•  54
    The We-Perspective on the Racing Sailboat
    In Roberto Casati (ed.), The Sailing Mind, Springer. forthcoming.
    Successful sports teams are able to adopt what is known as the 'we-perspective,' forming intentions and making decisions, somewhat as a unified mind does, to achieve their goals. In this paper I consider what is involved in establishing and maintaining the we-perspective on a racing sailboat. I argue that maintaining the we-perspective contributes to the success of the boat in at least two ways: (1) it facilitates the smooth execution of joint action; and (2) it increases the chance that individ…Read more
  •  80
    The Elusive Role of Normal-Proper Function in Cognitive Science
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. forthcoming.
    Comments on Karen Neander's A Mark of the Mental
  •  184
    Function-Theoretic Explanation and the Search for Neural Mechanisms
    In Explanation and Integration in Mind and Brain Science 145-163.. pp. 145-163. 2017.
    A common kind of explanation in cognitive neuroscience might be called functiontheoretic: with some target cognitive capacity in view, the theorist hypothesizes that the system computes a well-defined function (in the mathematical sense) and explains how computing this function constitutes (in the system’s normal environment) the exercise of the cognitive capacity. Recently, proponents of the so-called ‘new mechanist’ approach in philosophy of science have argued that a model of a cognitive capa…Read more
  •  284
    Nicholas Shea offers Varitel Semantics as a naturalistic account of mental content. I argue that the account secures determinate content only by appeal to pragmatic considerations, and so it fails to respect naturalism. But that is fine, because representational content is not, strictly speaking, necessary for explanation in cognitive science. Even in Shea’s own account, content serves only a variety of heuristic functions.
  •  89
    Explaining representation: a reply to Matthen
    Philosophical Studies 170 (1): 137-142. 2014.
    Mohan Matthen has failed to understand the position I develop and defend in “How to Think about Mental Content.” No doubt some of the fault lies with my exposition, though Matthen often misconstrues passages that are clear in context. He construes clarifications and elaborations of my argument to be “concessions.” Rather than dwell too much on specific misunderstandings of my explanatory project and its attendant claims, I will focus on the main points of disagreement.RepresentationalismMy proje…Read more
  •  776
    How to think about mental content
    Philosophical Studies 170 (1): 115-135. 2014.
    Introduction: representationalismMost theorists of cognition endorse some version of representationalism, which I will understand as the view that the human mind is an information-using system, and that human cognitive capacities are representational capacities. Of course, notions such as ‘representation’ and ‘information-using’ are terms of art that require explication. As a first pass, representations are “mediating states of an intelligent system that carry information” (Markman and Dietrich …Read more
  •  434
    Much of computational cognitive science construes human cognitive capacities as representational capacities, or as involving representation in some way. Computational theories of vision, for example, typically posit structures that represent edges in the distal scene. Neurons are often said to represent elements of their receptive fields. Despite the ubiquity of representational talk in computational theorizing there is surprisingly little consensus about how such claims are to be understood. Th…Read more
  •  34
    Review of Cummins' Representations, Targets, and Attitudes (review)
    Philosophical Review 107 (1): 118. 1998.
    “Naturalistic” semantic theories attempt to specify, in nonintentional and nonsemantic terms, a sufficient condition for a mental representation’s having a particular meaning. Such theories have trouble accounting for the possibility of representational error. In his latest book, Robert Cummins traces the problem to the fact that the theories currently on offer identify the meaning of a representation with certain features of its use. Only a theory that takes meaning to be an intrinsic feature o…Read more
  •  288
    What's wrong with the syntactic theory of mind
    Philosophy of Science 56 (December): 664-74. 1989.
    Stephen Stich has argued that psychological theories that instantiate his Syntactic Theory of Mind are to be preferred to content-based or representationalist theories, because the former can capture and explain a wider range of generalizations about cognitive processes than the latter. Stich's claims about the relative merits of the Syntactic Theory of Mind are unfounded. Not only is it false that syntactic theories can capture psychological generalizations that content-based theories cannot, b…Read more
  •  572
    A Deflationary Account of Mental Representation
    In Joulia Smortchkova, Krzysztof Dolega & Tobias Schlicht (eds.), Mental Representations, Oxford University Press. 2020.
