Lab NotesNotesReading Notes

A Few Notes from Luciano Floridi’s book The philosophy of information

From : Floridi, Luciano. The philosophy of information (Oxford [England]; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

 

Good problem / Open problem / Reseach Method

« Good problems are the driving force of any intellectual pursuit. Being able to do valuable research hugely depends on having good taste in choosing them. Now, for Hilbert, a good problem is a problem rich in consequences, clearly defined, easy to understand and difficult to solve, but still accessible. Again, it is worth learning the lesson, with a further qualification. We saw in chapter one that genuine philosophical problems should also be intrinsically open, that is, they should allow for genuine, reasonable, informed differences of opinion. Open problems call for explicit solutions, (p. 29 ) which facilitate a critical approach and hence empower the interlocutor. »

Floridi (2011) p. 28-29

 

Good problem / Reseach Method

« Hilbert thought that mathematical research has a historical nature and that mathematical problems often have their initial roots in historical circumstances, in the ‘ever-recurring interplay between thought and experience’. Philosophical problems are no exception. Like mathematical problems, they are not contingent but timely. »

Floridi (2011) p. 28

 

Solution / Explicitness / Rigor / Research Method

The more explicit and rigorous a solution is, the more easily it is criticizable. Logic is only apparently brusque. Its advice is as blunt as that of a good friend. The real trap is the false friendliness of sloppy thinking and obscure oracles. Their alluring rhetoric undermines the very possibility of disagreement, lulling the readers’ reason to sleep.

Floridi (2011) p. 28

 

Information / Epistemology

« The informational circle: How can information be assessed? If information cannot be transcended but can only be checked against further information—if it is information all the way up and all the way down—what does this tell us about our knowledge of the world?

The informational circle is reminiscent of the hermeneutical circle. It underpins the modern debate on the foundation of epistemology and the acceptability of some form of realism in the philosophy of science, according to which our information about the world captures something of the way the world is (Floridi (1996)). »

Floridi (2011) p. 40

 

Information / Epistemology / Model / Information Modelling / Reseach Method

« The semantic view of science: Is science reducible to information modelling?

The semantic approach to scientific theories (…), argues that

scientific reasoning is to a large extent model-based reasoning. It is models almost all the way up and models almost all the way down. (Giere (1999), p. 56).

Theories do not make contact with phenomena directly, but rather higher models are brought into contact with other, lower models (see chapter nine). These are themselves theoretical conceptualizations of empirical systems, which constitute an object being modelled as an object of scientific research. Giere (1988) takes most scientific models of interest to be non-linguistic abstract objects. Models, however, are the medium, not the message. Is information the (possibly non-linguistic) content of these models? How are informational models (semantically, cognitively, and instrumentally) related to the conceptualizations that constitute their empirical references? »

Floridi (2011) p. 41

 

Data / Information / Materialism

« Wiener’s problem: What is the ontological status of information?

Most people agree that there is no information without (data) representation. This principle is often interpreted materialistically, as advocating the impossibility of physically disembodied information, through the equation ‘representation = physical implementation’. (…) Here, let me stress that the problem is whether the informational might be an independent ontological category, different from the physical/material and the mental, assuming one could draw this Cartesian distinction. Wiener, for example, thought that

Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day. (Wiener (1948), p. 132)

If the informational is not an independent ontological category, to which category is it reducible? If it is an independent ontological category, how is it related to the physical/material and to the mental? »

Floridi (2011) p. 42

Lab NotesLiving between the linesNotesObservationsReflections

Truthfulness of personal information as indicator of social morality?

ObservationsCan the level of accuracy of personal information items be indicative of the moral virtue of the social system in which the information is used?

This question came to me while I was doing some renovation at home while listening to Tapestry CBC One radio show. This week, Mary Hynes met Sam Harris in the wake of the publication of his book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. A surprisingly short interview given that this show’s usual practice is to devote its whole hour to a single personality or subject. By listening to Harris, one understands. He certainly offers a convincing argument about the ability of science to shed light on a moral issue, or even to decide between what is right and wrong. However, the fierceness of his attacks against religions quickly annoys, thus weakening his argument.

Still, neuroscience, for example, can objectively observe through scanner and hormonal analysis that, in general, an altruistic action provides wellness to human beings who do it as those who receive it. It also observes as exactly the opposite effect with a selfish action, that it is even worse for a malevolent action. Many developments in biology, ethology and ethnology as well as psychology and sociology do offer increasingly revealing insights on various moral issues. As Harris points out, science offers here the advantage to transcend cultures, religions and moral systems because of the provable and universal nature of its conclusions.

What with the quality of personal information? The short answer is that, on one hand, science is dependent on the quality of its data and that this quality often depends on the willingness or ability of human beings to tell the truth. Still on the other hand, the level of accuracy of the provided information is measurable… scientifically.

The anecdotal answer comes from to two recent observations about the necessity…  to lie. (more…)

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