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Stephen Francis Mann
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
  1. Free Energy: A User's Guide.Stephen Francis Mann, Ross Alexander Pain & Michael Kirchhoff - manuscript
    Over the last fifteen years, an ambitious explanatory framework has been proposed to unify explanations across biology and cognitive science. Active inference, whose most famous tenet is the free energy principle, has inspired excitement and confusion in equal measure. Here, we lay the ground for proper critical analysis of active inference, in three ways. First, we give simplified versions of its core mathematical models. Second, we outline the historical development of active inference and its relationship to other theoretical approaches. Third, (...)
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    Consequences of a Functional Account of Information.Stephen Francis Mann - 2018 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (3):1-19.
    This paper aims to establish several interconnected points. First, a particular interpretation of the mathematical definition of information, known as the causal interpretation, is supported largely by misunderstandings of the engineering context from which it was taken. A better interpretation, which makes the definition and quantification of information relative to the function of its user, is outlined. The first half of the paper is given over to introducing communication theory and its competing interpretations. The second half explores three consequences of (...)
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    Attribution of Information in Animal Interaction.Stephen Francis Mann - 2018 - Biological Theory 13 (3):164–179.
    This article establishes grounds on which attributions of information and encoding in animal signals are warranted. As common interest increases between evolutionary agents, the theoretical approach best suited to describing their interaction shifts from evolutionary game theory to communication theory, which warrants informational language. The take-home positive message is that in cooperative settings, signals can appropriately be described as transmitting encoded information, regardless of the cognitive powers of signalers. The canonical example is the honeybee waggle dance, which is discussed extensively (...)
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  4. Teleosemantics and the Hard Problem of Content.Stephen Francis Mann & Ross Pain - 2022 - Philosophical Psychology 35 (1):22-46.
    Hutto and Myin claim that teleosemantics cannot account for mental content. In their view, teleosemantics accounts for a poorer kind of relation between cognitive states and the world but lacks the theoretical tools to account for a richer kind. We show that their objection imposes two criteria on theories of content: a truth-evaluable criterion and an intensionality criterion. For the objection to go through, teleosemantics must be subject to both these criteria and must fail to satisfy them. We argue that (...)
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    Studying Animal Languages Without Translation: An Insight From Ants. By Zhanna Reznikova. [REVIEW]Stephen Francis Mann & Jessica Pfeifer - 2018 - Quarterly Review of Biology 93:38.