•  15
    Natural Conventions and Indirect Speech Arts
    Philosophers' Imprint 19. 2019.
    In this paper, we develop the notion of a natural convention, and illustrate its usefulness in a detailed examination of indirect requests in English. Our treatment of convention is grounded in Lewis’s seminal account; we do not here redefine convention, but rather explore the space of possibilities within Lewis’s definition, highlighting certain types of variation that Lewis de-emphasized. Applied to the case of indirect requests, which we view through a Searlean lens, the notion of natural con…Read more
  •  32
    The Credit Economy and the Economic Rationality of Science
    Journal of Philosophy 115 (1): 5-33. 2018.
    Theories of scientific rationality typically pertain to belief. In this paper, the author argues that we should expand our focus to include motivations as well as belief. An economic model is used to evaluate whether science is best served by scientists motivated only by truth, only by credit, or by both truth and credit. In many, but not all, situations, scientists motivated by both truth and credit should be judged as the most rational scientists.
  •  22
    Kantian Decision Making Under Uncertainty: Dignity, Price, and Consistency
    with Adam Bjorndahl and Alex John London
    Philosophers' Imprint 17. 2017.
    The idea that there is a fundamental difference in value between persons and things, and that respecting this difference is an important moral requirement, has strong intuitive appeal. Kantian ethics is unique in placing this requirement at the center of a moral system and in explicating the conditions for complying with it. Unlike challenges to Kantian ethics that focus on tragic cases that pit respect for one person against respect for another, this paper focuses on the question of how we can …Read more
  •  140
    Transfer of information between senders and receivers, of one kind or another, is essential to all life. David Lewis introduced a game theoretic model of the simplest case, where one sender and one receiver have pure common interest. How hard or easy is it for evolution to achieve information transfer in Lewis signaling?. The answers involve surprising subtleties. We discuss some if these in terms of evolutionary dynamics in both finite and infinite populations, with and without mutation
  •  7
    In this paper we distinguish two competing conceptions of dignity, one recognizably Hobbesian and one recognizably Kantian. We provide a formal model of how decision-makers committed to these conceptions of dignity might reason when engaged in an economic transaction that is not inherently insulting, but in which it is possible for the dignity of the agent to be called into question. This is a modified version of the ultimatum game. We then use this model to illustrate ways in which the Kantian …Read more
  •  40
    Evolutionary considerations in the framing of social norms
    with B. Skyrms
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9 (3): 265-273. 2010.
    In this article, we aim to illustrate evolutionary explanations for the emergence of framing effects, discussed in detail in Cristina Bicchieri’s The Grammar of Society . We show how framing effects might evolve which coalesce two economically distinct interactions into a single one, leading to apparently irrational behavior in each individual interaction. Here we consider the now well-known example of the ultimatum game, and show how this ‘irrational’ behavior might result from a single norm wh…Read more
  •  54
    Talking to neighbors: The evolution of regional meaning
    Philosophy of Science 72 (1): 69-85. 2005.
    In seeking to explain the evolution of social cooperation, many scholars are using increasingly complex game-theoretic models. These complexities often model readily observable features of human and animal populations. In the case of previous games analyzed in the literature, these modifications have had radical effects on the stability and efficiency properties of the models. We will analyze the effect of adding spatial structure to two communication games: the Lewis Sender-Receiver game and a …Read more
  •  122
    Methodology in Biological Game Theory
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3): 637-658. 2013.
    Game theory has a prominent role in evolutionary biology, in particular in the ecological study of various phenomena ranging from conflict behaviour to altruism to signalling and beyond. The two central methodological tools in biological game theory are the concepts of Nash equilibrium and evolutionarily stable strategy. While both were inspired by a dynamic conception of evolution, these concepts are essentially static—they only show that a population is uninvadable, but not that a population i…Read more
  •  14
    Social network structure and the achievement of consensus
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 11 (1): 26-44. 2012.
