Brunswik's probabilistic functionalism
The second theory to be described is probabilistic functionalism, which was essentially the work of one man, Egon Brunswik (1903-1955). Brunswik left no school of followers, his work is rarely cited in modern writings, and no subsequent group of workers has ever assumed the label, 'probabilistic functionalist'. 1
There are, however, good reasons for including this short chapter on Brunswik's work. We shall attempt to justify this claim by describing Brunswik's theory as sympathetically as possible, before offering a number of criticisms.The remainder of this chapter will cover the following topics:
|• A general outline of Brunswik's work.|
|• The terminology of probabilistic functionalism.|
|• Brunswik's empirical researches.|
|• An evaluation of probabilistic functionalism.|
|• Final remarks on Brunswik's theory.|
|• A more recent development: the empirical theory of vision.|
Egon Brunswik was born in Budapest in 1903. As a child he spoke Hungarian and German. His university education took place in Vienna, where he worked under Karl Büller. It was there that Brunswik came to know the Vienna school of logical positivists, whose views were to influence his later career as experimenter and theoretician. In 1937 he moved to the University of California at Berkeley. He died in California at the age of 52.
1 There are, however, Egon Brunswik societies, which can be found on the Web.