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Scientific advancements lay basis for philosophy of information

Author  :  LU HANG     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-04-25

As modern communication technology has a tremendous impact on human society, “information,” added as a new basic philosophical concept, shares the same status with existence, knowledge and meaning.

Information and computer science combined with modern communication technology have had a tremendous impact on human society, and even changed our relationships with ourselves, others and the world. Since the 1990s, international philosophical communities have been reflecting on the challenges of the information revolution. The research program “philosophy of information” was introduced, and “information” was added as a new basic philosophical concept, which shares the same status with existence, knowledge and meaning.

Scientific quality

“Philosophy is the essence of the times. The philosophy of information grows from the knowledge provided by information scientific technology, economics and society. Therefore, the philosophy of information should have a scientific quality. It has a research method that utilizes some mainstream contemporary Western philosophies by opposing any absolute separation between science and philosophy. It aims to construct some interactive feedback loop between science and philosophy. It highlights the philosophical sense of science and the scientific quality of philosophy,” said Wu Kun, dean of the International Philosophy of Information Center at Xi’an Jiao Tong University. At present, more and more scholars are realizing that the most critical issues in the philosophy of information are the nature of information and information ontology theories.

Modern science regards material, energy, and information as the three basic elements constructing the world, which fully reveals the nature of information as being one basic element in the existence of the world. Wu said that in this regard, philosophy of information should first give a reasonable argument and corresponding provisions. In terms of the essence of information as one basic element of existence of the world, information is not simply limited to data, computations or any simple form. Information has a more transcendent and universal character. The discovery, display and stipulation of this universal character is the primary task of philosophy of information and also the deepest ontological basis that determines whether the philosophy of information can be of the first philosophy or meta-philosophy. 

Universality

Since the mid-20th century, there has been a far-reaching information revolution worldwide. However, the significance of information science as a research framework for some scientific paradigms of the times has not been clearly revealed, and the value of information factors to existence and evolution has not been fully investigated.

Xiao Feng, a professor from the China Youth University of Political Studies, said that the universality of the nature of information has not won widespread recognition in the academic community, and the universality of the concept of information has been met with skepticism. This not only hinders the establishment of a unified information science, but is also an obstacle to the development of system science, self-organization theory, and complexity theory.

Open research attitude

“The widely used philosophical method of information theory has formed a unique landscape in the field of philosophy. Its theoretical achievements not only have academic value but also provide a systematic argument for an information society,” Xiao said. He argues that philosophy’s reflection on information technology is mainly based on two directions: one is critical, that is, the philosophical reflection of technology, which mainly began with humanities scholars in Europe, especially reflections on phenomenology, existentialism, the Frankfurt School and postmodernism philosophy; the second is constructive, meaning to advance along the philosophical issues raised by formal science.

“Although the current academic debate on the nature of the information is far from achieving consensus, seen from the relevant research situation, the clear majority have seen the philosophical ontology status and value of information,” Wu said. He added that because the study of philosophy of information is a very academically challenging area, there might be many different schools, viewpoints and theories. Advocating free discussion and mutual criticism, and encouraging discussions of multiple levels and angles and embracing different or even opposing discussions should become the basic principles of the discipline. Only by adopting an open research attitude can we better promote the development of the emerging philosophical discipline.

 

  

  

Editor: Yu Hui

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