Common Searches

[last edited 1/22/22]

Comments are always welcome



Physical Computation: A Mechanistic Account. OUP, 2015. A systematic defense of a mechanistic account of physical computation. Updates, revises, and subsumes most of my previous papers on physical computation.

Neurocognitive Mechanisms: Explaining Biological Cognition. OUP, 2020. A systematic defense of a neurocomputational account of cognition and much else besides: new ideas on levels, multiple realizability, functions, neural representation, and consciousness. Updates, revises, and subsumes most of my previous papers on computation and cognition.



Computations and Computers in the Sciences of Mind and Brain. Pittsburgh, PA, University of Pittsburgh, 2003. Except for some of the historical chapters, which have never been published elsewhere, my dissertation has evolved into subsequent work that eventually led to my two books.



An Egalitarian Account of Composition and Realization,” The Monist, invited submission to a special issue edited by Meir Hemmo and Orly Shenker (2022). Argues that, roughly, higher levels are aspects of lower levels, and no level is more fundamental than any other. A better alternative to both traditional reductionism and traditional antireductionism, and a good foundation for the special sciences.

“Physicalism: Flat and Egalitarian,” forthcoming in Meir Hemmo, Stavros Ioannidis, Orly Shenker, and Gal Vishne, eds., Levels of Reality, Berlin: Springer. Argues that physicalism should be flat, meaning that insofar as there are levels, they are just aspects of one and the same portion of reality, and it should also be egalitarian, meaning that such levels are ontologically on a par, so there is no ontological hierarchy between them.

“Activities are Manifestations of Causal Powers,” in Marcus Adams, Zvi Biener, Uljana Feest, and Jacqueline Sullivan (eds.), Eppur Si Muove: Doing History and Philosophy of Science with Peter Machamer, Berlin: Springer (2017), pp. 171-182.



“Knowledge as Factually Grounded Belief” forthcoming in American Philosophical Quarterly. Argues that knowledge is belief grounded in its truthmaker, which is close to but a significant advance over the traditional analysis.


Representation, Language, and Intentionality

Nonnatural Mental Representation,” in K. Dolega, T. Schlicht, J. Smortchkova, eds., What Are Mental Representations? Oxford: Oxford University Press (2020), pp. 254-286. An account of how neurocognitive systems can represent falsehoods and nonexistent entities; taking a significant step beyond traditional teleosemantics towards naturalizing intentionality.

“Towards a Cognitive Neuroscience of Intentionality” (with Alex Morgan), Minds and Machines 28.1 (2018), pp. 119-139. An opinionated review.

“Neural Representations Observed” (with Eric Thomson), Minds and Machines 28.1 (2018), pp. 191-235. Argues that neural representations have been observed for a while, so they are no longer mere theoretical entities.

Functionalism, Computationalism, and Mental Contents,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 34.3 (2004), pp. 375-410.  Argues that although for historical reasons, philosophers have convinced themselves that there is no computation without representation, in fact the notion of computation needs to be construed without presupposing the notion of representation. [final version]

Splitting Concepts” (co-authored with Sam Scott), Philosophy of Science, 73.4 (2006), pp. 390-409.  Argues that the notion of concept should be split into different notions, each of which explains different phenomena. [final version]

Two Kinds of Concept: Implicit and Explicit,” Dialogue, 50 (2011), pp. 179-193, in a symposium on Edouard Machery’s book Doing without Concepts.  Revises, articulates, and defends the view (originally proposed in the paper just above) that concepts split into two kinds, which I call implicit and explicit. [penultimate version]

Are Prototypes and Exemplars Used in Distinct Cognitive Processes?” (with James Virtel), commentary on Edouard Machery's book Doing without Concepts, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33 (2010), pp. 226-227. [penultimate version]

Recovering What Is Said with Empty Names” (co-authored with Sam Scott), Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 40.2 (2010), pp. 239-274.  Presents novel evidence that sentences containing empty names are truth evaluable and thus that empty names have meaning, contrary to what Millianism predicts. [final version]



Cognitive Science

“Conceived This Way: Innateness Defended” (with Robert Northcott), Philosophers’ Imprint18 (2018), pp. 1-16.

