Michael Rescorla University of California at Santa Barbara
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  1. Michael Rescorla (2014). A Theory of Computational Implementation. Synthese 191 (6):1277-1307.
    I articulate and defend a new theory of what it is for a physical system to implement an abstract computational model. According to my descriptivist theory, a physical system implements a computational model just in case the model accurately describes the system. Specifically, the system must reliably transit between computational states in accord with mechanical instructions encoded by the model. I contrast my theory with an influential approach to computational implementation espoused by Chalmers, Putnam, and others. I deploy my theory (...)
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  2. Michael Rescorla (2014). Perceptual Constancies and Perceptual Modes of Presentation. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (2):468-476.
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  3. Michael Rescorla (2014). The Causal Relevance of Content to Computation. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):173-208.
    Many philosophers worry that the classical computational theory of mind (CTM) engenders epiphenomenalism. Building on Block’s (1990) discussion, I formulate a particularly troubling version of this worry. I then present a novel solution to CTM’s epiphenomenalist conundrum. I develop my solution within an interventionist theory of causal relevance. My solution departs substantially from orthodox versions of CTM. In particular, I reject the widespread picture of digital computation as formal syntactic manipulation.1.
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  4. Michael Rescorla (2013). Against Structuralist Theories of Computational Implementation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):681-707.
    Under what conditions does a physical system implement or realize a computation? Structuralism about computational implementation, espoused by Chalmers and others, holds that a physical system realizes a computation just in case the system instantiates a pattern of causal organization isomorphic to the computation’s formal structure. I argue against structuralism through counter-examples drawn from computer science. On my opposing view, computational implementation sometimes requires instantiating semantic properties that outstrip any relevant pattern of causal organization. In developing my argument, I defend (...)
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  5. Michael Rescorla (2012). Are Computational Transitions Sensitive to Semantics? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):703-721.
    The formal conception of computation (FCC) holds that computational processes are not sensitive to semantic properties. FCC is popular, but it faces well-known difficulties. Accordingly, authors such as Block and Peacocke pursue a ?semantically-laden? alternative, according to which computation can be sensitive to semantics. I argue that computation is insensitive to semantics within a wide range of computational systems, including any system with ?derived? rather than ?original? intentionality. FCC yields the correct verdict for these systems. I conclude that there is (...)
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  6. Michael Rescorla (2012). Copeland and Proudfoot on Computability. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (1):199-202.
    Many philosophers contend that Turing’s work provides a conceptual analysis of numerical computability. In (Rescorla, 2007), I dissented. I argued that the problem of deviant notations stymies existing attempts at conceptual analysis. Copeland and Proudfoot respond to my critique. I argue that their putative solution does not succeed. We are still awaiting a genuine conceptual analysis.
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  7. Michael Rescorla (2011). Review of Perception and Cognition – Gary Hatfield. [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 61 (242):205-207.
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  8. Michael Rescorla (2009). Assertion and its Constitutive Norms. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (1):98-130.
    Alston, Searle, and Williamson advocate the restrictive model of assertion , according to which certain constitutive assertoric norms restrict which propositions one may assert. Sellars and Brandom advocate the dialectical model of assertion , which treats assertion as constituted by its role in the game of giving and asking for reasons. Sellars and Brandom develop a restrictive version of the dialectical model. I explore a non-restrictive version of the dialectical model. On such a view, constitutive assertoric norms constrain how one (...)
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  9. Michael Rescorla (2009). Chrysippus' Dog as a Case Study in Non-Linguistic Cognition. In Robert W. Lurz (ed.), The Philosophy of Animal Minds. Cambridge University Press. 52--71.
    I critique an ancient argument for the possibility of non-linguistic deductive inference. The argument, attributed to Chrysippus, describes a dog whose behavior supposedly reflects disjunctive syllogistic reasoning. Drawing on contemporary robotics, I urge that we can equally well explain the dog's behavior by citing probabilistic reasoning over cognitive maps. I then critique various experimentally-based arguments from scientific psychology that echo Chrysippus's anecdotal presentation.
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  10. Michael Rescorla (2009). Cognitive Maps and the Language of Thought. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (2):377-407.
