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Philosophy of Information:
Floridi's 18 Open Problems

Attempting to open up discussion on the Philosophy of Information, and inspired by Hilbert's famous open mathematical problems in mathematics, Floridi [2004] delinated 18 'Open Problems' in the philosophy of information.

Floridi's 18 open problems map out specific problems within the wide area demarcated by the question, "What is information?" They cover the nature of information, how it operates and what philosophical issues may be addressed by it. Floridi discusses most questions but offers few answers, suggesting that his delineation of the is "THe Beginning". It is, perhaps a beginning, and some problems require further development. Most of his problems seem important, though some overlap among several should be clarified. Problem P.12 differs from most in that its heading is much longer and its text much shorter, almost as short as the heading, suggesting it requires further delineation. Normativity ('computer ethics') is relegated to the final problem, in a section by itself. The 18 problems betray a bias towards being-in-itself, away from being-in-the-world, suggesting that other problems, about information in its context, should be added.

However, as I have argued above, being-in-itself and being-in-the-world are not the only approaches. Dooyeweerd's understanding of being is based on meaningfulness.

This page briefly suggests how Dooyeweerd might address each open problem of Floridi's philosophy of information. The Table below gives each Open Problem, suggests how a Dooyeweerdian approach might address it in general, and provides a possible answer. It should be treated as a very tentative proposal that calls for philosophical research.

