Usefulness Drives Representations to Truth


An important objection to signaling approaches to representation is that, if signaling behavior is driven by the maximization of usefulness (as is arguably the case for cognitive systems evolved under regimes of natural selection), then signals will typically carry much more information about agent-dependent usefulness than about objective features of the world. This sort of considerations are sometimes taken to provide support for an anti-realist stance on representation itself. Here I examine the game-theoretic version of this skeptical line of argument developed by Donald Hoffman and his colleagues. I show that their argument only works under an extremely impoverished picture of the informational connections that hold between agent and world. In particular, it only works for cue-driven agents, in Kim Sterelny’s sense. In cases in which the agents’s understanding of what is useful results from combining pieces of information that reach them in different ways, and that complement one another (i.e., that are synergistic), maximizing usefulness involves construing first a picture of agent-independent, objective matters of fact.

Grazer Philosophische Studien, 96(3):319-341