Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Dynamics in Human and Primate SocietiesAgent-Based Modeling of Social and Spatial Processes$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Timothy A. Kohler and George J. Gumerman

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780195131673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195131673.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 January 2022

Evolution of Inference

Evolution of Inference

(p.77) Evolution of Inference
Dynamics in Human and Primate Societies

Brian Skyrms

Oxford University Press

Rousseau began his discussion of the origin of language with a paradox that echoes through modern philosophy of language. How can we explain the genesis of speech without presupposing speech, reference without presupposing reference, meaning without presupposing meaning? A version of this paradox forms the basis of Quine's attack on the logical empiricist doctrine that logic derives its warrant from conventions of meaning—that logical truths are true and logical inferences are valid by virtue of such conventions. Quine raised the general skeptical question of how conventions of language could be established without preexisting language, as well as calling attention to more specific skeptical circularities. If conventions of logic are to be set up by explicit definition, or by axioms, must we not presuppose logic to unpack those conventions? David Lewis (1969) sought to answer these skeptical doubts within a game theoretical framework in his book, Convention. This account contains fundamental new insights, and I regard it as a major advance in the theory of meaning. Lewis sees a convention as being a special kind of strict Nash equilibrium in a game that models the relevant social interaction. To say that a convention is a Nash equilibrium is to say that if an individual deviates from a convention which others observe, he is no better off for that. To say that it is a strict Nash equilibrium is to say that he is actually worse off. To this, Lewis adds the additional requirement that an individual unilateral deviation makes everyone involved in the social interaction worse off, so that it is in the common interest to avoid such deviations. A theory of convention must answer two fundamental questions: how do we arrive at conventions?, and by virtue of what considerations do conventions remain in force? Within Lewis' game-theoretic setting, these questions become, respectively, the problems of equilibrium selection and equilibrium maintenance. On the face of it, the second problem may seem to have a trivial solution— the equilibrium is maintained because it is an equilibrium! No one has an incentive to deviate.

Keywords:   adaptive dynamics, common knowledge, evolutionary dynamics, game theory, information transmission, learning, natural salience, philosophy of meaning, replicator dynamics, salience

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .