Saturday, December 12, 2009

Misinformation campaign

In response to my most recent post on Alex Rosenberg, a philosopher emails the following comment:

Rosenberg has to know that, in the technical sense, there is no such thing as "misinformation." The metal bar dipped in a saline solution that proceeds to rust can't be "misinformed" about its environs because information just is causal covariation among physical states. His use of that term is a blatant attempt to smuggle intentionality in through the back door while pretending not to; why, why, oh why! won't anyone of note call him out on this transparent attempt to bulls**t his way out of the corner he's painted himself into?

This is an extremely important point that I should have emphasized in my post. What my correspondent is referring to here is sometimes called the “misrepresentation problem” for naturalistic theories of meaning. Suppose the naturalist claims that for A to represent or contain information about B is just for A to have been caused by B in such-and-such a way. In that case, how is it possible for us ever to misrepresent anything? Suppose Fred thinks he sees a dog in the distance when in fact what he is looking at is a cat. How can his perceptual experience (mis)represent what he is seeing as a dog since it was not a dog that caused it?

One well-known attempt to get around this problem is to appeal to the “teleological function” served by a representation, where a “teleological function” is to be understood on the model of a biological function. The heart serves the biological function of pumping blood, and that remains its function even if in some particular context it is not actually carrying out that function – say because Hannibal Lecter is using it for his supper. Similarly, if the function of some brain process is to represent dogs, it will do so even if in some particular context something other than a dog triggers it.

Various technical objections might be raised against this reply, but the central problem is this. The whole point of “naturalistic” theories of meaning or representation is to find a way to account for meaning or representation given a mechanistic, non-teleological conception of the natural world. Aristotelian teleology or final causation is supposed to be chucked out the window and a stripped down version of what Aristotelians call “efficient causation” is supposed to do all the explanatory work that needs to be done. So how can such a theory coherently appeal to the notion of “teleological function"? The answer, as it happens, is that “teleological function” is in turn something naturalists have tried in other contexts to give a “naturalistic account” of. And these “naturalistic accounts” always end up attempting to reduce teleology to some pattern of efficient causation or other. There are various technical problems with these accounts too. But the key point is this: When naturalistic philosophers of mind find that they cannot account for everything in efficient-causal terms they often tend to resort to teleological language; and when called on to account for such language they insist that it can be cashed out in non-teleological or efficient causal terms. (Something similar occurs, incidentally, in the use philosophers of biology make of the notion of a “biological function.”) It is sheer sleight of hand, a circular farce of the sort I’ve already called attention to in earlier posts. As I argue at length in The Last Superstition, recent “naturalistic” theories of mind, of biological function, and of other phenomena problematic for a mechanistic conception of nature invariably either lapse into this sort of incoherence or implicitly acknowledge that something like Aristotelian formal and final causes are real after all.

Now of course, Rosenberg holds that we need ultimately to eschew any talk of “meaning,” “representation,” and the like in any event. But that only makes his reference to “misinformation” more baffling, not less. It’s bad enough that he uses “information” talk as if it could plausibly ground a reconstruction of or “successor” to the concept of knowledge when it is entirely stripped of any intentional connotations. All we have in that case is bare causal relation between A and B, with no explanation of why we should refer to the one as containing “information” about the other in the absence of any intentionality either intrinsic to the physical facts themselves or derived from an outside observer. But at least we have that much. What do we have, though, when there isn’t even a causal relation between A and B for the simple reason that B doesn’t exist? In what sense does A contain “misinformation” about B when A is not only devoid of either intrinsic or derived intentionality, but was not even caused by B in the first place?

Perhaps Rosenberg has an answer to such questions, but if so he does not give us the slightest hint as to what it is, or even acknowledge that there is a question to answer in the first place. Instead he simply dismisses as “puerile” any suggestion that eliminative materialism might be incoherent. You see, “17th century physics” “ruled out” any appeal to purposes, so there simply must be a non-purposive explanation available for any phenomenon; and because there is always such an explanation available, we know that 17th century physics was right to rule anything else out.

Who says merry-go-rounds are just for kids?

41 comments:

Crude said...

Ed,

One thing I'm really curious of. At the end of the day, how many naturalists do you think would remain naturalists if they thought it required being an eliminative materialist?

I mean, you know there's a lot of naturalists, and yet EMs have been and still are (apparently) quite the minority. Rosenberg's fellow naturalists mostly seemed to jump at the chance to politely distance themselves from his views. And you've given multiple examples in the past of self-proclaimed "naturalists" who smuggle in - obviously smuggle in, really - intentionality and such to their "naturalistic" descriptions of the world.

