Philosophy of Mind Putnam is probably best known for his contributions to the philosophy of mind. He was a pioneer and one of the most fervent advocates of functionalism or computationalism roughly, this is the conception of the human spirit as analogues of a computer. However, it has revised its position in representation and reality, he explains why, in its revisited, functionalist design can not walk. The argument is that no one can say consistently that it is a brain in a vat placed there by a mad scientist. This is derived from the causal theory of reference.
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Life[ edit ] Putnam was born in Chicago , Illinois , in His father, Samuel Putnam , was a scholar of Romance languages, columnist, and translator who wrote for the Daily Worker , a publication of the American Communist Party , from to when he became disillusioned with communism. His wife, the philosopher Ruth Anna Putnam , took a teaching position in philosophy at Wellesley College.
They had "no idea how to do it [themselves]", in the words of Ruth Anna. They therefore began to study Jewish ritual and Hebrew, and became more Jewishly interested, identified, and active. In , Hilary Putnam celebrated a belated Bar Mitzvah service. His wife had a Bat Mitzvah service four years later. In keeping with the family tradition, he was politically active. Putnam was disturbed when he learned from reading the reports of David Halberstam that the U.
The following year, he was selected as Walter Beverly Pearson Professor of Mathematical Logic, in recognition of his contributions to the philosophy of logic and mathematics. He continued to be forthright and progressive in his political views, as expressed in the articles "How Not to Solve Ethical Problems" and "Education for Democracy" He retired from teaching in June , but, as of , he continued to give a seminar almost yearly at Tel Aviv University.
His corpus includes five volumes of collected works, seven books, and more than articles. M stands for mental and P stands for physical. It can be seen that more than one P can instantiate one M, but not vice versa. Causal relations between states are represented by the arrows M1 goes to M2, etc. His most noted original contributions to that field came in several key papers published in the late s that set out the hypothesis of multiple realizability.
Putnam cited examples from the animal kingdom to illustrate his thesis. He asked whether it was likely that the brain structures of diverse types of animals realize pain, or other mental states, the same way. If they do not share the same brain structures, they cannot share the same mental states and properties.
The answer to this puzzle had to be that mental states were realized by different physical states in different species. Putnam then took his argument a step further, asking about such things as the nervous systems of alien beings, artificially intelligent robots and other silicon-based life forms. These hypothetical entities, he contended, should not be considered incapable of experiencing pain just because they lack the same neurochemistry as humans.
Putnam concluded that type-identity theorists had been making an "ambitious" and "highly implausible" conjecture which could be disproven with one example of multiple realizability. Therefore, a computer made out of silicon chips and a computer made out of cogs and wheels can be functionally isomorphic but constitutionally diverse.
Functional isomorphism implies multiple realizability. In fact, there are many functional kinds, such as mousetraps, software and bookshelves, which are multiply realized at the physical level.
This formulation, which is now called "machine-state functionalism", was inspired by analogies noted by Putnam and others between the mind and Turing machines.
The point, for functionalism is the nature of the states of the Turing machine. Each state can be defined in terms of its relations to the other states and to the inputs and outputs, and the details of how it accomplishes what it accomplishes and of its material constitution are completely irrelevant. According to machine-state functionalism, the nature of a mental state is just like the nature of a Turing machine state.
Just as "state one" simply is the state in which, given a particular input, such-and-such happens, so being in pain is the state which disposes one to cry "ouch", become distracted, wonder what the cause is, and so forth. His change of mind was primarily due to the difficulties that computational theories have in explaining certain intuitions with respect to the externalism of mental content.
Asserting that functionalism is really a watered-down identity theory in which mental kinds are identified with functional kinds, Putnam argued that mental kinds may be multiply realizable over functional kinds. The argument for functionalism is that the same mental state could be implemented by the different states of a universal Turing machine.
