Ned Block’s homunculi-headed robot and functionalism

Undergraduate Philosophy Journal of Australasia 5:1-16 (2024)
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Abstract

Ned Block posed his thought experiment of the homunculi-headed robot in his paper ‘Troubles with Functionalism’ to try to defeat functionalism, a leading theory within the philosophy of mind, which concerns the nature of mental states. The robot was meant to defeat functionalism by showing how functionalism attributes mental states inappropriately, as beings such as the robot would have had mental states under functionalism, despite possessing no qualia. Block’s argument rests upon two incorrect assumptions of qualia that this paper exposes as being incorrect. Firstly, Block presupposes that due to qualia being an innate part of human beings, it cannot be accounted for under functionalism. Secondly, Block applies too narrow a perspective onto what qualia can be, and where and how it can subsist, to be considered valid. I attack these two incorrect presuppositions to exhibit how Block’s robot cannot be considered to have defeated functionalism.

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