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What Is the Philosophy of Information?



Computational and information-theoretic research in philosophy has become increasingly fertile and pervasive, giving rise to a wealth of interesting results. In consequence, a new and vitally important field has emerged, the philosophy of information (PI). This essay is the first attempt to analyse the nature of PI systematically. PI is defined as the philosophical field concerned with the critical investigation of the conceptual nature and basic principles of information, including its dynamics, utilisation, and sciences, and the elaboration and application of information-theoretic and computational methodologies to philosophical problems. I argue that PI is a mature discipline for three reasons: it represents an autonomous field of research; it provides an innovative approach to both traditional and new philosophical topics; and it can stand beside other branches of philosophy, offering a systematic treatment of the conceptual foundations of the world of information and the information society.
ABSTRACT: Computational and information-theoretic research in philosophy
has become increasingly fertile and pervasive, giving rise to a wealth of interest-
ing results. In consequence, a new and vitally important field has emerged, the
philosophy of information (PI). This essay is the first attempt to analyse the nature
of PI systematically. PI is defined as the philosophical field concerned with the
critical investigation of the conceptual nature and basic principles of information,
including its dynamics, utilisation, and sciences, and the elaboration and applica-
tion of information-theoretic and computational methodologies to philosophical
problems. I argue that PI is a mature discipline for three reasons: it represents an
autonomous field of research; it provides an innovative approach to both tradi-
tional and new philosophical topics; and it can stand beside other branches of
philosophy, offering a systematic treatment of the conceptual foundations of the
world of information and the information society.
Keywords: computation, cyberphilosophy, dialectic, digital philosophy, informa-
tion, information technology, information society, information-theoretic method-
ology, innovation, philosophy of AI, philosophy of computer science, philosophy
of computing, philosophy of information, scholasticism.
1. Introduction
Computational and information-theoretic research in philosophy has
become increasingly fertile and pervasive. It revitalises old philosophical
questions, poses new problems, contributes to reconceptualising our world
views, and has already produced a wealth of interesting and important
results.1Various labels have recently been suggested for this new field.
Some follow such fashionable terminology as cyberphilosophy, digital
philosophy, and computational philosophy, most express specific theoreti-
cal orientations, such as philosophy of computer science, philosophy of
computing or computation, philosophy of AI, computers and philosophy,
computing and philosophy, philosophy of the artificial, and android epis-
temology. In this essay I argue that the name philosophy of information
©Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002.
Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main
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Vol. 33, Nos. 1/2, January 2002
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1See Bynum and Moor 1998, Colburn 2000, Floridi 1999 and 2002, and Mitcham and
Huning 1986 for references.
(PI) is the most satisfactory, for reasons that are fully discussed in section
Sections 2, 3, and 4 analyse the historical and conceptual process that
has led to the emergence of PI. They support the following two conclu-
sions. First, philosophy of AI was a premature paradigm, which neverthe-
less paved the way for the emergence of PI. Second, PI has evolved as the
most recent stage in the dialectic between conceptual innovation and
scholasticism. A definition of PI is then introduced and discussed in
section 5. Section 6 summarises the main conclusions issuing from the
preceding discussion and indicates how PI could be interpreted as a new
philosophia prima, although not from the perspective of a philosophia
The view defended in this essay is that PI is a mature discipline because
(a) it represents an autonomous field (unique topics); (b) it provides an
innovative approach to both traditional and new philosophical topics (orig-
inal methodologies); and (c) it can stand beside other branches of philoso-
phy, offering the systematic treatment of the conceptual foundations of the
world of information and of the information society (new theories).
2. Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence as a Premature Paradigm of PI
André Gide once wrote that one does not discover new lands without
consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. Looking for new
lands, Aaron Sloman in 1978 heralded the advent of a new AI-based para-
digm in philosophy. In a book appropriately entitled The Computer
Revolution in Philosophy, he conjectured
1. that within a few years, if there remain any philosophers who are not familiar
with some of the main developments in artificial intelligence, it will be fair to
accuse them of professional incompetence, and
2. that to teach courses in philosophy of mind, epistemology, aesthetics, philoso-
phy of science, philosophy of language, ethics, metaphysics and other main
areas of philosophy, without discussing the relevant aspects of artificial intelli-
gence will be as irresponsible as giving a degree course in physics which
includes no quantum theory. (Sloman 1978, 5, numbered structure added)
The prediction turned out to be inaccurate and over-optimistic, but it was
far from unjustified.3
Sloman was not alone. Other researchers (cf., for example, Simon 1962,
McCarthy and Hayes 1969, Pagels 1988, who argues in favour of a
complexity-theory paradigm, and Burkholder 1992, who speaks of a
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2The label Philosophy of Information was first introduced in a series of papers I have
given since 1996 in Italy, England, and the United States (see note 12 below).
3See also Sloman 1995 and McCarthy 1995.
“computational turn”) had correctly perceived that the practical and
conceptual transformations caused by ICS (Information and Computational
Sciences) and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) were
bringing about a macroscopic change, not only in science but in philosophy
too. It was the so-called computer revolution or “information turn.” Like
Sloman, however, they seem to have been misguided about the specific
nature of this evolution and have underestimated the unrelenting difficulties
that the acceptance of a new PI paradigm would encounter.
Turing begun publishing his seminal papers in the 1930s. During the
following fifty years, cybernetics, information theory, AI, system theory,
computer science, complexity theory, and ICT succeeded in attracting
some significant, if sporadic, interest from the philosophical community,
especially in terms of philosophy of AI.4They thus prepared the ground for
the emergence of an independent field of investigation and a new compu-
tational and information-theoretic approach in philosophy. Until the 1980s,
however, they failed to give rise to a mature, innovative, and influential
program of research, let alone a revolutionary change of the magnitude and
importance envisaged by researchers like Sloman in the 1970s. With hind-
sight, it is easy to see how AI could be perceived as an exciting new field
of research and the source of a radically innovative approach to traditional
problems in philosophy. “Ever since Alan Turing’s influential paper
‘Computing machinery and intelligence’[. . .] and the birth of the research
field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the mid-1950s, there has been
considerable interest among computer scientists in theorising about the
mind. At the same time there has been a growing feeling amongst philoso-
phers that the advent of computing has decisively modified philosophical
debates, by proposing new theoretical positions to consider, or at least to
rebut” (Torrance 1984, 11).
AI acted as a Trojan horse, introducing a more encompassing computa-
tional/informational paradigm into the philosophical citadel (earlier state-
ments of this view can be found in Simon 1962 and 1996, Pylyshyn 1970,
and Boden 1984; more recently, see McCarthy 1995 and Sloman 1995).
Until the mid-1980s, however, PI was still premature and perceived as
transdisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary; the philosophical and scien-
tific communities were, in any case, not yet ready for its development; and
the cultural and social contexts were equally unprepared. Each factor
deserves a brief clarification.
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4In 1964, introducing his influential anthology, Anderson wrote that the field of philos-
ophy of AI had already produced more than a thousand articles (Anderson 1964, 1). No
wonder that (sometimes overlapping) editorial projects have flourished. Among the avail-
able titles, the reader of this essay may wish to keep in mind Ringle 1979 and Boden 1990,
which provide two further good collections of essays, and Haugeland 1981, which was
expressly meant to be a sequel to Anderson 1964 and was further revised in Haugeland
Like other intellectual enterprises, PI deals with three types of domain:
topics (facts, data, problems, phenomena, observations, and the like);
methods (techniques, approaches, and so on); and theories (hypotheses,
explanations, and so forth). Adiscipline is premature if it attempts to inno-
vate in more than one of these domains simultaneously, thus detaching
itself too abruptly from the normal and continuous thread of evolution of
its general field (Stent 1972). A quick look at the two points made by
Sloman in his prediction shows that this was exactly what happened to PI
in its earlier appearance as the philosophy of AI.
The inescapable interdisciplinarity of PI further hindered the prospects
for a timely recognition of its significance. Even now, many philosophers
are content to consider topics discussed in PI to be worth the attention only
of researchers in English, mass media, cultural studies, computer science,
or sociology departments, to mention a few examples. PI needed philoso-
phers used to conversing with cultural and scientific issues across the
boundaries, and these were not to be found easily. Too often, everyone’s
concern is nobody’s business, and until the recent development of the
information society, PI was perceived to be at too much of a crossroads of
technical matters, theoretical issues, applied problems, and conceptual
analyses to be anyone’s own area of specialisation. PI was considered to
be transdisciplinary like cybernetics or semiotics, rather than interdiscipli-
nary like biochemistry or cognitive science. We shall return to this prob-
lem later.
Even if PI had not been too premature or allegedly so transdisciplinary,
the philosophical and scientific communities at large were not yet ready to
appreciate its importance. There were strong programs of research, espe-
cially in philosophies of language (logico-positivist, analytic, common-
sensical, postmodernist, deconstructionist, hermeneutical, pragmatist, and
so on), which attracted most of the intellectual and financial resources,
kept a fairly rigid agenda, and hardly enhanced the evolution of alternative
paradigms. Mainstream philosophy cannot help being conservative, not
only because values and standards are usually less firm and clear in philos-
ophy than in science, and hence more difficult to challenge, but also
because, as we shall see better in section 4, this is the context in which a
culturally dominant position is often achieved at the expense of innovative
or unconventional approaches. As a result, thinkers like Church, Shannon,
Simon, Turing, von Neumann, and Wiener were essentially left on the
periphery of the traditional canon. Admittedly, the computational turn
affected science much more rapidly. This explains why some philosophi-
cally minded scientists were among the first to perceive the emergence of
a new paradigm. Nevertheless, Sloman’s “computer revolution” still had to
wait until the 1980s to become a more widespread and mass phenomenon
across the various sciences and social contexts, thus creating the right
environment for the evolution of PI.
More than half a century after the construction of the first mainframes,
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the development of human society has now reached a stage in which issues
concerning the creation, dynamics, management, and utilisation of infor-
mation and computational resources are absolutely vital. Nonetheless,
advanced societies and Western culture had to undergo a digital communi-
cations revolution before being able to appreciate in full the radical novelty
of the new paradigm. The information society has been brought about by
the fastest-growing technology in history. No previous generation was ever
exposed to such an extraordinary acceleration of technological power over
reality, with the corresponding social changes and ethical responsibilities.
Total pervasiveness, flexibility, and high power have raised ICT to the
status of the characteristic technology of our time, factually, rhetorically,
and even iconographically. The computer presents itself as a culturally
defining technology and has become a symbol of the new millennium,
playing a cultural role far more influential than that of mills in the Middle
Ages, mechanical clocks in the seventeenth century, and the loom or the
steam engine in the age of the industrial revolution (Bolter 1984). ICS and
ICT applications are nowadays the most strategic of all the factors govern-
ing science, the life of society, and their future. The most developed post-
industrial societies live by information, and ICS-ICT is what keeps them
constantly oxygenated. And yet, all these profound and significant trans-
formations were barely in view two decades ago, when most philosophy
departments would have considered topics in PI unsuitable areas of
specialisation for a graduate student.
Too far ahead of its time, and dauntingly innovative for the majority of
professional philosophers, PI wavered for some time between two alterna-
tives. It created a number of interesting but limited research niches like
philosophy of AI or computer ethics – often tearing itself away from its
intellectual background. Or it was absorbed within other areas as a
methodology, when PI was perceived as a computational or information-
theoretic approach to otherwise traditional topics, in classic areas like epis-
temology, logic, ontology, philosophy of language, philosophy of science,
and philosophy of mind. Both trends further contributed to the emergence
of PI as an independent field of investigation.
3. The Historical Emergence of PI
Ideas, as it is said, are ‘in the air’. The true explanation is presumably that, at a
certain stage in the history of any subject, ideas become visible, though only to
those with keen mental eyesight, that not even those with the sharpest vision
could have perceived at an earlier stage. (Dummett 1993, 3)
Visionaries have a hard life. If nobody else follows, one does not discover
new lands but merely gets lost, at least in the eyes of those who stayed
behind in the cave. It has required a third computer-related revolution (the
Internet), a whole new generation of computer-literate students, teachers
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and researchers, a substantial change in the fabric of society, a radical
transformation in the cultural and intellectual sensibility, and a widespread
sense of crisis in philosophical circles of various orientations for the new
paradigm to emerge. By the late 1980s, PI had finally begun to be
acknowledged as a fundamentally innovative area of philosophical
research, rather than a premature revolution. Perhaps it is useful to recall a
few dates. In 1982, Time magazine named the computer “Man of the Year.”
In 1985, the American Philosophical Association created the Committee
on Philosophy and Computers (PAC).5In the same year, Terrell Ward
Bynum, then editor in chief of Metaphilosophy, published a special issue
of the journal entitled Computers and Ethics (Bynum 1985) that “quickly
became the widest-selling issue in the journal’s history” (Bynum 2000, see
also Bynum 1998). The first conference sponsored by the Computing and
Philosophy (CAP) association was held at Cleveland State University in
1986. “Its program was mostly devoted to technical issues in logic soft-
ware. Over time, the annual CAP conferences expanded to cover all
aspects of the convergence of computing and philosophy. In 1993,
Carnegie Mellon became a host site” (CAP web site).
By the mid-1980s, the philosophical community had become fully
aware and appreciative of the importance of the topics investigated by PI,
and of the value of its methodologies and theories.6PI was no longer seen
as weird, esoteric, transdisciplinary, or philosophically irrelevant.
Concepts or processes like algorithm, automatic control, complexity,
computation, distributed network, dynamic system, implementation, infor-
mation, feedback, and symbolic representation; phenomena like HCI
(human-computer interaction), CMC (computer-mediated communica-
tion), computer crimes, electronic communities, and digital art; disciplines
like AI and Information Theory; issues like the nature of artificial agents,
the definition of personal identity in a disembodied environment, and the
nature of virtual realities; models like those provided by Turing machines,
artificial neural networks, and artificial life systems . . . these are just a few
examples of a growing number of topics that were more and more
commonly perceived as being new, of pressing interest, and academically
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5The “computer revolution” had affected philosophers as “professional knowledge-
workers” even before attracting their attention as interpreters. The charge of the APA
committee was, and still is, mainly practical. The committee “collects and disseminates
information on the use of computers in the profession, including their use in instruction,
research, writing, and publication, and makes recommendations for appropriate actions of
the Board or programs of the Association” (PAC). Note that the computer is often described
as the laboratory tool for the scientific study and empirical simulation, exploration and
manipulation of information structures. But then, “philosophy and computers” is like saying
“philosophy and information laboratories.” PI without computers is like biology without
microscopes, astronomy without telescopes. But what really matters are information struc-
tures (microscopic entities, planets), not the machines used to study them.
