Information‐Theoretic Semantics

Fred Dretske

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780199262618
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Information‐Theoretic Semantics

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  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy of Mind



Informational semantics takes the primary — at least the original — home of meaning to be the mind: meaning as the content of thought, desire, and intention. The meaning of beliefs, desires, and intentions is what it is we believe, desire, and intend. The sounds and marks of natural language derive their meaning from the communicative intentions of the agents who deploy them. As a result, the information of chief importance to informational semantics is that occurring in the transactions between animals and their environments. So for informational semantics the very existence of thought and, thus, the possibility of language depends on the capacity of (some) living systems to transform information (normally supplied by perception) into meaningful (contentful) inner states like thought, intention, and purpose.

Keywords: informational semantics; meaning; natural language; communicative intentions; perception; information

Article.  6274 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Mind

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