Re: Information

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Sun Apr 29 2001 - 13:13:04 BST

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    Subject: Re: Information
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    In-Reply-To: <3AE846ED.15915.2A68A9@localhost>; from on Thu, Apr 26, 2001 at 04:03:57PM -0500
    From: Robin Faichney <>
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    On Thu, Apr 26, 2001 at 04:03:57PM -0500, wrote:
    > On 26 Apr 2001, at 10:58, Robin Faichney wrote:
    > > There are two "kinds" of information: physical information is a
    > > concept that originated in physics and is basically structure, or
    > > form. It is inversely proportional to entropy, because as entropy
    > > rises, structure breaks down. In this sense, the state of a light
    > > switch is certainly information. It needs no observer, being
    > > objective in absolute terms, unlike, say, a description of something,
    > > which can at best be objective only in relative terms.
    > >
    > > The other "kind" of information is the intentional sort, which does
    > > require a mind. This is information that is *about* anything, or at
    > > least that claims to be (what it's about needn't actually exist). This
    > > information is subjective, in absolute terms: all descriptions are
    > > intentional information, even though some are relatively objective.
    > > Knowledge of the state of the light switch -- or of anything else --
    > > is of this sort.
    > >
    > > Another way of looking at the subjectivity/objectivity of information
    > > is to say that physical information is ontologically objective, while
    > > intentional information may be epistemologically objective, but even
    > > then can never be absolutely complete and accurate, as physical
    > > information necessarily is, because the latter is not about anything
    > > other than itself, and exists only "for it's own sake".
    > >
    > > I'm convinced the answer to the mind/body problem, the "hard problem"
    > > recently mentioned by Joe, is in the relationship between these two
    > > types of information.
    > >
    > I might consider 'objective' information (although we can never know
    > of such a thing, since all information we apprehend is subjective or
    > intersubjective) to be pattern or configuration,

    What you do is, of course, up to you. But where the topic of interest
    is the relationship between mind and matter, it seems important to me
    to incorporate the latter, which I do by using "information" as the
    concept is used in physics, and differentiating that from the more
    common concept by prepending "physical", thus: "physical information".
    This is material structure.

    > and reserve the term
    > information for meaningful patterns, which, of course, would require
    > someone for them to mean something TO.

    That's "intentional information".

    > Representation is by
    > definition an 'aboutness' phenomena; what is represented is not
    > identical with its representation. It also has to represent its
    > referent TO someone to be representation.


    > One could, however,
    > make the same or a similar case concerning the terms 'pattern'
    > and 'configuration', and claim that all we can possibly say of
    > objectivity without reference to an apoprehending subjectivity is that
    > it IS, or, in other words, that it exists as brute facticity.

    I think we can say rather more than that. This is what the hard sciences
    are all about, isn't it?

    And then there's the question of the reality of patterns. As I've
    said, I follow Dennett in considering (some) patterns to be entirely
    "real", where that means they exist independently of any observer.

    It's just as well that (some) patterns are real, as they are all that
    science has to go on!

    > > > Question 2: Do you think that high quality information can be
    > > > reduced to large quantities of primitive information? Or is there
    > > > something about some information quality that cannot be reduced?
    > >
    > > For me, "quality" is not sufficiently well defined to allow such
    > > questions to be answered. It's not a word I use in my philosophizing.
    > >
    > Because of the previously mentioned hard problem of subjectifying
    > the objective, or vice-versa. The term that information theory uses
    > is 'compressibility'. Somethings may be symbolized or
    > represented by more compressed maps than others, and this has
    > a lot to do with the level of entropy contained in the referent. If
    > entropy is total, that is, if pattern is completely absent, no
    > compressibility is possible, and in general, the more ordered the
    > referent is, the more compressible it is.

    You're a little confused there. At the most fundamental level, a given
    stream of information's compressability has nothing to do with what that
    information is about. The question is whether, and if so to what extent,
    the number of bits can be reduced without loss, i.e. allowing the original
    stream to be regenerated. A perfectly random stream cannot be compressed
    at all. This is discussed on the webpage mentioned above.

    Robin Faichney
    Get your Meta-Information from
    (CAUTION: contains philosophy, may cause heads to spin)

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