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Philosophy of information

  1. Jun 6, 2009 #1
    Does anyone know of work on the philosophy of information? I am thinking along the lines of on abstraction and the related question about reality especially of mathematics? Kant was wrong, Plato not deep enough, Wittgenstein wants to make it a language problem. There must be something more current.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2009 #2


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    You may have to be more specific about what you are interested in here.

    It could be the issue of meaning, and here there is recent work on semiotics in the Peircean tradition.

    Or talking about the reality of measurements, there is Robert Rosen's book, Essays on Life Itself, which is a particular favourite.
  4. Jun 6, 2009 #3
    I don't like the idea of symbols, because they are man made and imply subjectivity. I am thinking along the lines that some information is recoverable and therefore still present lending it some reality, and seeing some relationship between reality and concreteness of a description as opposed to mathematics and generalizations... well very fuzzy concepts so far, but since computer science is coming up even philosophers get more exposed to the technicalities, so I am hoping that there is work being done. I am less worried about quantum information and reality, since I am of the "shut up and calculate" fraction.
  5. Jun 6, 2009 #4


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    That's still a little opaque but it sounds like you stand at the other end of the spectrum to me so you can discount my references.

    Sounds like you want to be reading Wolfram, Tegmark and guys like that.
  6. Jun 7, 2009 #5
    Are you asking about the interpretation of symbols and signs of mathematics? My professor said once that we can never make a perfect circle that obeys the laws of circumference and area and he continued from there with a discussion that I can not remember. However, it was still along the same lines of whether this "perfect circle" exists in our world or in a platonistic world. Am I getting close?
  7. Jun 7, 2009 #6
    As I said I don't like the notion of symbols. But it is going in this direction.

    Well this is where Plato is wrong. He argued that ideas like the circle you mentioned are as real or actually more real than objects. The point is, that Newtons law of gravity is real in a certain sense, as well as inflation for example, but reality differs from these concepts in subtle ways. There is some kind of reciprocal relationship between abstraction and reality, so "the chair that I am sitting on", is more real in a way than "the European attitude on the death penalty". But ever since the appearance of pseudo objects like files some very abstract things have gained a new kind of reality.

    Maybe you can see the direction where I want to go. I think Plato was much to simplistic. He discovered the idea and suddenly he thought that this was the path to enlightenment and claimed that ideas was all there is in the world. This isn't very helpful, and there should be new thought given to this area IMHO.
  8. Jun 7, 2009 #7
    This is indeed interesting. At first, when I was talking to my professor I thought he was amplifying a very small issue. However, as our discussion progressed, I began to see the implication of such discussion. There should be a good read on this subject. If you found anything , please, do let me know.
  9. Jun 7, 2009 #8
    Pseudo objects?
  10. Jun 7, 2009 #9


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    A file is not a real object.

    One of the fundamental differences between an atomic object and a digital object is that a digital object and its duplicate are truely identical and interchangeable, whereas an atomic object's duplicate is never more than a simalcrum. Even if you duplicate it down to the atom, it is still made out of atoms that are distinct from the original's atoms. The same is not true about a digital object (the memory materials are not part of the digital object).
  11. Jun 7, 2009 #10
    Greetings OxDEADBEEF!

    Would you be so kind as to tell me what exactly was Kant wrong about?

  12. Jun 7, 2009 #11
    That's like saying atoms aren't part of being a hammer, or writing materials aren't part of writing. Every instance of a 'digital object' requires some kind of hardware, or medium, as far as I know. Even if the 'hardware' is just radio waves.
  13. Jun 7, 2009 #12
  14. Jun 7, 2009 #13
    I meant within the context of the OP.

    My apologies if I was not clear.

  15. Jun 7, 2009 #14
    Yeah, I didn't understand the OP either.
  16. Jun 7, 2009 #15


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    No, the hammer is its atoms.

    You are right about the writing thing though. I could copy every letter of a hand-written story onto a paper using a typewriter and it would be the same story. The story is not the medium it is represented with.

    In the same manner, the file is an abstract, the medium used for presenting the file is not the file itself.
  17. Jun 7, 2009 #16
    A hammer is a functional definition. I can use a rock, or a screwdriver, as a hammer. The atoms don't much matter. Even atoms of water, at a certain temp, can be used as a hammer.

    Similarly, the story may be similar, but its more clearly different, if say I rewrite it in french. The hardware, does matter, because it defines a different instance and form of the story. Just like a digital image being transmitted over radio waves is different from the magnetic form saved to a hard drive. One can translate from one to the other, given the proper translation hardware, because they are similar, but they are not the same.
  18. Jun 7, 2009 #17


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    No it isn't. "The hammer" is a particular hammer.

    Yes, that is a different story.

    Right, but two copies of the same file (sans metadata) are identical, even in principle.
  19. Jun 7, 2009 #18
    Hammer is not a chemical or atomic property. Its either a functional definition, a category reference, or a given name reference. I guarantee I could buy two identical hammers, from a hardware store, and you wouldn't know the difference. Just like I could buy two copies of the same book. They are still different instances of the same story, just like you can have multiple instances of 'hammer'. The fact, you can't tell the difference between them, doesn't mean they are the same.
    They might 'seem identical' to you, but an original manuscript and a well-made fake would as well, if you were not an expert in manuscripts. Just like, similar digital images will look the same whether they are loaded from a flash drive or a regular hard drive. A computer technician could tell you how the 'files' are different, and could even tell you how identical files on the same hard drive are different.
  20. Jun 8, 2009 #19
    Do you have anything to back that up? Anyway, I think this is a sort of nitpicking because it is not the main point of the OP , but rather a side statement. If again anyone has any idea about the "theory of information", would you please be kind and direct us to the literature?
  21. Jun 8, 2009 #20
    Back up what? That different files on a hard drive are in different locations? This would be relevant to a computer technician, but doesn't mean that much to someone only using a gui. That doesn't mean files are somehow magically separate from their hardware.

    Any understanding of information will depend on one's epistemology, philosophy of mind and views on semiotics, and probably an understanding of ontology would help. There are lots of books of philosophy on those things. As to the most 'recent' books that will appeal to the OP, I have no clue. I don't think recent equates to better, and I don't think computer 'files' advance our understanding of abstract ideas in the slightest. They are just physical containers of information, like books.
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