Authors
Stephen Francis Mann
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Abstract
This paper aims to establish several interconnected points. First, a particular interpretation of the mathematical definition of information, known as the causal interpretation, is supported largely by misunderstandings of the engineering context from which it was taken. A better interpretation, which makes the definition and quantification of information relative to the function of its user, is outlined. The first half of the paper is given over to introducing communication theory and its competing interpretations. The second half explores three consequences of the main thesis. First, a popular claim that the quantification of information in a signal is irrelevant for the meaning of that signal is exposed as fallacious. Second, a popular distinction between causal and semantic information is shown to be misleading, and I argue it should be replaced with a related distinction between natural and intentional signs. Finally, I argue that recent empirical work from microbiology and cognitive science drawing on resources of mathematical communication theory is best interpreted by the functional account. Overall, a functional approach is shown to be both theoretically and empirically well-supported.
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DOI 10.1007/s13164-018-0413-4
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References found in this work BETA

Meaning.H. Paul Grice - 1957 - Philosophical Review 66 (3):377-388.
Knowledge and the Flow of Information.F. Dretske - 1989 - Trans/Form/Ação 12:133-139.
Explaining Behaviour: Reasons in a World of Causes.Andy Clark - 1990 - Philosophical Quarterly 40 (158):95-102.
Content in Simple Signalling Systems.Nicholas Shea, Peter Godfrey-Smith & Rosa Cao - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):1009-1035.

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