Why can information not be defined as being purely epistemic?

Main Article Content

Roman Krzanowski


The concept of information can be viewed from two perspectives, namely epistemic and ontological. In the epistemic view, information is associated with meaning, semantics, and knowledge, while in the ontological view, it is understood as structures and forms of objects. Information is most often perceived as epistemic information, yet a closer look at epistemic information reveals that this concept does not account for ontological information. This paper poses the following question: Should we select epistemic or ontological information as our primary concept of information, or should we acknowledge that both kinds of information are required for a full comprehension? The discussion here is supported by references to modern research in physics, computing, cosmology, and information sciences.

Article Details

How to Cite
Krzanowski, R. (2020). Why can information not be defined as being purely epistemic?. Philosophical Problems in Science (Zagadnienia Filozoficzne W Nauce), (68), 37–62. Retrieved from https://zfn.edu.pl/index.php/zfn/article/view/494


Adriaans, P., 2019. Information. In: E.N. Zalta, ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Online]. Spring 2019. Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Available at: <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2019/entries/information/> [visited on 13 July 2020].

Adriaans, P. and van Benthem, J., 2008. Introduction: Information is what Information does. In: P. Adriaans and J.F.A.K.v. Benthem, eds. Philosophy of Information [Online], Handbook of the Philosophy of Science 8. Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp.3–26. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-51726-5.50006-6 [visited on 13 July 2020].

Baeyer, H.C.v., 2005. Information: The New Language of Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Bar-Hillel, Y. and Carnap, R., 1953. Semantic Information. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science [Online], IV(14), pp.147–157. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjps/IV.14.147.

Bateson, G., 1979. Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. 1st ed. New York: E.P. Dutton.

Beynon-Davies, P., 2009. Business Information Systems. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Brookes, B.C., 1980. The foundations of information science. Part I. Philosophical aspects. Journal of Information Science [Online], 2(3-4), pp.125–133. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/016555158000200302 [visited on 13 July 2020].

Buckland, M.K., 1991. Information as thing. Journal of the American Society for Information Science [Online], 42(5), pp.351–360. Available at: <https://econpapers.repec.org/article/blajamest/v_3a42_3ay_3a1991_3ai_3a5_3ap_3a351-360.htm> [visited on 13 July 2020].

Burgin, M., 2003. Information: problems, paradoxes, and solutions. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society [Online], 1(1), pp.53–70. Available at: https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v1i1.5 [visited on 13 July 2020].

Carroll, S.M., 2017. The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. London: Oneworld Publications.

Casagrande, D.G., 1999. Information as a verb: reconceptualizing information for cognitive and ecological models. Georgia Journal of Ecological Anthropology [Online], 3, pp.4–13. Available at: <https://www.lehigh.edu/~dac511/literature/casagrande1999.pdf> [visited on 13 July 2020].

Casti, J.L., 1990. Paradigms Lost Images of Man in the Mirror of Science. New York: Avon Books.

Chaitin, G.J., 1987. Algorithmic Information Theory, Cambridge Tracts in Theoretical Computer Science 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chaitin, G.J., 2004. Meta Math! The Quest for Omega. arXiv Mathematics e-prints, math/0404335, math/0404335. arXiv: math/0404335 [math.HO].

Cherry, C., 1978. On Human Communication: A Review, a Survey, and a Criticism. 3rd. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Collier, J.D., 1990. Intrinsic Information. In: P.P. Hanson, ed. Information, language, and cognition [Online]. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, pp.390–409. Available at: <http://web.ncf.ca/collier/papers/intrinfo.pdf> [visited on 13 July 2020].

Dasgupta, S., 2016. Computer Science: A Very Short Introduction. First edition, Very short introductions. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Davenport, T.H., 1997. Information Ecology: Mastering the Information and Knowledge Environment. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Davies, P.C.W., 2019. The Demon in the Machine: How Hidden Webs of Information Are Solving the Mystery of Life. London: Allen Lane.

