MIT philosophy: postdoctoral fellow:
Damien Rochford
Damien Rochford photo

Hi! I'm Damien. I'm a postdoctoral fellow here at MIT Philosophy, funded by MIT's Office of Digital Learning. I help the philosophy department build edX courses.

I also do philosophy (I got my PhD from MIT at the end of 2013). 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 Both a Quinean and a Bayesian" Many of us contemporary philosophers would like to be both Quineans and Bayesians. But that is s difficult thing to do. In this paper I explain why, and also provide a solution. It involves interpreting the Bayesian framework in a new, Quine-friendly way. A lot of distinctions that are typically understood as absolute, like the distinction between rational and irrational belief-update, and between irrationality and ignorance, are relative to a context, on my way of understanding the Bayesian framework. I provide some formal details concerning how this should work.

    "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

    I was co-founder, with Gaurav Vazirani, of a project we call Wi-Phi. The goal is to make philosophy widely available through the internet in a form interesting and accessible to people with no background in the subject. We have a website.

    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