Chapter

Grades of communication

Ronald de Sousa

in Sociobiology of Communication

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199216840
Published online September 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191712043 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216840.003.0016
 Grades of communication

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Philosophers interested in meaning have tended to look at the extremes of mere causality on one side and full fledged ‘non-natural meaning’ in human language on the other. But the former (though not simple, as attested by the long and largely vain attempt of philosophers to analyze it) is too simple to count as information, while the complexity of the latter places it far beyond many other forms of genuine communication found in the living world, from bacteria to mammals. Those other forms of communication involve ‘Shannon-information’ but aren't wholly captured by that notion. This chapter looks at some of the work that biologists have done to construct a coherent concept of information able to span a wide spectrum of communication from such phenomena as ‘quorum sensing’ among bacteria to sophisticated infra-linguistic signalling in primates.

Keywords: non-natural meaning; function; teleology; game theory; Shannon-information; quorum sensing

Chapter.  9544 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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