About MIRA

MIRA (Mind-like Intelligence, Research, and Analysis) Group, is an integrated research and training group that incorporates aspects of a typical philosophy dissertation workshop group with those of a scientific lab group. Our focus is on embodied, non-reductive approaches to the study of the mind, with special interest in artificial intelligence. Topics of interest range across issues in philosophy of mind and language, cognitive science, and epistemology. We also study epistemic and normative issues concerning these topics, especially as they relate to diversity, wellness, and social justice.

MIRA provides weekly training, mentorship, and peer support for advanced undergraduates and graduate students working on these topics. Together, we collaborate on projects, workshop individual members’ papers, and acquire the philosophical and interdisciplinary skills that are important to our work. All students are encouraged to pursue their own ideas and projects, even when they explicitly disagree with or criticize the PI’s work. MIRA’s inherent breadth helps students develop competence in areas outside of their thesis topics. 

MIRA additionally has both a practical focus on diversity, wellness, and social justice. We work to create a holistically supportive academic environment, and to develop tools and resources for other academic groups to support all students and faculty. 



MIRA works to foster intellectual community across Penn and surrounding philosophical, cognitive science, and robotics communities by hosting visiting speakers and reading groups open to the Penn and Philadelphia academic communities.

MIRA-Open meetings promote community and creative thinking centered around issues in philosophy of mind, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, epistemology, and related normative issues. The MIRA-Open program is designed to cultivate diverse perspectives and openness of thought, while stimulating fruitful discussions and collaborations among researchers at every stage of their careers, within Penn, Philadelphia, and academia more generally.

Accordingly, our guest lecture series features a diverse list of researchers in every respect: ranging from world-renowned scholars to Ph.D. candidates, women, LGBTQ, and POC scholars, roboticists, experimental philosophers, and ethicists. MIRA-Open seeks to create a supportive environment for all thinkers to pursue questions and discover connections among the diverse topics that MIRA Group studies.


 If you're interested in joining MIRA for our Open meetings, you can subscribe here.

These meetings are supported by MindCORE


Fall 2018

October 29, 2018, 5-6:30 pm: Prof. Shaun Nichols, Professor of Philosophy, Arizona State University. Title TBA. Claudia Cohen Hall, Room 392.

November 1, 2018, 4-5:30 pm: Matthew Rachar, Ph.D. Candidate, CUNY. “How We Act Together.” Claudia Cohen Hall, Room 392.

Abstract: Previous empirical research (Gomez-Lavin & Rachar 2018) suggests that common intuitions about acting together in a strong sense involve three judgments: (i) exiting a collective action involves an obligation to make that exit public, (ii) this obligation is present in “morally wrong” cases of collective action, and (iii) there is no obligation to seek the permission of the other participants in order to leave a collective action. This presentation sketches a theory of collective intention and action that accounts for these intuitions.

Building from Velleman’s view of intention as a representation with a particular content and causal role (1997), I claim that a collective intention is a public representation that commits participants to a course of action. This claim rests on two key ideas. First, a non-mental representation that plays the appropriate role and has the right content is an intention and, second, an expression of a conditional intention by each participant can combine into a single, categorical intention. After filling out these claims by clarifying the idea of a public representation, specifying how public representations relate to the idea of collective commitment, and spelling out how these representations fulfil the action-guiding roles of intentions, I show how this account incorporates and explains the three guiding judgments. First, leaving a collective commitment is more difficult than rescinding an individual commitment because it also involves a representational act that indicates that the condition on the other participants’ conditional intentions is not satisfied, which explains (i). Second, the utterance of a conditional commitment in the presence of other conditional commitments creates an obligation to fulfill or rescind the commitment, regardless of the act in question, which explains (ii). Finally, once the obligation to notify the other participants has been fulfilled, the collective intention is dissolved, and so there is no longer any source for an obligation to seek permission, which explains (iii).


November 5, 2018, 5-6:30 pm: Prof. Rebecca Kukla, Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown. Title TBA. Claudia Cohen Hall, Room 392.

December 10, 2018, 5-6:30pm: Dr. Derek Anderson, Lecturer, Boston University Philosophy Department. Title TBA. Claudia Cohen Hall, Room 392.

Spring 2019

TBD: Dr. Adriana Renero, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at NYU. Title and location TBD.


Stay tuned...