    Fodor advocates a view of cognitive processes as computations defined over the language of thought (or Mentalese). Even among those who endorse Mentalese, considerable controversy surrounds its representational format. What semantically relevant structure should scientific psychology attribute to Mentalese symbols? Researchers commonly emphasize logical structure, akin to that displayed by predicate calculus sentences. To counteract this tendency, I discuss computational models of navigation drawn from probabilistic robotics. These models involve computations defined over cognitive maps, which have geometric rather than logical (...)
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  11. Michael Rescorla (2009). Epistemic and Dialectical Regress. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):43 – 60.
    Dialectical egalitarianism holds that every asserted proposition requires defence when challenged by an interlocutor. This view apparently generates a vicious 'regress of justifications', since an interlocutor can challenge the premises through which a speaker defends her original assertion, and so on ad infinitum . To halt the regress, dialectical foundationalists such as Adler, Brandom, Leite, and Williams propose that some propositions require no defence in the light of mere requests for justification. I argue that the putative regress is not worrisome (...)
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  12. Michael Rescorla (2009). Predication and Cartographic Representation. Synthese 169 (1):175 - 200.
    I argue that maps do not feature predication, as analyzed by Frege and Tarski. I take as my foil (Casati and Varzi, Parts and places, 1999), which attributes predication to maps. I argue that the details of Casati and Varzi’s own semantics militate against this attribution. Casati and Varzi emphasize what I call the Absence Intuition: if a marker representing some property (such as mountainous terrain) appears on a map, then absence of that marker from a map coordinate signifies absence (...)
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  13. Michael Rescorla (2009). Shifting the Burden of Proof? Philosophical Quarterly 59 (234):86-109.
    Dialectical foundationalists, including Adler, Brandom, Leite, and Williams, claim that some asserted propositions do not require defense just because an interlocutor challenges them. By asserting such a proposition, the speaker shifts the burden of proof to her interlocutor. Dialectical egalitarians claim that all asserted propositions require defense when challenged. I elucidate the dispute between dialectical foundationalists and egalitarians, and I defend a broadly egalitarian stance against several prominent objections.
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  14. Michael Rescorla, Convention. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    The central philosophical task posed by conventions is to analyze what they are and how they differ from mere regularities of action and cognition. Subsidiary questions include: How do conventions arise? How are they sustained? How do we select between alternative conventions? Why should one conform to convention? What social good, if any, do conventions serve? How does convention relate to such notions as rule, norm, custom, practice, institution, and social contract? Apart from its intrinsic interest, convention is important because (...)
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  15. Michael Rescorla (2007). A Linguistic Reason for Truthfulness. In Dirk Greimann & Geo Siegwart (eds.), Truth and Speech Acts. Routledge. 5--250.
    This paper further develops the non-restrictive dialectical perspective. Many philosophers hold that truthfulness is somehow constitutive of assertion. I argue against this view while simultaneously attempting to ground truthfulness in assertion’s essential features. I argue that truthfulness is the prima facie best way to avoid decisive counter-arguments against what one says. Moreover, avoiding decisive counter-arguments is a constitutive goal of rational dialectic. Thus, while truthfulness is not constitutive of assertion, it is the rational default strategy for achieving a goal that (...)
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  16. Michael Rescorla (2007). Church's Thesis and the Conceptual Analysis of Computability. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 48 (2):253-280.
    Church's thesis asserts that a number-theoretic function is intuitively computable if and only if it is recursive. A related thesis asserts that Turing's work yields a conceptual analysis of the intuitive notion of numerical computability. I endorse Church's thesis, but I argue against the related thesis. I argue that purported conceptual analyses based upon Turing's work involve a subtle but persistent circularity. Turing machines manipulate syntactic entities. To specify which number-theoretic function a Turing machine computes, we must correlate these syntactic (...)
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  17. Michael Rescorla (2006). Review of Christopher Gauker's Words Without Meaning. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review 115 (1):121-124.
  18. Michael Rescorla, Rationality.
    A striking thesis lies at the core of Davidson‟s philosophy: when we attribute intentional content to another creature‟s mental states and speech acts, we must treat the creature as largely conforming to our own rational norms. I will discuss how this thesis informs Davidson‟s treatment of rationality and intentionality. After reviewing some historical background, I present basic aspects of Davidson‟s position. I then examine various worries about the position. I conclude by highlighting some key Davidsonian insights into rationality.
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