6See, for example, Burkholder 1992, a collection of sixteen essays by twenty-eight
authors presented at the first six CAP conferences; most of the papers are from the fourth
respectable. Informational and computational concepts, methods, tech-
niques, and theories had become powerful metaphors acting as “hermeneu-
tic devices” through which to interpret the world. They had established a
metadisciplinary, unified language that had become common currency in
all academic subjects, including philosophy.
In 1998, introducing The Digital Phoenix – a collection of essays this
time significantly subtitled How Computers Are Changing Philosophy –
Terrell Ward Bynum and James H. Moor acknowledged the emergence of
PI as a new force in the philosophical scenario:
From time to time, major movements occur in philosophy. These movements
begin with a few simple, but very fertile, ideas – ideas that provide philoso-
phers with a new prism through which to view philosophical issues. Gradually,
philosophical methods and problems are refined and understood in terms of
these new notions. As novel and interesting philosophical results are obtained,
the movement grows into an intellectual wave that travels throughout the disci-
pline. A new philosophical paradigm emerges. [. . .] Computing provides
philosophy with such a set of simple, but incredibly fertile notions – new and
evolving subject matters, methods, and models for philosophical inquiry.
Computing brings new opportunities and challenges to traditional philosophi-
cal activities . . . changing the way philosophers understand foundational
concepts in philosophy, such as mind, consciousness, experience, reasoning,
knowledge, truth, ethics, and creativity. This trend in philosophical inquiry that
incorporates computing in terms of a subject matter, a method, or a model has
been gaining momentum steadily. (Bynum and Moor 1998, 1)
At the distance set by a textbook, philosophy often strikes the student as a
discipline of endless diatribes and extraordinary claims, in a state of
chronic crisis. Sub specie aeternitatis, the diatribes unfold in the forceful
dynamics of ideas, claims acquire the necessary depth, the proper level of
justification, and their full significance, while the alleged crisis proves to
be a fruitful and inevitable dialectic between innovation and scholasti-
cism.7This dialectic of reflection, highlighted by Bynum and Moor, has
played a major role in establishing PI as a mature area of philosophical
investigation. We have seen its historical side. This is how it can be inter-
preted conceptually.
4. The Dialectic of Reflection and the Emergence of PI
In order to emerge and flourish, the mind needs to make sense of its envi-
ronment by continuously investing data (affordances) with meaning.
Mental life is thus the result of a successful reaction to a primary horror
vacui semantici: meaningless (in the non-existentialist sense of “not-yet-
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7For an interesting attempt to look at the history of philosophy from a computational
perspective, see Glymour 1992.
meaningful”) chaos threatens to tear the Self asunder, to drown it in an
alienating otherness perceived by the Self as nothingness, and this primor-
dial dread of annihilation urges the Self to go on filling any semantically
empty space with whatever meaning the Self can muster, as successfully
as the cluster of contextual constraints, affordances, and the development
of culture permit. This semanticisation of being, or reaction of the Self to
the non-Self (to phrase it in Fichtean terms), consists in the inheritance and
further elaboration, maintenance, and refinement of factual narratives
(personal identity, ordinary experience, community ethos, family values,
scientific theories, common-sense-constituting beliefs, and so on) that are
logically and contextually (and hence sometimes fully) constrained and
constantly challenged by the data that they need to accommodate and
explain. Historically, the evolution of this process is ideally directed
towards an ever-changing, richer, and more robust framing of the world.
Schematically, it is the result of four conceptual thrusts:
(1) A metasemanticisation of narratives. The result of any reaction to
being solidifies into an external reality facing the new individual Self,
who needs to appropriate narratives as well, now perceived as further
data-affordances that the Self is forced to semanticise. Reflection turns
to reflection and recognises itself as part of the reality it needs to
explain and make sense of.
(2) A de-limitation of culture. This is the process of externalisation and
sharing of the conceptual narratives designed by the Self. The world of
meaningful experience moves from being a private, infra-subjective
and anthropocentric construction to being an increasingly inter-subjec-
tive and de-anthropocentrified reality. A community of speakers share
the precious semantic resources needed to make sense of the world by
maintaining, improving, and transmitting a language – with its
conceptual and cultural implications – that a child learns as quickly as
a shipwrecked person desperately grabs a floating plank. Narratives
then become increasingly friendly because shared with other non-chal-
lenging Selves not far from one Self, rather than reassuring because
inherited from some unknown deity. As “produmers” (producers and
consumers) of specific narratives no longer bounded by space or time,
members of a community constitute a group only apparently
transphysical, in fact functionally defined by the semantic space they
wish and opt (or may be forced) to inhabit. The phenomenon of glob-
alisation is rather a phenomenon of erasure of old limits and creation
of new ones, and hence a phenomenon of de-limitation of culture.
(3) A de-physicalisation of nature. The physical world of watches and
cutlery, of stones and trees, of cars and rain, of the I as ID (the socially
identifiable Self, with a gender, a job, a driving licence, a marital
status, and so on) undergoes a process of virtualisation and distancing,
in which even the most essential tools, the most dramatic experiences
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or the most touching feelings, from war to love, from death to sex, can
be framed within virtual mediation, and hence acquire an informa-
tional aura. Art, goods, entertainment, news, and other Selves are
placed and experienced behind a glass. On the other side of the virtual
frame, objects and individuals can become fully replaceable and often
absolutely indistinguishable tokens of ideal types: a watch is really a
swatch, a pen is a present only insofar as it is a branded object, a place
is perceived as a holiday resort, a temple turns into a historical monu-
ment, someone is a police officer, and a friend may be just a written
voice on the screen of a PC. Individual entities are used as disposable
instantiations of universals. The here-and-now is transformed and
expanded. By speedily multitasking, the individual Self can inhabit
ever more loci, in ways that are perceived synchronically even by the
Self, and thus can swiftly weave different lives, which do not neces-
sarily merge. Past, present, and future are reshaped in discrete and
variable intervals of current time. Projections and indiscernible repeti-
tions of present events expand them into the future; future events are
predicted and pre-experienced in anticipatory presents; past events are
registered and re-experienced in replaying presents. The nonhuman
world of inimitable things and unrepeatable events is increasingly
windowed, and humanity window-shops in it.
(4) A hypostatisation (embodiment) of the conceptual environment
designed and inhabited by the mind. Narratives, including values,
ideas, fashions, emotions, and that intentionally privileged macro-
narrative that is the I can be shaped and reified into “semantic objects”
or “information entities,” now coming closer to the interacting Selves,
quietly acquiring an ontological status comparable to that of ordinary
things likes clothes, cars, and buildings.
By our de-physicalising nature and embodying narratives, the physical
and the cultural are realigned on the line of the virtual. In the light of this
dialectic, the information society can be seen as the most recent, although
not definitive, stage in a wider semantic process that makes the mental
world increasingly part of, if not the environment in which more and more
people tend to live. It brings history and culture, and hence time, to the fore
as the result of human deeds, while pushing nature, as the unhuman, and
hence physical space, into the background. In the course of its evolution,
the process of semanticisation gradually leads to a temporal fixation of the
constructive conceptualisation of reality into a world view, which then
generates a conservative closure, scholasticism.8
Scholasticism, understood as an intellectual typology rather than a
scholarly category, represents a conceptual system’s inborn inertia, when
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8For an enlightening discussion of contemporary scholasticism, see Rorty 1982, chaps.
2, 4, and especially 12.
not its rampant resistance to innovation. It is institutionalised philosophy
at its worst, that is, a degeneration of what socio-linguists call, more
broadly, the internal “discourse” (Gee 1998, esp. 52–53) of a community
or group of philosophers. It manifests itself as a pedantic and often intol-
erant adherence to some discourse (teachings, methods, values, view-
points, canons of authors, positions, theories, selections of problems, and
so on), set by a particular group (a philosopher, a school of thought, a
movement, a trend) at the expense of other alternatives, which are ignored
or opposed. It fixes, as permanently and objectively as possible, a toolbox
of philosophical concepts and vocabulary suitable for standardising its
discourse (its special isms) and the research agenda of the community.
In this way, scholasticism favours the professionalisation of philosophy:
scholastics are “lovers” who detest the idea of being amateurs and wish to
become professional. They are suffixes: they call themselves “-ans” and
place before that ending (pro-stituere) the names of other philosophers,
whether they are Aristotelians, Cartesians, Kantians, Nietzscheans,
Wittgensteinians, Heideggerians, or Fregeans. Followers, exegetes, and
imitators of some mythicised founding fathers, scholastics find in their
hands more substantial answers than new interesting questions and thus
gradually become involved with the application of some doctrine to its
own internal puzzles, readjusting, systematising, and tidying up a once-
dynamic area of research. Scholasticism is metatheoretically acritical and
hence reassuring: fundamental criticism and self-scrutiny are not part of
the scholastic discourse, which, on the contrary, helps a community to
maintain a strong sense of intellectual identity and a clear direction in the
efficient planning and implementation of its research and teaching activi-
ties. It is a closed context: scholastics tend to interpret, criticise, and
defend only views of other identifiable members of the community, thus
mutually reinforcing a sense of identity and purpose, instead of directly
addressing new conceptual issues that may still lack an academically
respectable pedigree and hence be more challenging. This is the road to
anachronism: a progressively wider gap opens up between philosophers’
problems and philosophical problems. Scholastic philosophers become
busy with narrow and marginal disputationes of detail that only they are
keen to ask about, while failing to interact with other disciplines, new
discoveries, or contemporary problems that are of lively interest outside
the specialised discourse. In the end, once scholasticism is closed in on
itself, its main purpose becomes quite naturally the perpetuation of its own
discourse, transforming itself into academic strategy.
What has been said so far should not be confused with the naive ques-
tion as to whether philosophy has lost, and hence should regain, contact
with people (Adler 1979, Quine 1979). People may be curious about
philosophy, but only a philosopher can fancy they might be interested in it.
Scholasticism, if properly trivialised, can be pop and even trendy – after
all, “trivial” should remind one of professional love – while innovative
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philosophy can bear to be esoteric. Perhaps a metaphor can help to clarify
the point. Conceptual areas are like mines. Some of them are so vast and
rich that they will keep philosophers happily busy for generations. Others
may seem exhausted until new and powerful methods or theories allow
further and deeper explorations, or lead to the discovery of problems and
ideas previously overlooked. Scholastic philosophers are like wretched
workers digging a nearly exhausted but not yet abandoned mine. They
belong to a late generation, technically trained to work only in the narrow
field in which they happen to find themselves. They work hard to gain little,
and the more they invest in their meagre explorations, the more they stub-
bornly bury themselves in their own mine, refusing to leave their place to
explore new sites. Tragically, only time will tell whether the mine is truly
exhausted. Scholasticism is a censure that can be applied only post mortem.
Innovation is always possible, but scholasticism is historically
inevitable. Any stage in the semanticisation of being is destined to be
initially innovative if not disruptive, to establish itself as a specific domi-
nant paradigm, and hence to become fixed and increasingly rigid, further
reinforcing itself, until it finally acquires an intolerant stance towards alter-
native conceptual innovations and so becomes incapable of dealing with
the ever-changing intellectual environment that it helped to create and
mould. In this sense, every intellectual movement generates the conditions
of its own senescence and replacement.
Conceptual transformations should not be too radical, lest they become
premature. We have seen that old paradigms are challenged and finally
replaced by further, innovative reflection only when it is sufficiently robust
to be acknowledged as a better and more viable alternative to the previous
stage in the semanticisation of being. Here is how Moritz Schlick clarified
this dialectic at the beginning of a paradigm shift:
Philosophy belongs to the centuries, not to the day. There is no uptodateness
about it. For anyone who loves the subject, it is painful to hear talk of ‘modern’
or ‘non-modern’ philosophy. The so-called fashionable movements in philoso-
phy – whether diffused in journalistic form among the general public, or taught
in a scientific style at the universities – stand to the calm and powerful evolu-
tion of philosophy proper much as philosophy professors do to philosophers:
the former are learned, the latter wise; the former write about philosophy and
contend on the doctrinal battlefield, the latter philosophise. The fashionable
philosophic movements have no worse enemy than true philosophy, and none
that they fear more. When it rises in a new dawn and sheds its pitiless light, the
adherents of every kind of ephemeral movement tremble and unite against it,
crying out that philosophy is in danger, for they truly believe that the destruc-
tion of their own little system signifies the ruin of philosophy itself. (Schlick
1979, 2: 491)
Three types of force, therefore, need to interact to compel a conceptual
system to innovate. Scholasticism is the internal, negative force. It gradually
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fossilises thought, reinforcing its fundamental character of immobility, By
making a philosophical school increasingly rigid, less responsive to the
world, and more brittle, it weakens its capacity for reaction to scientific,
cultural, and historical inputs, divorces it from reality, and thus prepares the
ground for a solution of the crisis. Scholasticism, however, can only indi-
cate that philosophical research has reached a stage when it needs to address
new topics and problems, adopt innovative methodologies, or develop alter-
native explanations. It does not specify which direction the innovation
should take. Historically, this is the task of two other, positive forces for
innovation, external to any philosophical system: the substantial novelties
in the environment of the conceptual system, occurring also as a result of
the semantic work done by the old paradigm itself; and the appearance of
an innovative paradigm, capable of dealing with them more successfully,
and thus of disentangling the conceptual system from its stagnation.
In the past, philosophers had to take care of the whole chain of knowl-
edge production, from raw data to scientific theories, as it were.
Throughout its history, philosophy has progressively identified classes of
empirical and logico-mathematical problems and outsourced their investi-
gations to new disciplines. It has then returned to these disciplines and
their findings for controls, clarifications, constraints, methods, tools, and
insights. But, pace Carnap (1935) and Reichenbach (1951), philosophy
itself consists of conceptual investigations whose essential nature is
neither empirical nor logico-mathematical. To mis-paraphrase Hume: “If
we take in our hand any volume, let us ask: Does it contain any abstract
reasoning concerning quantity or number? Does it contain any experimen-
tal reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” If the answer is
yes, then search elsewhere, because that is science, not yet philosophy.
