Curtis Brown - Online Papers

I've placed here some published papers and also a few drafts of papers I haven't yet completed. Any comments or reactions are most welcome! (The first reaction I received, only a couple of days after placing these papers online, was from an old friend from high school, now an attorney in Oregon. The subject heading of his note was:  "What the hell are you talking about, anyway?")

Philosophy and Computation

"Combinatorial-State Automata and Models of Computation," Journal of Cognitive Science 13 (2012): 51-73. Recapitulates and extends the discussion of Chalmers's work begun in "Implementation and Indeterminacy." This appeared in one of a series of special issues of the journal with a target paper by Chalmers, a dozen or so responses to his work in this area, and a reply by Chalmers. [Link to the article at the journal's web site]

"Implementation and Indeterminacy," in J. Weckert and Y. Al-Saggaf, eds., Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology 37 (2004): 27-31. David Chalmers has introduced the idea of a "combinatorial-state automaton" as part of an account of what it is to implement a computation. I argue that the CSA in its present form cannot be regarded as a model of computation. This seems not to have been Chalmers' intent anyway, but the points I make may still be of some interest. (Originally this was going to be a paper about implementation and indeterminacy; it has occurred to me somewhat belatedly that it really isn't any more.)

Philosophy of Mind and Language

"Narrow Mental Content," in Edward N. Zalta, ed., Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University), 2002. An overview of approaches to the topic.

"What is a Belief State?" Midwest Studies in Philosophy 10 (1986): 357-378. Offers an analysis of the notion of a belief state, or what Dennett calls the "organismic contribution to belief." Also offers a sketch of how one's belief state determines the things one believes.

"Direct and Indirect Belief," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (1992): 289-316. Argues that we believe some things by virtue of believing others, in something like the same way we perceive some things by perceiving others, and do some things by doing others.

"How to Believe the Impossible," Philosophical Studies 58 (1990): 271-285. Largely a critical discussion of some views of Richard Foley.

"Believing the Impossible," Synthese 89 (1991): 353-364. Largely a critical discussion of some views of Ruth Barcan Marcus.

"Belief States and Narrow Content," Mind and Language 8 (1993): 343-367. This one was going to be called "What Narrow Content Is Not," until I discovered Ned Block's paper of the same title. Discussion of Fodor's views on narrow content, and criticism of a device proposed by Valerie Walker and Stephen Stich for representing narrow contents.

I Wish I Had Never Existed Argues that considering or grasping a proposition is a less basic mental state than believing. I think everyone I've shown this to thinks it's crazy. I gave it as an APA paper a number of years ago, and never really figured out what to do with it after that.


Internal Realism:  Transcendental Idealism? Argues that there are striking similarities between Putnam's metaphysics and Kant's.

"The Necessary A Posteriori: A Response to Tichy," Philosophical Studies 45 (1984): 379-97.


Art, Oppression, and the Autonomy of Aesthetics Argues in favor of two ways in which aesthetics is autonomous, but also argues that these forms of autonomy do less than might be thought to insulate art from feminist criticism.

Ethics (Etc.)

"Friendships: Epistemically Dangerous Liaisons?" in Damian Caluori, ed., Thinking About Friendship (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). I guess this is more "etc." than ethics proper. It's a criticism of recent suggestions that friendship may require epistemically irrational beliefs and reasoning.

Moral Truths and Moral Principles In progress (though I haven't done anything with it for many years). Argues that if there are particular moral truths, then there must be general moral principles which explain why they are true.

Last update: October 16, 2013.
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