Devlin, K.J., 1991. Logic and Information. Cambridge [etc.]: Cambridge University Press.

Dodig-Crnkovic, G., 2012. Alan Turing’s Legacy: Info-Computational Philosophy of Nature. arXiv:1207.1033 [cs] [Online]. Available at: <http://arxiv.org/abs/1207.1033> [visited on 21 October 2014].

Dretske, F., 1999. Knowledge and the Flow of Information, David Hume series of philosophy and cognitive science reissues. Stanford, Calif.: CSLI Publications.

Floridi, L., 2010a. Information: A Very Short Introduction, Very Short Introductions. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Floridi, L., 2010b. The Philosophy of Information. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Foerster, H.v., 1980. Epistemology of communication. In: K. Woodward, ed. The Myths of Information: Technology and Postindustrial Culture. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, pp.18–27.

Frieden, B.R., 1998. Physics from Fisher Information: A Unification [Online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511622670 [visited on 13 July 2020].

Hartley, R.V.L., 1928. Transmission of Information. Bell System Technical Journal [Online], 7(3), pp.535–563. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1538-7305.1928.tb01236.x.

Heller, M., 1987. Ewolucja pojęcia masy. In: M. Heller, A. Michalik and J. Życiński, eds. Filozofować w kontekście nauki. Kraków: Polskie Towarzystwo Teologiczne, pp.152–169.

Heller, M., 1995. Nauka i wyobraźnia. Kraków: Wydawnictwo "Znak".

Heller, M., 2014. Elementy mechaniki kwantowej dla filozofów. wyd. 1 w tej edycji. Kraków: Copernicus Center Press.

Hidalgo, C.A., 2015. Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies. London: Penguin Books.

Honderich, T., ed., 1995. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Jadacki, J.J. and Brożek, A., 2005. Na czym polega rozumienie w ogóle – a rozumienie informacji w szczególności. In: M. Heller and J. Mączka, eds. Informacja a rozumienie. Tarnów; Kraków: Wydawnictwo Diecezji Tarnowskiej Biblos; Polska Akademia Umiejętności. Ośrodek Badań Interdyscyplinarnych, pp.141–155.

Klir, G.J. and Folger, T.A., 1988. Fuzzy Sets, Uncertainty, and Information. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Kolmogorov, A.N., 1965. Tri podchoda k opredeleniju ponjatija «količestvo informacii». Problemy Peredači Informacii, 1(1), pp.3–11.

Kolmogorov, A.N., 1968. Three approaches to the quantitative definition of information. International Journal of Computer Mathematics [Online], 2(1-4), pp.157–168. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/00207166808803030 [visited on 13 July 2020].

Krzanowski, R., 2016. Towards a Formal Ontology of Information. Selected Ideas of K. Turek. Philosophical Problems in Science (Zagadnienia Filozoficzne w Nauce), (61), pp.23–52. [Visited on 21 March 2017].

Lenski, W., 2010. Information: A Conceptual Investigation. Information [Online], 1(2), pp.74–118. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/info1020074 [visited on 13 July 2020].

Losee, R.M., 1997. A discipline independent definition of information. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 48(3), pp.254–269. [Visited on 13 July 2020].

Martinez, M. and Sequoiah-Grayson, S., 2016. Logic and Information. In: E.N. Zalta, ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Online]. Winter 2016. Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Available at: <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/logic-information/> [visited on 13 July 2020].

Maynard Smith, J., 2000. The Concept of Information in Biology. Philosophy of Science [Online], 67(2), pp.177–194. Available at: <https://www.jstor.org/stable/188717> [visited on 13 July 2020].

de Mul, J., 1999. The Informatization of the Worldview. Information, Communication & Society [Online], 2(1), pp.69–94. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/136911899359763 [visited on 20 November 2017].

Mynarski, S., 1981. Elementy teorii systemów i cybernetyki. Wydanie I dodruk. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe.

