Functional Information: a Graded Taxonomy of Difference Makers

Nir Fresco, Simona Ginsburg, Eva Jablonka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are many different notions of information in logic, epistemology, psychology, biology and cognitive science, which are employed differently in each discipline, often with little overlap. Since our interest here is in biological processes and organisms, we develop a taxonomy of functional information that extends the standard cue/signal distinction (in animal communication theory). Three general, main claims are advanced here. (1) This new taxonomy can be useful in describing learning and communication. (2) It avoids some problems that the natural/non-natural information distinction faces. (3) Functional information is​ ​produced through exploration and stabilisation processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-567
Number of pages21
JournalReview of Philosophy and Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Many people have contributed to this paper through lively discussions and invaluable comments on earlier versions. They include Marc Artiga, Zohar Bronfman, Peter Corning, Michael Lachmann, Arnon Levy, Stephen Mann, Vincent Müller, Jonathan Najenson, Arnaud Pocheville, Andrea Scarantino, Nicholas Shea, Omri Tal, Mario Villalobos, and Marty Wolf. We thank them, several anonymous referees and anyone else whom we may have inadvertently omitted. The participants in the ‘ Information and the Cognitive Sciences ’ workshop at the Hebrew University in 2015 are gratefully acknowledged. Finally, we thank the guest editors of this special issue: Brian Ball, Fintan Nagle, and Ioannis Votsis, for their assistance during the refereeing process. This research was partly supported by a research grant from the Israeli Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption to the first author as well as stipendiary fellowships from both Sidney M. Edelstein Centre for History and Philosophy of Science Technology and Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Kreitman School of Advanced Graduate Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Nature B.V.


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