Robin said:

To me this issue is very simple: the meaning of information to a receiving 
system is the effect on the system of the reception of the information.

This makes meaning relative, but I believe that's both as it should be, and 
easily understood:

I've very recently been studying Millikan's biosemantics, in which "proper 
function" is determined genetically: it is the function of the heart to pump 
because that's what its predecessors were selected to do. The concept of 
function is required in order to allow for a representation or meaning to be 
false, or misleading: in that case, the function fails to do what it is 
to". It occurred to me, that is good as far as it goes, but too restrictive: 
functionality should be seen as relative to a given context. In the context of 
biology, Millikan's "proper function" is appropriate, but in most contexts that 
people are concerned with, the context is human aims and aspirations. Within 
that category there are different levels, notably that of the individual and of 
society, but that's just another aspect of context. In any case, the context 
determines the meaning of information. How that does that relate to my first 
statement? The context will determine, for instance, whether the system we 
look at to determine the effect of the information is an individual or a 
population. But of course there are many other complexities to consider!

     S: I agree that meaning is generated within an interpreting system (and so 
not 'objective'), as well as through contextuality.  That is, if a system acts 
as a 
system of interpretance, then it is contextualizing an event impinging upon it 
an opportunity appearing before it.

Steven said:
I much prefer a more general definition(of meaning) derived from the Peircian 
pragmaticist definition (and internally consistent in my model). Meaning is a 
term concerning signs, it is the difference that a sign makes in the world.

A meaning is a reference to the information that a sign provides. It is a meta 
concept allowing us to reason about information.  

    S:  The difference between a mere 'event' (e.g., two items colliding) and a 
meaningful interaction is that in the latter context affects the result.  That 
context is provided by a system of interpretance if it is party to the 

Jacob said:

Dear All:

I have remained mostly a lurker on this fascinating listserv for some 
time. The diversity of the different participants' backgrounds makes for 
interesting discussions, though I am not sure I always understand 

That said, having spent the last year or more familiarizing myself with 
situation semantics, situation theory, and infomorphic channel theory 
(i.e. the work of  Jon Barwise, Jerry Seligman, David Israel, John 
Perry, Keith Devlin, and many others) for my thesis work, I am struck by 
the general, if not universal, absence of engagement with this work in 
this list's discussions. Situation semantics is an explicitly 
information oriented semantics (rather than say a truth oriented 
semantics), based on partial worlds called situations. Propositional 
sentence meaning is a relation between some discourse situation and a 
described situation. A propositional sentence asserts that a described 
situation support various states of affairs (items of information). 
Jerry Seligman gives a reasonable first pass formalization of the notion 
of a situation in his paper /Physical Situations and Information Flow./ 
Situation theory was further developed in Barwise and Seligman's channel 
theory. Channel theory identifies information flow as arising from 
regularities between the components of distributed systems. The 
decomposition of a system determines what information flows in the 
system; hence the information available to a cognitive agent depends on 
the particular decomposition used. Allwein, Moskowitz, and Chang have 
attempted to integrate Shannon's information theory into Barwise and 
Seligman's channel theory (see refs below).  More recent work of 
interest is contained in the recent collection /Philosophy of 
Information/ edited by Pieter Adriaans and Johan Van Benthem. This work 
is relatively well known and seems highly relevant to our discussions on 
this list, so I am puzzled. Am I missing something?

    S:  How would your points here relate to the general idea that information 
contextual? That is, that it varies with the system of interpretance engaging 

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