Hi Christophe,

I completely agree that there is an important distinction between the 
communication between attached beams and the semantic communication between 
agents.  Like you, I have long been interested in the evolution of biological 
signaling systems.  My dissertation research included explorations of the 
potential meaning attached to courtship displays by a damselfish species.  In 
the decades since I did that work, my view of communication has broadened.  
Semantics is context dependent and is manifested internally by the agents 
(perception), which makes it very hard to study empirically.  The best I could 
do, and I think this may be a general limitation, was to model the hypothetical 
semantic content of a signal, naively predict how the perceiver ‘should’ 
respond to the hypothetically encoded meaning, and judge whether the empirical 
data fit my model of the system.  Note that I did my dissertation research at a 
time when the leading idea was that  all signals were deceptive devices for 
maximizing personal fitness (e.g., Krebs and Davies, 1984).  My observational 
and experimental work on this system led me to think more deeply about the 
evolution of signaling systems, and I proposed the following:

  *   individuals assess all of the information they perceive, some of which 
represents signals expressed by other individuals
  *   far more information about individuals can be useful than the information 
‘packaged’ in a signal
  *   individuals signal to other individuals in unconventional ways, in 
addition to conventional ways (evolved signaling systems)
  *   evolved, codified kinds of signals generally started as one of those 
unconventional kinds of signals that conferred fitness gains for both the 
signaler and the perceiver, on average
  *   such useful signals tend to persist and they have an opportunity for 
adaptive fine-tuning, morphological integration (e.g., a color patch used for 
display), and amplification
  *   I think these become the classical animal signaling systems we are so 
familiar with

So, for me, codified semantic signals are embedded in, and deeply connected to, 
a sea of information about other individuals.  Such signals may be anywhere 
along a spectrum from simple information transfer (similar to the beams) to 
semantically-based language.  Semantics is a fascinating and important target 
of study, but I think limiting our terminology to that domain misleadingly 
suggests that it is more disconnected from less formalized modes of 
communication than it really is.  I also think it suggests that semantic 
communication is more disconnected from the universal physico-chemical laws 
than it really is.  I prefer to think of semantic communication as a subset of 
all communication, and I see value in understanding the information transfer 
between connected beams as sharing some fundamental similarities to semantic 



On Feb 14, 2018, at 3:05 PM, Christophe Menant 
<christophe.men...@hotmail.fr<mailto:christophe.men...@hotmail.fr>> wrote:

Yes Guy,
Unconsciously I take communications as related to meaning generation.
But, as you say, we could use the word for the two beams attached to each other 
with bolts and that ‘communicate’ relatively to the strength of the building.
The difference may be in the purpose of the communication, in the constraint 
justifying its being.
The ‘communication’ between the two beams is about maintaining them together, 
satisfying physical laws (that exist everywhere). It comes from the decision of 
the architect who is constrained to get a building that stands up. The 
constraint is with the architect, not with the beams that only obey physical 
In the case of living entities the constraints are locally present in the 
organisms (‘stay alive’). The constraint is not in the environment of the 
organism. And the constraint addresses more than physico-chemical laws.
If there is meaning generation for constraint satisfaction in the case of 
organisms, it is difficult to talk the same for the two beams.
This introduces the locality of constraints as a key subject in the evolution 
of our universe. It is an event that emerged from the a-biotic universe 
populated with physico-chemical laws valid everywhere.
Another subject interesting to many of us....
All the best

De : Guy A Hoelzer <hoel...@unr.edu<mailto:hoel...@unr.edu>>
Envoyé : mardi 13 février 2018 18:18
À : Foundations of Information Science Information Science
Cc : Terry Deacon; Christophe Menant
Objet : Re: [Fis] The unification of the theories of information based on the 
cateogry theory

Hi All,

I want to pick on Christophe’s post to make a general plea about FIS posting.  
This is not a comment on meaning generation by agents.  Christophe  wrote:

"Keeping in mind that communications exist only because agents need to manage 
meanings for given purposes”.

This seems to imply that we have such confidence that this premise is correct 
that it is safe to assume it is true.  However, the word “communication” is 
sometimes used in ways that do not comport with this premise.  For example, it 
can be said that in the building of a structure, two beams that are attached to 
each other with bolts are “communicating” with each other.  This certainly fits 
my notion of communication, although there are no “agents” or “meanings” here.  
Energy (e.g., movement) can be transferred from one beam to the next, which 
represents “communication” to me.  I would personally define communication as 
the transfer of information, and I prefer to define “information” without any 
reference to “meaning”.  If the claim above had been written as a contingency 
(e.g., “If we assume that communications exist…”), then I could embrace the 
rest of Christophe’s post.

I think the effectiveness of our FIS posts is diminished by presuming everybody 
shares our particular perspectives on these concepts.  It leads us to talk past 
each other to a degree; so I hope we can remain open to the correctness or 
utility of alternative perspectives that have been frequently voiced within FIS 
and use contingent language to establish the premises of our FIS posts.



On Feb 13, 2018, at 5:19 AM, Christophe Menant 
<christophe.men...@hotmail.fr<mailto:christophe.men...@hotmail.fr>> wrote:

Dear Terry and FISers,
It looks indeed reasonable to position the term 'language' as ‘simply referring 
to the necessity of a shared medium of communication’. Keeping in mind that 
communications exist only because agents need to manage meanings for given 
And the concept of agent can be an entry point for a ‘general theory of 
information’ as it does not make distinctions.
The Peircean triadic approach is also an available framework (but with, alas, a 
limited development of the Interpreter).
I choose to use agents capable of meaning generation, having some compatibility 
with the Peircean approach and with the Biosemiotics 

All the best

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