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Wolfgang Hofkirchner

EMERGENT INFORMATION: A UNIFIED THEORY OF INFORMATION FRAMEWORK

Hackensack, NJ, World Scientific Publishing (Hardcover: 274 pp, 70$)

The 3th of the World Scietific Series in Information Studies edited by Mark Burgin

At the dawn of the information age, a proper understanding of information and how it relates to matter and energy is of utmost importance for the survival of civilization. Yet, attempts to reconcile information concepts underlying science and technology with those en vogue in social science, humanities, and arts are rather rare. This book offers a new approach, departing from fragmented information concepts.

Many academics refrain from undergoing unifications, as most undertakings are reductionistic. This book contends that it is the noble task of an as-yet-to-be-developed science of information to go one step in the direction of a unified theory of information without falling back into neither reduction nor anthropomorphisation.

To be able to succeed in an ambitious task like this, the book advocates the application of complex systems theory and its philosophical underpinnings. Information needs to be interpreted in terms of self-organisation to do justice to the richness of its manifestations. The way the book does so will provide the reader with a deep insight into a basic feature of our world. (more…)

Cover-Digital WhonessRafael Capurro, Micharl Eldred, Daniel Nagel

DIGITAL WHONESS: IDENTITY, PRIVACY AND FREEDOM IN THE CYBERWORLD

Heusenstamm, Germany, Ontos Verlag (Hardcover: 310 pp., 69€)

The first aim is to provide well-articulated concepts by thinking through elementary phenomena of today’s world, focusing on privacy and the digital, to clarify who we are in the cyberworld — hence a phenomenology of digital whoness. The second aim is to engage critically, hermeneutically with older and current literature on privacy, including in today’s emerging cyberworld. Phenomenological results include concepts of i) self-identity through interplay with the world, ii) personal privacy in contradistinction to the privacy of private property, iii) the cyberworld as an artificial, digital dimension in order to discuss iv) what freedom in the cyberworld can mean, whilst not neglecting v) intercultural aspects and vi) the EU context.

CONTENTS: 0) Introduction, 1) Phenomenology of whoness: identity, privacy, trust and freedom, 2) Digital Ontology, 3) Digital whoness in connection with privacy, publicity and freedom, 4) Intercultural aspects of digitally mediated whoness, privacy and freedom, 5) Cyberworld, privacy and the EU, 6) Brave new cyberworld.

An abridged version of this book was published as “IT and Privacy and Ethical Perspective – Digital Whoness: Identity, Privacy and Freedom in the Cyberworld” in Buchmann, J. (ed.): Internet Privacy – A Multidisciplinary Analysis, Berlin: Springer, 2012, pp. 63-141.  Accessible here

Kreativität und FormRainer Zimmermann

KREATIVITÄT UND FORM

Berlin: Springer Verlag (129 pp., eBook: 23€, Hard-cover: 29€) in German

In his homonymic book, Herman Hesse sketches the idea of a Glass Bead game in which the “player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.” The authors develop for the first time the possibilities and limits of such universal game with and about knowledge. The accompanying computer program enables the player to experiment with knowledge. Thereby the book stretches through computing methods its application domain from logic to system theory, to scientific- and knowledge theory, to semiotic, to cognition and communication.

Our colleague Rafael Capurro is interviewed by the Brazilian musician and intellectual Rob Ashtoffen. In the interview, held in Spanish, Prof. Capurro reflects on the ontological aspects of the Latin term “informatio” which connects with the classical metaphysical tradition, as well as on the epistemological aspects developed in the Latin usage of the term. In our days the ontological accent is particularly put on the digital with some kind of reductionism or violence: “what is not digitizable is not”

J.M.Diaz & RainerZimmermann

Interviewer: José María Díaz Nafría

Interviewee: Rainer Zimmermann

Date: 09/11/2011

On the occasion of Rainer Zimmemann’s 60th birthday on November 9th, I met him in Vienna while attending a whorkshop on system science chaired by Wolfgang Hofkirchner. Nearby the Burg Theatre, we met in the pleasant atmosphere of the Viennese café Landtmann, where he first sketched out to me his forthcoming book on Schelling which I am now looking forward to hold in my hands. Before bringing up the matter for discussion, let me give a short review of his scientific carrier:

Rainer Zimmermann, born in Berlin in 1951, studied mathematics and physics in Germany and England not far from those who have formulated some of the best candidates to provide a unified understanding of the physical world, then he arrived to philosophy after having deepened into the core knowledge of our natural sciences. Thus his philosophy has been a “philosophia ultima” in the first place, as he advocates that it properly should be. His academic itinerary shows an earnest dedication to both the updated knowledge about the world and a philosophical speculation driven to find a more adequate conception towards human life in its social praxis.  As professor of philosophy, he has taught and developed extensive interdisciplinary research in Berlin, Kassel and Munich, also in Cambridge (UK),Bologna and Salzburg.

In the territory of philosophy he has dug into the work of Sartre, Bloch, Schelling and Spinoza –among others – finding out that among them there is an underground thinking line which goes back to both Averroism and Stoicism. His inquiry into the work of these philosophers – as we can see in his recent “New ethics proved in geometrical order”– has not been a sort of mere archaeology of thinking or apologetic reflexion, but a sort of heuristic approach to current problems of our knowledge and praxis and particularly in the understanding of complex evolutionary systems. To this end he has respectfully followed the path pointed out by these authors though using the horizon of our current knowledge.

His approach can be better branded as transcendental materialism as he names it since 1990. He has authored about 350 publications including some 24 books and monographies, scientific articles in a broad spectrum of topics (from mathematics to ethics, from physics to political systems…).

J.M.: In your writings, you often refer to the necessity to reorient philosophy as it has been conceived in the 20th century in order to properly reflecting the world. You mention that it should be “visualized as a science of totality” following the works of Hans Heinz Holz, and you also consider the task of your own philosophy, the “transcendental materialism” as an “ultima philosophia” rather than a “prima philosophia” in the Aristotelian sense (referring to an expression introduced by Theunissen for the first time). As I understand, both things are closed related. Can you explain in some detail the requirements of this reorientation, as well as its alleged benefits?

R.Z.: The basic idea is that we cannot conceive a theoretical nucleus of what is traditionally called “metaphysics” as something which can be derived from first thoughts entailing then a picture of the world which prescribes so to speak the latter’s evolution and structure. Instead, we have to look first for what the sciences (and the arts as to that) are offering us in terms of insight. This present state of knowledge is our raw material for constructing then the desired picture of the world such that philosophy can be visualized as one which follows up the scientific and artistic modeling of fragments of the world rather than laying the grounds for them (this is Theunissen’s 1989 aspect of ultima philosophia) and, by doing so, drafts out an overarching “theory of everything” whilst composing a meta-theory telling us about what is common to the worldly fragments in structural terms, but also about what we actually do or have to do when developing theories about the world in the first place (this being Holzen’s aspect of philosophy as science of totality). The important point is here that within this approach, philosophy gains an explicitly empirical character: It is thus possible to speak not only of theoretical and practical philosophy, but also of experimental philosophy, namely by exploring possible worlds whilst exploring possible implications of scientific and artistic results and viewpoints. Thanks to recent developments in computer technology, these somehow “artificial worlds” can be modeled much more easily nowadays. (I have discussed these aspects in detail in my book on transcendental materialism and within the framework of the INTAS cooperation, led from 2000 through 2005 by Wolfgang Hofkirchner.) Obviously, this type of philosophy is achieving nothing else than what philosophy is always achieving: i.e. an improved orientation within the world in order to eventually draft adequate principles for an appropriate ethics. (more…)

Luciano Floridi

THE PHILOSOPHY OF INFORMATION

Oxford, UK, Oxford Univesity Press, 2011 (Hardback, 360 pp. $55.00)

As the author declares at the beginning of his book, it “brings together the outcome of ten years of research”. A project arisen by the intention of “looking for a philosophy that could be free from the anthropocentric obsession with the knowing subject, and from commonsensical introspection.” The result is a Philosophy of information (PI) that can be articulated in three fundamental questions: What is really information? How is it understood, investigated and manipulated? How can information be used to cope with philosophical problems? Though obviously not all these broad and open questions can be fully answered –and particularly not in the extent of a book– this work can be regarded as a first serious attempt of laying down the principles and conceptual foundations of this new area of research, named Philosophy of information. Following Floridi, PI can be “defined as the new 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.”