Floridi's 18 Open Problems in the Philosophy of Information and How Dooyeweerd Might Address Them
Problem Type of answer Specific answer
P.1 The elementary problem: What is information? Refer to aspects of its functioning, and to subject-object relationship. Information is a lingual object of human lingual subject-functioning, which depends foundationally on formative, analytic etc. functioning.
P.2 The I/0 problem: What are the dynamics of information? Refer to subject-object functioning. Information is generated object by originator, and prior object to receiver.
P.3 The UTI challenge: Is a grand unified theory of information possible? UTI is a philosophical theory; Refer to Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought Refer to meaningfulness and everyday experience.
Re. Semantics
P.4 DGP, the data--grounding problem: How can data acquire their meaning? Not "acquire". All data is always-already with signification; signification as 'spoonfuls' of 'oceanic' meaningfulness, generated by human activity.
But to recipient the original signification might not be clear.
Consider the originator and their multi-aspectual functioning, generating a multi-aspectual whole that is the information.
P.5: The problem of alethization: How can meaningful data acquire their truth values? Depends what truth means.
What about fiction or counterfactuals?
Truth as accuracy is the juridical aspect of information.
P.6 Informational truth theory: Can information explain truth? See truth as 'as it should be', e.g. 'this arrow flies true'. 'As it should be' truth is different for each aspect, and refers to fulfilling the laws of each aspect. Aspects are spheres of meaningfulness as well as law. So lawful meaningfulness, rather than information, explains truth. However, if information is the parcelling-up of meaningfulness in signification, then information is linked with the meaning-explanation of truth.
P.7 Informational semantics: Can information explain meaning? Consider diversity of meaningfulness as given and not to be explained; then explain signification by reference to kernel of an aspect. Signification is kernel of lingual aspect. Meaning-kernels of aspects are grasped by intuition and cannot be precisely theorized or explained.
However generation of significations can be explained, as above.
Re Intelligence:
P.8 Descartes' problem: Can (forms of) cognition C be fully and satisfactorily analyzed in terms of (forms of) information processing IP at some level of abstraction LoA? How is the triad (C, IP, LoA) to be interpreted? Refer to aspects as 'levels' and as functioning. C may be described by symbols but cognition itself is pre-lingual, and hence does not depend on the lingual functioning that is symbolic IP. However, it can depend on psychical IP, i.e. neuronal activation.
P.9 The reengineering problem (Dennett 1994): Can (forms of) natural intelligence NI be fully and satisfactorily analyzed in terms of (forms of) information processing IP at some level of abstraction LoA? How is the triad (NI, IP, LoA) to be interpreted? Never fully, because of the fundamental limits of theoretical thought. Accept the primacy of everyday experience. Understand the everyday nature of NI via its aspects.
P.I0 Turing's problem: Can (forms of) natural intelligence be fully and satisfactorily implemented nonbiologically? Depends what nonbiologically means; this question is motivated by a version of the Scholastic ground-motive, which presupposes two realms of reality, nature-suprnature, and Dooyeweerd believed all such dualistic ground-motives inherently mislead and distort philosophy. To implement something on the computer it must be conceptualized (even in neural nets, as the inputs and outputs), so the question is can biological functioning be fully and satisfactorily coceptualized? Biological functioning is pre-anaytic, pre-conceptual, hence is unlikely ever to be satisfactorily understood conceptually, and hence never fully implemented.
P.11 The MIB (mind-information-body) problem: Can an informational approach solve the mind-body problem? Identify under which ground-motive solutions have been tried and failed; try Biblical ground-motive, which sees mind and body, not as two distinct things but as two aspects, or as two aspectual entities enkaptically intertwined. Mind = analytic, formative aspects;
Body = biotic, psychic aspects
P.12 The informational circle: How can information be audited? If information cannot be transcended but can only be checked against further information -- if it is information all the way up and all the way down --what does this tell us about our knowledge of the world? What about tacit knowledge? It is not information that is all way up, down, but 'oceanic' meaningfulness, within which we 'swim' to be and occur, and of which information significations are 'spoonfuls'. Recognise the relationship between oceanic meaningfulness and information as signification.
P.13 The continuum hypothesis: Should epistemology be based on a theory of information? Recognise all aspects of knowledge, including the tacit ones. But epistemology should also take account of Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought. Theory of information will be analytical abstraction of a lingual aspect of reality, which is only one way of knowing.
However, lingual knowing is vital for discourse that advances humanity's bodies of knowledge.
P.14 The semantic view of science: Is science reducible to information modeling? Science should be seen as multi-aspectual human activity directed to understanding one aspect. Information is required for dissemination and critical discourse. Information modeling is an important tool in the lingual functioning of doing science, science must never be reduced to that.
Re Nature:
P.15 Wiener's problem: What is the ontological status of information? Ontological status should refer to meaningfulness, which constitutes being, and hence to a suite of aspects as spheres of meaningfulness. See P.1: information is lingual object.
P.16 The problem of localization: Can information be naturalized?
That is, is there information in the world independent of all forms of life capable of extracting it (e.g. tree rings that show age)? Can there be such information without being represented?
There is meaningfulness pervading the entire creation, much of which can be 'parcelled up' as information. We have the responsibility for deciding what we count as various kinds of 'information'. c.f. Dooyeweerd's second transcendental question. Yes and no. Information from tree rings etc. is our analytic functioning; most of what is meant by information above is lingual functioning. Be always aware of which aspect we are functioning in.
P.17 The It from Bit hypothesis: Can nature be informationalized? (Not sure what he means.)
Re Values:
P.18 The uniqueness debate: Does computer ethics have a philosophical foundation? Refer to normativity of aspects; refer to computer as involved in multi-aspectual human functioning, in (a) ICT use, (b) ICT development, (c) ICT and society, (d) ICT features. Though there is an ethical aspect, the kernel of which is self-giving love, 'computer ethics' usually refers more to juridical normativity and then to normativity of all aspects.

BUT WHY SEE ETHICS AS ONLY ONE PROBLEM, THE LAST ONE?

Dooyeweerd's approach automatically addresses both being-in-the-world as well as being-in-itself and automatically involves some idea of good and bad. So almost every Dooyeweerdian way of addressing these open questions will allow reference to its users and designers when these are desired, and will give some indication of normative issues connected with it. For example with P.14, about science reducible to information modeling, Dooyeweerd widens our view of science to include the humanity of the scientists and their community, and inserts a "must not".


This page, 'http://www.dooy.info/ext/ .html', is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Copyright (c) at all dates below Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Created: 4 November 2016 Last updated: