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…)

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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.

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Rafael Capurro & John Holgate (eds)

Messages and Messengers /

Von Boten und Botschaften

Angeletics as an Approach to the Phenomenology of Communication /

Die Angeletik als Weg zur Phänomenologie der Kommunikation

Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2011, 351 pp.

As we can read in the Glossarium BITri, “’angeletics’ derives from Greek angelia, meaning message”. But this approach, proposed by our colleague Rafael Capurro since the 1990s, does not refer to angels or divine messengers –as in the angelology–, it aims instead at studying “the social phenomenon of messages and messengers”, which “is a vast, old and complex phenomenon”. In our digital age, the question is “to what extent the internet creates a new angeletic space giving rise to new synergies of messages and messengers beyond the hierarchical structure of mass media” (p.13). Or considering the global transformation of our communicational means and our cultures as a whole, we may even ask more dramatically: Are we moving towards an “angelical” world or rather towards a “dysangelical” one (i.e., “a time of empty angels” using Sloterdijk’s expression)? (p.13, 195)… Although these questions undoubtedly move in the territory of the very complex human systems, the analysis of messages –as we can see in the book– also reaches the field of natural sciences and technology (for instance, the physical constraints of messages and the rise of meaning through the growing complexity of biological systems). This book –the first one entirely dedicated to angeletics– is structured in two parts: fundaments, where former and new texts stating the principles of Angeletics are compiled, and applications, where the analysis of messages and messengers is extended to different fields.

 

CONTENTS: Foreword (R. Capurro); Introduction (J. Holgate, R. Capurro);  I. FOUNDATIONS: Angeletics — A Message Theory (R. Capurro); Theorie der Botschaft (R. Capurro); A Dialogue on Intercultural Angeletics (R. Capurro, M. Nakada); The Hermesian Paradigm (J. Holgate); Circulating Messages to Every Body and No Body (M. Eldred); Plotinus’ Angeletics: A Neoplatonic Message Theory (G. Stamatellos); Anmerkungen zu einer Theorie der Botschaft (M. Knödler-Pasch); Political Economy and the Double Dialectic of Information (R.E. BABE); Beyond Humanisms (R. Capurro); II. APPLICATIONS: Botschaften ohne Botschafter — Botschafter ohne Botschaften (K. Wiegerling); Messages in an Open Universe (J.M. Díaz Nafría); Systemtheorie — Von der Hermeneutik zum Konstruktivismus (H.H. Diebner); Communities of Action and the Message Society (W. Hofkirchner); Orts-Botschaften. Orte in Jordanien und Syrien (G. Grossklaus); Marginalien zur Angeletik (C. Coenen); Angeletics and Epistemology — Angeletics as Epistemology (P.-H. Wong); Carbon Atoms as Prime Messengers for the Origins of Life (K. Matsuno); On the Relevance of Angeletics and Hermeneutics for Information Technology (R. Capurro, T. Takenouchi, L.M. Tkach-Kawasaki, T. Iitaka).

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A report by: José María Díaz Nafría (University of León, Spain)

4th International Conference on the Foundations of Information Science

Beijin, August, 2010

At the beginning of 2010, Professor Zong-Rong Li (from the Social Information Science Institute, SISI, at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, HUST, China) proposed to our colleague Wolfgang Hofkirchner the organization in China of an international scientific gathering aimed at laying the foundations of a science of information being integrative with respect to scientific domain- and geographical gaps. That is, in the line of the conferences on the Foundations of Information Science, but including now a scientific community which was previously absent. Hence, it was decided the convening of a 4th edition of this conference series (Madrid 1994, Vienna 1996, Paris 2005) under the motto: “towards a new science of information”, which was happily being held in Beijin on past August 21 to 24.

From left to right: Hucan He, Konstantin Kolin, Pedro Marijuán, Yi-Xin Zhong, Wolfgang Hofkirchner, Kang Ouyang

The conference, co-chaired by Kang Ouyang (Director of the SISI), Wolfgang Hofkirchner and Pedro Marijuán, was held under the sponsorship of the Chinese Association for Artificial Inteligence (CAAI) and the SISI. It was part of the Multi-Conference on Advanced Intelligence (MCAI-2010) which also included: the second international conference in advance intelligence (ICAI-2010) and the IEEE Natural Language Processing and Knowledge Engineering (NLP-KE’10). It was clearly proven the amount and relevancy of the eastern scientific activity in interdisciplinary informational studies with a notorious prevalence of Chinese contributions (59 %) as well as a significant Japanese participation (10 %). Nevertheless, the global character of the call was preserved with a participation of 4 continents, especially North America and Europe. Thus, the objective of founding a scientific international association responsible for promoting a global- and integrative science of information was supported by a sufficient representation of the required parties.

Access to: Programme and abstracts, including links to preliminary texts (PDF)

Report contents

  1. Gaps and Bridges
  2. In historical Perspective
  3. Informational Babel
  4. Science of Information Institute (SciI) participation
  5. Foundation of the International Society for Information Studies (ISIS)
  6. Conclusions

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A brief remark on thematic proposals: These are intended to provide some basis for discussion on an specific theme of relevance for furthering the Science of Information. We kindly invite and encourage whoever is interested in fostering the Science of Information to make comments in the space available .

A thematic proposal by: Mark Burgin

The general theory of information has three parts:

  • Philosophical, which gives a new vision of information and its place in the modern world;
  • Methodological, which studies basic principles of information theory and information technology;
  • Theoretical, which is mathematically based making available different mathematical models of information, information processes and information processing systems.

Mathematical models are developed in various domains and employ different mathematical theories. Such an information space can be a logical system (in this model, logicians can contribute) or a Hilbert space, which is used in physics for representing observables (in this model, physicists can contribute). Actually observables (even by their name) are information operators. There are models based on functional analysis, in which information is represented by operators acting on information spaces, which are state spaces of infological systems. Other models use logic (logical models), theory of algorithms (constructive models), theory of categories (categorical models), topology (topological models), and some other mathematical theories.

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Interviewer: Anthony Hoffmann

Interviewee: Elizabeth Buchanan

Earlier this month, Anthony Hoffmann (University of Wisconsin Ph.D. student and Project Assistant with the Internet Research Ethics Digital Library, Resource Center, and Commons project) sat down with Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan (Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, director of the Center for Information Policy Research, and Principal Investigator on the same IRE project) for a friendly conversation regarding the subject of Internet research ethics.


Your work is focused in the area of Internet research ethics (IRE). Can you speak briefly about the field and your experiences in it?

I’ve been working in the area of Internet research ethics, really, since 1998. When I wrote my dissertation, it was studying online interactions in a Bioethics course in a medical school, and when I went through the Institutional Review Board (IRB), I had to explain how I was collecting data when I would never sit f2f with the participants. I had to justify issues of consent, pseudonymity, online interviewing, data storage, and the like, and at that time, the IRB was not very well versed in online research. What got me really piqued was when the course I was studying was focusing on traditional research ethics issues, justice, consent, beneficience, so, I was experiencing a very meta-level engagement with the issues while grappling with them in this online setting.

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