Philosophy is not a conceptual aspirin, a super-science, or the manicure
of language but the art of identifying conceptual problems and designing,
proposing, and evaluating explanatory models. It is, after all, the last stage
of reflection, where the semanticisation of being is pursued and kept open
(Russell 1912, chap. 15). Its critical and creative investigations identify,
formulate, evaluate, clarify, interpret, and explain problems that are intrin-
sically capable of different and possibly irreconcilable solutions, problems
that are genuinely open to debate and honest disagreement, even in princi-
ple. These investigations are often entwined with empirical and logico-
mathematical issues and so are scientifically constrained, but, in
themselves, they are neither. They constitute a space of inquiry broadly
definable as normative. It is an open space: anyone can step into it, no
matter what the starting point is, and disagreement is always possible. It is
also a dynamic space, for when its cultural environment changes, philoso-
phy follows suit and evolves.9Thus, in Bynum’s and Moor’s felicitous
©Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002
9This normative space should not be confused with Sellars’s famous “space of reasons”:
“In characterizing an episode or a state as that of knowing, we are not giving an empirical
metaphor, philosophy is indeed like a phoenix: it can flourish only by
constantly re-engineering itself. A philosophy that is not timely but time-
less is not an impossible philosophia perennis, which claims universal
validity over past and future intellectual positions, but a stagnant philoso-
phy, unable to contribute to, keep track of, and interact with the cultural
evolution that philosophical reflection itself has helped to bring about, and
hence unable to grow.
Having outsourced various forms of knowledge, philosophy’s pulling
force of innovation has necessarily become external. It has been made so
by philosophical reflection itself. This is the full sense in which Hegel’s
metaphor of the Owl of Minerva is to be interpreted. In the past, the exter-
nal force has been represented by such factors as Christian theology, the
discovery of other civilisations, the scientific revolution, the foundational
crisis in mathematics and the rise of mathematical logic, evolutionary
theory, the emergence of new social and economic phenomena, and the
theory of relativity, to mention just a few of the most obvious examples.
Nowadays the pulling force of innovation is represented by the complex
world of information and communication phenomena, their corresponding
sciences and technologies, and the new environments, social life, and exis-
tential and cultural issues that they have brought about. This is why PI can
present itself as an innovative paradigm.
5. The Definition of PI
Once a new area of philosophical research is brought into being by the
interaction between scholasticism and some external force, it evolves into
a well-defined field, possibly interdisciplinary but still autonomous, only
if (i) it is able to appropriate an explicit, clear, and precise interpretation
not of a scholastic Fach (Rorty 1982, chap. 2) but of the classic “ti esti,”
thus presenting itself as a specific “philosophy of”; (ii) the appropriated
interpretation becomes an attractor towards which investigations in the
new field can usefully converge; (iii) the attractor proves sufficiently influ-
ential to withstand centrifugal forces that may attempt to reduce the new
field to other fields of research already well established; and (iv) the new
field is rich enough to be organised in clear subfields and hence allow for
©Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002
description of that episode or state; we are placing it in the logical space of reasons of justi-
fying and being able to justify what one says” (Sellars 1963, 169). Our normative space is a
space of design, where rational and empirical affordances, constraints, requirements, and
standards of evaluation all play an essential role in the construction and evaluation of knowl-
edge. It only partly overlaps with Sellars’s space of reasons in that the latter includes more
(e.g., mathematical deduction counts as justification, and in Sellars’s space we find intrinsi-
cally decidable problems) and less, since in the space of design we find issues connected
with creativity and freedom not clearly included in Sellars’s space. For a discussion of
Sellars’s “space of reasons,” see Floridi 1996, esp. chap. 4, and McDowell 1994, esp. the
new introduction.
Questions like “What is the nature of being?”, “What is the nature of
knowledge?”, “What is the nature of right and wrong?”, and “What is the
nature of meaning?” are field questions. They satisfy the previous condi-
tions, and so they have guaranteed the stable existence of their corre-
sponding disciplines. Other questions, such as “What is the nature of the
mind?”, “What is the nature of beauty and taste?”, and “What is the nature
of a logically valid inference?” have been subject to fundamental re-inter-
pretations, which have led to profound transformations in the definition of
philosophy of mind, aesthetics, and logic. Still other questions, like “What
is the nature of complexity?”, “What is the nature of life?”, “What is the
nature of signs?”, and “What is the nature of control systems?” have turned
out to be transdisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary. Failing to satisfy at
least one of the previous four conditions, they have struggled to establish
their own autonomous fields. The question is now whether PI itself satis-
fies (i) to (iv). Afirst step towards a positive answer requires a further clar-
Philosophy appropriates the “ti esti” question essentially in two ways,
phenomenologically and metatheoretically. Philosophy of language and
epistemology are two examples of “phenomenologies,” or philosophies of
a phenomenon. Their subjects are meaning and knowledge, not linguistic
theories or cognitive sciences. Philosophy of physics and philosophy of
social science, on the other hand, are plain instances of “metatheories.”
They investigate problems arising from organised systems of knowledge,
which in their turn investigate natural or human phenomena.
Some other philosophical branches, however, show only a tension
towards the two poles, often combining phenomenological and metatheo-
retical interests. This is the case with philosophy of mathematics and
philosophy of logic, for example. Like PI, their subjects are old, but they
have acquired their salient features and become autonomous fields of
investigation only very late in the history of thought. These philosophies
show a tendency to work on specific classes of first-order phenomena, but
they also examine these phenomena working their way through methods
and theories, by starting from a metatheoretical interest in specific classes
of second-order theoretical statements concerning those very same classes
of phenomena. The tension pulls each specific branch of philosophy
towards one or the other pole. Philosophy of logic, to rely on the previous
example, is metatheoretically biased. It shows a constant tendency to
concentrate primarily on conceptual problems arising from logic under-
stood as a specific mathematical theory of formally valid inferences,
whereas it pays little attention to problems concerning logic as a natural
phenomenon, what one may call, for want of a better description, rational-
ity. Vice versa, PI, like philosophy of mathematics, is phenomenologically
biased. It is primarily concerned with the whole domain of first-order
phenomena represented by the world of information, computation, and the
information society, although it addresses its problems by starting from the
©Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002
vantage point represented by the methodologies and theories offered by
ICS and can be seen to incline towards a metatheoretical approach, insofar
as it is methodologically critical towards its own sources.
The following definition attempts to capture the clarifications intro-
duced so far:
(D) philosophy of information (PI) = def. the philosophical field
concerned with (a) the critical investigation of the conceptual nature
and basic principles of information, including its dynamics, utilisation,
and sciences, and (b) the elaboration and application of information-
theoretic and computational methodologies to philosophical problems.
Some clarifications are in order. The first half of the definition concerns
philosophy of information as a new field. PI appropriates an explicit, clear,
and precise interpretation of the “ti esti” question, namely, “What is the
nature of information?” This is the clearest hallmark of a new field. Of
course, as with any other field questions, this too serves only to demarcate
an area of research, not to map its specific problems in detail (Floridi
2001). PI provides critical investigations that are not to be confused with
a quantitative theory of data communication (information theory). On the
whole, its task is to develop not a unified theory of information but rather
an integrated family of theories that analyse, evaluate, and explain the vari-
ous principles and concepts of information, their dynamics and utilisation,
with special attention to systemic issues arising from different contexts of
application and interconnections with other key concepts in philosophy,
such as being, knowledge, truth, life, and meaning.
