New functionalism and the social and behavioral sciences

Lukas Beck*, James D. Grayot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Functionalism about kinds is still the dominant style of thought in the special sciences, like economics, psychology, and biology. Generally construed, functionalism is the view that states or processes can be individuated based on what role they play rather than what they are constituted of or realized by. Recently, Weiskopf (2011a, 2011b) has posited a reformulation of functionalism on the model-based approach to explanation. We refer to this reformulation as ‘new functionalism’. In this paper, we seek to defend new functionalism and to recast it in light of the concrete explanatory aims of the special sciences. In particular, we argue that the assessment of the explanatory legitimacy of a functional kind needs to take into account the explanatory purpose of the model in which the functional kind is employed. We aim at demonstrating this by appealing to model-based explanations from the social and behavioral sciences. Specifically, we focus on preferences and signals as functional kinds. Our argument is intended to have the double impact of deflecting criticisms against new functionalism from the perspective of mechanistic decomposition while also expanding the scope of new functionalism to encompass the social and behavioral sciences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2021

Keywords

  • Choice-theory
  • Functionalism
  • Mechanism
  • Model-based explanations

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