So what would you say to a naturalist who said something like, "Fine, there's some intentionality in the world, real and fundamental. So what? I'm still a naturalist."

Ilíon said...

It must also be emphasized (as in your prior post) that the materialists/naturalists are intentionally misusing the term 'information.'

A rock, or a photon, is not 'information.'

'Information' is created by minds and exists only within a mind or minds.


ps: The .gif you chose to adorn this post is amusing.

TomH said...

Ilion,

Information requires a grammatical context. In the context of the English language, an English rendering of Shakespeare has meaning. The same does not apply for an English rendering of Shakespeare in the context of Spanish.

Misinformation can also assume a grammatical context. Messages can be hidden in what looks like ordinary text, which attempts to mislead the naive reader.

I just had a new thought about information. As Claude Shannon showed, a reader can find errors that can then be used to generate information about error and determine optimum bandwidth. This unexpected result can be misleading. The grammatical context of normal grammatical syntax is used to filter out normal grammatical productions so that only error productions remain. The context, even in the error case, is the normal grammatical syntax. Without that context, Shannon error wouldn't exist.

Ilíon said...

TomH, I think about information all the time ... I'm a computer programmer.

Moreover, I used to work in the telecom industry (the workings of which is what Shannon was supplying the theoretical explanation). Now, admittedly, the programming I did when I was in telecom had to do with making and keeping records of toll calls (long-distance calls) for billing purposes, rather than having to do with running the switches so that calls (local and long-distance) would complete.

Ilíon said...

"... a reader can find errors that can then be used to generate information about error and determine optimum bandwidth."

Telecom (and digital recording, for that matter) is possible because (non-exhaustively):
1) natural language is itself inherently meaningless -- all words are inherently meaningless sounds which stand as symbols for agreed-upon concepts held by the speakers and listeners;
2) we can generate information about the 'message" or 'signal' we are charged to transport without concerning ourselves in the least whether that 'message" or 'signal' itself conveys or stands-for any information -- we can assign inherently meaningless symbols to stand for the inherently meaningless sounds spoken by the parties on either end of the connection;
3) we can mechanize and computerize certain low-level (but critical) aspects of this "information generation" about the message.

Thus, a telecom company (or, as is more likely in this instance, a partnership of telecom companies) can transport both ends of a conversation between two parties on opposite sides of the globe without anyone else ever once listening in on the conversation, or even understanding the language in which it is conducted.

TomH said...

Ed,

"How can his perceptual experience (mis)represent what he is seeing as a dog since it was not a dog that caused it?"

Wouldn't the EM say that this is just folk psychology talking? That there is no such thing as "experience?" Wouldn't they reply that a match occurred in the visual cortex between the image and stored information? Wouldn't they say that the result was simply not advantageous, not that it is misinformation? (Rosenberg should eschew using that word.)

Intentionality in one form can be merely a reference--a "pointer", if you will. If I "point" at a dog and speak, "sit," then the action has meaning. If I point at the dog and read a sonnet from Shakespeare, then we expect that that action has no significant meaning in terms of communication by natural language.

Intentionality therefore includes not only a reference but also some expectation about the meaning of the reference. How does EM explain communication?

TomH said...

Ilion,

I also program. Some of what I do involves middleware, so I may care somewhat about syntax and context, but never about higher-order semantics.

"natural language is itself inherently meaningless" What about Chinese pictographs or hieroglyphics?

Your statement might apply to alphabetic/phonetic languages. If language didn't arise naturally, but was the result of Babel, then your statement would not even be wrong. :-)

So let's modify your statement to something less controversial, yet which still retains your intention. "Unicode symbols are inherently meaningless." Yes, but there is a communications context--Unicode--with a rigorous syntax. (ASCII works too as a constructed context.) Context relies on meaning--always--and it is required for communications.

If I try to transmit information over a Shannon system which relies on context about which the system knows nothing (such as info which is a physical or logical reference--e.g., a memory location, street number, or the name of a person), then the system's capacity for limiting error is diminished.

Shannon's surprise requires context.

Edward said...

Sometimes information is defined merely as any difference that makes a difference.

FYI, I just found out that I've been accepted to present a paper at the Annual Conference of the British Society of the History of Philosophy in which I defend "Folk Psychology" as a matter of common sense (something we can't help but take for granted), a la Thomas Reid. The theme of the conference is Thomas Reid.

TomH said...

Ed: "Sometimes information is defined merely as any difference that makes a difference."

"Sometimes information is defined merely as any difference that makes a difference." Like a tree falling in the woods with no one to see or hear it fall? Or maybe you are thinking of sensory input? Does a coma patient receive information?

Maybe the definition of "information" and "difference" depends on context. P 8-)

Congrats on your acceptance. :-) Reid is very much underappreciated. I read him when I researched what the old philosophers had to say about testimony. (Btw, testimony is one of my main research interests.)

aletheist said...

I just discovered TLS and this blog last week; great stuff! I enjoy the exercise of trying to boil philosophy down to starting assumptions. Most people would likely agree with this fairly modest axiom: something exists and can be known. I see no point in arguing with anyone who disputes this; its denial is self-refuting. However, it seems to me that intentionality follows directly from it, along with the laws of logic and causality, because those things are necessary for us to have knowledge of anything. Is it really that easy to refute naturalism/materialism/physicalism, or am I being overconfident in thinking so?

Chen-song said...

"natural language is itself inherently meaningless" What about Chinese pictographs or hieroglyphics?

I think Ilion was talking about spoken languages rather than writing systems. In either case though it still holds. Writing systems (pictographic, logographic, or alphabetic/syllabic) are still sets of arbitrary symbols representing ideas. They are meaningless in themselves.

I'm also not sure why languages rising naturally versus "Babel" would proven Ilion right or wrong either way. Either way language is still a bunch of arbitrary "pointers" to concepts.

Ilíon said...

Quire so, Chen-song, on all points.

Crude said...

aletheist,

My own two cents, though keep in mind I'm a neophyte when it comes to these things.

Yes, I think it's that easy - so long as the materialism is consistent. My own view, however, is that the number of people who are consistent with their materialism/naturalism are very few.

In fact, I strongly suspect (as I was inching towards in my first reply here) that, when push comes to shove, most materialists/naturalists will and in fact do give up materialism and naturalism. Or at least, they will quickly and knowingly ditch the requirements that there is no intentionality in minds/the world - but they'll try desperately to call this naturalism (or even physicalism) while doing so.

So I'm in the odd position of thinking that Ed and others are right that, in the end, a consistent naturalism/materialism leads to EM, and EM is absurd and pretty much self-refuting. But I also suspect that the real challenge to traditional theism isn't going to come from materialism, but from another religious, maybe even broadly theistic viewpoint.

Materialist atheists are a red herring.

Jime said...

Information' is created by minds and exists only within a mind or minds

In addition to that, information requires a code for the decoding of the meaning. And codes are artifitial, created by intelligent beings.

Some months ago I posted an article by physicist Marco Biagini (who is a Christian), who argued that materialists makes an improper use of the concept of information.

The relevant part of Biagini's argument is this: "Another argument used by materialists is the hypothesis that psychical life could be generated by the fact that in the brain there are many exchanges of information.

Also this is a case of logical contradiction, because the concept itself of information presupposes the existence of consciousness, and so this concept cannot be used to explain the existence of consciousness.
Materialists often say that also in computers there are many informations, but this is an improper language. In fact, in computers there are only electric impulses. It is the human mind who has established a conventional code that allows to identify specific successions of electric impulses as pieces of information. It is the same for the Morse alphabet: a succession of points and lines is not by itself an information; it becomes an information only if a conscious and intelligent mind has established a conventional code to attribute a given meaning to that succession of points and lines. So, every information is always the product of conscious psychical life, which proves that the concept of information cannot be used to explain the existence of consciousness
.

http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com/2009/02/marco-biagini-quantum-physics-and.html

Even though Biagini's point is about the abuse of the "information" concept to explain the origin of consciousness, his point also applies, mutatis mutandis, when materialist philosophers of mind use that concept for explaining other aspects of the mind in purely materialistic terms.

TomH said...

Chen-song:

Ilion:

"The Chinese script is an ideographic writing system, in which the graphic structure is directly related to the meaning." http://faculty.virginia.edu/cll/chinese/introduction.html

TomH said...

Chen-song:
Ilion:

Of course, arabic numerals directly represent their content graphically as well.

Fyi, numeric circuits exist in the brains of various creatures.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9720604

TomH said...

Jime,

I already explained the bit about context, which is what Biagini was aiming at.

aletheist said...

Crude:

I agree overall. In his latest book, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei, J. P. Moreland makes a powerful case that naturalism cannot, even in principle, adequately explain several key characteristics of human persons: consciousness, libertarian free will, rationality, the unified self, intrinsic value, and objective morality. The consistent naturalist/materialist/physicalist has to deny all of these aspects of our first-person experience, a price that few indeed are willing to pay.

