Re: [OPE] information theory

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Tue Jan 06 2009 - 12:55:50 EST

Ian Wright wrote:
> Shannon's definition is precise but it doesn't capture the full
> concept of "information" as it is increasingly used in scientific
> explanation.

Perhaps the Kolmogorov notion comes closer to this. However, I think
Shannon's idea comes close to the everyday notion of information as
uncertainty reduced.

> 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.

This was an interesting observation. I'll look up Sloman's work on
information when time permits.

> 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.

I used 'matter' simply as a generic word for an entity with mass.

> Materialism is, I think, at root the hypothesis that being is
> intelligible.

I would not put it in that way. That is a hypothesis that one can draw
from a materialist ontology, which I have always taken as the idea that
the universe consists only of physical entities governed by certain
laws. At one extreme, physics studies the fundamentals of these, at the
other extreme you have fields such as political economy studying the
(much) higher-order laws of complex physical entities.

//Dave Z

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Received on Tue Jan 6 13:03:54 2009

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