Biology and Philosophy 20 (5):1011-1025 (2005)

Authors
Ulrich Stegmann
University of Aberdeen
Abstract
This paper explores John Maynard Smith’s conceptual work on animal signals. Maynard Smith defined animal signals as traits that (1) change another organism’s behaviour while benefiting the sender, that (2) are evolved for this function, and that (3) have their effects through the evolved response of the receiver. Like many ethologists, Maynard Smith assumed that animal signals convey semantic information. Yet his definition of animal signals remains silent on the nature of semantic information and on the conditions determining its content. I therefore compare three ways to specify the semantic content of animal signals. The first suggestion models semantic content on Maynard Smith’s theory of genetic information. On the second proposal, semantic content is equated with a condition identified by conventional content ascriptions. The third suggestion is to explain semantic content in terms of consumer-based teleosemantics. I show how these accounts equate semantic content with distinct kinds of conditions and how they differ with respect to the kinds of traits that qualify as carrying semantic information.
Keywords Animal signals  Communication  Content  Genetic information  Representation  Semantic information  Teleosemantics
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Reprint years 2006
DOI 10.1007/s10539-005-9020-8
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References found in this work BETA

Biosemantics.Ruth Garrett Millikan - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (July):281-97.
The Concept of Information in Biology.John Maynard Smith - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (2):177-194.
Teleological Theories of Mental Content.Karen Neander - 2004 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Citations of this work BETA

Signaling Without Cooperation.Marc Artiga - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):357-378.
A Stag Hunt with Signalling and Mutual Beliefs.Jelle de Boer - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (4):559-576.

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