Wilson And Sperber: The Importance Of Human Communication

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There are a lot of stimuli out there, in the world. Our minds, however, are quite limited in their ability to parse every single input present in our environment. This limitation is not necessarily a bad thing, it is perhaps what makes human communication possible. In their Truthfulness and Relevance paper, Wilson & Sperber attempt to theorize how our minds process meaning, both drawing on and rejecting certain fundamental aspects of Grice’s account. For Wilson and Sperber, as well as Grice, communication is about being informed. For Grice, and his supermaxim of quality, truthfulness must be at the centre of any communication theory. The golden rule being that one should “try to make [their] contribution one that is true.” Indeed, to Grice (Wilson and Sperber do not reject that view either), false information isn’t merely bad information, it is simply not information.…show more content…
To them, what hearers expect is relevance, not truth. Similar to the principle of charity, which states that a hearer must consciously interpret a speaker's statements in the most rational way possible, the relevance principle argues that a human’s communication system will automatically and unconsciously interpret a speaker’s statement in the most relevant way possible. In this case, ‘relevant’ simply means that the hearer is likely to derive knowledge (adding information to the system) from the utterance, using the least amount of effort. According to the Wilson and Sperber view, Grice has it the wrong way around: our expectation for truthfulness in communication is a byproduct of our expectation of relevance. To illustrate, let’s take the following example. Let’s say Xavier is at a party and cannot find his phone, he asks his friend

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