    It is widely believed that bringing parties with differing opinions together to discuss their differences will help both in securing consensus and also in ensuring that this consensus closely approximates the truth. This paper investigates this presumption using two mathematical and computer simulation models. Ultimately, these models show that increased contact can be useful in securing both consensus and truth, but it is not always beneficial in this way. This suggests one should not, without …Read more
  •  352
    In the latter half of the twentieth century, philosophers of science have argued (implicitly and explicitly) that epistemically rational individuals might compose epistemically irrational groups and that, conversely, epistemically rational groups might be composed of epistemically irrational individuals. We call the conjunction of these two claims the Independence Thesis, as they together imply that methodological prescriptions for scientific communities and those for individual scientists might…Read more
  •  5
    Lewis signaling games illustrate how language might evolve from random behavior. The probability of evolving an optimal signaling language is, in part, a function of what learning strategy the agents use. Here we investigate three learning strategies, each of which allows agents to forget old experience. In each case, we find that forgetting increases the probability of evolving an optimal language. It does this by making it less likely that past partial success will continue to reinforce subopt…Read more
  •  67
    Separating Directives and Assertions Using Simple Signaling Games
    Journal of Philosophy 108 (3): 158-169. 2011.
  •  40
    Explaining fairness in complex environments
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 7 (1): 81-97. 2008.
    This article presents the evolutionary dynamics of three games: the Nash bargaining game, the ultimatum game, and a hybrid of the two. One might expect that the probability that some behavior evolves in an environment with two games would be near the probability that the same behavior evolves in either game alone. This is not the case for the ultimatum and Nash bargaining games. Fair behavior is more likely to evolve in a combined game than in either game taken individually. This result confirms…Read more
  •  14
    The handicap principle has come under significant challenge both from empirical studies and from theoretical work. As a result, a number of alternative explanations for honest signaling have been proposed. This paper compares the evolutionary plausibility of one such alternative, the "hybrid equilibrium," to the handicap principle. We utilize computer simulations to compare these two theories as they are instantiated in Maynard Smith's Sir Philip Sidney game. We conclude that, when both types of…Read more
  •  41
    Recent research into the evolution of higher cognition has piqued an interest in the effect of natural selection on the ability of creatures to respond to their environment (behavioral plasticity). It is believed that environmental variation is required for plasticity to evolve in cases where the ability to be plastic is costly. We investigate one form of environmental variation: frequency dependent selection. Using tools in game theory, we investigate a few models of plasticity and outline the c…Read more
  •  44
    Optimal Publishing Strategies
    Episteme 6 (2): 185-199. 2009.
    Journals regulate a significant portion of the communication between scientists. This paper devises an agent-based model of scientific practice and uses it to compare various strategies for selecting publications by journals. Surprisingly, it appears that the best selection method for journals is to publish relatively few papers and to select those papers it publishes at random from the available “above threshold” papers it receives. This strategy is most effective at maintaining an appropriate …Read more
  •  265
    Wisdom of the Crowds vs. Groupthink: Learning in Groups and in Isolation
    International Journal of Game Theory 42 (3): 695-723. 2013.
    We evaluate the asymptotic performance of boundedly-rational strategies in multi-armed bandit problems, where performance is measured in terms of the tendency (in the limit) to play optimal actions in either (i) isolation or (ii) networks of other learners. We show that, for many strategies commonly employed in economics, psychology, and machine learning, performance in isolation and performance in networks are essentially unrelated. Our results suggest that the appropriateness of various, commo…Read more
  •  16
    We study the handicap principle in terms of the Sir Philip Sidney game. The handicap principle asserts that cost is required to allow for honest signalling in the face of conflicts of interest. We show that the significance of the handicap principle can be challenged from two new directions. Firstly, both the costly signalling equilibrium and certain states of no communication are stable under the replicator dynamics ; however, the latter states are more likely in cases where honest signalling s…Read more
  •  77
    Social structure and the effects of conformity
    Synthese 172 (3): 317-340. 2010.
