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Propositional content in signalling systems

Birch, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0001-7517-4759 (2014) Propositional content in signalling systems. Philosophical Studies, 171 (3). pp. 493-512. ISSN 0031-8116

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11098-014-0280-5


Skyrms, building on the work of Dretske, has recently developed a novel information-theoretic account of propositional content in simple signalling systems. Information-theoretic accounts of content traditionally struggle to accommodate the possibility of misrepresentation, and I show that Skyrms’s account is no exception. I proceed to argue, however, that a modified version of Skyrms’s account can overcome this problem. On my proposed account, the propositional content of a signal is determined not by the information that it actually carries, but by the information that it would carry at the nearest separating equilibrium of the underlying evolutionary dynamics. I show that this amended account yields reasonable ascriptions of false propositional content in a well-known formal model of the evolution of communication (the ‘Philip Sidney’ game), and close with a discussion of the serious but perhaps not insuperable difficulties we face in applying the account to examples of signalling in the real world.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2014 Springer Netherlands
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2015 12:00
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:30

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