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  1. Objective Similarity and Mental Representation.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):683-704.
    The claim that similarity plays a role in representation has been philosophically discredited. Psychologists, however, routinely analyse the success of mental representations for guiding behaviour in terms of a similarity between representation and the world. I provide a foundation for this practice by developing a philosophically responsible account of the relationship between similarity and representation in natural systems. I analyse similarity in terms of the existence of a suitable homomorphism between two structures. The key insight is that by restricting attention (...)
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  2.  78
    Introduction: Gestalt Phenomenology and Embodied Cognitive Science.Alistair M. C. Isaac & Dave Ward - 2019 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 9):2135-2151.
    Several strands of contemporary cognitive science and its philosophy have emerged in recent decades that emphasize the role of action in cognition, resting their explanations on the embodiment of cognitive agents, and their embedding in richly structured environments. Despite their growing influence, many foundational questions remain unresolved or underexplored for this cluster of proposals, especially questions of how they can be extended beyond straightforwardly visuomotor cognitive capacities, and what constraints the commitment of embodiment places on the ontology of explanations. This (...)
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  3.  49
    Prospects for timbre physicalism.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (2):503-529.
    Timbre is that property of a sound that distinguishes it other than pitch and loudness, for instance the distinctive sound quality of a violin or flute. While the term is obscure, the concept has played an important, implicit role in recent philosophy of sound. Philosophers have debated whether to identify sounds with properties of waves, events, or objects. Many of the intuitive considerations in this debate apply most clearly to timbre qualities. Two prominent forms of timbre physicalism have emerged: one (...)
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  4. Structural Realism for Secondary Qualities.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (3):481-510.
    This paper outlines and defends a novel position in the color realism debate, namely structural realism. This position is novel in that it dissociates the veridicality of color attributions from the claim that physical objects are themselves colored. Thus, it is realist about color in both the semantic and epistemic senses, but not the ontic sense. The generality of this position is demonstrated by applying it to other “secondary qualities,” including heat, musical pitch, and odor. The basic argument proceeds by (...)
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  5.  39
    Hubris to humility: Tonal volume and the fundamentality of psychophysical quantities.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 65:99-111.
    Psychophysics measures the attributes of perceptual experience. The question of whether some of these attributes should be interpreted as more fundamental, or “real,” than others has been answered differently throughout its history. The operationism of Stevens and Boring answers “no,” reacting to the perceived vacuity of earlier debates about fundamentality. The subsequent rise of multidimensional scaling (MDS) implicitly answers “yes” in its insistence that psychophysical data be represented in spaces of low dimensionality. I argue the return of fundamentality follows from (...)
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  6.  87
    Quantifying the subjective: Psychophysics and the geometry of color.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2013 - Philosophical Psychology 26 (2):207 - 233.
    Early psychophysical methods as codified by Fechner motivate the development of quantitative theories of subjective experience. The basic insight is that just noticeable differences between experiences can serve as units for measuring a sensory domain. However, the methods described by Fechner tacitly assume that the experiences being investigated can be linearly ordered. This assumption is not true for all sensory domains; for example, there is no trivial linear order over all possible color sensations. This paper discusses key developments in the (...)
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  7. Modeling without representation.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2013 - Synthese 190 (16):3611-3623.
    How can mathematical models which represent the causal structure of the world incompletely or incorrectly have any scientific value? I argue that this apparent puzzle is an artifact of a realist emphasis on representation in the philosophy of modeling. I offer an alternative, pragmatic methodology of modeling, inspired by classic papers by modelers themselves. The crux of the view is that models developed for purposes other than explanation may be justified without reference to their representational properties.
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  8.  27
    Realism without tears I: Müller’s Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 78:83-92.
    The Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies has been and continues to be enormously influential in the physiology, psychology, and philosophy of perception. In simple terms, the Doctrine states that we directly perceive in the first instance the activity of our nerves, rather than properties in the external world. The canonical early statement of the Doctrine by the physiologist Johannes Peter Müller had profound influence on both the phi- losophy and psychology of the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially as reformulated (...)
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  9.  96
    The Ups and Downs of Mechanism Realism: Functions, Levels, and Crosscutting Hierarchies.Joe Dewhurst & Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2021 - Erkenntnis 88 (3):1-23.
    Mechanism realists assert the existence of mechanisms as objective structures in the world, but their exact metaphysical commitments are unclear. We introduce Local Hierarchy Realism (LHR) as a substantive and plausible form of mechanism realism. The limits of LHR reveal a deep tension between two aspects of mechanists’ explanatory strategy. Functional decomposition identifies locally relevant entities and activities, while these same entities and activities are also embedded in a nested hierarchy of levels. In principle, a functional decomposition may identify entities (...)
