In this paper I argue that, according to a particular physicalist conception of information, information is both alethically neutral or non-alethic, and is intrinsically semantic. The conception of information presented is physicalist and reductionist, and is contrary to most current pluralist and non-reductionist philosophical opinion about the nature of information. The ontology assumed for this conception of information is based upon physicalist non-eliminative ontic structural realism. However, the argument of primary interest is that information so construed is intrinsically semantic on a reductionist and non-alethic basis where semantic content is constituted by indication along causal pathways. Similar arguments have been presented by philosophers with respect to representation. I suggest the conception of information that I present is correct by the lights of the best applied mathematical and scientific theories of information. If so, there is no need for any separate theory of semantic information. Thus I present a theory of intrinsically semantic information which also constitutes an informational theory of truth where truth reduces to information. In the last section I discuss weakly and strongly semantic information, and reject them in favour of alethically neutral intrinsically semantic information.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
My thanks to Paul Griffiths for pressing me on this analysis in discussions
Adriaans, P. (2010). A critical analysis of Floridi’s theory of semantic information. Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 23, 41–56.
Carnap, R. (1936). Testability and meaning. Philosophy of Science, 3, 419–471.
Carnap, R. (1945). Two concepts of probability: The problem of probability. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 5, 513–532.
Carnap, R. (1950). Empiricism, semantics and ontology. Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 4, 20–40. Retrieved from http://www.ditext.oom/carnap/carnap.html.
Carnap, R., & Bar-Hillel, Y. (1952). An outline of a theory of semantic information. Technical Report, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Carnap, R., & Bar-Hillel, Y. (1953). Semantic information. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 4(14), 147–157.
Chalmers, D. J. (1996). The conscious mind: A search for a fundamental theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Devlin, K. (1995). Logic and information. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Di Vincenzo, D. P., & Loss, D. (1998). Quantum information is physical. Superlattices and Microstructures, 23, 419–432.
Dretske, F. I. (1981). Knowledge and the flow of information. London: Basil Blackwell.
Dretske, F. I. (1988). Explaining behaviour: Reasons in a world of causes. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press/Bradford Books.
Dretske, F. I. (1993). Misrepresentation. In A. I. Goldman (Ed.), Readings in philosophy and cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. (Original paper 1986).
Dretske, F. I. (2008). Epistemology and information. In P. Adriaans & J. V. Benthem (Eds.), The philosophy of information. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Floridi, L. (2004a). Information. In L. Floridi (Ed.), The Blackwell guide to the philosophy of computing and information (pp. 40–61). Oxford: Blackwell.
Floridi, L. (2004b). Outline of a theory of strongly semantic information. Mind and Machines, 14(2), 197–221.
Floridi, L. (2005). Is semantic information meaningful data? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 70(2), 351–371.
Floridi, L. (2008). A defence of informational structural realism. Synthese, 161(2), 219–253.
Floridi, L. (2010). Semantic information and the correctness theory of truth. Erkenntnis, 74, 147–175.
Floridi, L. (2011). The philosophy of information. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
French, S., & Ladyman, J. (2003). The dissolution of objects: Between platonism and phenomenalism. Synthese, 136(1), 73–77.
Gray, R. M. (2013). Entropy and information theory (1st ed., 1990). New York: Springer.
Grice, H. P. (1957). The philosophical review, vol. 66 (pp. 377–388). New York: Springer.
Godfrey-Smith, P. (1989). Misinformation. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 19(4), 533–550.
Godfrey-Smith, P. (1992). Indication and adaptation. Synthese, 92(2), 283–312.
Jackson, F. (1998). From metaphysics to ethics: A defence of conceptual analysis. Oxford: Oxford Scholarship, Online, 2003.
Kåhre, J. (2002). The mathematical theory of information. Massachusetts: Kluwer.
Ladyman, J., & Ross, D. (2003). Remodelling structural realism: Quantum physics and the metaphysics of structure. Synthese, 136(1), 31–56.
Landauer, R. (1996). The physical nature of information. Physics Letters A, 92(2), 188–193.
Landauer, R. (1999). Information is a physical entity. Physica, 92(2), 63–67.
Long, B. R. (2013). Physicalist-reductionist ontic structural realism about information with applications. PhD Thesis - submitting 2013–2014.
Quine, W. V. (1948). On what there is. Review of Metaphysics, II(5), 217–234.
Sarkar, S. (2005). How genes encode information for phenotypic traits. In S. Sarkar (Ed.), Molecular models of life: Philosophical papers on molecular biology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Shannon, C. E. (1948). A mathematical theory of communication. Reprinted with corrections from The Bell System Technical Journal. Technical Report, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (50th anniversary release of 1948 paper) Retrieved on line from Bell Labs.
Shea, N. (2007). Representation in the genome and in other inheritance systems. Biology and Philosophy, 22, 313–331.
Stampe, D. (1986). Verificationism and a causal account of meaning. Synthese, 69, 113–123.
Taylor, K. A. (1987). Belief, information, and semantic content: A naturalist’s lament. Synthese, 71, 97–124.
Weaver, W. (1949) Recent contributions to the mathematical theory of communication. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998 reprint.
Many thanks are due to Professor Paul Griffiths, and to both anonymous reviewers, for many helpful comments.
About this article
Cite this article
Long, B.R. Information is intrinsically semantic but alethically neutral. Synthese 191, 3447–3467 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-014-0457-7
- The philosophy of information
- Information theory
- Informational semantics
- Semantic theories of information
- Weakly semantic information
- Strongly semantic information