Nafría, J.M.D., 2010. What is Information? A multidimensional concern. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society [Online], 8(1), pp.77–108. Available at: https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v8i1.76 [visited on 13 July 2020].

Pierce, J.R., 1961. Symbols, Signals and Noise: The Nature and Process of Communication, Harper Modern Science Series. New York: Harper.

Polkinghorne, J.C., 2000. Faith, science, and understanding. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Ratzan, L., 2004. Understanding Information Systems: What They Do and Why We Need Them. Chicago: American Library Association.

Rovelli, C., 2016. Meaning = Information + Evolution. arXiv:1611.02420 [physics] [Online]. Available at: <http://arxiv.org/abs/1611.02420> [visited on 13 July 2020].

Rucker, R.v.B., 2013. Mind Tools: The Five Levels of Mathematical Reality [Online]. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. Available at: <http://www.freading.com/ebooks/details/r:download/MDAwMDE4LTEyNjA5NTU0> [visited on 13 July 2020].

Seife, C., 2006. Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information Is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from Our Brains to Black Holes. New York: Viking.

Shanahan, M., 2015. The Technological Singularity, MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series. Cambridge, MA; London: MIT Press.

Shannon, C.E., 1948. A mathematical theory of communication. Bell System Technical Journal [Online], 27(3), pp.379–423. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1538-7305.1948.tb01338.x.

Shannon, C.E., 1956. The bandwagon. IRE Transactions on Information Theory [Online], 2(1), p.3. Available at: <https://paginas.fe.up.pt/~vinhoza/itpa/bandwagon.pdf>.

Shannon, C.E. and Weaver, W., 1964. The Mathematical Theory of Communication, Illini Books IB-13. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Solé, R.V. and Elena, S.F., 2019. Viruses as Complex Adaptive Systems, Primers in complex systems. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Solomonoff, R.J., 2010. Algorithmic Probability, Heuristic Programming and AGI. In: E.B. Baum, M. Hutter and E. Kitzelmann, eds. Artificial General Intelligence: proceedings of the third Conference on Artificial General Intelligence, AGI 2010, Lugano, Switzerland, March 5-8, 2010 [Online], Advances in intelligent systems research volume 10. Amsterdam: Atlantis Press, pp.151–157. Available at: <https://www.atlantis-press.com/proceedings/agi10/1911>.

Sommaruga, G., 2009. One or Many Concepts of Information? In: G. Sommaruga, ed. Formal Theories of Information: From Shannon to Semantic Information Theory and General Concepts of Information [Online], Lecture Notes in Computer Science 5363. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, pp.253–267. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-00659-3_10 [visited on 13 July 2020].

Speaks, J., 2018. Theories of Meaning. In: E.N. Zalta, ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Online]. Winter 2018. Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Available at: <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/meaning/>.

Stonier, T., 1990. Information and the Internal Structure of the Universe: An Exploration into Information Physics [Online]. London: Springer-Verlag. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4471-3265-3.

Sveiby, K.-E., 1998. What is information [Online]. Available at: <http://www.sveiby.com/articles/information.html> [visited on 20 April 2016].

Tallis, R., 2016. The Mystery of Being Human: God, Freedom and the NHS. Devon: Notting Hill Editions.

Turek, K., 1978. Filozoficzne aspekty pojęcia informacji. Philosophical Problems in Science (Zagadnienia Filozoficzne w Nauce), (1), pp.32–41.

Vernon, D., 2014. Artificial Cognitive Systems: A Primer. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Weizsäcker, C.F.v., 1971. Die Einheit der Natur: Studien. 2. Aulf. München: Carl Hanser Verlag.

Wersig, G. and Neveling, U., 1975. The phenomena of interest to information science. The Information Scientist, 9(4), pp.127–140.

Wiener, N., 1989. The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. London: Free Association Books.

Wilczek, F., 2015. A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design. London: Penguin Books.