A Critical Analysis of Floridi’s Theory of Semantic Information

Knowledge, Technology & Policy 23 (1-2):41-56 (2010)
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Abstract

n various publications over the past years, Floridi has developed a theory of semantic information as well-formed, meaningful, and truthful data. This theory is more or less orthogonal to the standard entropy-based notions of information known from physics, information theory, and computer science that all define the amount of information in a certain system as a scalar value without any direct semantic implication. In this context the question rises what the exact relation between these various conceptions of information is and whether there is a real need to enrich these mathematically more or less rigid definitions with a less formal notion of semantic information. I investigate various philosophical aspects of the more formal definitions of information in the light of Floridi’s theory. The position I defend is that the formal treatment of the notion of information as a general theory of entropy is one of the fundamental achievements of modern science that in itself is a rich source for new philosophical reflection. This makes information theory a competitor of classical epistemology rather than a servant. In this light Floridi’s philosophy of information is more a reprise of classical epistemology that only pays lip service to information theory but fails to address the important central questions of philosophy of information. Specifically, I will defend the view that notions that are associated with truth, knowledge, and meaning all can adequately be reconstructed in the context of modern information theory and that consequently there is no need to introduce a concept of semantic information.

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