•  1969
    The cognitive neuroscience revolution
    Synthese 193 (5): 1509-1534. 2016.
    We outline a framework of multilevel neurocognitive mechanisms that incorporates representation and computation. We argue that paradigmatic explanations in cognitive neuroscience fit this framework and thus that cognitive neuroscience constitutes a revolutionary break from traditional cognitive science. Whereas traditional cognitive scientific explanations were supposed to be distinct and autonomous from mechanistic explanations, neurocognitive explanations aim to be mechanistic through and thro…Read more
  •  701
    Integrating psychology and neuroscience: functional analyses as mechanism sketches
    with Carl Craver
    Synthese 183 (3): 283-311. 2011.
    We sketch a framework for building a unified science of cognition. This unification is achieved by showing how functional analyses of cognitive capacities can be integrated with the multilevel mechanistic explanations of neural systems. The core idea is that functional analyses are sketches of mechanisms , in which some structural aspects of a mechanistic explanation are omitted. Once the missing aspects are filled in, a functional analysis turns into a full-blown mechanistic explanation. By thi…Read more
  •  468
    Computation vs. information processing: why their difference matters to cognitive science
    with Andrea Scarantino
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (3): 237-246. 2010.
    Since the cognitive revolution, it has become commonplace that cognition involves both computation and information processing. Is this one claim or two? Is computation the same as information processing? The two terms are often used interchangeably, but this usage masks important differences. In this paper, we distinguish information processing from computation and examine some of their mutual relations, shedding light on the role each can play in a theory of cognition. We recommend that theoris…Read more
  •  420
    Recovering What Is Said With Empty Names
    with Sam Scott
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 40 (2): 239-273. 2010.
    As our data will show, negative existential sentences containing socalled empty names evoke the same strong semantic intuitions in ordinary speakers and philosophers alike.Santa Claus does not exist.Superman does not exist.Clark Kent does not exist.Uttering the sentences in (1) seems to say something truth-evaluable, to say something true, and to say something different for each sentence. A semantic theory ought to explain these semantic intuitions.The intuitions elicited by (1) are in apparent …Read more
  •  399
    The ontology of creature consciousness: A challenge for philosophy
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (1): 103-104. 2007.
    I appeal to Merker's theory to motivate a hypothesis about the ontology of consciousness: Creature consciousness is (at least partially) constitutive of phenomenal consciousness. Rather than elaborating theories of phenomenal consciousness couched solely in terms of state consciousness, as philosophers are fond of doing, a correct approach to phenomenal consciousness should begin with an account of creature consciousness.
  •  372
    Functionalism, computationalism, and mental contents
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34 (3): 375-410. 2004.
    Some philosophers have conflated functionalism and computationalism. I reconstruct how this came about and uncover two assumptions that made the conflation possible. They are the assumptions that (i) psychological functional analyses are computational descriptions and (ii) everything may be described as performing computations. I argue that, if we want to improve our understanding of both the metaphysics of mental states and the functional relations between them, we should reject these assumptions…Read more
  •  364
    Defending or attacking either functionalism or computationalism requires clarity on what they amount to and what evidence counts for or against them. My goalhere is not to evaluatc their plausibility. My goal is to formulate them and their relationship clearly enough that we can determine which type of evidence is relevant to them. I aim to dispel some sources of confusion that surround functionalism and computationalism. recruit recent philosophical work on mechanisms and computation to shed li…Read more
  •  354
    Functionalism, Computationalism, & Mental States
    Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 35 (4): 811-833. 2004.
    Some philosophers have conflated functionalism and computationalism. I reconstruct how this came about and uncover two assumptions that made the conflation possible. They are the assumptions that (i) psychological functional analyses are computational descriptions and (ii) everything may be described as performing computations. I argue that, if we want to improve our understanding of both the metaphysics of mental states and the functional relations between them, we should reject these assumpti…Read more
  •  347
    Computation without representation
    Philosophical Studies 137 (2): 205-241. 2008.
