Organic Meaning: An Approach to Communication with Minimal Appeal to Minds

  • Mitchell GreenEmail author
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 20)


This essay develops a notion of meaning—what I shall term organic meaning--that may serve as a bridge between Grice’s notions of natural and non-natural meaning. It is a bridge in the sense that like non-natural meaning and unlike natural meaning, it includes cases of communication; yet like natural meaning and unlike non-natural meaning, it is not cognitively demanding, in that a creature can exhibit organic meaning without intending to do so and without intending to produce any effects on the cognitive states of others. As a result, organic meaning may be of interest as part of an evolutionarily plausible account of the phylogeny of communication and of a psychologically credible account of the ontogeny of communication. It will also shed light on aspects of adult human communication that do not meet the cognitive demands of speaker meaning. The approach uses tools from evolutionary game theory, including that of an Evolutionary Stable Strategy (ESS) and is inspired and informed by findings in the evolutionary biology of communication.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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