Terminology Tuesday: Functionalism

The view that mental states are not defined by their intrinsic qualities but by their relations to other states, particularly causal relations. A functionalist would not thereby define a mental state dualistically as a spiritual event nor materialistically as a brain process but would rather say that a mental state is simply a state that plays a certain functional role in an organism’s life. Mental states are those that are caused by certain inputs from the environment, which in turn cause certain behaviors, and that also enjoy certain relations with other inner states. (The latter type of relation is one factor that distinguishes functionalism from behaviorism.) In theory a functionalist could be a dualist, but in reality most functionalists about the human mind are physicalists who believe that material states satisfy the functional roles. See also dualism.

Evans, C. S. (2002). Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (pp. 47–48). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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Richard Porter is apologetics ministry leader at Calvary Church of West Hartford in Connecticut and a Chapter Director with Ratio Christi. Richard has studied apologetics for over a decade. Prior to his conversion, apologetics was a huge part of what God used to reel him in to the faith. From the popular works of Lee Strobel to the more academic defenses of Christianity by William Lane Craig, apologetics has always caught his eye. He has a passion for equipping Christians to defend the faith and hopes to one day be in full-time ministry. He also has aspirations to pursue an academic career of his own if the Lord permits. In his spare time Richard enjoys exploring New Testament studies and analytic philosophy. In addition to his intellectual pursuits, Richard also enjoys kettlebell and martial arts training – particularly Brazilian and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. He also has two sons that are being trained as young apologists and martial artists.

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