    The received view is that computational states are individuated at least in part by their semantic properties. I offer an alternative, according to which computational states are individuated by their functional properties. Functional properties are specified by a mechanistic explanation without appealing to any semantic properties. The primary purpose of this paper is to formulate the alternative view of computational individuation, point out that it supports a robust notion of computational ex…Read more
  •  333
    Despite its significance in neuroscience and computation, McCulloch and Pitts's celebrated 1943 paper has received little historical and philosophical attention. In 1943 there already existed a lively community of biophysicists doing mathematical work on neural networks. What was novel in McCulloch and Pitts's paper was their use of logic and computation to understand neural, and thus mental, activity. McCulloch and Pitts's contributions included (i) a formalism whose refinement and generalizati…Read more
  •  325
    Information processing, computation, and cognition
    with Andrea Scarantino
    Journal of Biological Physics 37 (1): 1-38. 2011.
    Computation and information processing are among the most fundamental notions in cognitive science. They are also among the most imprecisely discussed. Many cognitive scientists take it for granted that cognition involves computation, information processing, or both – although others disagree vehemently. Yet different cognitive scientists use ‘computation’ and ‘information processing’ to mean different things, sometimes without realizing that they do. In addition, computation and information pro…Read more
  •  297
    Computational explanation in neuroscience
    Synthese 153 (3): 343-353. 2006.
    According to some philosophers, computational explanation is proprietary
    to psychology—it does not belong in neuroscience. But neuroscientists routinely offer computational explanations of cognitive phenomena. In fact, computational explanation was initially imported from computability theory into the science of mind by neuroscientists, who justified this move on neurophysiological grounds. Establishing the legitimacy and importance of computational explanation in neuroscience is one thing; shedd…
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  •  295
    According to pancomputationalism, everything is a computing system. In this paper, I distinguish between different varieties of pancomputationalism. I find that although some varieties are more plausible than others, only the strongest variety is relevant to the philosophy of mind, but only the most trivial varieties are true. As a side effect of this exercise, I offer a clarified distinction between computational modelling and computational explanation.<br><br>.
  •  273
    Computationalism in the Philosophy of Mind
    Philosophy Compass 4 (3): 515-532. 2009.
    Computationalism has been the mainstream view of cognition for decades. There are periodic reports of its demise, but they are greatly exaggerated. This essay surveys some recent literature on computationalism. It concludes that computationalism is a family of theories about the mechanisms of cognition. The main relevant evidence for testing it comes from neuroscience, though psychology and AI are relevant too. Computationalism comes in many versions, which continue to guide competing research p…Read more
  •  273
    Neural Computation and the Computational Theory of Cognition
    with Sonya Bahar
    Cognitive Science 37 (3): 453-488. 2013.
    We begin by distinguishing computationalism from a number of other theses that are sometimes conflated with it. We also distinguish between several important kinds of computation: computation in a generic sense, digital computation, and analog computation. Then, we defend a weak version of computationalism—neural processes are computations in the generic sense. After that, we reject on empirical grounds the common assimilation of neural computation to either analog or digital computation, conclu…Read more
  •  249
    The Physical Church–Turing Thesis: Modest or Bold?
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (4): 733-769. 2011.
    This article defends a modest version of the Physical Church-Turing thesis (CT). Following an established recent trend, I distinguish between what I call Mathematical CT—the thesis supported by the original arguments for CT—and Physical CT. I then distinguish between bold formulations of Physical CT, according to which any physical process—anything doable by a physical system—is computable by a Turing machine, and modest formulations, according to which any function that is computable by a physi…Read more
  •  249
    Functions Must Be Performed at Appropriate Rates in Appropriate Situations
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (1): 1-20. 2014.
    We sketch a novel and improved version of Boorse’s biostatistical theory of functions. Roughly, our theory maintains that (i) functions are non-negligible contributions to survival or inclusive fitness (when a trait contributes to survival or inclusive fitness); (ii) situations appropriate for the performance of a function are typical situations in which a trait contributes to survival or inclusive fitness; (iii) appropriate rates of functioning are rates that make adequate contributions to surv…Read more
  •  247
    Get the Latest Upgrade: Functionalism 6.3.1
    Philosophia Scientae 17 (2): 135-149. 2013.
    Functionalism is a popular solution to the mind–body problem. It has a number of versions. We outline some of the major releases of functionalism, listing some of their important features as well as some of the bugs that plagued these releases. We outline how different versions are related. Many have been pessimistic about functionalism’s prospects, but most criticisms have missed the latest upgrades. We end by suggesting a version of functionalism that provides a complete account of the mind
  •  231
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (1). 2008.