"But I also suspect that the real challenge to traditional theism isn't going to come from materialism, but from another religious, maybe even broadly theistic viewpoint."

Interesting. Do you have something specific in mind?

Crude said...

aletheist,

As in a specific religion? No. And I don't think it's just going to be one religious viewpoint or perspective either.

If I had to guess, I'd say the coming strains would be: Pantheism (And I mean a real 'there is a God' Spinoza or Hindu-style pantheism or panentheism, not 'Ain't the purely materialistic mechanistic world great?' "pantheism"), deism (We live in a simulation / our universe was created somehow, but more than that we can't say), and a general free-floating rejection of materialism but committed yet vague "spiritual worldview".

I have to pick up JP Moreland's book. I'm hearing a lot about it this week, lots of praise from different sources.

Chen-song said...

TomH: Actually the idea of Chinese writing as an ideographic system is a myth. (see John de Francis et al) That it's a myth makes intuitive sense too as a native speaker - Chinese characters represent syllables of Chinese languages, not ideas. You can see this even in the mistakes that writers make - the (in)famous "horse carts must wear struggle" (ma3che1 dai4 fen4dou4/fen4dou3) example illustrates it fairly well. I believe the current term used in linguistics for the Chinese writing system is "logographic." It's sort of an "in-between" description.

Your example of Arabic numerals is a much better case of symbols directly representing ideas. However, the whole issue of ideographs also does not affect Ilion's claim. Whether the symbol directly represents an idea or represents a sound, it is still an arbitrary symbol assigned by people's minds, and meaningless without minds. Arabic numerals, for example, are totally meaningless to people who have not learned what they're supposed to represent.

Incidentally, I'm a computer programmer too. :) I do industrial automation software - tools to program industrial controllers that control conveyors and robots.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: Information' is created by minds and exists only within a mind or minds

Jime: In addition to that, information requires a code for the decoding of the meaning. And codes are artifitial, created by intelligent beings.

You're on the right track, but that's not quite right.

It's common to speak of a written text, say, or a spoken sentence, as "containing information," but that's both inaccurate and a mis-use of the concept 'information.'

Words, whether spoken or written (to be more precise, whether represented by glyphs), or encoded in a computer file, or represented in any other way, are utterly meaningless in themselves. The sounds which come out of our mouths when we speak are just sounds, utterly meaningless in themselves, which we agree together to use as symbols to stand for concepts existing in our minds. The glyphs we use in written language are utterly meaningless in themselves, they are symbols which we agree together to use to stand for the sounds we make when we speak.

And so on; no matter what new technologies may be developed for the recording and transmission of ideas/concepts, the meaning -- the information -- is not in the symbols used, but is rather in the minds of the human beings attempting to communicate.


Jime: In addition to that, information requires a code for the decoding of the meaning. And codes are artifitial, created by intelligent beings.

So, it's not that these words you are now reading actually contain information which you, being a mind and knowing the proper code to use, are able to decode and then understand.

Rather, it's that I, being a mind and having some ideas which I want you (another mind) to understand, am using a certain code to *represent* those ideas; and you, knowing that same code, and seeing/reading the symbols I have written, construct within your own mind, and if all goes well, understand, the ideas I intend you to grasp.

---
The relevance of the above goes back to my initial comment -- the term 'information' is constantly (and frequently intentionally) misused: no rock, nor any photon, nor any other physical/material thing or process or event or state is 'information.' 'Information' is created by minds and exists only within a mind or minds. 'Information' may be about a physical/material thing, but the thing itself is not information and contains no information.

danielj said...

They are meaningless in themselves.

What is meaningful in itself?

TomH said...

Ilion:
Chen-song: I found the work of Jia and Jia http://www.uri.edu/iaics/content/2005v14n1/12%20Yuxin%20Jia%20&%20Xuerui%20Jia.pdf

I think that there is some historical basis for the claim that there is some ideographical element in chinese pictographs.

I dispute Ilion's claim that minds are necessary to read anything--I think that only context is necessary. DNA is read by proteins, not minds. Source code in computer programs is read by parsing programs--not necessarily by minds. Context is required for reading, which may include a way to map the data, with rules, etc.

However, I would dispute the claim that any specified, complex context can arise independently of minds, so my dispute with Ilion is specific, not general. Of course, this doesn't speak to the general naturalist case at all, since "mind" doesn't imply "God" all by itself.... However, the ID case, if strongly supported, does weaken the commonly-accepted naturalist case considerably, as their origins myth is thrown into disarray. Being an intellectually respectable atheist becomes more difficult.

Crude said...

TomH,

I'm curious of something. You say that you "dispute Ilion's claim that minds are necessary to read anything--I think that only context is necessary." Fair enough.

You go on to give the example of DNA being 'read' by proteins. What I'm wondering is, is this just another word for efficient causation? Or are you arguing that there's something more than efficient causation going on in DNA being 'read'?

I actually wonder the same with Ed's OP. Wouldn't Ed argue some intentionality is "intrinsic to the physical facts themselves"? Similarly, don't some physical facts "contain information" similarly, regardless of the presence of a mind reading it? Or maybe I'm wrong about formal/final causes existing in nature.

Ilíon said...

Except, of course, that TomH is misconstruing what I've said.

Crude said...

Ilion,

Didn't mean to imply I was taking sides in that dispute. Just curious of TomH's greater view here.

The whole 'information' question seems interesting to me re: materialism. I've even heard some suggest (Chalmers? Zeilinger?) that information may be more fundamental than 'matter' as far as physics goes.

Ilíon said...

And I didn't mean to imply that you were. The comment was intended to address your post and his simultaneously.

Ilíon said...

Being a Christian, I naturally believe that information is more fundamental to the created order than matter is; in wisdom God created the heavens and the earth. But that's what I was talking about.

TomH said...

Ilion,

I apologize for misconstruing your comment. I'll try to do better.

"Information' is created by minds and exists only within a mind or minds"

So, information can't be persisted outside of a mind--say, in a book or an internet post? How do you explain failures to communicate, then, where a message is sent with mistakes or misread by the receiving mind? What is the role of physical or logical repositories (of whatever, since it can't be information) in your system? What do they store? And exactly what function does communication serve in your system? Does it act on the minds? What about the necessary effort that minds must exert in order to understand some complicated messages (including those relying on enthymemes), which effort can vary from message to message? That seems to argue against a naive view that minds are mere machines which messages control.

And why do you specify "natural" language? As opposed to artificial language? Why does the difference matter?

Perhaps it helps to think of active information (being processed) vs. passive information (not being processed; perhaps merely existing in a repository).

Crude,

"You go on to give the example of DNA being 'read' by proteins. What I'm wondering is, is this just another word for efficient causation? Or are you arguing that there's something more than efficient causation going on in DNA being 'read'?"

I'm arguing that information can be processed without a mind being directly involved, which is more specific than "efficient causation". I don't think that "physical facts" is the right way to look at this--I favor the natural law context. I think that all "logical agents" such as programs, minds, or any machine of specified complexity must have derived directly or indirectly from the mind of God, which itself is eternal--hence, underived.

Chen-song said...

TomH: Thanks. That was an interesting article. I'm not knowledgeable enough in neural processes to comment on that portion of the paper, but I like their quick summary of the development of Chinese characters. It's true that early on, Chinese writing was more "ideographic." A lot of that is due to oracle bone script acting more often as a mnemonic than as a full writing system. As the paper itself states, the phonetic element became more and more pronounced as Chinese writing developed. What they call the grapho-semantic portion of the characters are radicals that help differentiate between otherwise identical sounds of the phonetic radicals. This combination now forms the vast majority of Chinese characters. (90+% according to the paper) The large phonetic element is why linguists today no longer see the modern Chinese writing system as ideographic.

As to our original topic, the "reading" of DNA by proteins and the "reading" of code by parsers are very different from what we mean when we say humans "read." The two former examples, as you say, are better thought of as "processing" rather than "reading." The human "reading" implies understanding and intentionality, which the mechanical processes don't have.

This also ties in to the idea of symbols having no inherent meaning. The mistaken message example you gave, for instance, shows this. A mistaken message is not inherently different from a good message. From the point of view of say an SMTP server, they're just all strings of characters. The email server simply goes through a mechanical process that it was programmed with to send those strings back and forth. It's when they reach human eyes that the mistake becomes apparent, since that's when meaning is given to a string of characters. It's even more apparent if the mistake is slight, and the human reads the entire meaning of the message *despite* the mistake. Or for that matter when a good message is misinterpreted by a person to be a bad message. This shows that meaning occurs on the human end, not in the message by itself.

TomH said...

Chen-song,

If I send a letter to my brother which takes three days to arrive, what are the information states of the system (writer, letter in transit, reader) from the time I compose it until it's read? Does the information vanish if I'm not thinking about it while the letter's in transit? Is the information created de novo when my brother reads it?