The view holds that "what matters for consciousness and for mental properties generally is the right sort of functional capacities and not the particular matter that subserves those capacities". Twin Earth shows this, according to Putnam, since on Twin Earth everything is identical to Earth, except that its lakes, rivers and oceans are filled with XYZ whereas those of earth are filled with H2O.
Consequently, when an earthling, Fredrick, uses the Earth-English word "water", it has a different meaning from the Twin Earth-English word "water" when used by his physically identical twin, Frodrick, on Twin Earth.
Since Fredrick and Frodrick are physically indistinguishable when they utter their respective words, and since their words have different meanings, meaning cannot be determined solely by what is in their heads. Since the time of Descartes, philosophers had been concerned with proving knowledge from the basis of subjective experience.
Thanks to Saul Kripke , Putnam, Tyler Burge and others, Davidson said, philosophy could now take the objective realm for granted and start questioning the alleged "truths" of subjective experience. So, for example, the reference of the term "lion" is fixed by the community of zoologists, the reference of the term "elm tree" is fixed by the community of botanists, and the reference of the term "table salt" is fixed as "NaCl" by chemists. These referents are considered rigid designators in the Kripkean sense and are disseminated outward to the linguistic community.
Such a vector consists of four components: the object to which the term refers , e. Such a "meaning-vector" provides a description of the reference and use of an expression within a particular linguistic community. It provides the conditions for its correct usage and makes it possible to judge whether a single speaker attributes the appropriate meaning to that expression or whether its use has changed enough to cause a difference in its meaning.
According to Putnam, it is legitimate to speak of a change in the meaning of an expression only if the reference of the term, and not its stereotype, has changed.
However, since there is no possible algorithm that can determine which aspect—the stereotype or the reference—has changed in a particular case, it is necessary to consider the usage of other expressions of the language. One must have ontological commitments to all entities that are indispensable to the best scientific theories, and to those entities only commonly referred to as "all and only".
Mathematical entities are indispensable to the best scientific theories. Therefore, One must have ontological commitments to mathematical entities. Both Putnam and Quine invoke naturalism to justify the exclusion of all non-scientific entities, and hence to defend the "only" part of "all and only".
The assertion that "all" entities postulated in scientific theories, including numbers, should be accepted as real is justified by confirmation holism. Since theories are not confirmed in a piecemeal fashion, but as a whole, there is no justification for excluding any of the entities referred to in well-confirmed theories.
This puts the nominalist who wishes to exclude the existence of sets and non-Euclidean geometry , but to include the existence of quarks and other undetectable entities of physics, for example, in a difficult position.
Hilary Putnam Philosophy Summary
References and Further Reading 1. This construal brings out the idea that for metaphysical realists, truth is not reducible to epistemic notions but concerns the nature of a mind-independent reality. One proposal is to construe metaphysical realism as the position that there are no a priori epistemically derived constraints on reality Gaifman, One virtue of this construal is that it defines metaphysical realism at a sufficient level of generality to apply to all philosophers who currently espouse metaphysical realism. For there is a good argument to the effect that if metaphysical realism is true, then global skepticism is also true, that is, it is possible that all of our referential beliefs about the world are false. Thus if one can prove that we cannot be brains in a vat, by modus tollens one can prove that metaphysical realism is false. Sometimes it is claimed that endorsing CC commits you to semantic externalism but the issues are more complex, since many internalists for example, John Searle appear to agree with CC.
Skepticism and Content Externalism
Life[ edit ] Putnam was born in Chicago , Illinois , in His father, Samuel Putnam , was a scholar of Romance languages, columnist, and translator who wrote for the Daily Worker , a publication of the American Communist Party , from to when he became disillusioned with communism. His wife, the philosopher Ruth Anna Putnam , took a teaching position in philosophy at Wellesley College. They had "no idea how to do it [themselves]", in the words of Ruth Anna. They therefore began to study Jewish ritual and Hebrew, and became more Jewishly interested, identified, and active. In , Hilary Putnam celebrated a belated Bar Mitzvah service.
The Brain in a Vat Argument