UCLA, Dept. of Philosophy
321 Dodd Hall
405 Hilgard Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095

I am an Assistant Professor in
the Department of Philosophyat UCLA.

I study iconic representation, modality,
and computational theories of mind.
Papers and Publications

Blog Posts

Pictorial Grammar (with Dawn Chan, Paris Review Daily, 12/21/10)
Seven Puzzles of Pictorial Representation (original link, Aesthetics for Birds, 9/7/14)


Beyond Resemblance (Philosophical Review 122:2, 2013)

What is it for a picture to depict a scene? The most orthodox philosophical theory of pictorial representation holds that depiction is grounded in resemblance. A picture represents a scene in virtue of being similar to that scene in certain ways. I present evidence against this claim: curvilinear perspective is one common style of depiction in which successful pictorial representation depends as much on a picture's systematic differences with the scene depicted as on the similarities; it cannot be analyzed in terms of similarity alone. The same problem arises for many other kinds of depiction. I conclude that depiction in general is not grounded in resemblance, but geometrical transformation.

Varieties of Iconicity (with Valeria Giardino, Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 6:1, 2015)

This introductory essay aims to familiarize readers with basic dimensions of variation among pictorial and diagrammatic representations. We highlight two axes of variation: first, variation among the rules which characterize different systems of representation; and second, variation among the use properties associated with different systems. We illustrate these dimensions of difference first for the case of logical diagrams, and second for the case of perspectival drawing.

Conventions of Viewpoint Coherence in Film (with Sam Cumming and Rory Kelly, Philosopher's Imprint, 17:1, 2017)

This paper examines the interplay of semantics and pragmatics within the domain of film. Films are made up of individual shots strung together in sequences over time. Though each shot is disconnected from the next, combinations of shots still convey coherent stories that take place in continuous space and time. How is this possible? The semantic view of film holds that film coherence is achieved in part through a kind of film language, a set of conventions which govern the relationships between shots. In this paper, we develop and defend a new version of the semantic view. We articulate it for a pair of conventions that govern spatial relations between viewpoints. One such rule is already well-known; sometimes called the "180 Rule," we term it the X-Constraint; to this we add a previously unrecorded rule, the T-Constraint. As we show, both have the effect, in different ways, of limiting the way that viewpoint (or camera position) can shift through space from shot to shot over the course of a film sequence. Such constraints, we contend, are analogous to relations of discourse coherence that are widely recognized in the linguistic domain. If film is to have a language, it is a language made up of rules like these.

Content and Target in Pictorial Representation (working draft)

This paper argues for a particular model of pictorial representation. The model distinguishes between two fundamental semantic relations: on one hand, a picture expresses a content; on the other, it aims at a target scene. A picture is accurate when the content it expresses fits the target scene it aims at. In addition, content in this model has two aspects: singular content specifies the particular individuals which a picture is of, and attributive content specifies the properties and relations which the picture ascribes to those individuals. For a picture to be accurate, both aspects must be matched in the target. I call this the Three-Part Model because it distinguishes between the triad of attributive content, singular content, and target. Previous work on depiction has recognized a distinction between attributive content and some kind of singular element, but it has failed to separate singular content from target. By contrast, I'll argue from cases that this additional distinction is required, and I'll develop a version of the Three-Part Model that results. Ultimately, I'll suggest that the same basic, three-part architecture is common to language, visual perception, and mental imagery.

The Geometry of Pictorial Representation (working draft)

This paper develops the thesis that pictorial representation is grounded in the geometrical transformation of projection from a viewpoint. This idea is articulated as a semantic principle, here termed the Projection Principle. Understanding pictorial contents as viewpoint-centered spaces, the principle holds, roughly, that for a picture to express a space as content, the picture itself must be a geometrical projection of that space. As a corollary, for a picture to accurately depict a given scene, it must be possible to derive the picture by geometrical projection from that scene. I'll argue that the Projection Principle provides the spatial and chromatic foundation for any further elaboration of pictorial content, a level of structure characteristic of all forms of pictorial representation. The thesis of the essay is largely aligned with recent projection-based proposals by Hyman (2006), Kulvick (2006), and Greenberg (2013), but contrasts with standard resemblance and perceptual theories of depiction.


The Semiotic Spectrum


Special issue, "Pictorial and Diagrammatic Representation" (ed. with Valeria Giardino, Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 6:1, 2015)

  1. Introduction: Varieties of Iconicity
    Valeria Giardino and Gabriel Greenberg
  2. Wayfinding: Notes on the 'Public' as Interactive
    Patrick Maynard
  3. The Mystery of Deduction and Diagrammatic Aspects of Representation
    Sun-Joo Shin
  4. Meaning and Demonstration
    Matthew Stone and Una Stojnic
  5. The Cognitive Design of Tools of Thought
    Barbara Tversky
  6. Diagrams as Tools for Scientific Reasoning
    Adele Abrahamsen and William Bechtel
  7. Street Signs and Ikea Instruction Sheets: Pragmatics and Pictorial Communication
    Marcello Frixione and Antonio Lombardi
  8. Pictures Have Propositional Content
    Alex Grzankowski
  9. Analog Representation and the Parts Principle
    John Kulvicki
  10. Trompe l'oeil and the Dorsal/Ventral Account of Pictorial Perception
    Bence Nanay

Curriculum Vitae


Undergraduate Courses:

Introduction to Philosophy of Mind (Phil 7)
Introduction to Theory of Computation (Phil 133)
Philosophy of Visual Representation (Phil 161)

Graduate Seminars:

80's Classics (Naturalizing Intentionality)
Computation and Cognition
Pictorial Semantics
Semantics of Irreality (with Jessica Rett)
Iconic and Symbolic Representation