Authored by: Alex Rosenberg

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Social Science

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138825758
eBook ISBN: 9781315410098
Adobe ISBN: 9781315410081


 Download Chapter



Functionalism as an explanatory strategy is fairly obvious and common, both in ordinary life and in biology. We often explain something’s character or even its very existence by citing the function it serves. The functions something serves are one or more of its effects, or the effects of its presence and behavior. The presence or operation of something has indefinitely many effects, but only a few of them are among its functions. Thus, among the effects of my pressing the accelerator pedal on my car is to burn more gasoline, raise the RPM of the engine, to increase the battery’s charge, and perhaps to attract the attention of the police. But none of these effects is its function—speeding the car up. Citing this function—speeding the car up—explains why I pressed the gas pedal, of course.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.