Selected Publications

While scientific inquiry crucially relies on the extraction of patterns from data, we still have a far from perfect understanding of the metaphysics of patterns—and, in particular, of what makes a pattern real. In this paper we derive a criterion of real-patternhood from the notion of conditional Kolmogorov complexity. The resulting account belongs to the philosophical tradition, initiated by Dennett (1991), that links real-patternhood to data compressibility, but is simpler and formally more perspicuous than other proposals previously defended in the literature. It also successfully enforces a non-redundancy principle, suggested by Ladyman and Ross (2007), that aims to exclude from real-patternhood those patterns that can be ignored without loss of information about the target dataset, and which their own account fails to enforce.
Forthcoming in Synthese, 2019

I develop a rate-distortion analysis of signaling games with imperfect common interest. Sender and receiver should be seen as jointly managing a communication channel with the objective of minimizing two independent distortion measures. I use this analysis to identify a problem with ‘functional’ theories of deception, and in particular Brian Skyrms’s: there are perfectly cooperative, non-exploitative instances of channel management that come out as manipulative and deceptive according to those theories.
Forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 2019

Information is widely perceived as essential to the study of communication and representation; still, theorists working on these topics often take themselves not to be centrally concerned with ‘Shannon information’, as it is often put, but with some other, sometimes called ‘semantic’ or ‘nonnatural’, kind of information. This perception is wrong. Shannon’s theory of information is the only one we need. I intend to make good on this last assertion by canvassing a fully (Shannon) informational answer to the metasemantic question of what makes something a representation, for a certain important family of cases. This answer and the accompanying theory, which represents a significant departure from the broadly Dretskean philosophical mainstream, will show how a number of threads in the literature on naturalistic metasemantics, aimed at describing the purportedly non-informational ingredients in representation, actually belong in the same coherent, purely information-theoretic picture.
Forthcoming in the PSA 2018 proceedings issue of Philosophy of Science, 2018

According to the homeostatic property cluster family of accounts, one of the main conditions for groups of properties to count as natural is that these properties be frequently co-instantiated. I argue that this condition is, in fact, not necessary for natural-kindness. Furthermore, even when it is present, the focus on co-occurrence distorts the role natural kinds play in science. Co-occurrence corresponds to what information theorists call redundancy: observing the presence of some of the properties in a frequently co-occurrent cluster makes observations of other members of the cluster comparatively uninformative. Yet, scientific practice often, and increasingly often, singles out as natural groups of properties that are not redundant, but synergic: instantiations of properties in synergic clusters are not necessarily informative about instantiations of other properties in the cluster; rather, it is their joint instantiation that plays the explanatory role for which the natural kind is recruited.
Synthese, 2017

We present a dynamic model of the evolution of communication in a Lewis signaling game while systematically varying the degree of common interest between sender and receiver. We show that the level of common interest between sender and receiver is strongly predictive of the amount of information transferred between them. We also discuss a set of rare but interesting cases in which common interest is almost entirely absent, yet substantial information transfer persists in a ‘cheap talk’ regime, and offer a diagnosis of how this may arise.
Philosophy of Science, 83(3):371-392, 2016

It is widely held that it is unhelpful to model our epistemic access to modal facts on the basis of perception, and postulate the existence of a bodily mechanism attuned to modal features of the world. In this paper I defend modalizing mechanisms. I present and discuss a decision-theoretic model in which agents with severely limited cognitive abilities, at the end of an evolutionary process, have states which encode substantial information about the probabilities with which the outcomes of a certain Bernoulli process occur. Thus, in the model, a process driven by very simple, thoroughly naturalistic mechanisms eventuates in modal sensitivity.
Journal of Philosophy, 112 (12):658-670, 2015

In the first part of the paper, I present a framework for the description and evaluation of teleosemantic theories of intentionality, and use it to argue that several different objections to these theories (the various indeterminacy and adequacy problems) are, in a certain precise sense, manifestations of the same underlying issue. I then use the framework to show that Millikan’s biosemantics, her own recent declarations to the contrary notwithtanding, presents indeterminacy. In the second part, I develop a novel teleosemantic proposal which makes progress in the treatment of this family of problems. I describe a procedure to derive a (unique) homeostatic property cluster [HPC] from facts having to do with the properties that a certain indicator relied on, in the events leading to its fixation in a certain population. This HPC is the one that should figure in the content attribution to the indicator in question
Dialectica, 67 (4):427-453, 2013

Representationalist theories of phenomenal consciousness have problems in accounting for pain, for at least two reasons. First of all, the negative affective phenomenology of pain (its painfulness) does not seem to be representational at all. Secondly, pain experiences are not transparent to introspection in the way perceptions are. This is reflected, e.g. in the fact that we do not acknowledge pain hallucinations. In this paper, I defend that representationalism has the potential to overcome these objections. Defenders of representationalism have tried to analyse every kind of phenomenal character in terms of indicative contents. But there is another possibility: Affective phenomenology, in fact, depends on imperative representational content. This provides a satisfactory solution to the aforementioned difficulties.
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 10 (1):67-90, 2011

Recent Publications

More Publications

. Real Patterns and Indispensability. Forthcoming in Synthese, 2019.


. Deception as Cooperation. Forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 2019.

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. Usefulness Drives Representations to Truth. Forthcoming in Grazer Philosophische Studien, 2019.

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. Imperativism and Pain Intensity. Philosophy of Pain – Unpleasantness, Emotion, and Deviance (eds. D. Bain, M. Brady and J. Corns), Routledge, 2018.


. Representations are Rate-Distortion Sweet Spots. Forthcoming in the PSA 2018 proceedings issue of Philosophy of Science, 2018.

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. Synergic Kinds. Synthese, 2017.

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. Common Interest and Signaling Games: A Dynamic Perspective. Philosophy of Science, 83(3):371-392, 2016.

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. The Organizational Account of Function is an Etiological Account of Function. Acta Biotheoretica, 64 (2):105-117, 2016.

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. Pain Signals are Predominantly Imperative. Biology & Philosophy, 31 (2):283-298, 2016.

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. Modalizing Mechanisms. Journal of Philosophy, 112 (12):658-670, 2015.

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