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function

function, functionalism Although the use of the concepts of function and functionalism is usually associated with the work of Talcott Parsons in modern sociology, there is a long tradition of functional explanation in studying societies, and a form of modified functionalism is now undergoing a revival. Among the founders of sociology, Émile Durkheim is most closely associated with functionalism, since he often employs analogies with biology. The most prominent of these is an organic analogy, in which society is seen as an organic whole, each of its constituent parts working to maintain the others, just as the parts of the body also work to maintain each other and the body as a whole. This idea is basic to his conception of organic solidarity. Durkheim did distinguish between functional and historical explanations and recognized the need for both. A functional explanation accounts for the existence of a phenomenon or the carrying out of an action in terms of its consequences—its contribution to maintaining a stable social whole. For example, a functional explanation of the existence of crime is that it serves to mark out and reinforce (through punishment) the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour, so that crime is therefore a normal feature of social life. Similarly, religious institutions serve to generate and maintain social solidarity. Historical explanations are an account of the chronological development of the same phenomena or actions. Modern functionalism, through the work of Robert Merton, distinguishes between manifest functions (intended consequences or consequences of which the participants are aware) and latent functions (unintended consequences of which the participants are unaware). The latter may or may not be generally beneficial.

There has been a strong and often explicit functionalism present in sociology and social anthropology throughout most of this century. There has also been an implicit functionalism in the more determinist forms of Marxist theory, where so-called surface features of the social formation (such as political systems, ideologies, and trade unions), are seen as produced by, in order to maintain, the underlying relations of production. However, probably the most famous functionalist analysis in sociology is the so-called functional theory of social stratification offered by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore, although Davis also wrote a functionalist textbook, Human Society (1949), and made a spirited defence of functionalism in his Presidential Address to the American Sociological Association in 1959 (see ‘The Myth of Functional Analysis as a Special Method in Sociology and Anthropology’, American Sociological Review, 1959
). Herbert J. Gans 's celebrated essay on ‘The Positive Functions of Poverty’ (American Journal of Sociology, 1972)
, said by some to have been written as a parody of structural-functionalism, is actually a superb example of ideologically neutral functional analysis.

In the late 1960s functionalism came under sustained attack from various sources. It was argued that this approach could not account for social change, or for structural contradictions and conflict in societies, and that its reliance on stability and on the organic analogy rendered it ideologically conservative: it became fashionable to refer to functionalism as consensus theory. This particular group of criticisms is not entirely accurate. Parsons's evolutionary theory, seeing historical development in terms of the differentiation and reintegration of systems and subsystems, can account for change and at least for temporary conflict until the reintegration takes place. The existence of functional explanations in Marxism indicates that they can exist alongside a recognition of contradictions in social systems. Durkheim himself was able to combine functionalist explanations with a sometimes radical form of guild socialism.

The telling criticisms of functionalism have been epistemological and ontological. The epistemological argument is that a functionalist explanation is not an explanation at all in that it does not identify causal mechanisms and processes; it is, instead, assumed that social institutions are adequately explained in terms of their putative effects. The ontological arguments have to do with what we think is the nature of society itself. Some theorists, who are happy to accept that society has an existence over and above individuals, nevertheless also argue that we cannot attribute needs (for example Parsons's four, famous, so-called functional prerequisites of adaptation, goal attainment, integration, and latency) to a society as such, since that is to grant societies the same qualities as human beings. Furthermore, even if we can attribute needs to a society, it does not follow that because these needs exist they will be met. It requires a proper historical and causal explanation to show why and how they are met. Anthony Giddens argues that all functionalist explanations can be rewritten as historical accounts of human action and its consequences; that is, human individuals and their actions are the only reality, and we cannot regard societies or systems as having an existence over and above individuals.

For most of the 1970s and a good part of the 1980s, it seemed as if functionalism as a school of thought and as a way of understanding and explaining social phenomena had disappeared, but during recent years there have been some interesting attempts at a revival: in America under the impetus of Jeffrey Alexander; in Germany in the work of Niklas Luhman; and, in Britain, in an interesting revision of Marxism by the philosopher G. A. Cohen.

Alexander argues (in Neofunctionalism, 1985) that functionalism is perhaps best understood as a broad school (rather like Marxism), in which there are many variations of approach, rather than a systematic theory in the manner of Parsons. He maintains that we should not take it as providing explanations, but as a description which focuses on the symbiotic relationships between social institutions and their environment, taking equilibrium (stability) as a reference-point for analysis, rather than as something which necessarily exists in reality, and treating structural differentiation as a major form of social change. This effectively strips functionalism of the determinism of systems theory. For Alexander, functionalism is simply one approach among many, and has the virtue of focusing attention on aspects of the social ignored elsewhere.

Cohen's argument (in Inquiry, 1982) takes up a position which can be found in a different form in Durkheim's work. He suggests that societies can be seen, not as having needs in the way that individuals can be said to have needs, but as having what he calls dispositional facts; that is, features of a social environment which encourage the continued existence of a particular institution, but did not actually cause that institution to come into existence. Cohen's example is racism, which historically might be the result of a range of factors, but which survives because once in existence it helps the capitalist system to survive, by dividing the working class and making social control easier. In a rather similar way Jon Elster, a leading exponent of modern rational-choice theory, argues that we have to employ a functionalist explanation to show why capitalist firms on average adopt a policy of profit maximization. Independently of how they come into existence, the market selects for survival those that come closest to this optimal strategy, and thus imposes it upon them (see Ulysses and the Sirens, 1979
). Functionalism, then, still has a place in sociology–albeit a more restricted place than when the Parsonsian version was dominant. See also DEVIANCE, SOCIOLOGY OF; DEVELOPMENT, SOCIOLOGY OF; DIVISION OF LABOUR; MALINOWSKI, BRONISLAW; RADCLIFFE-BROWN, A. R.; SOCIAL INTEGRATION AND SYSTEM INTEGRATION; SYSTEMS THEORY.

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Function

Function

A function is a mathematical relationship between two sets of real numbers. These sets of numbers are related to each other by a rule that assigns each value from one set to exactly one value in the other set. For example, suppose we choose the letter x to stand for the numbers in one set and the letter y for the numbers in the second set. Then, for each value we assign to x, we can find one and only one comparable value of y.

An example of a function is the mathematical equation y = 3x + 2. For any given value of x, there is one and only one value of y. If we choose 5 for the value of x, then y must be equal to 17 (3 · 5 + 2 = 17). Or if we choose 11 for the value of x, then y must be equal to 35 (3 · 11 + 2 = 35).

The standard notation for a function is y = f(x) and is read "y equals f of x." Functions can also be represented in other ways, such as by graphs and tables. Functions are classified by the types of rules that govern their relationships: algebraic, trigonometric, logarithmic, and exponential. Mathematicians and scientists have found that elementary functions represent many real-world phenomena.

Characteristics of functions

The idea of a function is very important in mathematics because it describes any situation in which one quantity depends on another. For example, the height of a person depends, to a certain extent, on that person's age. The distance an object travels in four hours depends on its speed. When such relationships exist, one variable is said to be a function of the other. Therefore, height is a function of age and distance is a function of speed.

One way to represent the relationship between the two sets of numbers of a function is with a mathematical equation. Consider the relationship of the area of a square to its sides. This relationship is expressed by the equation A = x2. Here, A, the value for the area, depends on x, the length of a side. Consequently, A is called the dependent variable and x is the independent variable. In fact, for a relationship between two variables to be called a function, every value of the independent variable must correspond to exactly one value of the dependent variable.

The previous equation mathematically describes the relationship between a side of the square and its area. In functional notation, the relationship between any square and its area could be represented by f(x) = x2, where A = f(x). To use this notation, we substitute the value found between the parentheses into the equation. For a square with a side 4 units long, the function of the area is f(4) = 42 or 16. Using f(x) to describe the function is a matter of tradition. However, we could use almost any combination of letters to represent a function such as g(s), p(q), or even LMN(z).

Words to Know

Dependent variable: The variable in a function whose value depends on the value of another variable in the function.

Independent variable: The variable in a function that determines the final value of the function.

Inverse function: A function that reverses the operation of the original function.

Just as we add, subtract, multiply, or divide real numbers to get new numbers, functions can be manipulated as such to form new functions. Consider the functions f(x) = x2 and g(x) = 4x + 2. The sum of these functions f(x) + g(x) = x2 + 4x + 2. The difference of f(x) g(x) = x2 4x + 2. The product and quotient can be obtained in a similar way.

In addition to a mathematical equation, graphs and tables can be used to represent a function. Since a function is made up of two sets of numberseach of which is paired with only one other numbera graph of a function can be made by plotting each pair on an x, y coordinate system known as the Cartesian coordinate system. Graphs are helpful because they make it easier to visualize the relationship between the domain and the range of the function.

Classification of functions

Functions are classified by the type of mathematical equation that represents their relationship. Algebraic functions are the most common type of function. These are functions that can be defined using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers, and roots. Examples of algebraic functions include the following: f(x) = x + 4 and f(x) = x/2 and f(x) = x3.

