Re: [OPE] information theory

From: Ian Wright <>
Date: Mon Jan 05 2009 - 20:22:34 EST

Shannon's definition is precise but it doesn't capture the full
concept of "information" as it is increasingly used in scientific

My old Professor, Aaron Sloman, has written quite a bit about
"information" from a more philosophical perspective. Googling his name
with "information" will turn up helpful material.

One conclusion that I learned from him is that trying to give an
explicit definition of "information" is not very informative, since
"information" is a concept that is implicitly defined by the role it
plays in explanatory theories. This is just like the concept of
"energy". For example, the meaning of energy is no longer restricted
to the more familiar forms of kinetic and potential energy: there are
many forms of energy (e.g., electromagnetic energy, chemical energy
etc.). In fact there are general theorems about certain classes of
dynamic systems in which "generalized" kinds of energy play an
important explanatory role, especially with regard to understanding
the limit behavior of state trajectories without detailed knowledge of
those trajectories. So, for example, some formulations of the dynamics
of economic systems can have "energy" concepts.

I am a materialist. But I don't think for one moment that there is
anything definite and special that the word "matter" refers to.
Indeed, it's probably a fool's errand to try to define what "matter"
actually is. Atoms and molecules won't help here.

Materialism is, I think, at root the hypothesis that being is
intelligible. The concept of "information" helps to make being
intelligible. It allows us to talk and reason at a more general and
abstract (and therefore deeper?) level of description of systems.

A lot more can be said of course!
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Received on Mon Jan 5 20:27:20 2009

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