Recent surveys have shown no consensus on a single, unified definition
of information.10 This is hardly surprising. Information is such a powerful
concept that, as an explicandum, it can be associated with several expla-
nations, depending on the cluster of requirements and desiderata that
orientate a theory (Bar-Hillel and Carnap 1953, Szaniawski 1984). Claude
Shannon, for example, remarked,
The word “information” has been given different meanings by various writers
in the general field of information theory. It is likely that at least a number of
these will prove sufficiently useful in certain applications to deserve further
study and permanent recognition. It is hardly to be expected that a single
concept of information would satisfactorily account for the numerous possible
applications of this general field. (From “The Lattice Theory of Information,”
in Shannon 1993, 180)
©Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002
10 For some reviews of the variety of meanings and the corresponding different theoreti-
cal positions, see Braman 1989, Losee 1997, Machlup 1983, NATO 1974, 1975, 1983,
Schrader 1984, Wellisch 1972, Wersig and Neveling 1975. I have defended a revision of the
definition of semantic information as meaningful data in Floridi (forthcoming).
Polysemantic concepts like information can be fruitfully investigated only
in relation to well-specified contexts of use.
By “dynamics of information” the definition refers to: (i) the constitu-
tion and modelling of information environments, including their systemic
properties, forms of interaction, internal developments, and so on; (ii)
information life cycles, that is, the series of various stages in form and
functional activity through which information can pass, from its initial
occurrence to its final utilisation and possible disappearance;11 and (iii)
computation, both in the Turing-machine sense of algorithmic processing
and in the wider sense of information processing. This is a crucial specifi-
cation. Although a very old concept, information has finally acquired the
nature of a primary phenomenon thanks to the sciences and technologies
of computation and ICT. Computation has, therefore, attracted much philo-
sophical attention in recent years. Nevertheless, PI privileges “informa-
tion” over “computation” as the pivotal topic of the new field because it
analyses the latter as presupposing the former. PI treats computation as
only one (although perhaps the most important) of the processes in which
information can be involved. Thus, the field should be interpreted as a
philosophy of information rather than just of computation, in the same
sense in which epistemology is the philosophy of knowledge, not just of
From an environmental perspective, PI is prescriptive about, and legis-
lates on, what may count as information, and how information should be
adequately created, processed, managed, and used.12 PI’s phenomenologi-
cal bias, however, does not mean that it fails to provide critical feedback.
On the contrary, methodological and theoretical choices in ICS are also
profoundly influenced by the kind of PI a researcher adopts more or less
consciously. It is therefore essential to stress that PI critically evaluates,
shapes, and sharpens the conceptual, methodological, and theoretical basis
of ICS – in short, that it also provides a philosophy of ICS, as this has been
plain since early work in the area of philosophy of AI (Colburn 2000).
It is worth stressing here that an excessive concern with the metatheoret-
ical aspects of PI may lead one to miss the important fact that it is perfectly
legitimate to speak of PI even in authors who lived centuries before the
information revolution. Hence it will be extremely fruitful to develop a
historical approach and trace PI’s diachronic evolution, so long as the tech-
nical and conceptual frameworks of ICS are not anachronistically applied
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11 A typical life cycle includes the following phases: occurring (discovering, designing,
authoring, etc.), processing and managing (collecting, validating, modifying, organising,
indexing, classifying, filtering, updating, sorting, storing, networking, distributing, access-
ing, retrieving, transmitting, etc.), and using (monitoring, modelling, analysing, explaining,
planning, forecasting, decision making, instructing, educating, learning, etc.).
12 Following this research, Herold 2001 has defined librarianship as applied philosophy
of information and has suggested that “librarianship, as an applied PI, seems to be the last
of all disciplines to traverse intellectual history and digest its paradigms.”
but are used to provide the conceptual method and privileged perspective to
evaluate in full the reflections that were developed on the nature, dynamics,
and utilisation of information before the digital revolution (consider, for
example, Plato’s Phaedrus, Descartes’s Meditations, Nietzsche’s On the
Use and Disadvantage of History for Life, and Popper’s conception of a
third world). This is significantly comparable with the development under-
gone by other philosophical fields, like philosophy of language, philoso-
phy of biology, and philosophy of mathematics.
The second half of the definition indicates that PI is not only a new field
but provides an innovative methodology as well. Research into the concep-
tual nature of information and its dynamics and utilisation is carried on
from the vantage point represented by the methodologies and theories
offered by ICS and ICT (see, for example, Grim, Mar, and St. Denis 1998).
This perspective affects other philosophical topics as well. Information-
theoretic and computational methods, concepts, tools, and techniques have
already been developed and applied in many philosophical areas, to extend
our understanding of the cognitive and linguistic abilities of humans and
animals and the possibility of artificial forms of intelligence (philosophy
of AI; information-theoretic semantics; information-theoretic epistemol-
ogy; dynamic semantics); to analyse inferential and computational
processes (philosophy of computing; philosophy of computer science;
information-flow logic; situation logic); to explain the organizational prin-
ciples of life and agency (philosophy of artificial life; cybernetics and
philosophy of automata; decision and game theory); to devise new
approaches to modelling physical and conceptual systems (formal ontol-
ogy; theory of information systems; philosophy of virtual reality); to
formulate the methodology of scientific knowledge (model-based philoso-
phy of science; computational methodologies in philosophy of science);
and to investigate ethical problems (computer and information ethics; arti-
ficial ethics), aesthetic issues (digital multimedia/hypermedia theory;
hypertext theory and literary criticism), and psychological, anthropologi-
cal, and social phenomena characterising the information society and
human behaviour in digital environments (cyberphilosophy). Indeed, the
presence of these branches shows that PI satisfies criterion (iv). As a new
field, it provides a unified and cohesive theoretical framework that allows
further specialisation.
PI possesses one of the most powerful conceptual vocabularies ever
devised in philosophy. This is because we can rely on informational
concepts whenever a complete understanding of some series of events is
unavailable or unnecessary for providing an explanation. In philosophy,
this means that virtually any issue can be rephrased in informational terms.
This semantic power is a great advantage of PI understood as a methodol-
ogy (see the second half of the definition). It shows that we are dealing
with an influential paradigm, describable in terms of an informational
philosophy. But it may also be a problem, because a metaphorically pan-
©Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002
informational approach can lead to a dangerous equivocation – namely,
thinking that since any x can be described in (more or less metaphorically)
informational terms, the nature of any x is genuinely informational. And
the equivocation obscures PI’s specificity as a philosophical field with its
own subject. PI runs the risk of becoming synonymous with philosophy.
The best way of avoiding this loss of identity is to concentrate on the first
half of the definition. PI as a philosophical discipline is defined by what a
problem is (or can be reduced to be) about, not by how the problem is
formulated. Although many philosophical issues seem to benefit greatly
from an informational analysis, in PI information theory provides a literal
foundation, not just a metaphorical superstructure. PI presupposes that a
problem or an explanation can be legitimately and genuinely reduced to an
informational problem or explanation. So the criterion to test the sound-
ness of the informational analysis of x is not to check whether x can be
formulated in information terms but to ask what it would be like for x not
to have an informational nature at all. With this criterion in mind, I have
provided a sample of some interesting questions in Floridi 2001.
6. Conclusion: PI as Philosophia Prima
Philosophers have begun to address the new intellectual challenges arising
from the world of information and the information society. PI attempts to
expand the frontier of philosophical research not by putting together pre-
existing topics, and thus reordering the philosophical scenario, but by
enclosing new areas of philosophical inquiry – which have been struggling
to be recognised and have not yet found room in the traditional philosoph-
ical syllabus – and by providing innovative methodologies to address
traditional problems from new perspectives. Is the time ripe for the estab-
lishment of PI as a mature field? We have seen that the answer can be affir-
mative because our culture and society, the history of philosophy, and the
dynamic forces regulating the development of the philosophical system
have been moving towards it. But then, what kind of PI can be expected to
develop? An answer to this question presupposes a much clearer view of
PI’s position in the history of thought, a view probably obtainable only a
posteriori. Here it might be sketched by way of guesswork.
