Re: Information

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 14:05:06 BST

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re: Information"

    Received: by id OAA13708 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Mon, 30 Apr 2001 14:14:19 +0100
    Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 14:05:06 +0100
    Subject: Re: Information
    Message-ID: <>
    References: <3AE846ED.15915.2A68A9@localhost>; <> <3AEC4F40.28311.1B15A3@localhost>
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
    Content-Disposition: inline
    User-Agent: Mutt/1.3.15i
    In-Reply-To: <3AEC4F40.28311.1B15A3@localhost>; from on Sun, Apr 29, 2001 at 05:28:32PM -0500
    From: Robin Faichney <>
    Precedence: bulk

    On Sun, Apr 29, 2001 at 05:28:32PM -0500, wrote:
    > On 29 Apr 2001, at 13:13, Robin Faichney wrote:
    > > 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.
    > >
    > All information is encoded in some physical substrate, so your
    > addition of "material" is redundant.

    Not so. Physical information, being material structure, is unencoded.
    This distinguishes it from intentional information which is, as you say,
    encoded in physical information.

    > > > and reserve the term
    > > > information for meaningful patterns, which, of course, would require
    > > > someone for them to mean something TO.
    > >
    > > That's "intentional information".
    > >
    > Meaning is what people intend. Meaning-bereft intentionality is an
    > empty set.

    Did I say intentional information is meaning-bereft? I don't think so!

    But I'd have expected you to know the technical usage of "intentionality",
    Joe. You've read The Intentional Stance, haven't you?

    The concept of intentionality originated in medieval philosophy, but was
    revived by Franz Brentano (1838--1916). It is related to but different
    from what is usually meant by ``intentional''. It can be thought of as
    ``aboutness'', and Brentano suggested that it was the ``ineliminable
    mark of the mental''. Our beliefs, for example, are necessarily
    about something, and Brentano claimed that this is true for all mental
    phenomena, and no physical phenomena: thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes,
    fears, loving, wondering, and expectation are all about something:
    they take an object. This object need not actually exist---we might
    be thinking about a unicorn, or Santa Claus---but without some object,
    however imaginary, there is no thought. (Quoted from

    So intentional information is about something. This is, of course, what
    the word "information" on its own usually signifies. What I'm working
    on is the relationship between this sort of information and matter.
    Of course the former is "encoded" in the latter, but how so, exactly?
    The concept of physical information is useful as a bridge between
    intentional information and matter. Of course, you might not want to
    know about that, if it seems to threaten any of your present certainties.
    Maybe you're one of those who think "going down with the ship" is a

    > > > 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 apprehending 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?
    > >
    > No; whatever we learn about the universe holds meaning for us by
    > virtue of its categorization of its object. And what you have in
    > science is not objectivity, but intersubjective aggreement based
    > upon the perused and interpreted results of repeated experiments,
    > conducted by multiple subjects, under controlled conditions.

    I agree that science, in practice, is intersubjective. My point is that
    it necessarily assumes an observer-independent reality, and what it works
    with are patterns. For all even merely remotely practical purposes,
    the stuff of science is real patterns.

    I could go on to distinguish between "real patterns" and "realistic
    patterns", but I think I'll leave that for another time. ;-)

    > > 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. See
    > >
    > >
    > The question is whether such patterns have meaning independent
    > of us; they do not, as it is us who both derive meaning from being,
    > and impose meaning upon it.

    The question is whatever you, or (generically) one, feels like asking.
    But as far as I'm concerned, meaning is irrelevant here, in precisely the
    same way and for the same reason that atoms and molecules have no meaning.

    > In fact, an unapprehended pattern
    > cannot be even said to exist, as we have no evidence of it.

    If you are saying that unapprehended things in general do not exist,
    I won't even bother to argue with such silliness. If your point is
    about patterns in particular, I'll respond when you show some sign of
    having read and considered the argument. (See

    > > > 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.
    > >
    > If you will reread what I wrote, I made no mention of a stream of
    > information's particular semantic content.

    What about "Somethings may be symbolized or represented by more compressed
    maps than others", and "the level of entropy contained in the referent"
    and "the more ordered the referent is"? This is a computational issue
    in which reference plays no part.

    > Can a stream of
    > information be about nothing at all? What could such a thing
    > inform concerning?

    You said it yourself: "If entropy is total, that is, if pattern is
    completely absent, no compressibility is possible". You think an
    information stream in which pattern is completely absent could be about
    something? Your concept of information is obviously inadequate.

    If you just accepted that you're not very well-informed about information,
    that could be remedied quite quickly and easily. But knowing you, Joe,
    that's never going to happen, is it? :-)

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

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Apr 30 2001 - 14:17:47 BST