Chen-song said...

TomH: I think neither Ilion nor I claimed that symbols vanish when people don't think about them. The claim is just that the symbols by themselves mean nothing, and need to be interpreted by humans. In the letter case, it's not that information vanishes, but what's on the letter is not information, but a set of symbols that only becomes information when humans read them. You and your brother, and everyone else who reads the same language you do, have an agreed-upon system for what the symbols mean. So you can say that as long as knowledge of this language/writing system exists, there remains the possibility of the letter being interpreted into information again. If knowledge of that language is lost forever, then the letter can no longer be information, just a bunch of inkblots.

Ilíon said...

Chen-song: "This also ties in to the idea of symbols having no inherent meaning. The mistaken message example you gave, for instance, shows this. A mistaken message is not inherently different from a good message. From the point of view of say an SMTP server, they're just all strings of characters. The email server simply goes through a mechanical process that it was programmed with to send those strings back and forth. It's when they reach human eyes that the mistake becomes apparent, since that's when meaning is given to a string of characters. It's even more apparent if the mistake is slight, and the human reads the entire meaning of the message *despite* the mistake. Or for that matter when a good message is misinterpreted by a person to be a bad message. This shows that meaning occurs on the human end, not in the message by itself."

Taht's a good pinot, Chen-song. For iasncnte, a nitvae Elisgnh spkeear shluod not hvae too graet dtiifufcly raednig tihs rsnpesoe, dsiptee taht I hvae itneointnllay srcmebald the wdros. And, had I uesd shorter wrods, the ducfiltfiy is eevn lses.


Translation, for the impatient:

That's a good point, Chen-song. For instance, a native English speaker should not have too great difficulty reading this response, despite that I have intentionall scrambled the words. And, had I used shorter words, the difficulty is even less.

TomH said...

Chen-song,

The point is about the information persistence, not the symbol persistence.

Ilion,

All you showed is that in one context, spelling error correction by the reader can be good as long as the first and last letter are preserved. This allows a large amount of toleration of spelling equivocation. It doesn't get to my basic point about information persistence/continuity. I'm trying to understand how/what you think about information.

You could also have used the standard example as a grammatical error correction (which is also an illusion):

Paris in the
the spring.

Ilíon said...

I've already told you what I think about information -- that it isn't "out there," but rather that it is created by and exists only within minds -- but you're not grasping it yet. Perhaps I'll try to reword it, later.


"The point is about the information persistence, not the symbol persistence."

There is no information *in* symbols to persist or not persist, that's why we can use them as symbols in the first place, and why we can replace one symbol (or an entire set of symbols) with another. The "meaning" of a symbol is assigned by a mind or minds, but the symbol itself is utterly meaningless.

TomH said...

Ilion,

It seems that you are saying that information exists at the time that the letter is written, then doesn't until the letter is read by the recipient. If there were no such thing as information persistence, then information would just be a passing mental state. Memories and books wouldn't contain actual information. Information would have a discontinuous existence, which seems strange.

I think that the distinction that you are drawing is trivial and is indistinguishable from a situation that might exist if the method of communication conveyed information directly instead of indirectly through symbols.

Do I understand you correctly?

Ilíon said...

Ich setze voraus, dass Sie nicht ein Wort auf Deutsch sprechen und dass, wenn Sie nicht Babelfish auf diesem Text verwenden, Sie sollen keine Idee haben, was ich gesagt habe.

[Though, admittedly, now having used it in 30 or more years, my German is now so bad that I had to run the English of that through Babelfish to generate much of the German.]


It's really a shame to be clogging up Mr Feser's commbox with this side discussion (important though it is), when the point I was making is that the "misinformation campaign" he is talking about is a natural outgrowth of the misunderstanding and/or misuse of the concept 'information.'

Ilíon said...

The distinction I'm making isn't trivial. And, it's the failure -- or, in some cases, the outright refusal -- to correctly understand what information is and what it is not which allows materialists to get away with asserting that a rock (or the friction between two rocks) or a photon hitting a plant or the retina of an animal's eye is information.

Ilíon said...

... Further, it's this wisespread disinclination to correctly understand what information is and what it is not which allows materialists to get away with the totally risible and false assertion that a computer program is no different in kind from a human mind.

Anonymous said...

Testing. I may have a long question later, but no point in typing it if I can't post.

RkBall said...

danielj said... What is meaningful in itself?

Deep-dish pizza.