We have seen that philosophy grows by impoverishing itself. This is
only an apparent paradox: the more complex the world and its scientific
descriptions turn out to be, the more essential the level of the philosophi-
cal discourse understood as philosophia prima must become, ridding itself
of unwarranted assumptions and misguided investigations that do not
properly belong to the normative activity of conceptual modelling. The
strength of the dialectic of reflection, and hence the crucial importance of
one’s historical awareness of it, lies in this transcendental regress in search
of increasingly abstract and more streamlined conditions of possibility of
the available narratives, in view not only of their explanation but also of
©Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002
their modification and innovation. How has the regress developed? The
scientific revolution made seventeenth-century philosophers redirect their
attention from the nature of the knowable object to the epistemic relation
between it and the knowing subject, and hence from metaphysics to epis-
temology. The subsequent growth of the information society and the
appearance of the infosphere, the semantic environment in which millions
of people spend their time nowadays, have led contemporary philosophy
to privilege critical reflection first on the domain represented by the
memory and languages of organised knowledge, the instruments whereby
the infosphere is managed – thus moving from epistemology to philosophy
of language and logic (Dummett 1993) – and then on the nature of its very
fabric and essence, information itself. Information has thus arisen as a
concept as fundamental and important as being, knowledge, life, intelli-
gence, meaning, and good and evil – all pivotal concepts with which it is
interdependent – and so equally worthy of autonomous investigation. It is
also a more impoverished concept, in terms of which the others can be
expressed and interrelated, when not defined. In this sense, Evans was
Evans had the idea that there is a much cruder and more fundamental concept
than that of knowledge on which philosophers have concentrated so much,
namely the concept of information. Information is conveyed by perception, and
retained by memory, though also transmitted by means of language. One needs
to concentrate on that concept before one approaches that of knowledge in the
proper sense. Information is acquired, for example, without one’s necessarily
having a grasp of the proposition which embodies it; the flow of information
operates at a much more basic level than the acquisition and transmission of
knowledge. I think that this conception deserves to be explored. It’s not one
that ever occurred to me before I read Evans, but it is probably fruitful. That
also distinguishes this work very sharply from traditional epistemology.
(Dummett 1993, 186)
This is why PI can be introduced as the forthcoming philosophia prima,
both in the Aristotelian sense of the primacy of its object – information –
which PI claims to be a fundamental component in any environment, and
in the Cartesian-Kantian sense of the primacy of its methodology and
problems, as PI aspires to provide a most valuable, comprehensive
approach to philosophical investigations.
PI, understood as a foundational philosophy of information design, can
explain and guide the purposeful construction of our intellectual environ-
ment, and it can provide the systematic treatment of the conceptual foun-
dations of contemporary society. It enables humanity to make sense of the
world and construct it responsibly, a new stage in the semanticisation of
being. Clearly, PI promises to be one of the most exciting and fruitful areas
of philosophical research of our time. If what has been argued in this essay
is correct, its current development may be delayed but is inevitable, and it
©Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002
will affect the overall way in which we address both new and old philo-
sophical problems, bringing about a substantial innovation of the philo-
sophical system. This will represent the information turn in philosophy.13
Faculty of Philosophy
Department of Computer Science
Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy
Wolfson College, University of Oxford
Oxford OX2 6UD
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... Floridi's "computing [5]" path can be divided into two aspects. First, "computation" as a means is derived from, but not limited to, the meaning of the Turing machine and is a way of processing "information". ...
... Both Floridi [5] and Wukun [7] have developed their own philosophies of information based on the question of what information is as the essential problem of the discipline system. Although Floridi also proposed that computing is the way of information processing, the purpose of "computing" is to answer the question "what is the way of information processing", rather than to study how the way of information processing is carried out. ...
... Floridi's philosophy of information [5] takes "computing" as the way of information processing in the stipulation of "information" and computational science as the methodological source in the construction of the philosophy of information. Therefore, Floridi also regarded the philosophy of artificial intelligence as an immature paradigm of the philosophy of information and turned the discussion of how "computing" deals with "information" in the philosophy of artificial intelligence to the aspect of "information". ...
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The “information turn” has gradually become a new direction in philosophy to replace the “linguistic turn”, with “computing” and “information” as the main paths. The main theories of “computing” path are info-computationalism and Floridi’s philosophy of information; the main theory of “information” path is Wu Kun’s philosophy of information. This paper attempts to explain the modes of operation of the two paths and discriminate and analyze the essential differences between the two paths, which lie in the realization of information based on these three theories.
... The epistemic project may be thought of as one in which the activist-philosopher attempts to bring forth a form of "justified true belief" from certain "necessary and sufficient conditions" that allow this belief to be reasonably identified as knowledge (Fallis, 2006, p. 479). Harman's (2002) object-oriented ontology has parallels to Floridi's (2003) epistemic project on information and ramifications for how it is possible to look at subject knowledge as a range of objects in themselves. Harman's view is that each object has validity beyond how it might be classified in reductionist terms. ...
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Public libraries contribute to a democratic civil society and an educated, informed, tolerant and engaged polity. There is, however, little extant research on how knowledge is represented in public libraries in Australia, and in particular about what types of assumptions about knowledge are prioritised in selecting and evaluating adult nonfiction monographs. This dissertation is a mixed methods study of public library adult nonfiction monograph collections and the professional lived experience of the librarians who select and evaluate them. I situate this study within collection management, knowledge organisation and epistemics. Firstly, I look to elicit the knowledge-oriented factors that influence selection and evaluation of nonfiction collections. I formulate the explanation in terms of a number of ways that knowledge is valued, its relationship to the concept of belief, worldview and the practice of librarianship. I also look to provide an interpretive matrix through which it is possible to characterise the knowledge represented in these collections. I engage in an empirical bibliometric study to describe the commonalities in distribution that reveal subject priorities and to assess how subjects are distributed in terms of range and depth of coverage and I engage in a discursive inquiry into librarians’ epistemic values and their orientations towards particular types of knowledge to explicate the criteria that selectors bring to bear on their selection and evaluation decisions and how they would identify crucial or core knowledge, assuming this exists. The triangulation of the two studies helped to answer the question of how knowledge is represented. I make the case that while knowledge is represented primarily in terms of that which has value for people oriented in their personal concerns at the level of self, home and family, and that this may limit what is included in a knowledge collection, this is necessitated by the need for knowledge to support the development of public library users’ sense of personal meaning and that it is the expression also of librarians care for the value of this for users as individuals and as members of an epistemic community.
Throughout time, alongside human advancement in technology, science and philosophy, the terms information and knowledge have been used to refer to rather different entities. Information, in most European languages, was used to refer to enquiry and education, both in a mathematical sense and in a more qualitative and semantic sense. Although, in the same line of development, knowledge could be defined as information plus justification, belief and truth, it is usually classified in categories of propositional knowledge (knowledge that) and practical or procedural knowledge (knowledge how). The scope and priority of these classes of knowledge are the topic of many philosophical speculations and justifications.
