Alistair Isaac


  • Philosophy
  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Room 6.08, Dugald Stewart Building

3 Charles Street, Edinburgh
Post code


Alistair Isaac received his PhD from Stanford University in 2010, where he also worked as an instructor in history and philosophy of science at the Stanford EPGY Online High School. He joined the University of Edinburgh in 2013 after postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania, the latter on the NSF project "Measurement and Isomorphism in the Psychology of Perception: A Historical Approach to the Problem of Representation" on which he was co-PI with Gary Hatfield.

Selected articles

  • "The Semantics Latent in Shannon Information" (forthcoming) British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
  • "Structural Realism for Secondary Qualities" (2014) Erkenntnis 79(3): 481–510.
  • "Objective Similarity and Mental Representation" (2013) Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91(4): 683–704.
  • "Modeling without Representation" (2013) Synthese 190: 3611–3623.

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • Philosophy Library Representative
  • PPLS Library Representative

Undergraduate teaching

I teach Philosophy of Psychology, Philosophical Issues in Evolution, the pre-honours course Philosophy of Science 1, and a variety of modules in Philosophy of Science and Cognition.  In future, I plan to design a course on the Philosophy of Information.

Student consultation hours

My official office hours are Tuesdays, 11am–noon, however I am also available by appointment, so please feel free to email me to set up a time.

Postgraduate teaching

I teach courses related to the Mind, Language, and Embodied Cognition MSc program, as well as other MSc level courses involving Philosophy of Science or Cognitive Science.

Current PhD students supervised

Research summary

The questions which unite all aspects of my research are: What is the nature of representation? and What is the role of representations in inference?

My primary project is in the history and philosophy of psychology and explores the epistemological relationship between perceptual experience and the world. I am particularly interested in uncovering the presuppositions about this relationship which form the foundations of psychophysics. This research traces the evolving theory of the structure of perceptual experience from Kant via Herbart through Müller to Helmholtz, where it combines with Fechner's experimental methods to form the foundation for the modern scientific study of perception. An important theme here, which also reoccurs frequently in 20th and 21st century psychology, is the role of isomorphisms between experience and world to motivate a form of structural realism.

I also work on the relationship between representation and inference in the areas of scientific modelling and formal models of decision making.