Hi! I'm Damien. I'm a postdoc at and recent graduate of MIT Philosophy.
My main interest 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.
Published Papers"Is Direct Reference Theory Incompatible With Physicalism?" (co-written with Mahrad Almotahari). Short answer: no, despite what Thomas Hofweber says.
Dissertation"The Calibration Model of Learning" This paper is about how agents learn.
There is a picture of learning that is very influential in epistemology; I call it 'the Classical Picture'. As influential as it is, it is a flawed picture of learning, and epistemology is distorted by it. In this paper, I offer an alternative: the Calibration Picture. It is based on an extended analogy between agents and measuring devices.
Epistemology looks very different from the Calibration point of view. Distinctions that are absolute, given the Classical Picture, are relative, given the Calibration Picture. These include the distinction between enabling and justifying roles of experience, the distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge, and the distinction between irrationality and ignorance.
The beautiful thing about the Calibration Picture is that it gives you a precise way to characterise what is absolute, and a precise way to recover Classical distinctions from that absolute thing, relative to a context. In this way, the Calibration Picture enables you to recover much of the power of the Classical Picture, while offering a new way to understand its significance.
Works In Progress
"No Language is Perfect" The exciting sequel to the dissertation. 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.
"The Matrix Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics" The universe is strange. The evidence to which quantum theory is a response establishes this definitively. In light of this evidence, there are no non-strange options --- you've got to believe something weird. In this paper, I argue that the least strange option is that the universe is simulated. Quantum phenomena are, I say, good evidence that we live inside a simulated universe.
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 website.
Wi-phi is inspired by the Khan Academy .
If you have any interest in contributing, contact me.