MIT philosophy: grad students:
Damien Rochford
Damien Rochford photo

Hi! I'm Damien. I'm a graduate student here at MIT Philosophy.

My main shtick is the relationship between the epistemology and the intentionality of agents' mental states --- i.e., on the relationship between what people are able to know and what they are able to think about. But I'm interested in lots of things.

I welcome --- nay, crave --- feedback on my work. Don't be a stranger.

Here is my CV, for interested parties.

  • Published Papers

    "Is Direct Reference Theory Incompatible With Physicalism?" (co-written with Mahrad Almotahari). Short answer: no, despite what Thomas Hofweber says.

    Works In Progress

    "How to be a Quinean and a Bayesian" It is hard to be both a Quinean and a Bayesian. For a long time, people have noticed that standard Bayesian update rules, including both classical and Jeffrey conditionalisation, carry implicit, anti-Quinean commitments. One might think that what this shows is that the Quinean needs to find some other, yet more recherché updating rule. But, if a recent argument due to David Chalmers works, it is hard to see how any update rule can be both a) made to fit with the Bayesian framework and b) friendly to Quinean epistemology. In this paper, I propose a way of reconciling Quinean holism, and skepticism concerning the a priori, with Bayesianism. Rather than messing with the update rule, I will propose a novel way of interpreting the Bayesian framework. This will involve thinking of certain Bayesian ideas, such as the distinction between irrationality and ignorance, as relative, rather than absolute. The final picture is a version of what Daniel Greco calls 'contextualist foundationalism'. As such, it is a third way between the coherentism suggested by a straightforward interpretation of Quine, and the (absolute) foundationalism suggested by a straightforward interpretation of the Bayesian framework.

    "No Language is Perfect" The sequel to the above. Communication requires a certain kind of co-ordination between speaker and hearer: roughly, they need to agree on what the truth-value of their utterances are across a range of possible circumstances. There are two ways this co-ordination can break down: speaker and hearer can disagree on the truth-value of a given sentence in a given possible circumstance, or they can disagree on what possible circumstances there are for sentences to be true or false in. There is a longstanding philosophical dream: that at least among ideally rational agents, this second kind of co-ordination failure would never occur, and that the language spoken by such agents could neutrally express all possible substantive disagreements. I think there is no such thing as the ideally rational agent, and that the quest for universally neutral language is quixotic. There are, I say, disagreements that are inexpressible in a neutral way.

    "Object Representation and Truth-Apt Representation" There are two kinds of representation. There is truth-apt representation, which is the kind done by sentences and by the lantern that was hung for Paul Revere's benefit; and there is representing an object, the way my name on a list represents me, or a dot on a map can represent Melbourne. Back when philosophers were mostly concerned with linguistic representation there was consensus: philosophers thought truth-apt representation was more fundamental than object representation, and that object representation should be explained in terms of truth-apt representation. But when philosophers started worrying about mental representation, that consensus dissolved. I think there was no good reason for the change; we should still think truth-apt representation is the more fundamental phenomenon, even when it is happening in a brain. This has consequences for our theory of content, and for meta-metaphysics.

  • Wi-phi

    Gaurav Vazirani and I have a project: to make philosophy widely available through the internet in a form interesting and accessible to people with no background in the subject. We call the project 'Wi-phi'. We have a youtube channel.

    Wi-phi is inspired by the Khan Academy .

    If you have any interest in contributing, contact me. Stay tuned for updates.

  • office phone email
    32-D835 617-258-8084

    MIT philosophy