Two other common types of functions are trigonometric and exponential (or logarithmic) functions. Trigonometric functions deal with the sizes of angles and include the functions known as the sine, cosine, tangent, secant, cosecant, and cotangent. Exponential functions can be defined by the equation f(x) = bx, where b is any positive number except 1. The variable b is constant and is known as the base.

An example of an exponential function is f(x) = 10x. Notice that for values of x equal to 1, 2, 3, and 4, the values of f(x) are 10, 100, 1,000, and 10,000. One property of exponential functions is that they change very rapidly with changes in the independent variable.

The inverse of an exponential function is a logarithmic function. In the equation f(x) = 10x, one procedure is to set certain values of x (as we did in the example above) and then find the corresponding values of f(x). Another possibility is to set certain values of f(x) and find out what values of x are needed to produce those values. This process is using the exponential function in reverse and is known as a logarithmic function.

Applications

All types of functions have many practical applications. Algebraic functions are used extensively by chemists and physicists. Trigonometric functions are particularly important in architecture, astronomy, and navigation. Financial institutions often use exponential and logarithmic functions.

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function

function
1. from one set X to another set Y. A relation R defined on the Cartesian product x × y in which for each element x in X there is precisely one element y in Y with the property that (x,y) is a member of R. It is then customary to talk about a function f, say, and to write f : XY

The unique association between elements x and y is denoted by y = f(x) or y = fx

X is called the domain of f, Y the codomain of f. Further, y is the value of f at the point x or the image of x under f. We say that f is a mapping or transformation between sets X and Y or that f maps X into Y, and that f maps x into y. When the domain X is the Cartesian product of n sets then f is a function of n variables. Otherwise it is a function of one variable.

Examples of functions are readily obtained from the mathematical equivalents of standard functions and operations typically supplied in programming languages. The usual trigonometric functions sin, cos, and tan are functions of one variable. The rule for converting from characters into their integer codes or equivalents is a function.

Functions are often represented pictorially as graphs.

See also bijection, injection, surjection, operation, homomorphism.

2. A program unit that given values for input parameters computes a value. Examples include the standard functions such as sin(x), cos(x), exp(x); in addition most languages permit user-defined functions. A function is a “black box” that can be used without any knowledge or understanding of the detail of its internal working. In some languages a function may have side effects.

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function

func·tion / ˈfəngkshən/ • n. 1. an activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person or thing: bridges perform the function of providing access across water| Vitamin A is required for good eye function. ∎  practical use or purpose in design: building designs that prioritize style over function. ∎  a basic task of a computer, esp. one that corresponds to a single instruction from the user. 2. Math. a relationship or expression involving one or more variables: the function (bx + c). ∎  a variable quantity regarded in relation to one or more other variables in terms of which it may be expressed or on which its value depends. ∎  Chem. a functional group. 3. a thing dependent on another factor or factors: class shame is a function of social power. 4. a large or formal social event or ceremony: he was obliged to attend party functions. • v. [intr.] work or operate in a proper or particular way: her liver is functioning normally. ∎  (function as) fulfill the purpose or task of (a specified thing): the museum intends to function as an educational and study center. DERIVATIVES: func·tion·less adj.

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function

function, in mathematics, a relation f that assigns to each member x of some set X a corresponding member y of some set Y; y is said to be a function of x, usually denoted f(x) (read "f of x " ). In the equation y=f(x), x is called the independent variable and y the dependent variable. In practice, X and Y will most often be sets of numbers, vectors, points of some geometric object, or the like. For example, X might be a solid body and f(x) the temperature at the point x in X; in this case, Y will be a set of numbers. The formula Ar2 expresses the area of a circle as a function of its radius. A function f is often described in terms of its graph, which consists of all points (x,y) in the plane such that y=f(x). Although a function f assigns a unique y to each x, several x 's may yield the same y ; e.g., if y=f(x)=x2 (x is a number), then f(2)=f(-2). If this never occurs, then f is called a one-to-one, or injective, function.

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function

function In mathematics, rule that assigns a unique value to each element of a given set. The given set is the domain of the function, and the set of values is the range. Two or more elements of the domain may be assigned the same value, but a function must assign only one value to each element of the domain. A function f maps each element x of the domain to a corresponding element (or value) y in the range. Here x and y are variables, with y dependent on x through the functional relationship f. The dependent variable y is said to be a function of the independent variable x. For example, the square-root is a function, its domain and range being the non-negative real numbers. See also trigonometric function

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function

function action or activity proper to anything XVI; religious or other public ceremony XVII; (math.) variable quantity in relation to other variables XVIII. — (O)F. fonction — L. functiō, -ōn-, f. fungī, funct- perform; see -TION.
Hence vb. XIX. functional XVII, functionary XVIII.

