
tree could play chess at grandmaster level without knowing anything about
The game of life
Look-up trees for life
life as a game. For every person, at any time there are finitely many
(effectively distinguishable) inputs and finitely many (effectively
distinguishable) responses. Therefore, in principle for any person one can
make a look-up tree for all occasions that will perfectly describe their
behaviour. Do it for Jones, say.
create Jonesís blockhead twin as a Jones-bot whose actions are
determined by the Jones look-up tree written to a chip in its head. The
input-output relations for Jones and the blockhead-Jones are identical,
and the relations are the result of the internal states of the
blockhead-Jones. However, weíre sure that BJ doesnít think or have
real M states. So I-O F-ism canít be true.
Blockheadís challenge to us all
that the example demonstrates that I-O F-ism is wrong even about
intelligence. We are sure a blockhead isnít intelligent.
intelligence is, we often think, all about getting right answers to
problems, why do we think blockhead isnít intelligent?
Some wrong turns
not because everything is written in advance.
The same might be true of us if determinism is true.
not because of the practical/nomological/epistemological/Ö impossibility
of the look-up tree.
possibility of the tree is all that is required.
intuitions donít count in such impossible cases.
But is is so like similar more possible cases Ė like someone who uses a
chess book to play.
Blockhead is not a thinker
connections are important in many things. We see X because our perceptual
states of X are properly causally connected to X; a person at t1
is the same person at t2 if there are the right causal
connections between the two; etc.
Rationality and causal history
depends upon beliefs developing in the right way from previous beliefs and
perceptions. Ditto intelligence.
of being a belief is that it tends to develop in certain ways. X can only
be a belief that Ďif A then Bí if when one has beliefs X and A that
will tend to cause the belief B.
Blockheadís causal peculiarity
tree devices donít have the right causal relations. They use static
trees in which at any one time there is just one active node. But note
that the set of nodes at depth d1 does not generate the
Ďlaterí nodes at d2. This is not how we think of thinking.
For us to be thinking, our M states at t1 must
generate the M states at t2.
functionalism and Blockhead
that Blockhead doesnít affect C-S F-ism since it already held that the
right causal relations between M states were required. However, Blockhead is
an objection to I-O F-ism.
itís hard to see any intuitions blocking C-S F-ism, since that is
supposed to be the sum of all our intuitions.]
The Zombie Objection
Zombies invade the physicalist paradise
Zombie Objection is made against any form of physicalism. A zombie
is a creature physically just like us, and identical in its behaviours,
but which has no inner Ďfeels.í It isnít like anything to be a
zombie. So thereís something non-physical that a zombie lacks that is
necessary for our feels. So physicalism is false.
We can conceive of a minimal physical duplicate of this world where
people are zombies.
Conceivability suggests possibility
We arenít zombies
Zombies are possible (1+2)
There is a minimum physical duplicate of this world mentally
different from it. (3+4)
Physicalism is false (5+definition of Ph.)
is a valid argument, so a physicalist must deny a premise.
F-ism denies P1. Itís a matter of the meaning of the words that you have
M states when the right functions are instantiated; and here they are
instantiated physically. There is no conceiving of the comceptally (a
Analytic functionalism and ideal conceivability
we think we can conceive of
zombies Ė so is A F-ism false?
think that if zombies are impossible this is a metaphysical fact not a
our intuition of conceivability is incorrect. Compare getting a math
But what about the case of ideal conceivability, when all the facts are presented to a rational
mind? Then we canít get the math problem wrong.
maybe we are only concerned with unideal
conceptions in the zombie case.
What work does the additional clarity and rationality actually do
for our intuitions?
Perhaps we should take strong intuitions of
possibility as indicating that the A F-ist theory of M state terms is
Empirical functionalism and zombies
E F-ists it seems to be possible to deny P2. It may be claimed that
zombies are conceivable, but impossible, because we can discover a posteriori that qualia really are physical.
argument doesnít work for one kind of E-Fism which is coherent, and
those E-Fisms for which it does work donít appear to be coherent.
some forms of E F-ism in which folk-roles, say, pick out M states, and we
then rigidify on the internal features of those M states. If we reference
fix on brains and find neural feature X playing the qualia role, then if
we rigidify we find that qualia are necessarily
neural feature X.
zombies, though conceivable, are a
posteriori impossible: anything with NF X has qualia, and zombies have
NF X, so zombies have qualia, so zombies arenít zombies.
OTOH. Suppose we allow that Ďqualiaí refers to
what plays the folk roles that we used to reference-fix Ė i.e. NF X.
Still, we knew enough to reference-fix before we knew any neuroscience.
Let Ďqualicí mean having the roles played. We knew we were qualic and
that qualia were the role players (but we didnít know what qualia were.)
is conceivable that there are possible physical duplicates that are not
qualic. These are R-zombies.
if being qualic is just having roles played, then nothing can be like us
and fail to be qualic.
there canít be R-zombies.
Finally, There are E F-isms that deny that we should
use folk roles. However; whatever they think indicates a qualitative
nature will also be vulnerable to the zombie.
A modification of analytic functionalism
A F-istís position should be that if
Dualism is false then A F-ism is
the conceivability of zombies is partly the conceivability of Dualism.
But if A F-ism is a priori
true, then zombies should still be ideally inconceivable.
let the a priori truth be that: if
Dualism is false then A F-ism is true.
the analytic truth we grasp is this:
If there are dualistic states then
In @ qualia are D states, and in all PW all and only qualia are D
In @ qualia are the states that play the roles here,
and in other PW they are the states that play the roles there
so then if D is false then zombies are impossible, but we canít know
that a priori.
So the zombie intuition conflates two things; the possibility of dualism and the possibility of zombies.