Floridi and Spinoza on global information ethics

Ethics and Information Technology 10 (2-3):175-187 (2008)
Abstract
Floridi’s ontocentric ethics is compared with Spinoza’s ethical and metaphysical system as found in the Ethics. Floridi’s is a naturalistic ethics where he argues that an action is right or wrong primarily because the action does decrease the ‹entropy’ of the infosphere or not. An action that decreases the amount entropy of the infosphere is a good one, and one that increases it is a bad one. For Floridi, ‹entropy’ refers to destruction or loss of diversity of the infosphere, or the total reality consisting of informational objects. The similarity with Spinoza is that both philosophers refer to basic reality as a foundation for normative judgments. Hence they are both ethical naturalists. An interpretation of both Floridi and Spinoza is offered that might begin to solve the basic problems for any naturalistic ethics. The problems are how a value theory that is based on metaphysics could maintain normative force and how normative force could be justified when there appear to be widely differing metaphysical systems according to the many cultural traditions. I argue that in Spinoza’s and presumably in Floridi’s system, there is no separation between the normative and the natural from the beginning. Normative terms derive their validity from their role in referring to action that leads to a richer and fuller reality. As for the second problem, Spinoza’s God is such that He cannot be fully described by mere finite intellect. What this translates to the contemporary situation of information ethics is that there are always bound to be many different ways of conceptualizing one and the same reality, and it is the people’s needs, goals and desires that often dictate how the conceptualizing is done. However, when different groups of people interact, these systems become calibrated with one another. This is possible because they already belong to the same reality.
Keywords Floridi   God   Spinoza   global information ethics   metaphysics   naturalism   nature   relativism   universalism
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