January 29, 2018: Daniel E. Koditschek, Alfred Fitler Moore Professor, Electrical and Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania.

December 14, 2017: Justin D'Ambrosio, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Australia National University.  "A New Perceptual Adverbialism"

July 19, 2017: Paul Reverdy, Postdoctoral Fellow at Kod*Lab, GRASP, University of Pennsylvania. 

October 9, 2017: Melissa Jacquart, Postdoctoral Fellow with Michael Weisberg, University of Pennsylvania. "Observing the Invisible: The Hunt for Dark Matter with Computer Simulations."


February 26, 2018: Reading: John Symons (2008) "Computational Models of Emergent Properties," Minds and Machines 18 (4):475-491.

March 26, 2018: Reading: Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun (2007) Scaling Learning Algorithms towards AI

April 23, 2018: Reading: Guttenberg, Biehl, Kanai (2017) Learning Body Affordances to Simplify Action Spaces, Guttenberg, Yu, and Kanai (2017) Counterfactual Control for free from Generative Models.

October 30, 2017: The Embodied Mind, Chs 1-2 (The Departing Ground). 

November 20, 2017: The Embodied Mind, Chs 3-4 (Varieties of Cognitivism). 

November 27, 2017: The Embodied Mind, Chs 5-6 (Varieties of Emergence).





Lisa Miracchi

Lisa Miracchi is the leader and organizer of MIRA. She is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research is mainly in philosophy of mind, epistemology, and philosophy of cognitive science. She is currently working on a project on the foundations of Artificial Intelligence that combines her achievement-first, competence-based approach to mental states with dynamical and embodied approaches. 



Ben Baker

Ben is a PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and received a JD from Yale University and a bachelors degree in philosophy and economics from Brown University. He is mainly interested in philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and neuroscience. He is working on a dissertation about dynamical approaches to cognition, especially on the role that learning plays in shaping one's cognitive abilities. 

me with FL scrub jay on hand cc.jpg

Shereen Chang

Shereen Chang is a PhD candidate in Philosophy investigating how we reason about cognition and what we can learn about cognition from studying animals with brains that are quite different from ours. Shereen’s research emphasizes avian cognition, especially parrots, who share many social and behavioural traits with humans and other primates.  One of her current research projects investigates how to justify analogical inferences about the cognitive capacities of nonhuman animals who exhibit complex behaviours similar to that of humans.


Max Lewis

Max is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to Penn, he received an M.A. in philosophy from Brandeis University and an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School. His main philosophical interests are in metaethics, epistemology, and philosophy of action—as well as their intersection. He has secondary interests in bioethics and philosophy of religion. His current research concerns the epistemic and moral dimensions of moral testimony.


Sonia Roberts

I am a Electrical and Systems Engineering PhD student in Kod*lab, which is part of the GRASP lab at the University of Pennsylvania. I am studying legged locomotion in fragile environments such as sand, rubble piles, or dense vegetation.

I graduated from Vassar College in 2010 with a B.A. in Cognitive Science where I worked under Prof. John Long building and experimenting with biologically inspired robots to test hypotheses about biomechanics and evolutionary biology.

Prior to coming to UPenn, I worked as a research technician on the Fly Olympiad Project at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus attempting to create a functional map of the Drosophila melanogaster brain.


Jordan Taylor

Jordan is a graduate student at Penn’s Department of Philosophy. Prior to arriving at Penn he earned a Master of Philosophy degree from the Department of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University. His main interests are the philosophy and psychology of perception and emotion, and the philosophy of cognitive science more broadly.

Eugene photo.jpg

Eugene Vaynberg

Eugene Vaynberg seeks to pursue a PhD in philosophy. He received bachelor's degrees in physics and math from the University of Rochester and has since been taking philosophy courses through Penn's College of Liberal and Professional Studies. He is interested in the philosophy of science, mind, cognitive science, psychology, and biology. 


Mingjun Zhang

I am currently a third-year PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at U. Penn. I am interested in philosophy of biology, philosophy of mind, and public understanding of science, especially the public understanding of evolution in China. Now I am working on two projects: one is about methodological adaptationism in evolutionary biology, and the other is about the concept of ecological niche.


Past MIRA Members

Sonia Pearson, BA University of Pennsylvania (in progress)

Ramathi Bandarayake, BA University of Pennsylvania 2018

Isabel Gwara, Ramathi Bandarayake, BA University of Pennsylvania 2018