    Conformity is an often criticized feature of human belief formation. Although generally regarded as a negative influence on reliability, it has not been widely studied. This paper attempts to determine the epistemic effects of conformity by analyzing a mathematical model of this behavior. In addition to investigating the effect of conformity on the reliability of individuals and groups, this paper attempts to determine the optimal structure for conformity. That is, supposing that conformity is i…Read more
  •  51
    Finding Alternatives to Handicap Theory
    Biological Theory 8 (2): 127-132. 2013.
    The Handicap Principle represents a central theory in the biological understanding of signaling. This paper presents a number of alternative theories to the Handicap Principle and argues that some of these theories may provide a better explanation for the evolution and stability of honest communication
  •  19
    Conservatism and the Scientific State of Nature
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (4): 1057-1076. 2015.
    Those who comment on modern scientific institutions are often quick to praise institutional structures that leave scientists to their own devices. These comments reveal an underlying presumption that scientists do best when left alone—when they operate in what we call the ‘scientific state of nature’. Through computer simulation, we challenge this presumption by illustrating an inefficiency that arises in the scientific state of nature. This inefficiency suggests that one cannot simply presume t…Read more
  •  36
    Plasticity and language: an example of the Baldwin effect?
    with Rory Smead
    Philosophical Studies 147 (1): 7-21. 2010.
    In recent years, many scholars have suggested that the Baldwin effect may play an important role in the evolution of language. However, the Baldwin effect is a multifaceted and controversial process and the assessment of its connection with language is difficult without a formal model. This paper provides a first step in this direction. We examine a game-theoretic model of the interaction between plasticity and evolution in the context of a simple language game. Additionally, we describe three d…Read more
  •  20
    Recent research into the evolution of higher cognition has piqued an interest in the effect of natural selection on the ability of creatures to respond to their environment. It is believed that environmental variation is required for plasticity to evolve in cases where the ability to be plastic is costly. We investigate one form of environmental variation: frequency dependent selection. Using tools in game theory, we investigate a few models of plasticity and outline the cases where selection wo…Read more
  •  43
    We study a low-rationality learning dynamics called probe and adjust. Our emphasis is on its properties in games of information transfer such as the Lewis signaling game or the Bala-Goyal network game. These games fall into the class of weakly better reply games, in which, starting from any action profile, there is a weakly better reply path to a strict Nash equilibrium. We prove that probe and adjust will be close to strict Nash equilibria in this class of games with arbitrarily high probabilit…Read more
  •  136
    The communication structure of epistemic communities
    Philosophy of Science 74 (5): 574-587. 2007.
    Increasingly, epistemologists are becoming interested in social structures and their effect on epistemic enterprises, but little attention has been paid to the proper distribution of experimental results among scientists. This paper will analyze a model first suggested by two economists, which nicely captures one type of learning situation faced by scientists. The results of a computer simulation study of this model provide two interesting conclusions. First, in some contexts, a community of sci…Read more
  •  32
    Modeling the social consequences of testimonial norms
    Philosophical Studies 172 (9): 2371-2383. 2015.
    This paper approaches the problem of testimony from a new direction. Rather than focusing on the epistemic grounds for testimony, it considers the problem from the perspective of an individual who must choose whom to trust from a population of many would-be testifiers. A computer simulation is presented which illustrates that in many plausible situations, those who trust without attempting to judge the reliability of testifiers outperform those who attempt to seek out the more reliable members o…Read more
  •  2
    Costly signalling theory has become a common explanation for honest communication when interests conflict. In this paper, we provide an alternative explanation for partially honest communication that does not require significant signal costs. We show that this alternative is at least as plausible as traditional costly signalling, and we suggest a number of experiments that might be used to distinguish the two theories
  •  3
    In this paper we show that there are certain limits as to what applications of Maynard Smith’s concept of evolutionarily stable strategy can tell us about evolutionary processes. We shall argue that ESS is very similar in spirit to a particular branch of rational choice game theory, namely, the literature on refinements of Nash equilibrium. In the first place, ESS can also be viewed as a Nash equilibrium refinement. At a deeper level, ESS shares a common structure with other rational choice equi…Read more