Loop-Closing Semantics

  • Ian WrightEmail author
Part of the Cognitive Systems Monographs book series (COSMOS, volume 22)


How is semantic content possible? How can parts of the world refer to other parts? On what grounds (if any) can we claim that simple mechanisms, such as thermometers, thermostats, clocks, and rulers, etc., refer to features of the world in virtue of their causal powers rather than our intentional practices with respect to them? I introduce Sloman’s Tarskian-inspired “loop-closing theory” in order to answer these questions. Loop-closing theory reduces a subset of semantic properties to the causal properties of control systems. I develop Sloman’s account by specifying a metalanguage to describe the causal structure of loop-closing models, and then identify and define a control system’s manipulable feature, which is the subset of the world necessarily present for control success. Loop-closing theory identifies the referential content of a control system’s information-bearing substates with the manipulable feature. I conclude by applying loop-closing semantics to some illustrative test cases, such as the semantic properties of memory addressing in CPUs, the referential content of bacterial magnetosomes, the problem of misrepresentation, and connections to Ramsay-Whyte success semantics.


Semantic Content Causal Power Semantic Property Causal Graph Spiral Coil 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



My thanks to Aaron Sloman whose ideas and general approach are of course the main inspiration for this chapter. Thanks also to Andrew Trigg, Brian Logan, and attendees of the 2011 symposium in honour of Aaron Sloman, held at University of Birmingham, who provided useful feedback on an earlier version of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economics, Faculty of Social SciencesOpen UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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