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Philosophical Topics

Volume 40, Issue 2, Fall 2012


Mark Phelan, Wesley Buckwalter
Pages 129-154
DOI: 10.5840/philtopics201240217

Analytic Functionalism and Mental State Attribution

We argue that analytic functionalism provides the best account of the folk psychological theory of mind, and that people ordinarily define mental states relative to the causal roles these states occupy in relation to environmental impingements, external behaviors, and other mental states. We review several key studies on mental state ascription to diverse types of entities such as robots, cyborgs, corporations, and God, and explain how this evidence supports a functional account. We also respond to two challenges to this view based on the embodiment hypothesis, or the claim that physical realizers matter over and above functional role, and qualia. In both cases we conclude that research to date best supports a functional account of ordinary mental state concepts.