The Idea of Cause and Consequence Based on Dualism and Functionalism

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Words: 1309 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

Words: 1309|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

One idea that does not change much in different theories, is that the mind and body share some sort of connection to one another. The idea how they do so, of course, changes according to theories. While exploring the two theories dualism, and functionalism, it will be explored how these opposing theories believe that the mind and body are connected. While dualism discusses the connection of mind and body as functioning through a term called “mental causation”, while functionalism defines the connection of the mind and body as functioning almost like a machine which processes an input in the mind which results in an action (the function) of the body. As one can see, these two ideas of how the mind and body function with one another are very different.

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Dualism focuses its theory mainly around the mind and spiritual aspects rather than the physical being itself. Dualism uses the process of mental causation as a way to explain how the mind and body function with one another. The process in which mental causation is the result of, is the term “cause and effect”. This briefly meaning that the mind tells the body to do something, and the body reacts to what the mind is telling the body to do, resulting in an action seen through behavior. It is believed that dualism does a bad job explaining how the mind and body function through mental causation, as they focus on mind and body as separate entities or substances, therefore not allowing mental causation to practically exist in this case. This is why many see a problem with dualism in relation to mind and body functioning. With the ideas before primarily focused on mind, it seems nearly impossible for mental causation, and cause and effect to be able to take place, giving a hard and non believable understanding of the concept.

Functionalism is said to be the middle ground between dualism and materialism, as both of these theories seem to have their differences with the idea of mind and body functions. This provides a more scientific outlook on the theory, rather than spiritual, being easier to prove. Although a more scientific theory, functionalism focuses not on the materials of the mind, but on how the mind and its substance is used to work together to result in a behavior. Its interest lies in how exactly the mind works, relating it to software programs. Though functionalism does have less problems then dualism, it does carry its own set of doubts. People do not like the idea that they are just machines that receive an input, resulting in a behavior without much of their consent. People like the comfort of the idea that they have free will, and do what they want, when they want. Not that they are programmed to react in such a way due to their input.

One interesting psychological phenomenon which directly relates to functionalism, dualism, and the relation between the functions of mind and body, is the Coke Machine, as discussed in class. In this scenario, there are two machines, one in which is a functionalist machine, and one in which is a behaviorist machine. While the functionalist machine is only programmed to receive one input (a dime) and produce a coke, the other machine has various methods and inputs resulting in the same behavior (a coke).

Both of these machines demonstrate cause and effect. They both have an input of a dime, and a behavior resulting in a coke due to the input. The difference is, one is programmed to be much more efficient than the other. While the functionalist machine can only receive a dime, the behaviorist machine can receive both dimes and nickels, and it even has the capacity to give back change. Machines are seen to be non cognitive beings, only being able to do the actions in which they are programmed to do. This is seen here, by the first functionalist machine. The second machine gives a more dualist perspective by being able to switch internal states, providing a more complex system in which is able to do more than the first machine.

Functionalism would describe this scenario relating to computers and their functions. Clearly this machine was programmed simply to receive an input of the dime, and produce a coke. Once it got more complicated than that, receiving different currency, the machine would be unable to perform due to its lack of knowledge and performance. It is a simple machine and cannot think for itself, so is only able to perform familiar acts, and never grow further knowledge on its on of how and what to do in situations as this one. Just as functionalism, this machine is programmed to complete such a task, with only the programmed instinct given. While most humans would know if they received anything other than a dime, what change to give back, this specific machine is not able to do so.

Dualism is somewhat recognized in this scenario, as the second machine is a behaviorist machine with the ability to perform more tasks than the functionalist machine. It is much more complex, allowing for multiple inputs, still ending in the result of a coke as the output. This would prove that this machine, not knowing the makeup of it, is able to internally provide information once given the input, to produce an output. It has to receive the input, internalize possible reactions, and create the same output as the other. This displays a greater understanding, while not knowing what the machine is made up of. The second machine clearly does understand better than the first machine, of what is happening and how to behave given different situations. While the first machine is programmed to only respond to a specific situation.

While not primarily a dualist, I do believe in this argument that dualism is the superior theory. Functionalism does not allow much room for growth, as seen in the above scenario. Although dualism is mainly a spiritual theory, it provides a different outlook in this scenario. Cause and effect, and mental causation are processes that our looked at in both functionalism and dualism. Dualism goes beyond functionalism in this process, as the process of the input and output show a greater ability of growth of understanding, and complexity than the functionalist machine.

The functionalist machine had not much room for growth in knowledge. It was only able to receive one input, and one output. The second machine (behaviorist) seemed to be much more complex and even cognitive while being able to change its internal states and create the same action. Functionalism is a theory that provides the idea of the mind being primarily a software, that performs tasks that are predetermined. In dualism, situations are to be handled differently given the input. Though dispositions may have an impact on how one reacts, it is more believable than just receiving an input and reacting the same way every time.

An objection that could be seen in the dualist theory in the coke machine scenario was discussed before. How does a given individual, or machine in this case, have mentally causation when the two substances, as seen in dualism, are completely different entities. It seems impossible for the process to be able to be taken place. While not knowing what the machine is made of, this objection is sort of irrelevant.

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Both dualism and functionalism share the idea of cause and effect, and mental causation in terms of behavior. While previously believing functionalism was a much more superior theory, given the coke machine scenario, dualism seems to be more superior, though over all I still believe that functionalism provides much more believable and reliable information on how the mind and body interact to create behavior and function.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Idea of Cause and Consequence Based on Dualism and Functionalism. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from
“The Idea of Cause and Consequence Based on Dualism and Functionalism.” GradesFixer, 03 Jan. 2019,
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