Naturalizing Natural Salience

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Grice, Lewis, and Skyrms proposed similar distinctions between kinds of meaning. The meaning of terms in human language, as Lewis and Skyrms had it, is ‘conventional’. Skyrms presented models showing how it is possible for conventional meaning to evolve in a population without reliance on pre-existing meaning. But one might think of conventionality as coming in degrees, based on whether the evolutionary process begins with ‘natural saliences’. We propose a theory of natural salience and several extensions of Skyrms’s models to capture this notion. These models reveal that natural saliences can hinder, as well as help, the evolution of language.

Author Profiles

Jacob VanDrunen
University of California, Irvine

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