Semantic Conceptions of Information. Floridi, L. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Spring 2015 edition, 2015.
Semantic Conceptions of Information [link]Paper  abstract   bibtex   
“I love information upon all subjects that come in my way, andespecially upon those that are most important.” Thus boldlydeclares Euphranor, one of the defenders of Christian faith inBerkley's Alciphron (Dialogue 1, Section 5, Paragraph 6/10,see Berkeley [1732]). Evidently, information has been an object ofphilosophical desire for some time, well before the computerrevolution, Internet or the dot.com pandemonium (see for example Dunn[2001] and Adams [2003]). Yet what does Euphranor love, exactly?What is information? The question has received many answersin different fields. Unsurprisingly, several surveys do not evenconverge on a single, unified definition of information (see forexample Braman [1989], Losee [1997], Machlup and Mansfield [1983],Debons and Cameron [1975], Larson and Debons [1983])., Information is notoriously a polymorphic phenomenon and a polysemanticconcept so, as an explicandum, it can be associated withseveral explanations, depending on the level of abstraction adoptedand the cluster of requirements and desiderata orientating atheory. The reader may wish to keep this in mind while reading thisentry, where some schematic simplifications and interpretativedecisions will be inevitable. Claude E. Shannon, for one, was verycautious:, Thus, following Shannon, Weaver [1949] supported a tripartite analysisof information in terms of, And these are only some early examples of the problems raised by anyanalysis of information., Indeed, the plethora of different analyses can be confusing.Complaints about misunderstandings and misuses of the very idea ofinformation are frequently expressed, even if to no apparent avail.Sayre [1976], for example, criticised the “laxity in use of theterm ‘information’” in Armstrong [1968] (see nowArmstrong [1993]) and in Dennett [1969] (see now Dennett [1986]),despite appreciating several other aspects of their work. Morerecently, Harms [1998] pointed out similar confusions in Chalmers[1996], who , In order to try to avoid similar pitfalls, this entry has beenorganised into four sections. Section 1 attempts to draw a map of themain senses in which one may speak of semantic information,and does so by relying on the analysis of the concept of data(depicted in Figure 1 below). Sometimes the several concepts ofinformation organised in the map can be variously coupledtogether. This should not be taken as necessarily a sign of confusion,for in some philosophers it may be the result of an intentionalbridging. The map is not exhaustive and it is there mainly in order toavoid some obvious pitfalls and to narrow the scope of this article,which otherwise could easily turn into a short version of theEncyclopedia Britannica. Its schematism is only a starting point forfurther research and the reader interested in knowing more may wish toconsult Floridi [2011] and Adriaans and van Benthem [2008]., After this initial orientation, Section 2 provides a briefintroduction to information theory, that is, to the mathematicaltheory of communication (MTC). MTC deserves a space of its own becauseit is the quantitative approach to the analysis of information thathas been most influential among several philosophers. It provides thenecessary background to understand several contemporary theories ofsemantic information, especially Bar-Hillel and Carnap [1953], Dretske[1981]., Section 3 analyses information as semantic content. Section 4 focusesentirely on the philosophical understanding of semantic information,what Euphranor really loves., The reader must also be warned that an initial account of semanticinformation as meaningful data will be used as yardstick tooutline other approaches. Unfortunately, even such a minimalist accountis open to disagreement. In favour of this approach one may say that atleast it is less controversial than others. Of course, a conceptualanalysis must start somewhere. This often means adopting some workingdefinition of the object under scrutiny. But it is not this commonplacethat one needs to emphasize here. The difficulty is rather moredaunting. Philosophical work on the concept of (semantic) informationis still at that lamentable stage when disagreement affects even theway in which the problems themselves are provisionally phrased andframed. Nothing comparable to the well-polished nature of the Gettierproblem is yet available, for example. So the “you arehere” signal provided in this article might be placed elsewhereby other philosophers. The whole purpose is to put the concept ofsemantic information firmly on the philosophical map. Furtheradjustments will then become possible.
@incollection{floridi_semantic_2015,
	edition = {Spring 2015},
	title = {Semantic {Conceptions} of {Information}},
	url = {http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2015/entries/information-semantic/},
	abstract = {“I love information upon all subjects that come in my way, andespecially upon those that are most important.” Thus boldlydeclares Euphranor, one of the defenders of Christian faith inBerkley's Alciphron (Dialogue 1, Section 5, Paragraph 6/10,see Berkeley [1732]). Evidently, information has been an object ofphilosophical desire for some time, well before the computerrevolution, Internet or the dot.com pandemonium (see for example Dunn[2001] and Adams [2003]). Yet what does Euphranor love, exactly?What is information? The question has received many answersin different fields. Unsurprisingly, several surveys do not evenconverge on a single, unified definition of information (see forexample Braman [1989], Losee [1997], Machlup and Mansfield [1983],Debons and Cameron [1975], Larson and Debons [1983])., Information is notoriously a polymorphic phenomenon and a polysemanticconcept so, as an explicandum, it can be associated withseveral explanations, depending on the level of abstraction adoptedand the cluster of requirements and desiderata orientating atheory. The reader may wish to keep this in mind while reading thisentry, where some schematic simplifications and interpretativedecisions will be inevitable. Claude E. Shannon, for one, was verycautious:, Thus, following Shannon, Weaver [1949] supported a tripartite analysisof information in terms of, And these are only some early examples of the problems raised by anyanalysis of information., Indeed, the plethora of different analyses can be confusing.Complaints about misunderstandings and misuses of the very idea ofinformation are frequently expressed, even if to no apparent avail.Sayre [1976], for example, criticised the “laxity in use of theterm ‘information’” in Armstrong [1968] (see nowArmstrong [1993]) and in Dennett [1969] (see now Dennett [1986]),despite appreciating several other aspects of their work. Morerecently, Harms [1998] pointed out similar confusions in Chalmers[1996], who , In order to try to avoid similar pitfalls, this entry has beenorganised into four sections. Section 1 attempts to draw a map of themain senses in which one may speak of semantic information,and does so by relying on the analysis of the concept of data(depicted in Figure 1 below). Sometimes the several concepts ofinformation organised in the map can be variously coupledtogether. This should not be taken as necessarily a sign of confusion,for in some philosophers it may be the result of an intentionalbridging. The map is not exhaustive and it is there mainly in order toavoid some obvious pitfalls and to narrow the scope of this article,which otherwise could easily turn into a short version of theEncyclopedia Britannica. Its schematism is only a starting point forfurther research and the reader interested in knowing more may wish toconsult Floridi [2011] and Adriaans and van Benthem [2008]., After this initial orientation, Section 2 provides a briefintroduction to information theory, that is, to the mathematicaltheory of communication (MTC). MTC deserves a space of its own becauseit is the quantitative approach to the analysis of information thathas been most influential among several philosophers. It provides thenecessary background to understand several contemporary theories ofsemantic information, especially Bar-Hillel and Carnap [1953], Dretske[1981]., Section 3 analyses information as semantic content. Section 4 focusesentirely on the philosophical understanding of semantic information,what Euphranor really loves., The reader must also be warned that an initial account of semanticinformation as meaningful data will be used as yardstick tooutline other approaches. Unfortunately, even such a minimalist accountis open to disagreement. In favour of this approach one may say that atleast it is less controversial than others. Of course, a conceptualanalysis must start somewhere. This often means adopting some workingdefinition of the object under scrutiny. But it is not this commonplacethat one needs to emphasize here. The difficulty is rather moredaunting. Philosophical work on the concept of (semantic) informationis still at that lamentable stage when disagreement affects even theway in which the problems themselves are provisionally phrased andframed. Nothing comparable to the well-polished nature of the Gettierproblem is yet available, for example. So the “you arehere” signal provided in this article might be placed elsewhereby other philosophers. The whole purpose is to put the concept ofsemantic information firmly on the philosophical map. Furtheradjustments will then become possible.},
	language = {en},
	urldate = {2015-10-25},
	booktitle = {The {Stanford} {Encyclopedia} of {Philosophy}},
	author = {Floridi, Luciano},
	editor = {Zalta, Edward N.},
	year = {2015},
	keywords = {computer and information ethics, computer science, philosophy of, epistemology: naturalized, knowledge: analysis of, meaning, theories of, probability, interpretations of, propositions}
}

Downloads: 0