Functionalism Essay Sample


According to modern philosophy, functionalism is a minds’ theory developed mainly as a substitute to both behaviorism and mind identity theory. The basis of functionalism is in the states of mind including desires, being in pain and beliefs among other which are entirely constituted through their role of function (Hergenhahn, 2008). These states are causal relations to other sensory inputs, mental states and outputs of behavior. Functionalism was a core pattern shift in the American history of psychology. It is an outgrowth of the evolutionary theory by Darwin in the sense that it emphasized on the assessment of the purpose and function of behavior and mind. The biggest relationship in functionalism is the way behavior relates to the process of the human mind.

Natural selection, as postulated by Charles Darwin, gave a drastic impact on the development of functionalism. In this theory, the forces of the surrounding environment compelled a natural selection based on its inhabitants and had favor on the inhabitants with characteristics that could adapt to the said environment (Godfrey-Smith, 2009; McCullagh, 2000). The members in a given species with characteristics that can adapt usually pass over, thus component of survival to their young ones as those members lacking the adaptive characteristics start to fade away. 

The Basic Principles

For functionalists, societies are said to be analogous to the living organisms. Human beings are taken as an example. Every part of the human body is connected in a way to every other part. Specific organs come together to make something which is usually bigger than the entire sum of the separate parts. Based on social definitions, organs compare to social institutions and the analysis emphasis is based on the connection between different institutions in the society (McCullagh, 2000). This gives a representation of a comprehensive strategy in studying the social universe.

Again, every part of the society is believed to have a function or a purpose and specific needs as well. For instance, the intention of the work organization is to make wealth and for this to happen, people with a given educational knowledge degree are required. Based on this, every institution in the world encounters some issues that have to be dealt with if it were to be addressed it is to survive and function well (Levin, 2004). These have been identified as the attainment of goals, adaptation, integration and latency. The attainment of goals takes into account the need to establish goals for the behavior of human beings and again determine the ways by which they can be attained.

Adaptation includes procurement of the means of attaining the goals that are valued. This is embedded in the ability to provided and offer physical needs of institutional life. Integration makes people feel part of a given institution. It is a feeling of belonging and a way of attaining something to commonly hold like beliefs and values. Functionalism believes in integrating people effectively for purposes of continuation and creating harmony internally. Latency in what is commonly known as pattern maintenance takes into account the establishment of social control means that aim at managing tensions, resolve conflicts, motivate individuals and many other things in a society. These are functional imperatives that are considered as structural commands that should be attained in an institution.

Functionalism and Psychology

Functionalism has advanced the field of psychology. The subject idea of psychology concerns itself with the activity of the mind like imagination, judgment, memory and feelings (Levin, 2004). These mental activities are assessed based on how they serve the creature in making adaptation to the surrounding (Hergenhahn, 2008; Levin, 2004). Mental activities have been studied by way of introspection, with the application of tools that measure and record; and objective mind manifestations by studying its products and creations and through physiology and anatomy.

The term ‘function’ has been used somewhat loosely by functionalists. It has been used in two various ways. It can make reference to the study of the matter in which processes of the mind operate (Levin, 2004). This is a huge departure from mental process structure study. On another side, function may as well make reference to the manner in which the processes of the mind function in the way species evolved, the adaptive property it offers that would make it be chosen in the evolution process.

In essence, functionalism actually evolved and developed in the psychology mainstream (Churchland, 2005). It never died. Psychology got some development through functionalism. The vitality of focusing on the process instead of the structure is a major and common characteristic of psychology in modern times (Carl, 2007). Even though it did not have clear formulation as an individual approach and at the same time took over the issues experienced with structuralism dependence on introspection, the functionalism concept has found major application in the field of psychology.

10% word count difference (300 words instead of
275 words per page)
10% off for a first-time order = 20% off


Essentially, functionalism is a major proposal that has been provided as a solution to the body/mind problem in psychology. The answers to the problems linked to the body and the minds normally endeavor to give answers to the ultimate mental nature and what makes such a state mental. More in particular, it has been very useful in psychology to explain the commonness between thoughts with the virtue of their nature of being thoughts. Simply, it answers the composition of a thought and what makes it really a thought or pain in its totality.  The absolute nature of the mind was found in a particular mental substance. Behaviorism pointed out mental states with dispositions of behavior. In this 20th century, functionalism has been a very big theoretical development in psychology, analytic philosophy and offers very fundamental underpinnings of the work that has already been realized in cognitive science.


Functionalism is a philosophy stemming back in history and has had some inclinations and contributions to modern psychology. The concept has not received absolute inclusion into the mainstream psychology in its totality. Its ideas and assertions are based on the theory of mind and are taken as a substitute for behaviorism. As learnt from this research paper, functionalism is a sociological perception that suggests that a sociologist’s role us to look at the society workings in a manner that is scientific for the sole purpose of making discovery on the way it works. Social phenomena occur since there is always a purpose for them. This, however, is controversial. It amounts to the perception that a number of negative things like crime are present in our society because of needs.

Psychology and theories in psychology depend on one another while others try to out-class the others. Scholars and proposers of such theories like functionalism have made propositions that aim at addressing human behavior and establishing their causes. Functionalism is one such theory that has endeavored to explain the mental states of humans and the activity that goes on in them. All the effort has been in trying to define the cause of human behavior and why humans behave as they do. Additionally, functionalism in its development was believed to offer a solution that face humans and their existence. Its contribution to psychology though not felt by everybody created some impact.

Share this article

  1. Thomas Hobbes
  2. Empiricism and Rationalism
  3. Philosophy and Religion
  4. The Atheist Test-Philosophy
  5. Aristotle: Use Value and Exchange Value

What Our Customers Say


Why us

Experienced writers with
the highest satisfaction rates.

Great discounts for new
customers and returned ones.

Full confidentiality of your
personal and contact information.

Our stats

Preparing Orders  


Active Writers  


Support Agents  



Receive 10% discount

and rock this semester!

Now Accepting Apple Pay!
Use discount code first10 Get 10% OFF Your First Order!
Online - please click here to chat