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  10.  52
    Epistemic Loops and Measurement Realism.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (5):930-941.
    Recent philosophy of measurement has emphasized the existence of both diachronic and synchronic “loops,” or feedback processes, in the epistemic achievements of measurement. A widespread response has been to conclude that measurement outcomes do not convey interest-independent facts about the world, and that only a coherentist epistemology of measurement is viable. In contrast, I argue that a form of measurement realism is consistent with these results. The insight is that antecedent structure in measuring spaces constrains our empirical procedures such that (...)
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  11.  39
    Mechanism Hierarchy Realism and Function Perspectivalism.Joe Dewhurst & Alistair M. C. Isaac - unknown
    Mechanistic explanation involves the attribution of functions to both mechanisms and their component parts, and function attribution plays a central role in the individuation of mechanisms. Our aim in this paper is to investigate the impact of a perspectival view of function attribution for the broader mechanist project, and specifically for realism about mechanistic hierarchies. We argue that, contrary to the claims of function perspectivalists such as Craver, one cannot endorse both function perspectivalism and mechanistic hierarchy realism: if functions are (...)
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  12.  32
    Realism without tears II: The structuralist legacy of sensory physiology.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 79 (C):15-29.
    This paper examines the implications of the Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies for contemporary philosophy and psychology. Part I analyzed Johannes Peter Muller’s canonical formulation of the Doctrine, arguing that it follows from empirical results combined with methodological principles. Here, I argue that these methodological principles remain valid in psychology today, consequently, any naturalistic philosophy of perception must accept the Doctrine’s skeptical conclusion, that the qualities of our perceptual experience are not determined by, and thus do not reveal the nature (...)
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  13.  60
    Physical Computation: A Mechanistic Account.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (3):426-431.
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  14.  61
    The Ups and Downs of Mechanism Realism: Functions, Levels, and Crosscutting Hierarchies.Joe Dewhurst & Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2021 - Erkenntnis 88 (3):1035-1057.
    Mechanism realists assert the existence of mechanisms as objective structures in the world, but their exact metaphysical commitments are unclear. We introduce Local Hierarchy Realism (LHR) as a substantive and plausible form of mechanism realism. The limits of LHR reveal a deep tension between two aspects of mechanists’ explanatory strategy. Functional decomposition identifies locally relevant entities and activities, while these same entities and activities are also embedded in a nested hierarchy of levels. In principle, a functional decomposition may identify entities (...)
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  15.  73
    Model uncertainty and policy choice: A plea for integrated subjectivism.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 47:42-50.
    A question at the intersection of scientific modeling and public choice is how to deal with uncertainty about model predictions. This "high-level" uncertainty is necessarily value-laden, and thus must be treated as irreducibly subjective. Nevertheless, formal methods of uncertainty analysis should still be employed for the purpose of clarifying policy debates. I argue that such debates are best informed by models which integrate objective features with subjective ones. This integrated subjectivism is illustrated with a case study from the literature on (...)
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  16.  32
    Escape from Zanzibar: The Epistemic Value of Precision in Measurement.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2022 - Philosophy of Science 89 (5):1243-1254.
    A “Zanzibar” is an island of measurement values that internally cohere, but are detached from independent contact with reality. One manifestation of Zanzibars is through “bandwagon effects,” the tendency of contemporaneous measurements to agree. Bandwagons illustrate how the otherwise virtuous drive towards coherence can have negative epistemic consequences. I argue that precision is an epistemic virtue that mitigates against bandwagon effects and illustrate this claim with a case study from the history of measurements of c. This precision-first reasoning motivates the (...)
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  17.  37
    Digital Images: Content and Compositionality.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2017 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 3 (1):106-126.
    Typical accounts of imagistic content have focused on the apparent analog character or continuous variability of images. In contrast, I consider the distinctive features of digital images, those composed of finite sets of discrete pixels. A rich source of evidence on digital imagistic content is found in the content-preserving algorithms that resize and reproduce digital images on computer screens and printers. I argue that these algorithms reveal a distinctive structural feature: digital images are always compositional (their parts contribute systematically to (...)
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  18.  23
    Introduction.Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (S4):671-672.
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  19.  34
    Paul M. Churchland, Plato’s Camera: How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press , 304 pp., $18.00. [REVIEW]Alistair M. C. Isaac - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (1):161-165.
  20.  38
    Review: Paul M. Churchland: Plato's Camera: How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals. [REVIEW]Alistair M. C. Isaac - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations.