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Encyclopedia > Philosophy of information

The philosophy of information (PI) is a new area of research, which studies conceptual issues arising at the intersection of computer science, information technology, and philosophy. It is the philosophical field concerned with: Computer science, or computing science, is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their implementation and application in computer systems. ... Information Technology (IT)[1] is a broad subject concerned with the use of technology in managing and processing information, especially in large organizations. ... The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1787) depicts the philosopher Socrates carrying out his own execution. ...

  1. the critical investigation of the conceptual nature and basic principles of information, including its dynamics, utilisation and sciences
  2. the elaboration and application of information-theoretic and computational methodologies to philosophical problems."

(from Luciano Floridi, "What is the Philosophy of Information?", Metaphilosophy, 2002, (33), 1/2.) Information is the result of processing, manipulating and organizing data in a way that adds to the knowledge of the person receiving it. ... Luciano Floridi. ...

PI was finally established as an independent field of research in the 1990s by Luciano Floridi, the first to use the expression philosophy of information in the technical sense expressed by the definition above and to elaborate a unified and coherent, conceptual frame for the whole subject. Luciano Floridi. ...

PI is based on the technical work of Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing, William Ross Ashby, Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, and many other scientists working on computing and information theory back in the early 1950s, and then, later, on the work of Fred Dretske, Jon Barwise, Brian Cantwell Smith, and others. Norbert Wiener Norbert Wiener (November 26, 1894 - March 18, 1964) was a U.S. mathematician and applied mathematician, especially in the field of electronics engineering. ... Alan Turing is often considered the father of modern computer science. ... William Ross Ashby (September 6, 1903, London, England - November 15, 1972) was a British psychiatrist and a pioneer in the study of complex systems. ... Claude Elwood Shannon (April 30, 1916 _ February 24, 2001) has been called the father of information theory, and was the founder of practical digital circuit design theory. ... Warren Weaver is an author of the well-known work on communication, The Mathematical Theory of Communication (together with Claude Shannon). ... Fred Dretske, a philosopher, was one of the most influential epistimologists of his time. ... Kenneth Jon Barwise (June 29, 1942 - March 5, 2000) was a US mathematician, philosopher and logician who proposed some fundamental revisions to the way that logic is understood and used. ... Brian Cantwell Smith is a scholar in the fields of cognitive science, computer science, philosophy, and information studies. ...


Defining information

What the word information means depends on how it is defined.

Claude E. Shannon, for one, was very cautious: “The word ‘information’ has been given different meanings by various writers in the general field of information theory. It is likely that at least a number of these will prove sufficiently useful in certain applications to deserve further study and permanent recognition. It is hardly to be expected that a single concept of information would satisfactorily account for the numerous possible applications of this general field. (italics added)” (Shannon 1993, p. 180). Thus, following Shannon, Weaver supported a tripartite analysis of information in terms of (1) technical problems concerning the quantification of information and dealt with by Shannon's theory; (2) semantic problems relating to meaning and truth; and (3) what he called “influential” problems concerning the impact and effectiveness of information on human behaviour, which he thought had to play an equally important role. And these are only two early examples of the problems raised by any analysis of information.

A map of the main senses in which one may speak of information is provided by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article. The previous paragraphs are based on it.

According to Floridi, four kinds of mutually compatible phenomena are commonly referred to as "information":

  • Information about something (e.g. a train timetable)
  • Information as something (e.g. DNA, or fingerprints)
  • Information for something (e.g. algorithms or instructions)
  • Information in something (e.g. a pattern or a constrain).

The word "information" is commonly used so metaphorically or so abstractly that the meaning is unclear.

Computing and philosophy

Recent creative advances and efforts in computing, such as semantic web, ontology engineering, knowledge engineering, and modern artificial intelligence provide philosophy with fertile notions, new and evolving subject matters, methodologies, and models for philosophical inquiry. While computer science brings new opportunities and challenges to traditional philosophical studies, and changes the ways philosophers understand foundational concepts in philosophy, further major progress in computer science would only be feasible when philosophy provides sound foundations for areas such as bioinformatics, software engineering, knowledge engineering, and ontologies. Originally, the word computing was synonymous with counting and calculating, and a science and technology that deals with the original sense of computing mathematical calculations. ... The Semantic Web is a project to create a universal medium for information exchange by putting documents with computer-processable meaning (semantics) on the World Wide Web. ... The process of building knowledge-based systems is called knowledge engineering (KE). ... Hondas humanoid robot AI redirects here. ... The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1787) depicts the philosopher Socrates carrying out his own execution. ... Computer science, or computing science, is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their implementation and application in computer systems. ... Computer science, or computing science, is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their implementation and application in computer systems. ...

