Definition of functionalism in US English:



  • 1(in the arts) the doctrine that the design of an object should be determined solely by its function, rather than by aesthetic considerations, and that anything practically designed will be inherently beautiful.

    • ‘The cafe occupies the hanging gallery above the exhibition space and echoes its monochrome theme with Fifties functionalism - lots of white Arne Jacobsen-style ‘Ameise’ chairs, white walls and a black floor.’
    • ‘He brought these disparate objects together to demonstrate their kinship and identify their aesthetics as one with their functionalism.’
    • ‘This compression, however, led Futurism and functionalism to opposing perspectives on the modern world and the direction in which it was heading.’
    • ‘Aesthetic functionalism reinforced a growing preference for useful memorials, such as public halls, hospitals and swimming pools, over grand but useless statues.’
    • ‘Moreover, where Futurism and functionalism shared common ground, the cultural components in their assessment of flight must also be noted.’
    • ‘In what is easily, in my opinion, one of the best essays on contemporary design in recent years, Boym persuasively argues that the days of ‘good design’ based purely on functionalism are squarely in the past.’
    • ‘Architects have rich thoughts on function and functionalism derived from their experiences, but I have not seen these codified.’
    • ‘While her work features the austerity and functionalism of Modernism, it somehow seems softer, more human and witty.’
    • ‘Communications consultant Emma Kelly looked to what she describes as ‘the elegant functionalism of the 1950s’ when it came to choosing her object of desire.’
    • ‘With few exceptions, functionalism in Sweden was a matter of aesthetics, not of ideology.’
    • ‘One modest request: your philosophy of craft-based functionalism serving humanity would be greatly enhanced if you included more typical details.’
  • 2(in the social sciences) the theory that all aspects of a society serve a function and are necessary for the survival of that society.

    • ‘Wallace and Wolf trace the development of structural functionalism to Comte, Herbert Spencer, and Durkheim.’
    • ‘The school of social functionalism examines the ways in which society, considered as an organism, attempts to contain and manage conflict, integrating disparate members and subgroups into the whole.’
    • ‘In the 1950s and the 1960s, as an offshoot of the sociological functionalism of Talcott Parsons, theories of modernization and neo-evolutionism dominated the social science study of development.’
    • ‘Regionalism has, however, played a role in subdisciplines that focus on social and economic ties between cities and their hinterlands, such as urban sociology or functionalism or regional economies.’
    • ‘A quick-and-dirty history of social systems theory begins with functionalism, the most influential form of social explanation for much of the past century.’
  • 3(in the philosophy of mind) the theory that mental states can be sufficiently defined by their cause, their effect on other mental states, and their effect on behavior.

    • ‘This volume of Ned Block's writings collects his papers on consciousness, functionalism, and representationism.’
    • ‘It is no accident that the play is set in the eighties, when the arguments between beleaguered humanism and pragmatic functionalism were at the very height.’
    • ‘Now, it seems that these two positions, functionalism about truth and Davidson's thesis, are quite compatible.’
    • ‘Searle saddles functionalism with the ‘blackbox’ character of behaviorism, but functionalism cares how things are done.’
    • ‘So, unlike the identity theory, functionalism ends up disallowing mind/body causation.’
    • ‘Sometimes intentionalism and functionalism are associated, on the grounds that intentional states are the only mental states of which one could give a functionalist account, so a functionalist should be an intentionalist.’
    • ‘It differs from Skinner's functionalism in that it accepts the possibility that there are mental processes that cannot be seen directly.’
    • ‘The first, intentionally dry, title of my talk, is in parody of the sober, positivistic titles one got in the heyday of British structural functionalism.’
    • ‘In the metaphysics of mind, too, behavioristic themes survive in the approach to mind known as functionalism.’
    • ‘There seem to be only two well-known theories from the history of the philosophy of mind that have not been attributed to him, namely behaviorism and functionalism.’