Showing posts from June, 2022

The evolution of meaning – from pragmatic couplings to semantic representations.

When living creatures perceive something, they’re concerned with two questions: What is it? and: What should I do about it ? You might think that the machinery for answering those questions evolved in that order – like you’d have to know what something is before you can know what to do about it – but it seems likely to have been the opposite. The actions of the simplest creatures when faced with various stimuli in the world are mostly coordinated by pragmatic couplings – signals that are prescriptive rather than descriptive . But these mechanisms laid the foundation for the evolution of decoupled internal representations with true semantic content.   For living organisms to go on persisting – which, let’s face it, is their whole schtick – they have to take in energy and raw materials (food, oxygen) and use them to keep their internal economy humming. Many organisms manage this process – known as homeostasis – by staying put and letting resources come to them. The problem with this