Classical topics in philosophy, namely, mind, consciousness, experience, reasoning, knowledge, truth, morality and creativity are rapidly becoming common concerns and foci of investigation in computer science, e.g., in areas such as agent computing, software agents, and intelligent mobile agent technologies. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and ones environment. ... Look up Experience in Wiktionary, the free dictionary This article discusses the general concept of experience. ... Reasoning is the act of using reason to derive a conclusion from certain premises. ... Personification of knowledge (Greek Επιστημη, Episteme) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey. ... Common dictionary definitions of truth mention some form of accord with fact or reality. ... Morality refers to the concept of human ethics which pertains to matters of good and evil —also referred to as right or wrong, used within three contexts: individual conscience; systems of principles and judgments — sometimes called moral values —shared within a cultural, religious, secular, Humanist, or philosophical community; and codes... Look up Creativity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Computer science, or computing science, is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their implementation and application in computer systems. ... In computer science, a software agent is a piece of autonomous, or semi-autonomous proactive and reactive, computer software. ...

According to L. Floridi [1] one can think of three main ways for applying computational methods towards philosophical matters:

  1. Conceptual experiments in silico: As an innovative extension of an ancient tradition of thought experiment, a trend has begun in philosophy to apply computational modeling schemes to questions in logic, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of mind, and so on.
  2. Pancomputationalism (or the fallacy of a powerful metaphor): By this view, computational and informational concepts are considered to be so powerful that given the right Level of abstraction, anything in the world could be modeled and represented as a computational system, and any process could be simulated computationally. Then, however, pancomputationalists have the hard task of providing credible answers to the following two questions:

In philosophy, physics, and other fields, a thought experiment (from the German Gedankenexperiment) is an attempt to solve a problem using the power of human imagination. ... A computer simulation or a computer model is a computer program which attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system. ... Logic, from Classical Greek λόγος (logos), originally meaning the word, or what is spoken, (but coming to mean thought or reason) is the study of criteria for the evaluation of arguments, although the exact definition of logic is a matter of controversy among philosophers. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, including the formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences. ... Philosophy of biology (also called, rarely, biophilosophy) is a subfield of philosophy of science, which deals with epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical issues in the biological and biomedical sciences. ... A Phrenological mapping of the brain. ... In language, a metaphor (from the Greek: metapherin rhetorical trope) is defined as a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects. ... Abstraction is the process of reducing the information content of a concept, typically in order to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose. ... Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 - November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher born in Stuttgart, Württemberg, in present-day southwest Germany. ... The term information system has the following meanings: 1. ... The tower of a personal computer. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... In general, information processing is the changing (processing) of information in any manner detectable by an observer. ...

See also

Hondas humanoid robot AI redirects here. ... There are many definitions of complexity, therefore many natural, artificial and abstract objects or networks can be considered to be complex systems, and their study (complexity science) is highly interdisciplinary. ... Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics and economics that studies situations where players choose different actions in an attempt to maximize their returns. ... The International Association for Computing and Philosophy (IACAP) is a professional, philosophical association emerging from a history of conferences that began in 1986. ... Informatics includes the science of information and the practice of information processing. ... A bundle of optical fiber. ... The logic of information, or the logical theory of information, considers the information content of logical signs and expressions along the lines initially developed by Charles Sanders Peirce. ... The philosophy of thermal and statistical physics is one of the major subdisciplines of the philosophy of physics. ... Statistical mechanics is the application of probability theory, which includes mathematical tools for dealing with large populations, to the field of mechanics, which is concerned with the motion of particles or objects when subjected to a force. ...

External links

  • IEG site, the Oxford University research group on the philosophy of information
  • PI website
  • [2] Luciano Floridi, Where are we in the philosophy of information? 21.06.06, University of Bergen, Norway, Podcast
  • [3] Luciano Floridi, What is the Philosophy of Information?, Metaphilosophy, 33.1/2, 123-145. Reprinted in T.W. Bynum and J.H. Moor (eds.), CyberPhilosophy: The Intersection of Philosophy and Computing (Oxford – New York: Blackwell, 2003).
  • [4] Luciano Floridi, Open Problems in the Philosophy of Information, , Metaphilosophy 35.4, 554-582. Revised version of The Herbert A. Simon Lecture on Computing and Philosophy given at Carnegie Mellon University in 2001, with realvideo and powerpoint presentation.
  • [5] G.M. Greco, G. Paronitti, M. Turilli, L. Floridi, How to Do Philosophy Informationally, Lecture Notes on Artificial Intelligence, 3782, pp. 623–634, 2005.
  • [6] The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information, edited by Luciano Floridi (Oxford - New York: Blackwell, 2004).
  • Philosophy of Statistical Mechanics



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