The failures of functionalism (for memory)


  • Sarah Robins University of Kansas



memory, functionalism, episodic memory, mental image


In Memory: A Self-Referential Account, Fernández offers a functionalist account of the metaphysics of memory, which is portrayed as presenting significant advantages over causal and narrative theories of memory. In this paper, I present a series of challenges for Fernández’s functionalism. There are issues with both the particulars of the account and the use of functionalism more generally. First, in characterizing the mnemonic role of episodic remembering, Fernández fails to make clear how the mental image type that plays this role should be identified. Second, I argue that a functionalist approach, which appeals to the overall structure of the memory system and tendencies of mental state types, is ill-suited to the metaphysical question about episodic remembering that is of interest to the causal and narrative theorists with which Fernandez engages. Fernández’s self-referential account of memory has many other virtues, but functionalism is a poor fit for episodic remembering.

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Author Biography

Sarah Robins, University of Kansas

Is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas and an affiliate of the Cognitive and Brain Sciences Ph.D. program in KU’s Psychology Department. Her research is focused primarily on memory, with an emphasis on memory traces and the ways they are invoked and investigated in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience.


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How to Cite

Robins, S. (2021). The failures of functionalism (for memory). Estudios De Filosofía, (64), 201–222.

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