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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 42, Issue 2, June 2002

Eric F. LaRock
Pages 231-258
DOI: 10.5840/ipq20024225

Against the Functionalist Reading of Aristotle’s Philosophy of Perception and Emotion

Examining the literature on Aristotelian psychology can leave one with the impression that his theory of perception and emotion is credible primarily because it accords with contemporary functionalism, a physicalist theory that has achieved orthodoxy in contemporary philosophy of mind. In my view, squeezing Aristotle into a functionalist mold is a mistake, for functionalism entaiIs at least two theses that Aristotle would reject: (1) that material types make no essential difference to perception and emotion (and to mental states in general), and (2) that mental states are reducible to functional states of matter (a reductionism of the token-specific sort). Against these functionalist theses, Aristotle would include within his analysis of human perception and emotion (and other psychological activities) the biological material and the characteristic operations associated with it. Although Aristotle would insist that this biological material makes an essential difference to conscious experience, conscious experience is not reducible to its biological basis. I defend the positions that Aristotle’s philosophy of perception and emotion is not compatible with contemporary functionalism and that conscious experience of perception and emotion is irreducible to its essential biological basis.

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