In order to settle the principles of PI, Floridi pursues three goals, which are metatheoretical, introductory and analytic. Its metatheoretical goal is to describe what the philosophy of information is, its problems, approaches, and methods. Its introductory goal is to help the reader to gain a better grasp of the complex and multifarious nature of the various concepts and phenomena related to information. Its analytic goal is to answer several key theoretical questions of great philosophical interest, arising from the investigation of semantic information. However, it is in the analysis of meaning and his proposed General Definition of Information (GDI) where we found unnecessary the requirements of meaningfulness (as well as truthfulness for semantic information) as proposed by Floridi, if the final intention is to grasp the universality of information; though it might be of course relevant in human contexts. In other words, we consider unsatisfactory the given approach to “the symbol grounding problem”, i.e. “how can data, constituting semantic information, acquire meaning in the first place?” To this respect we have elaborated a “GDI revisiting programme”. (See: Emergence and evolution of meaning).

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Rainer E. Zimmermann

NEW ETHICS PROVED IN GEOMETRICAL ORDER: SPINOZIST REFLEXIONS ON EVOLUTIONARY SYSTEMS

“The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.” states Spinoza in the 7th proposition of the second part of his Ethic, and we might consider this principle as a backbone of his entire work. It helps us to understand why Spinoza’s main work was an Ethic proved in geometrical order instead of having writing, for instance, a Physics proved such way… “If Spinoza had at hand the conceptual methods developed today in mathematics and physics, he would for sure take advantage of them and he could arrive to a much better end of his intention”, Rainer Zimmermann explained to me once talking about the possibilities of contemporary mathematics in relation to the understanding of complex systems. This thought also helped me to understand why Professor Zimmermann, mathematician, physicist and philosopher himself –author of the so called “transcendental materialismus”–  have also devoted part of his extensive work to ethical problems recruiting conceptualizations that takes explicit account of current physics and mathematics. His philosophy does not pretend to be a “prima philosphia in the Aristotelian sense” but rather a “suitable ultima philosophia of considerable heuristic value” as –he considers- to be offered by the line of “systematic philosophy” represented by Schelling, Bloch and Sartre.

This book of Prof. Zimmermann explicitly shows the potentiality referred to in his comment concerning Spinoza’s intention and brings to the fore a contemporary mathematical machinery (based on a strict logical structure for a progressive perspective, as well as on a not so strict hermeneutic structure for a regressive perspective) in the solution to the ancient problem of the relationship between human beings and the rest of nature. Zimmermann’s book recontextualise Spinoza’s approach and proves how the theory of evolutionary systems is a prime candidate for a conceptualization that might be useful in order to concretely develop this new insight.

Concerning the interdisciplinary methodology as proposed by the author and needed for a proper investigation of information in its broad variety of mathematical, natural, social, technical and humanistic aspects, Zimmermann’s approach offers a promissory path that is worth to be considered by those trying to find proper foundations for an interdisciplinary Science of Information.

CONTENTS: 1. Introduction—Spinoza Today; 2. Spinozist Traces in the Theory of Evolutionary Systems; 3. The First Conceptual Triad (Concerning the Nature and Origin of the Mind I); 4. The Second Conceptual Triad (Concerning The Nature And Origin Of The Mind II); 5. A Game-Theoretical Viewpoint (On Human Servitude, Or The Strength Of The Emotions); 6. Artificial Life Revisited; 7. Ethics And Design (Concerning The Power Of The Intellect, Or, On Human Freedom); 8. Conclusions; Appendix I: A Very Short Introduction to Categories; Appendix II: A Not So Very Short Introduction To Evolutionary Game Theory.

(more…)

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