“The Ways of Altruism” (with Armin Schulz), in Evolutionary Psychological Science1 (2018), pp. 58-70.

“The Evolution of Psychological Altruism” (with Armin Schulz), Philosophy of Science 18.5 (2018), pp. 1054-1064.


On Computation in Physical Systems [moslty subsumed under my 2015 book]

“Ontic Pancomputationalism” (with Neal Anderson), in M. E. Cuffaro and S. E. Fletcher, eds., Physical Perspectives on Computation, Computational Perspectives on Physics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2018), pp. 23-38.

NB: in the following four papers, I used the term “computation” for what I now call digital computation. For my most recent and general account of computation, see my 2015 book. 

Computation without Representation,” Philosophical Studies, 137.2 (2008).  This is a paper on how to individuate digital computational states, inputs, and outputs without appealing to semantic properties. [final version]

Computing Mechanisms,” Philosophy of Science, 74.4 (2007), pp. 501-526.  An articulation and defense of the mechanistic account of digital computing systems. [final version]

Computers,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 89.1 (2008), pp. 32-73.  Sequel of the above.  What computers are according to the mechanistic account of computing mechanisms. (listed below).  [final version]

Some Neural Networks Compute, Others Don’t,” Neural Networks, 21.2-3 (2008), pp. 311-321.  A detailed account of digital connectionist computation, both classical and non-classical, plus a distinction between connectionist systems that perform digital computations and those that don’t.  [final version]

The Physical Church-Turing Thesis: Modest or Bold?” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 62.4 (2011), pp. 733-769.  Discusses some traditional (bold) formulations of the physical version of the Church-Turing thesis (not to be confused with the mathematical version originally defended by Church and Turing), arguing that they are unsatisfactory because they don’t fit the epistemological notion of computation that motivates the thesis in the first place, and formulates and defends a more satisfactory (modest) formulation of the thesis. [11/10 preprint]

Computation in Physical Systems” (co-authored with Corey Maley), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.).


On Computational Theories of Cognition [mostly subsumed under my 2020 book]

Computational Modeling vs. Computational Explanation: Is Everything a Turing Machine, and Does It Matter to the Philosophy of Mind?” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 85.1 (2007), pp. 93-115.  Distinguishes between computational modeling and computational explanation in terms derived from the mechanistic account of computing mechanisms, and argues that once that distinction is in place, the thesis that everything is computational becomes either false or trivial. [final version]

Computationalism, the Church-Turing Thesis, and the Church-Turing Fallacy,” Synthese, 154.1 (2007), pp. 97-120.  Refutes three common arguments for computationalism from the Church-Turing Thesis. [final version]

Functionalism, Computationalism, and Mental States,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 35.4 (2004), pp. 811-833.  Argues that although for historical reasons, philosophers have conflated functionalism and computationalism, they are two logically independent doctrines. [final version]

The Mind as Neural Software? Revisiting Functionalism, Computationalism, and Computational Functionalism,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 81.2 (2010), pp. 269-311.  This is a relatively detailed analysis of the conceptual relations between the three notions in the title, plus a reformulation of functionalism in mechanistic terms. [final version]

Computationalism in the Philosophy of Mind,” Philosophy Compass, 4.3 (2009), pp. 515-532.  A review of the state of the art, drawing on some of my other papers.  It is mostly superseded by the following paper.  [proofs; the published version is here]

Computationalism,” in Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Eric Margolis, Richard Samuels, and Stephen Stich, eds., Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011), pp. 222-249. Another review of the state of the art, drawing on the previous paper but improving on it in several ways. Section 6, which is on objections to computationalism and is mostly drawn from the corresponding section in the Philosophy Compass paper, will not appear in the published version to save space.  [11/10 preprint]


On the History of Computational Theories of Cognition

The First Computational Theory of Mind and Brain: A Close Look at McCulloch and Pitts’s ‘Logical Calculus of Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity’, Synthese, 141.2 (2004), pp. 175-215.  A detailed account of the background, assumptions, evidential basis, and historical significance of the first computational theory of mind. [final version]

