Functionalism falls short

In Mind: A Brief Introduction, Searle describes functionalism as an attempt to capture definitions of beliefs, desires, and perceptions by their causal relations. For example, we have a sentence: Jones’s belief that it is raining was caused by the perception that it is raining. Jones’s belief that it is raining together with his desire to stay dry causes him to carry an umbrella. With that sentence “we knock out the expression ‘belief that it is raining’ and put in ‘x’. ” (Here Searle says we should preface the sentence with an existential quantifier, but I think a universal quantifier works better.) So now we have the following: For any x, If x was caused by the perception that it is raining and x together with the desire to stay wet causes Jones to carry an umbrella, then x is Jones’s belief that it is raining.

Searle then says we can use this method to describe the desire and the perception as well. For any x, any y, and any z, If x causes y, and y together with z causes Jones to carry an umbrella, then x is the perception that it is raining, y is the belief that it is raining, and z is the desire to stay dry. This sentence is so vague nearly anything could fit into x, y, and z. The sentence should be true with anything plugged in, so let’s choose some. How about a magazine that says carrying an umbrella makes you look dapper for x, the desire to carry an umbrella for y, and the desire to look dapper for z? If a magazine that says carrying an umbrella makes you look dapper causes Jones to desire to carry an umbrella, and Jones’s desire to carry an umbrella together with Jones’s desire to look dapper causes Jones to carry an umbrella, (the antecedent of this conditional is intuitively true) then a magazine that says carrying an umbrella makes you look dapper is the perception that it is raining, the desire to carry an umbrella is the belief that it is raining, and the desire to look dapper is the desire to stay dry. The consequent is false while the antecedent it true, thus the sentence is false.

Here it also seems that ’cause’ really needs to be defined. It is intuitively true to say that a magazine that says carrying an umbrella makes you look dapper causes Jones to desire to carry an umbrella, but it would seem that the functionalists would expect a more specific description. Something like the following: The perception that, according to a magazine you trust, carrying an umbrella makes you look dapper causes the belief that carrying an umbrella makes you look dapper, and that belief together with the desire to look dapper causes the desire to carry an umbrella. And so on. It seems functionalist would need to engage in a metaphysical into causation to make this approach work.

Well, it seems we went wrong above because the x, y, and z have to have something to do with it raining or staying dry. Well what definition of ‘having do to with’ could possibly help this explanation? It seems that the functionalists believe that only brain states will really fit the causal relations they describe if they could get a Ramsey sentence specific enough to capture what they mean. But, to really capture what they mean it seems we would have already know that x, y, and z are brain states, which would not really be defining beliefs by causal relations.

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