Communication Before Communicative Intention

Noûs (forthcoming)
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This paper explores the significance of intelligent social behavior among non-human animals for philosophical theories of communication. Using the alarm call system of vervet monkeys as a case study, I argue that interpersonal communication (or what I call “minded communication”) can and does take place in the absence of the production and recognition of communicative intentions. More generally, I argue that evolutionary theory provides good reasons for maintaining that minded communication is both temporally and explanatorily prior to the use of communicative intentions. After developing these negative points about the place of communicative intentions in detail, I provide a novel alternative account according to which minded communication is characterized in terms of patterns of action and response that function to coordinate the representational mental states of agents. I show that an account which centers on patterns of representational coordination of this sort is well suited to capture the theoretical roles associated with minded communication and that it does so in away that provides a good fit with comparative facts about the presence of minded communication among non-human animals.
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Archival date: 2021-09-09
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