The Mind as Neural Software? Understanding Functionalism, Computationalism, and Computational Functionalism



    1. University of Missouri, St. Louis
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    •  Thanks to those who commented on this paper at its various and multiple stages, especially Ken Aizawa, David Chalmers, Robert Cummins, Carl Craver, Chris Eliasmith, John Heil, Bill Lycan, Peter Machamer, Diego Marconi, Tom Polger, Oron Shagrir, and Larry Shapiro. Ancestors of this paper were presented at the 2004 Pacific APA and the 2007 SSPP. I thank the audiences and commentators—Matthias Scheutz and Charles Wallis at the APA, Whit Schonbein at the SSPP—for their feedback. This work was supported in part by a 2006 NEH Summer Seminar at Washington University in St. Louis and a University of Missouri Research Grant. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of these institutions.


Defending or attacking either functionalism or computationalism requires clarity on what they amount to and what evidence counts for or against them. My goal here is not to evaluate their plausibility. My goal is to formulate them and their relationship clearly enough that we can determine which type of evidence is relevant to them. I aim to dispel some sources of confusion that surround functionalism and computationalism, recruit recent philosophical work on mechanisms and computation to shed light on them, and clarify how functionalism and computationalism may or may not legitimately come together.