How do you know if you’re a functionalist?

A reader recently asked me about my position on functionalism.

I think it’s important to understand the difference between a functionalism and a nonfunctionalist position. 

Functionalism, as its name suggests, holds that the world is a system of objects that have no fundamental essence.

This is why a functional system of logic is fundamentally different from an object-oriented one, as opposed to a functional one being a system with a “basic” essence. 

To understand this distinction, you have to go back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the term functionalism was first coined.

Functionalism emerged as an alternative to the positivist view that the physical world was a static thing, without any essence.

Functionalists believed that the essence of the physical universe, which is known as “space,” was created by a constant interaction between the physical objects that make up it.

Functional systems can be thought of as a collection of objects.

Functional objects are the same as the physical ones, but they can interact with each other and also with the physical system. 

So, functionalists held that space was created through the interaction of the objects that compose it, including the universe itself.

Functionalist theory holds that space, the universe, and all of the natural world are part of a larger whole.

In other words, space is not simply a collection or collection of discrete objects; rather, space and all natural objects are part and parcel of a whole.

Functional thinkers were able to distinguish between the world as it is and as it could be. 

Nonfunctionalists, on the other hand, hold that the universe is not a collection and therefore cannot be thought in terms of objects, nor does it contain any fundamental essence or properties. 

What does this mean for you?

If you have not been exposed to functionalist thinking before, it is worth learning more about it. 

If you have, you might be surprised at how different things are to how you thought of them.

For instance, functionalism has the advantage that it is a non-ideal system.

It’s an ideal system that can be constructed by anyone, so if you think of it as being “functional,” you are not actually thinking of it in terms, say, of a computer program. 

However, it also has the disadvantage that you have less access to the universe and less access on a personal level to the natural worlds.

You have to understand that functional thinking is not the same thing as object-orientated thinking, and that functionalism is more like object-based thinking than a nonfunctionist system.

You might also be surprised to learn that functionalists are also often referred to as “object-oriented thinkers.”

Functionalists think about the world in terms that are abstract, whereas nonfunctionalists think in terms more like “functional” and “object” (e.g., the “function” part of “functionalism”). 

It’s important, however, to understand these distinctions.

In the end, the key is to realize that the concepts of “object”, “world”, and “existence” can be very different.

If you understand the distinction, then you’ll understand why functionalism appeals to a wider range of people.