    I offer an explication of the notion of computer, grounded in the practices of computability theorists and computer scientists. I begin by explaining what distinguishes computers from calculators. Then, I offer a systematic taxonomy of kinds of computer, including hard-wired versus programmable, general-purpose versus special-purpose, analog versus digital, and serial versus parallel, giving explicit criteria for each kind. My account is mechanistic: which class a system belongs in, and which fu…Read more
  •  228
    Access denied to zombies
    Unpublished 1-13. 2008.
    According to the zombie conceivability argument, phenomenal zombies are conceivable, and hence possible, and hence physicalism is false. Critics of the conceivability argument have responded by denying either that zombies are conceivable or that they are possible. Much of the controversy hinges on how to establish and understand what is conceivable, what is possible, and the link between the two—matters that are at least as obscure and controversial as whether consciousness is physical. Becau…Read more
  •  226
    Alan Turing and the mathematical objection
    Minds and Machines 13 (1): 23-48. 2003.
    This paper concerns Alan Turing’s ideas about machines, mathematical methods of proof, and intelligence. By the late 1930s, Kurt Gödel and other logicians, including Turing himself, had shown that no finite set of rules could be used to generate all true mathematical statements. Yet according to Turing, there was no upper bound to the number of mathematical truths provable by intelligent human beings, for they could invent new rules and methods of proof. So, the output of a human mathematician, …Read more
  •  223
    Are Prototypes and Exemplars Used in Distinct Cognitive Processes?
    with James Virtel
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (2-3): 226-227. 2010.
    Machery’s argument that concepts split into different kinds is bold and inspiring but not fully persuasive. We will focus on the lack of evidence for the fourth tenet of Machery’s..
  •  218
    The Church–Turing Thesis (CTT) is often employed in arguments for computationalism. I scrutinize the most prominent of such arguments in light of recent work on CTT and argue that they are unsound. Although CTT does nothing to support computationalism, it is not irrelevant to it. By eliminating misunderstandings about the relationship between CTT and computationalism, we deepen our appreciation of computationalism as an empirical hypothesis.
  •  211
    The Resilience of Computationalism
    Philosophy of Science 77 (5): 852-861. 2010.
    Roughly speaking, computationalism says that cognition is computation, or that cognitive phenomena are explained by the agent‘s computations. The cognitive processes and behavior of agents are the explanandum. The computations performed by the agents‘ cognitive systems are the proposed explanans. Since the cognitive systems of biological organisms are their nervous 1 systems (plus or minus a bit), we may say that according to computationalism, the cognitive processes and behavior of organisms ar…Read more
  •  204
    Splitting concepts
    with Sam Scott
    Philosophy of Science 73 (4): 390-409. 2006.
    A common presupposition in the concepts literature is that concepts constitute a sin- gular natural kind. If, on the contrary, concepts split into more than one kind, this literature needs to be recast in terms of other kinds of mental representation. We offer two new arguments that concepts, in fact, divide into different kinds: (a) concepts split because different kinds of mental representation, processed independently, must be posited to explain different sets of relevant phenomena; (b) conce…Read more
  •  204
    First-Person Data, Publicity and Self-Measurement
    Philosophers' Imprint 9 1-16. 2009.
    First-person data have been both condemned and hailed because of their alleged privacy. Critics argue that science must be based on public evidence: since first-person data are private, they should be banned from science. Apologists reply that first-person data are necessary for understanding the mind: since first-person data are private, scientists must be allowed to use private evidence. I argue that both views rest on a false premise. In psychology and neuroscience, the subjects issuing first…Read more
  •  186
    Data from introspective reports: Upgrading from common sense to science
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 (9-10): 141-156. 2003.
    Introspective reports are used as sources of information about other minds, in both everyday life and science. Many scientists and philosophers consider this practice unjustified, while others have made the untestable assumption that introspection is a truthful method of private observation. I argue that neither skepticism nor faith concerning introspective reports are warranted. As an alternative, I consider our everyday, commonsensical reliance on each other’s introspective reports. When we he…Read more
  •  181
    Computing mechanisms
    Philosophy of Science 74 (4): 501-526. 2007.
    This paper offers an account of what it is for a physical system to be a computing mechanism—a system that performs computations. A computing mechanism is a mechanism whose function is to generate output strings from input strings and (possibly) internal states, in accordance with a general rule that applies to all relevant strings and depends on the input strings and (possibly) internal states for its application. This account is motivated by reasons endogenous to the philosophy of computing, n…Read more