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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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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A conference organized by the European Commission & INTECO

February 10th & 11th 2010 in León, Spain

Report by: José María Díaz Nafría

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The conference Trust in the Information Society, held on the 10th and 11th of Februrary, 2010 in Leon, Spain, aimed at gathering the complete spectrum of stakeholders in the Information Society to address the issue of steering ICTs to be trustworthy. The conference agenda was built around five major topics that emerged out of a survey of the “Advisory Board of Research and Innovation for Security, Privacy and Trustworthiness in the Information Society” (RISEPTIS) supported by the European Commission since 2008 and aimed at providing “visionary guidance on policy and research challenges in the field of security and trust.” The five topics -constituting different sessions- were: 1) Digital life and trust (an industrial view); 2) Trustworthy networking and computing services; 3) An European Framework for digital identity management; 4) Development of the Legal Framework of the EU with regard to the protection of Data and Privacy, 5) International cooperation on trust and security research.

The relevance of this conference is twofold: on the one hand, it provides guidance for European research policies and industrial innovation in the information technology realm; on the other hand, it offers patterns for an Information Society which is envisaged as an European backbone (for instance, in the Lisbon Treaty), therefore as a cultural and political concern.

(more…)