History of Philosophy Workshop: Jean Porter, "Sense, imagination, and appetite: another look at the debate over functionalism in Aristotle"


Location: Maritain Library (Geddes 437)

The School Of Aristotle

Please join us as we continue our lunchtime history of philosophy workshops! Each meeting will consist of a presentation by a graduate student or faculty on a project that they are working on in the history of philosophy, followed by a period of comments/questions from the other participants. The workshop is designed to give grad students and faculty the opportunity to develop ideas and receive helpful feedback on projects/papers in a friendly and low stakes environment. 

This week's presenter is Professor Jean Porter, who will be presenting a paper on "Sense, imagination, and appetite: another look at the debate over functionalism in Aristotle."

Abstract: Is Aristotle a functionalist, in the sense in which that term is understood in contemporary philosophy of mind?  In a widely influential paper published in 1990, Christopher Shields argued that he is, and the same position was defended by Hilary Putnam and Martha Nussbaum in a famous exchange with Myles Buryneat.  A number of scholars have joined this debate, and the resulting exchanges have led to a deeper understanding and appreciation of Aristotle’s theory of cognition.  In this paper, I will set out and defend my own answer to this question, namely, that Aristotle does not have a functionalist theory of mind.  I will argue that the most basic mental states that Aristotle discusses, that is, sensation, imagination, and appetite, cannot plausibly be identified by reference to functions, understood in the modern sense.  The identification of mental states, understood in Aristotelian terms, depends to some extent on introspection, and presupposes some awareness of the dynamic operations of living creatures.  We cannot arrive at plausible functionalist formulae for mental states, until we have already identified them through these means  – hence, these formulae cannot identify the mental states.

Lunch is provided with sign-up! For more information, please email Dylan MacFarlane (dmacfarl@nd.edu). We hope to see you there!