I agree with functionalists, specifically the strong Artificial Intelligence (AI) camp, concerning the concept of understanding. While John Searle poses a strong non-functionalist case in his AChinese Room@ argument, I find that his definition of Ato understand@ falls short and hampers his point. I criticize his defense that understanding rests on a standardized knowledge of meaning, but not before outlining the general background of the issue.
Functionalists define thought and mental states in terms of input and output. They claim that what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch (input) creates a mental state or belief, and that particular mental state in turn creates our reaction (output). If I see it=s raining outside, I believe that if I go outside I will get wet, and therefore I take an umbrella with me. The functionalists define a mental state strictly through its cause and effect relationships, through its function.