Representations are Rate-Distortion Sweet Spots


Information is widely perceived as essential to the study of communication and representation; still, theorists working on these topics often take themselves not to be centrally concerned with ‘Shannon information’, as it is often put, but with some other, sometimes called ‘semantic’ or ‘nonnatural’, kind of information. This perception is wrong. Shannon’s theory of information is the only one we need. I intend to make good on this last assertion by canvassing a fully (Shannon) informational answer to the metasemantic question of what makes something a representation, for a certain important family of cases. This answer and the accompanying theory, which represents a significant departure from the broadly Dretskean philosophical mainstream, will show how a number of threads in the literature on naturalistic metasemantics, aimed at describing the purportedly non-informational ingredients in representation, actually belong in the same coherent, purely information-theoretic picture.

Forthcoming in Philosophy of Science

This is coming out in the December 2019 issue, dedicated to the proceedings of PSA 2018.