    Among the cognitive capacities of evolved creatures is the capacity to represent. Theories in cognitive neuroscience typically explain our manifest representational capacities by positing internal representations, but there is little agreement about how these representations function, especially with the relatively recent proliferation of connectionist, dynamical, embodied, and enactive approaches to cognition. In this talk I sketch an account of the nature and function of representation in cog…Read more
  •  19
    Review: Vindicating Intentional Realism (review)
    Behavior and Philosophy 18 (1). 1990.
  •  132
    In defence of narrow mindedness
    Mind and Language 14 (2): 177-94. 1999.
    Externalism about the mind holds that the explanation of our representational capacities requires appeal to mental states that are individuated by reference to features of the environment. Externalists claim that ‘narrow’ taxonomies cannot account for important features of psychological explanation. I argue that this claim is false, and offer a general argument for preferring narrow taxonomies in psychology
  • Intentionality and the theory of vision
    In Kathleen Akins (ed.), Perception, Oxford University Press. 1996.
  •  319
    Wide Content
    In A. Beckerman, B. McLaughlin & S. Walter (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind, Oxford University Press. 2009.
  •  119
    The content of color experience (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (2). 2008.
  •  35
    Is there a role for representational content in scientific psychology?
    In Dominic Murphy & Michael A. Bishop (eds.), Stich and His Critics, Wiley-blackwell. pp. 14. 2009.
    Steve Stich used to be an eliminativist. As far as I can tell, he renounced eliminativism about the time that he moved from the west to the east pole.1 Stich was right to reject eliminativism, though I am not convinced that he rejected it for the right reasons. Stich 1983 contains a comprehensive attack on representational content, a central feature of both folk psychology and the Representational Theory of Mind, the leading philosophical construal of scientific psychology. Stich’s current posit…Read more
  •  130
    Computational models: a modest role for content
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (3): 253-259. 2010.
    The computational theory of mind construes the mind as an information-processor and cognitive capacities as essentially representational capacities. Proponents of the view claim a central role for representational content in computational models of these capacities. In this paper I argue that the standard view of the role of representational content in computational models is mistaken; I argue that representational content is to be understood as a gloss on the computational characterization of a…Read more
  •  126
    Propositional Attitudes and the Language of Thought
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21 (3). 1991.
    In the appendix to Psychosemantics, entitled ‘Why There Still has to be a Language of Thought,’ Jerry Fodor offers several arguments for the language of thought thesis. The LOT, as articulated by Fodor, is a thesis about propositional attitudes. It comprises the following two claims: propositional attitudes are relations to meaning-bearing tokens — for example, to believe that P is to bear a certain relation to a token of a symbol which means that P; and the representational tokens in question a…Read more
  •  56
    Individualism and vision theory
    Analysis 54 (4): 258-264. 1994.
  • 20.1 Arguments for Wide Content
    In Ansgar Beckermann & Brian P. McLaughlin (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind, Oxford University Press. pp. 351. 2009.
  •  37
    The moon illusion
    Philosophy of Science 65 (4): 604-23. 1998.
    Ever since Berkeley discussed the problem at length in his Essay Toward a New Theory of Vision, theorists of vision have attempted to explain why the moon appears larger on the horizon than it does at the zenith. Prevailing opinion has it that the contemporary perceptual psychologists Kaufman and Rock have finally explained the illusion. This paper argues that Kaufman and Rock have not refuted a Berkeleyan account of the illusion, and have over-interpreted their own experimental results. The moo…Read more
  •  48
    Milkowski, Marcin., Explaining the Computational Mind (review)
    Review of Metaphysics 67 (2): 436-438. 2013.
  •  174
    Doing cognitive neuroscience: A third way
    with Robert J. Matthews
    Synthese 153 (3): 377-391. 2006.
    The “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches have been thought to exhaust the possibilities for doing cognitive neuroscience. We argue that neither approach is likely to succeed in providing a theory that enables us to understand how cognition is achieved in biological creatures like ourselves. We consider a promising third way of doing cognitive neuroscience, what might be called the “neural dynamic systems” approach, that construes cognitive neuroscience as an autonomous explanatory endeavor, aim…Read more