Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Functionalism and pain-likeness

Say that a functional property F is pain-like provided that a human is in pain if and only if the human has F.

Assuming functionalism, there is a functional property F0 which is pain. Property F0 will be pain-like, but it won’t be the only pain-like property. For there will be infinitely many ways of tweaking F0 to generate functional properties F1, F2, ... that in humans are instantiated precisely when F0 is, but that differ in instantiation among aliens. For instance, F1 could be F0 conjoined with the property of not currently thinking a thought that has seventeen levels of embedding (I take it that humans can’t think a thought with more than about three levels of embedding), while F2 could be F0 conjoined with the property of not consciously exercising magnetic sense, and so on.

There will thus be infinitely many pain-like properties that differ in when different aliens instantiate them. One of these pain-like properties, F0, is pain. And now we have a difficult question for functionalism: What grounds the fact that this particular pain-like property is pain? Why is it that having F0 is necessary and sufficient for hurting but having F1 isn’t? What’s so special about F0? Why is it that F0 picks out a phenomenally unified type, but the other properties need not?

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