What works wins! Become a functionalist!
Become a Functionalist. 'Functional' is what works. The basic idea is that a solid ground for virtue, science and social policy ought to be defending and educating folks to be functional humans. Kinda common sense. Join us. Tweet
Functionalism is an eyes-wide-open approach to human pursuits. It is listening to and adapting one’s behavior to what works. Consequences matter.
The lack of respect for the functional extends to all aspects of individual and collective endeavors and with Darwin Prize consequences.
One of my top Oscar picks is The Tender Bar which is a contribution to the cause and benefits of functionalism and calls its tenets “man’s science.”
King Richard—another Oscar contender and Planned Man pick—is functionalism taken to the level of perfect.
Lately I have been toying around with a new lens for living: Functionalism.
What I like about the term functionalism is that it’s a memorable word that captures within it its plain meaning, its purpose or end. Functionalism is an eyes-wide-open approach to human pursuits. It is listening to and adapting one’s behavior to what works — and staying away from what doesn’t work.
Functionalism is an eyes-wide-open approach to human pursuits.
This habit of mind is the wellspring of what we attribute to “common sense.” Common sense is the storehouse of our species’ hard-won lessons and discoveries over time. “Don’t eat that berry.” My uncle did and he died. His idiot son didn’t believe it— so he ate the berry and died as well. “If you are in the forest and in need of nature’s toilet paper, be careful: ‘leaves of three, let it be’.” If you do, you will not die but for a couple of days, you will wish you could. These are warning labels to live by. Another: “Eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
It came out of a piece I wrote on providing a better defense for bad behavior. The basic idea is that a solid ground for virtue, science and social policy ought to be defending and educating folks to be functional humans. I took particular issue with the use and abuse of the adjective “functional” in the label “functional alcoholic.” Instead of being judged and found wanting, maybe he who is functional should be studied and praised for having something fundamental to contribute to the art and science of keeping one’s shit together. Instead of hating on the functional they ought to be seen as better role models for those with a demonstrated thirst for something. Even those who are in AA —and thriving — know that the quitter life sucks. Better to have figured out the functional high life. “If only, John or Jane had figured out how to be functional, they would not have to run to a basement meeting of a quitters club.”
Maybe he who is functional should be studied and praised for having something fundamental to contribute to of the art and science of keeping one’s shit together.
I’m writing this on a plane coming back from California, kicking back a couple of drinks on St Patrick’s Day. I remember that I have been a teacher of functionalism for decades. It would piss me off that when I would go out boozing with co-workers, the next day I would be alone at work because my partners in the previous evening’s licentiousness called in with the “Irish flu.” I said to my fellow Irishmen — men of the drink — “The difference between Good and Bad Irish is not the drinking, it is that the Good Irish show up the next day and deliver on what’s expected of them; Bad Irish don’t.” Bad Irish find themselves unemployed and in the church basement with other Bad Irish who drank without functional guardrails.
One of my top Oscar picks is The Tender Bar which is a contribution to the cause and benefits of functionalism and calls its tenants “man’s science.” I talk about it here. King Richard—another Oscar contender and Planned Man pick —is functionalism taken to the level of perfect. These two films are must-watch expressions of functionalism.
Up until recently—that is, the past 100 years—functionalism was the low-but-solid ground of ethics, social policy and law. Certainly, folks strived for more than being functional, but virtue, and its signaling back then was functionalism plus. I am fan of genuine virtue, reaching for and possessing more than what is minimally required. And even if it’s not your calling—even if you are not a perfect functionalist—and particularly if you are dysfunctional—those striving to a higher level of human perfection built on functionalism are sources of the rising tide that lifts us all. While the strivers can be a little much to deal with, when their eyes and ambition are properly harnessed in the service of functionalism, we all benefit.
But is that now where we find ourselves? Is it fair to say that our mainstream contemporaries striving for earthly perfection are anti-functionalist at core? It’s becoming clearer that a lack of respect for the low, solid and happy ground of the functional extends to all aspects of individual and collective endeavors. Truth be told, functionalism is more under assault outside the killjoy crowd. We are fucking the functionalist pooch across the waterfront of existential concerns—energy, climate, economics, policing, sentencing, education, love, marriage, baby carriage, divorce—you name the area of shared functionalist concern, and we are doing the opposite of what is required, and with “Darwin Award” consequences.
For those who are unaware of the Darwin Awards, do a functional thing: look it up here.
More to come.
To reach Guy Shepherd contact: [email protected]
For media enquires contact: [email protected]