•  160
    The term ‘functionalism’ is usually heard in connection with the philosophy of mind or cognition. The functionalism of Wilfrid Sellars, however, is in the first instance as response to the worries about the metaphysics not of mental states, but of meaning. Only late in his career did Sellars explore the possibility of extending his functionalism into an account of cognition. It has been suggested, though, that Sellars’ extension of his functionalist theory into subpersonal territory is not succe…Read more
  •  32
    Phenomenality, conscious states, and consciousness inessentialism
    Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (4): 803-819. 2020.
    I draw attention to an ambiguity of the expression ‘phenomenal consciousness’ that is an avoidable yet persistent source of conceptual confusion among consciousness scientists. The ambiguity is between what I call phenomenality and what I call conscious states, where the former denotes an abstract property and the latter denotes a phenomenon or class of its instances. Since sentences featuring these two terms have different semantic properties, it is possible to equivocate over the term ‘conscio…Read more
  •  90
    Beyond Concepts: Unicepts, Language, and Natural Information (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 70 (278): 199-201. 2020.
    Beyond Concepts: Unicepts, Language, and Natural Information. By Millikan Ruth Garrett.
  •  13
    Many philosophers worry that cognitive scientists apply the concept REPRESENTATION too liberally. For example, William Ramsey argues that scientists often ascribe natural representations according to the “receptor notion,” a causal account with absurd consequences. I rehabilitate the receptor notion by augmenting it with a background condition: that natural representations are ascribed only to systems construed as organisms. This Organism-Receptor account rationalizes our existing conceptual pra…Read more
  •  28
    Cognitive science has been beset for thirty years by foundational disputes about the nature and extension of cognition—e.g. whether cognition is necessarily representational, whether cognitive processes extend outside the brain or body, and whether plants or microbes have them. Whereas previous philosophical work aimed to settle these disputes, I aim to understand what conception of cognition scientists could share given that they disagree so fundamentally. To this end, I develop a number of var…Read more
  •  17
    Many philosophers worry that cognitive scientists apply the concept REPRESENTATION too liberally. For example, William Ramsey argues that scientists often ascribe natural representations according to the “receptor notion,” a causal account with absurd consequences. I rehabilitate the receptor notion by augmenting it with a background condition: that natural representations are ascribed only to systems construed as organisms. This Organism-Receptor account rationalizes our existing conceptual pra…Read more
  •  13
    Functionalism is widely regarded as the central doctrine in the philosophy of cognitive science, and is invoked by philosophers of cognitive science to settle disputes over methodology and other puzzles. I describe a recent dispute over extended cognition in which many commentators appeal to functionalism. I then raise an objection to functionalism as it figures in this dispute, targeting the assumption that generality and abstraction are tightly correlated. Finally, I argue that the new mechani…Read more
  •  86
    Rethinking the problem of cognition
    Synthese 195 (8): 3547-3570. 2018.
    The present century has seen renewed interest in characterizing cognition, the object of inquiry of the cognitive sciences. In this paper, I describe the problem of cognition—the absence of a positive characterization of cognition despite a felt need for one. It is widely recognized that the problem is motivated by decades of controversy among cognitive scientists over foundational questions, such as whether non-neural parts of the body or environment can realize cognitive processes, or whether …Read more