Alan Turing and the Mathematical Objection,” Minds and Machines, 13.1 (2003), special issue on hypercomputation, pp. 23-48.  A detailed analysis of the background to and structure of Turing’s reply to the objection that due to Gödel incompleteness, machines cannot think. [final version]

Allen Newell,” a brief biography of Allen Newell, in New Dictionary of Scientific Biography, N. Koertge, ed., New York: Scribner (2007), Volume 5, pp. 254-258. [penultimate version]

Review of John von Neumann, The Computer and the Brain,” Minds and Machines, 13.2 (2003), pp. 327-332.  Some comments on von Neumann’s classic book in the occasion of its reprinting. [final version]


On Computational Theories of Cognition [mostly subsumed under my 2015 and 2020 books]

“Closed Loops and Computation in Neuroscience: What It Means and Why It Matters” (with Corey J. Maley), in Ahmed El Hady (ed.), Closed Loop Neuroscience, London: Elsevier (2016), pp. 271-277.

“The Computational Theory of Cognition,” in V. C. Müller (ed.), Fundamental Issues of Artificial Intelligence (Synthese Library Volume 376), Berlin: Springer (2016), pp. 201-219. An updated version of "Computational Explanation and Mechanistic Expanation of Mind." Revised and subsumed under my 2020 book.

Computational Explanation and Mechanistic Explanation of Mind,” in Cartographies of the Mind: The Interface between Philosophy and Cognitive Science, M. de Caro, F. Ferretti, and M. Marraffa, eds., Dordrecht: Springer (2007), pp. 23-36.  This is a brief summary of my views ca. 2005 on computational explanation and the relationship between computational theories of mind and cognitive neuroscience. [penultimate version]

Computational Explanation in Neuroscience,” introduces the topic in the title for a special issue of Synthese, 153.3 (2006), pp. 343-353. [final version]

Computation vs. Information Processing: How They Are Different and Why It Matters” (with Andrea Scarantino), in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 41.3 (2010), pp. 237-246.  Argues that computation and information processing are distinct.  Mostly this is a preliminary version of the following paper, which is also more complete and systematic.  [final version]

Information Processing, Computation, and Cognition” (with Andrea Scarantino), in Journal of Biological Physics, 37.1 (2011), pp. 1-38.  A detailed and systematic discussion of the relations between the three notions in the title, with emphasis on the lack of identity between information processing and computation.  This paper contains my latest and most general formulation of the mechanistic account of computation.  This paper supersedes the paper just above, except for some historical remarks that did not make it into the larger paper. [final version]

The Resilience of Computationalism,” in Philosophy of Science, 77.5 (2010), pp. 852-861.  A review of arguments against computationalism (with emphasis on arguments from differences between neural processes and computations, which are not discussed in my review articles, why they don’t work as they stand, and a promissory note on how they can be improved upon by employing the mechanistic account of computation.  [final version]

Neural Computation and the Computational Theory of Cognition” (with Sonya Bahar), Cognitive Science 34 (2013), pp. 453-488. Argues that neural activity is a sui generic type of computation; it is neither analog nor digital computation.  [final version]


On Explanation in Psychology and Neuroscience

“The Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution” (with Worth Boone), Synthese (2016), 5, 1509–1534.

“Mechanistic Abstraction” (with Worth Boone), Philosophy of Science (2016), 83.5, pp. 686–697.

Integrating Psychology and Neuroscience: Functional Analyses as Mechanism Sketches” (with Carl Craver), in Synthese, 183.3 (2011), pp. 283-311. Argues that contrary to the received view, functional analyses are mechanism sketches (i.e., elliptical mechanistic explanations), and therefore functional analyses are neither distinct nor autonomous from mechanistic explanations, and therefore psychological explanations can be seamlessly integrated with neuroscientific explanations. [2/11 preprint]


On Functions in Biology and Artifacts

“A Unified Mechanistic Account of Teleological Functions for Psychology and Neuroscience” (with Corey J. Maley), in David Kaplan (ed.), Explanation and Integration in Mind and Brain Science, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2017), pp. 236-256.