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function

functionashen, fashion, passion, ration •abstraction, action, attraction, benefaction, compaction, contraction, counteraction, diffraction, enaction, exaction, extraction, faction, fraction, interaction, liquefaction, malefaction, petrifaction, proaction, protraction, putrefaction, redaction, retroaction, satisfaction, stupefaction, subtraction, traction, transaction, tumefaction, vitrifaction •expansion, mansion, scansion, stanchion •sanction •caption, contraption •harshen, Martian •cession, discretion, freshen, session •abjection, affection, circumspection, collection, complexion, confection, connection, convection, correction, defection, deflection, dejection, detection, direction, ejection, election, erection, genuflection, imperfection, infection, inflection, injection, inspection, insurrection, interconnection, interjection, intersection, introspection, lection, misdirection, objection, perfection, predilection, projection, protection, refection, reflection, rejection, resurrection, retrospection, section, selection, subjection, transection, vivisection •exemption, pre-emption, redemption •abstention, apprehension, ascension, attention, circumvention, comprehension, condescension, contention, contravention, convention, declension, detention, dimension, dissension, extension, gentian, hypertension, hypotension, intention, intervention, invention, mention, misapprehension, obtention, pension, prehension, prevention, recension, retention, subvention, supervention, suspension, tension •conception, contraception, deception, exception, inception, interception, misconception, perception, reception •Übermenschen • subsection •ablation, aeration, agnation, Alsatian, Amerasian, Asian, aviation, cetacean, citation, conation, creation, Croatian, crustacean, curation, Dalmatian, delation, dilation, donation, duration, elation, fixation, Galatian, gyration, Haitian, halation, Horatian, ideation, illation, lavation, legation, libation, location, lunation, mutation, natation, nation, negation, notation, nutation, oblation, oration, ovation, potation, relation, rogation, rotation, Sarmatian, sedation, Serbo-Croatian, station, taxation, Thracian, vacation, vexation, vocation, zonation •accretion, Capetian, completion, concretion, deletion, depletion, Diocletian, excretion, Grecian, Helvetian, repletion, Rhodesian, secretion, suppletion, Tahitian, venetian •academician, addition, aesthetician (US esthetician), ambition, audition, beautician, clinician, coition, cosmetician, diagnostician, dialectician, dietitian, Domitian, edition, electrician, emission, fission, fruition, Hermitian, ignition, linguistician, logician, magician, mathematician, Mauritian, mechanician, metaphysician, mission, monition, mortician, munition, musician, obstetrician, omission, optician, paediatrician (US pediatrician), patrician, petition, Phoenician, physician, politician, position, rhetorician, sedition, statistician, suspicion, tactician, technician, theoretician, Titian, tuition, volition •addiction, affliction, benediction, constriction, conviction, crucifixion, depiction, dereliction, diction, eviction, fiction, friction, infliction, interdiction, jurisdiction, malediction, restriction, transfixion, valediction •distinction, extinction, intinction •ascription, circumscription, conscription, decryption, description, Egyptian, encryption, inscription, misdescription, prescription, subscription, superscription, transcription •proscription •concoction, decoction •adoption, option •abortion, apportion, caution, contortion, distortion, extortion, portion, proportion, retortion, torsion •auction •absorption, sorption •commotion, devotion, emotion, groschen, Laotian, locomotion, lotion, motion, notion, Nova Scotian, ocean, potion, promotion •ablution, absolution, allocution, attribution, circumlocution, circumvolution, Confucian, constitution, contribution, convolution, counter-revolution, destitution, dilution, diminution, distribution, electrocution, elocution, evolution, execution, institution, interlocution, irresolution, Lilliputian, locution, perlocution, persecution, pollution, prosecution, prostitution, restitution, retribution, Rosicrucian, solution, substitution, volution •cushion • resumption • München •pincushion •Belorussian, Prussian, Russian •abduction, conduction, construction, deduction, destruction, eduction, effluxion, induction, instruction, introduction, misconstruction, obstruction, production, reduction, ruction, seduction, suction, underproduction •avulsion, compulsion, convulsion, emulsion, expulsion, impulsion, propulsion, repulsion, revulsion •assumption, consumption, gumption, presumption •luncheon, scuncheon, truncheon •compunction, conjunction, dysfunction, expunction, function, junction, malfunction, multifunction, unction •abruption, corruption, disruption, eruption, interruption •T-junction • liposuction •animadversion, aspersion, assertion, aversion, Cistercian, coercion, conversion, desertion, disconcertion, dispersion, diversion, emersion, excursion, exertion, extroversion, immersion, incursion, insertion, interspersion, introversion, Persian, perversion, submersion, subversion, tertian, version •excerption

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