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Ambiguous signals, partial beliefs, and propositional content

  • Rafael VenturaEmail author


As the content of propositional attitudes, propositions are usually taken to help explain the behavior of rational agents. However, a closer look at signaling games suggests otherwise: rational agents often acquire partial beliefs, and many of their signals are ambiguous. Signaling games also suggest that it is rational for agents to mix their behavior in response to partial beliefs and ambiguous signals. But as I show in this paper, propositions cannot help explain the mixing behavior of rational agents: to explain mixing behavior, we need a probabilistic notion of content. I also show that a probabilistic notion of content renders propositions explanatorily idle in the case of unambiguous signals and full beliefs as well. My suggestion is thus that we should abandon propositions in explanations of rational behavior and adopt instead a probabilistic notion of content. The notion of probabilistic content ultimately provides a simpler framework for explanations of rational behavior than the notion of propositional content.


Signaling games Propositional content Ambiguous signal Partial belief 



I thank Alex Rosenberg, Karen Neander, Robert Brandon, and especially Carlotta Pavese for invaluable feedback on previous drafts of this paper, as well as three anonymous referees for their helpful comments. I also thank Hannah Read for her support. Funding was provided by Graduate School, Duke University.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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