Explain Putnam's Objection To The Identity Theory. Why Does He Think That Functionalism Improves On The Identity Theory? Is He Right About This?

1116 words - 5 pages

In Hilary Putnam's, "The Nature of Mental States", he deals with the question of whether or not pain is a brain state or "Is the property of having a pain at time t a brain state?" (Putnam). Throughout the article, Putnam goes on to argue that to claim pain as a brain state is not an identity claim. This can only be accurate if the specific pain is a specific brain state, or "being A is being B" (Putnam). He suggests that this is not an empirical reduction, or based on sensory experience, but rather the question can only be answered through knowledge that has been independently justified independently of experience. Putnam comes to conclude that functionalism, any view which analy ...view middle of the document...

Property and concept cannot be combined into one idea. Putnam rejects both concept and property as declaring pain X as being identical to brain state Y, and therefore, rejects the identity theory.Furthermore, Putnam argues that pain states are brain states, not by the identity relation, but through functionalism. Functionalism is any analysis which examines something in terms of its causes and effects. In particular, Putnam describes functionalism as a way of understanding the fact that a pain state is a brain state. He continues:. . . any organism (not just a mammal) is in pain if and only if (a) it possessesa brain suitable physical-chemical structure; and (b) its brain is in that physical chemical state. This means that the physical-chemical state in question mustbe a possible state of a mammalian brain, a reptile's brain, and/or a mollusc'sbrain. . . At the same time, it must not be a possible state of the brain of anyphysically possible creature that cannot feel pain. It must be nomologicallycertain that it will also be a state of the brain of any extra-terrestrial life thatmay be found that will be capable of feeling pain before we can even entertainthe supposition that it may be pain. (Putnam)For example, when pain is induced upon humans there are say c-fibers firing. These c-fibers allow the brain to send a message to the body part, where the pain is being inflicted and felt through the nervous system, so the human knows that there is pain at that particular moment at that particular spot. Putnam finds it necessary to suppose that this physical-chemical state must be a possible state for all those capable of having the sensation, including alien beings. Let us suppose that Martians exist. These creatures have the ability to feel pain, yet, their brains are structured differently, and instead of having c-fibers to send the message of pain, the Martians contain m-fibers that fire. This is a duplicate functional property of two different brains. Another example would be that of a dining room table. Walking into Seaman's Furniture store, one could easily find hundreds of din...


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