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Social media platforms are a pervasive technology that continue to define our modern world. While social media has no doubt brought many benefits to society in terms of connection and content sharing, numerous concerns remain for the governance of social media platforms going forward; including (but not limited to) the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and online surveillance. However, the voice of citizens and other non-experts is often missing from such conversations in information systems literature which has led to an alleged gap between research and the everyday life of citizens. Our qualitative study presents findings from 16 hours of online dialogue with 25 citizens on the dark sides of digitalisation and social media platform governance. The online dialogue was undertaken as part of a worldwide consultation project called “We, the Internet” which sought to provide citizens with a voice on a range of topics such as “Digitalisation and Me”, “My Data, Your Data, Our Data”, and “A Strong Digital Public Sphere”. Five phases of thematic analysis were undertaken by the authors to code the corpus of qualitative data. Building on the Theory of Communicative Action, we discuss three dialogical processes critical to citizen discourse: lifeworld reasoning, rationalisation, and moral action. Our findings point towards citizens’ perspectives of current and future issues associated with social media platform governance, including concerns around the multiplicity of digital identities, consent for vulnerable groups, and transparency in content moderation. We also reveal citizen’s rationalisation of the dilemmas faced in addressing these issues going forward including tensions such as digital accountability vs. data privacy, protection vs. inclusion, and algorithmic censorship vs. free speech. Based on outcomes from this dialogical process, moral actions in the form of policy recommendations are proposed by citizens, and for citizens. We find that tackling these dark sides of digitalisation is something too important to be left to ‘Big Tech’ and equally requires an understanding of citizens’ perspectives to ensure an informed and positive imprint for change.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the 21st century is no longer perceived as a purely technological phenomenon, more and more becoming a social and humanitarian phenomenon that develops in a complex context of cultural, value, philosophical, and ethical aspects of human life. The impact of AIrelated technologies on contemporary society is still difficult to assess fully, which does not prevent enthusiastic researchers and political leaders from attempting to define a value framework that will ensure the use of AI for societal development. As interest in AI grows, more and more technologically advanced countries in the world are creating their own strategies for the development and use of this technological marvel of the 21st century. These pioneering documents often seem vague and indefinite, but nevertheless they allow us to assess how the political and scientific and technological elites of these countries see the value orientations of AI technology development, both nationally and internationally. The article presents a philosophical analysis of the value orientations of AI technology development in the USA and China – modern scientific and technological leaders in this field – on the basis of strategic documents defining the development and application of AI in these countries from the position of post-non-classical scientific rationality. The authors of the article conclude that, at the contemporary post-non-classical stage of science development, the value component is not only one of the integral components of scientific and technological activities but may be decisive in determining the goals and objectives of high-tech development at the state level.
The publication contains analyzes on the understanding of information in terms of quantitative and qualitative, objective and subjective aspects, the way it works and the role played in the process of morphogenesis. The aim of the publication is an attempt to define the ontological status of information and to indicate possible sources of its origin. The qualitative, not quantitative, aspect of the information is important. Determining what, in its qualitative essence, information is, what a being is, will allow to create the necessary premises to try to confirm or deny the thesis that information is a fundamental and fully real causative and functional factor of morphogenesis, as well as to verify the correctness of the hypothesis about a specific, fundamental, related to the action of God, the source of information origin.
This chapter has three Parts. Part 1 attempts to analyze the concept “information” (in some selected contexts where it has been used) in order to understand the consequences of representing and processing information, quantum mechanically. There are at least three views on ‘Information’ viz., ‘Semantic Naturalism’, ‘the Quantum Bayesian Approach’ and ‘Information is Physical’ approach. They are then critically examined and at last one is given preference. Part 2 of the chapter then goes on to discuss the manner in which the study and quantification of “Qubit” (Quantum bit), Superposition and Entanglement, comprise the three pillars of Quantum Information Science and enable the discipline to develop the theory behind applications of quantum physics to the transmission and processing of information. In Part 3 we take up the issue that although it might appear bewildering, the physical approach to Quantum Information Science is equally proficient in dealing with its impact on the questions of “consciousness,” “freewill” and biological questions in the area known as “bioinformatics.”
Jürgen Habermas’ theory of communicative action and discourse ethics as a theoretical basis merges several factors that have an impact on the use of digital media by internet users. This article provides a qualitative narrative analysis of a study of five South African-based based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on their experiences with digital media and cyber-ethics during the Covid-19 pandemic. The author interviewed employers and digital media specialists from the NGOs about their experiences with the “eight ethical variables”, namely, justice, privacy, access, accuracy, truth, human dignity, regulation, and ownership of information, during the global Covid-19 (acronym for the coronavirus disease of 2019) pandemic. The article discusses how the NGOs have been affected by the increasing use of digital media. The article argues that a need exists for a framework of cyber-ethics for self-regulation purposes, to be followed by NGOs to deal with breaches of ethical conduct. Finally, the formulation of a microsocial contract based on the proposed eight ethical variables is offered. The present study contributes to media ethics literature by proposing a framework for ethical conduct for digital media use. This is of importance to internet users and may be achievable if imbedded in employee procedural policies and public policies. It is argued that in formulating appropriate ethical guidelines, Habermas’ discourse ethics should be kept in mind for an optimal microsocial contract to be attainable.
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V tejto stati je najprv predstavená filozofia informácie (FI) a demarkácia jej predmetu v metodologicky ucelenej forme, to nadviazaním na koncepciu FI L. Floridiho. V porovnaní s jeho návrhom je vyčlenený i predmet metafilozofie informácie, a takisto je ujasnené aj označenie ,,filozofie prima“. Floridi tvrdí, že jeho koncepcia FI ho môže voči iným filozickým disciplínam nadobudnúť. Problém chápania FI ako filozofie prima sa však ani po dvadsiatich rokoch od jeho uvedenia výraznejšej priamej reflexie nedočkal. V tejto štúdii je zodpovedaná otázka, či je tento problém stále otvoreným problémom FI a ak áno, v akom zmysle. Je obhajovaná téza, že problém chápania FI ako filozofie primaje otvoreným problémom metafilozofie informácie, pričom vzhľadom na výsledky práce v FI sú identifikované niektoré oblasti, relatívne ku ktorým v súčasnosti môžeme, nemôžeme a nedokážeme FI označiť ako prima.
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Professor Braman introduces the first issue of the journal with an exploration of the definition, scope, and relevance of the concept of “information policy.” She sets forth the five criteria which define it as a coherent field of study, and notes the timeliness of its having a journal, as information policy increasingly shapes the world in which we live.
“Computer science and philosophy? Isn’t that sort of an odd combination?” Such is the typical cocktail-party response when learning of my academic training in the discipline Socrates called “the love of wisdom” and my subsequent immersion in the world of bytes, programs, systems analysis, and government contracts. And such might very well be the reaction to the title of this essay. But despite its cloistered reputation, and its literary, as opposed to technological image, the tradition of philosophical investigation, as all of us who have been seduced by it know, has no turf limits. No turf limits, at least, in one direction; while few but the truly prepared venture into philosophy’s hard-core: “inner circle” of epistemology, metaphysics, (meta)ethics, and logic, literally anything is fair philosophical game in the outer circle in which most of us exist. And so we have the “philosophy of’s”: philosophy of science, philosophy of art, of language, education. Some of the philosophy of’s even have names befitting their integration into vital areas of modern society, for example, medical ethics and business ethics, which we can say are shorter names for the philosophies of ethical decisions in medicine and business. This anthology is intended to be perhaps the first organization of various writings in a yet-to-crystalize philosophy of comouter science.
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