The Failure of Functionalism
By Josh Peete

Primary Source: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind

From birth, Mary was locked in a white room where her contact with the outside world was through a black & white television. For the sake of argument, Mary was unable to look at the color of her own body even though implausible. On the television, Mary hears references to colors, something that Mary has never experienced. Then one day Mary is able to leave the room and see the world. She then sees the colors that are talked about on the television and only then understands what it is like to see them. Mary had the physical knowledge that colors existed, yet when she experienced colors something was still learned. (Jackson)

Physicalists believe that “once we know all the physical facts and all the explanations, models and theories employing just those facts, then our knowledge would be complete.” (Maslin 150) By this principle, the physicalists are able to understand the entire physical world but the Mary story shows that there is a mental aspect that is being left out.

Argument Against Physicalism

  1. In practice all functionalist are materialists or physicalists.”(Maslin 134)
  2. Before Mary left the room, she physically knew that there were colors in the world (from watching black and white television.)
  3. After Mary left the room, she saw colors. It was then when she learned to recognize colors and refer to them in objects. (Something that she could not do before she left the room.)
  4. Therefore, the physicalist account does not encompass all knowledge because even though Mary knew what colors were, she still had to see them to understand.
  5. Therefore, the physicalist account is flawed because it fails to account for nonphysical properties like understanding how to recognize colors.
  6. Therefore, the functionalist account is flawed because it is based on a flawed theory of physicalism.
Jackson Assumes The Truth of Property Dualism
  1. Physicalism and functionalism are flawed because they do not account for nonphysical properties that exist.
  2. The ‘right’ theory of the mind must account for nonphysical properties like understanding how to recognize colors.
  3. Property dualism is not a physicalist/materialist theory. Rather, this theory accepts that nonphysical properties do exist in the brain.
  4. Property dualism accepts that the brain has two properties, one property that is physical in nature, and the second property which is not (consciousness).
  5. According to Jackson, the Mary story shows that there is a nonphysical mental side to the brain.
  6. Therefore, Jackson must accept a philosophy of mind that allows for the nonphysical to exist.
  7. Therefore, Jackson would claim that property dualism is a better account of the mind than functionalism/materialism because it accepts both physical and nonphysical properties. © 2002. All Rights Reserved.