Functionalism is the philosophical idea that mental states (beliefs, desires, pain, etc.) can only be defined by their functional role and, thereby, only be identified by what they do rather than by their makeup. Mental states are what occur between an input (some type of stimulus) and output (some behavior), and therefore many think that these states are connected to the subsequent behavior. This fairly abstract idea may seem at first like irrelevant philosophical jargon that has little applicability in the real world, but as emphasized throughout this entry, the implications of the idea take on increased significance when viewed in light of the fact that there are logical consequences to every idea. While there are various applications of the idea of functionalism (e.g., in ...

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