Functionalism, Behaviorism and Identity Theory Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1128 Words
Date:  2022-07-01

Functionalism views the mental state as a constituent of their functions while identity theory considers the mental state in the same way it does to the brain. This means that the identity theory is a physicalist expressive view while functionalism is not. The mind of a human being comprises of a sequence of conscious or mental events such as perceptions, beliefs, desires, sensations, intentions, thoughts, and emotions. Also, it may be presumed to include a set of mental events' dispositions, which are neural. Functionalism is considered a solution to the problems arising from the mind and body. This is because it is a concept that is based on the notion that everything within the society has its unique function. A failure in any of the functions results in the interruption of the other societal functions. Therefore, functionalist theory argues that the society refers to a system whose parts are interconnected and dependent on each other. They work together in synchronization towards the maintain ace of the social equilibrium and balance for the whole (Oxford University Press 9).

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Emile Durkheim, the originator of functionalism, believed that interconnected institutions such as the government, family, and education are the fabrics that make and hold the society together. He equated the society to the body of a human being. In the body, there are vital organs, each one with its unique function. The heart, for instance, pumps blood to all parts of the body including to such vital organs as the brain and the lungs. If it stops functioning, it interrupts the functioning of the rest of the body parts. According to the functionalist theory, different interdependent components like education and family constructs the society. In the same way that a failure of the heart would interrupt the functioning of the human body, the society's operations would also cease functioning if one component, say the family, stops functioning correctly.

Because of functionalism's sociological perspective, it can be argued to be better than the identity of the mind theory. It postulates that each of the society's aspect is dependent on the other and wholly contributes to the functioning and stability of the society. For instance, it is the mandate of the state to provide education for its children within families. Families, in turn, pay taxes to the government, which it uses to run its affairs including education provision. This means that the family relies on government schools to help its children receive education and eventually become self-reliant and be able to support and raise their own families as well. Through this process, the children are taught to be law abiding and prompt tax paying citizens. As a result, the government gets the necessary support it requires. This means that functionalism advocates for a self-reliant society whose structures functions in a win-win situation.

Functionalisms designates that at least all societal parts should produce stability, productivity, and order. However, if all does not happen as anticipated, then the societal parts need to adapt to evoke stability, productivity, and order. For instance, when a country goes through tough economic times like financial recession that is characterized by high inflation and unemployment rates, it is likely that it will cut or trim its social programs. Consequently, the programs that will be offered by schools will be drastically reduced. Families will then be forced to squeeze their budgets leading to the occurrence of a new social stability, productivity, and order (Heil 168).

Functionalism holds the idea that the society' social consensus is what holds it together. This implies that the members of the society must work together and agree upon what is best for it. Therefore, a society that pursues this theory is more likely to co-exist in peace with each of its members. Although critiques have argued that functionalism theory does not factor in such societal negative aspects as divorce, its primary fabric is to knit the society together in such a way that all members share a common goal and purpose.

On the other hand, the identity theory states that the mind is nothing other than a section of the physical body. It argues that one's mental state is equivalent to his or her brain state. This is another way of denying that that the mind does not exist; we only have the brain. If it does, however, its effects on the metaphysical world is nil. The identity theory proposes that groups in which individuals belong acted as a significant source of their self-esteem and pride. Groups provides people with an identity sense; a social identity to belong to a social class. This means that for one to enhance his or her social status, it is imperative that they increase their status in the group. For instance, one claim that his football team is the best one in the world while disparaging other teams that he does not belong to. One shortcoming with this theory is that it divides the world into "us" vs "them." It categorizes people into social classes. Identity theory is more focused in building in-groups and pitying them against out-groups. To enhance one's self image, an in-group will tend to discriminate against the out-groups (Heil 181).

Th identity theory is hinged on the concept of seeking to find an out-group's negative aspects by an in-group to enhance its self-image. This results in prejudice views against particular groups of people. It is a precursor for racism and other extreme forms of discrimination. Because of extreme prejudice occasioned by social identity theory, the world witnessed genocide of the Jews by Germany's Nazis, the Rwanda's Hutus and Tutsis, and between the Serbs and Bosnians of Yugoslavia. Indeed, the identity theory advocates for putting people into certain groups and in so doing, it is probable that we exaggerate the similarities that exists among similar groups as well as the differences that differentiate groups. Unlike the functionalist theory that advocates for embracing groups unity, the identity theory is divisive and discriminatory. Based on this, the theory of functionalism is better than identity theory (Oxford University Press 18).


Behaviorism involves the identification of the state of the mind using behavioral dispositions. It reduces the mentality state into behavior. According to this theory, there is no state of mind without behavioral dispositions. Circumstances force someone to act in a certain way. For instance, chooses to carry an umbrella on a rainy day. However, the problem with this theory is that there is no clear distinction between it and an act of pretense, which is also a behavioral disposition. Therefore, this theory cannot adequately be used to elaborate the state of the mind.

Works Cited

Heil, John . Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Oxford University Press. Metaphysics of Mind: Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guide.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print

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