Functions Must Be Performed at Appropriate Rates in Appropriate Situations” (with Justin Garson), British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 65.1 (2014), pp. 1-20. Defends a goal-contribution account of functions to the effect 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 are adequate contributions to survival or inclusive fitness (in situations appropriate for the performance of that function), and (iv) dysfunction is the inability to perform a function at an appropriate rate in appropriate situations. [final version]


Metaphysics of Mind

“The Metaphysics of Mind and the Multiple Sources of Multiple Realizability” (with Corey J. Maley), in M. Sprevak and J. Kallestrup, eds., New Waves in the Philosophy of Mind, Palgrave Macmillan (2014), pp. 125-152.

Get the Latest Upgrade: Functionalism 6.3.1” (with Corey Maley), in a special issue of Philosophia Scientiae on the Mind-Body Problem in Cognitive Neuroscience edited by Gabriel Vacariu, 17.2 (2013), pp. 135-149. Reviews different versions of functionalism and their relations, and defends the following combination: basic functionalism plus mechanisms plus neural representations and computations plus naturalistic semantics based on information and control plus properties that are powerful qualities. [final version]


On First-Person Data

Epistemic Divergence and the Publicity of Scientific Methods,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 34.3 (2003), pp. 597-612. Argues that scientific data ought to be public. This paper is not specifically on first-person data, but it provides a crucial premise for the methodology of first-person data developed in the other papers in this group. [final version]

Data from Introspective Reports: Upgrading from Commonsense to Science,” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10.9-10 (2003), pp. 141-156. Argues that when properly understood and handled, first-person reports are a legitimate source of public scientific data. [penultimate version]

First-Person Data, Publicity, and Self-Measurement,” Philosophers’ Imprint, 9.9 (2009), pp. 1-16. Argues that first-person data are public (contrary to a popular view) and that legitimate first-person data result from a kind of self-measurement. [links to the open-access published version]

Scientific Methods Ought to Be Public, and Descriptive Experience Sampling Is One of Them.” In the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 18.1 (2011), pp. 102-117, in a symposium on Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic, by R. T. Hurlburt and E. Schwitzgebel (followed by a response by Schwitzgebel). [penultimate version]

How to Improve on Heterophenomenology: The Self-Measurement Methodology of First-Person Data.” In the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17.3-4 (2010), pp. 84-106.  A comparison between my self-measurement methodology of first-person data (developed in the papers listed immediately above) and Dennett’s Heterophenomenology. [penultimate version]

"From Phenomenology to the Self-Measurement Methodology of First-Person Data" (with Corey Maley). Forthcoming in Richard Brown, ed., Consciousness Inside and Out: Phenomenology, Neuroscience, and the Nature of Experience, Springer. Responds to Ruth Millikan’s critique of phenomenology by defending the self-measurement methodology of first-person data. [penultimate version]

Review of Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic, by R. T. Hurlburt and E. Schwitzgebel, in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2008-04-25.



“The Myth of Mind Uploading,” in Robert W. Clowes, Klaus Gärtner, and Inês Hipólito, eds., The Mind-Technology Problem: Investigating Minds, Selves and 21st Century Artefacts, Berlin: Springer (2021), pp. 125-144.

“Is Consciousness a Spandrel?” (with Zack Robinson and Corey J. Maley), Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 1.2 (2015), 365-383.

“No Mental Life after Brain Death: The Argument from the Neural Localization of Mental Functions” (with Sonya Bahar). In Michael Martin and Keith Augustine, eds., The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield (2015), pp. 135-170.

The Ontology of Creature Consciousness: A Challenge for Philosophy” (commentary on “Consciousness without a Cerebral Cortex: A Challenge for Neuroscience and Medicine,” by Björn Merker), Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30.1 (2007), pp. 103-104. [penultimate version]

Access Denied to Zombies,Topoi 36.1 (2017), pp. 81-93. Argues that even if all the usual assumptions made in the zombie conceivability argument are granted (i.e., zombies are conceivable and conceivability entails possibility), the argument still begs the question because it remains to be shown that the relevant possible worlds are accessible to our world (in the sense of ‘accessible’ used in possible world semantics). [short version of rough draft, 1/08]