Tuesday 10 March 2020

Defining "Defining"

The Foundations of Information Science mailing list are currently trying to define "information". Frankly, that's what they've been trying to do for years (without much success), but recently they've tried to be explicit about it. The problem is that you can't define "information" unless you have some concept of what "defining" itself is. So I suggested a definition of "defining":

"Defining is a process of seeking abstract principles which are generative not only of phenomena themselves, but of our narrative capacities for explaining them and our empirical faculties for exploring them."
Some suggested to me that the word "abstract" is redundant here. Aren't they just "principles"? I'm not sure.

Lou Kauffman said that I was thinking about mathematics when I say "abstract". I am - and this definition arose from a conversation with a mutual friend, Peter Rowlands (I couldn't have had the intellectual insight to come up with something like this without Peter's genius)

Lou said something interesting about empiricism in relation to this.

"Nevertheless, we find something different in the empirical domain. We do not demand that our abstract principles generate the phenomena there. In fact we find that concept and percept arise together in the examination of phenomena and that it is in this arising, with the help of thinking and the fundamental circularity of thought knowing thought, that we come to agree that information is present."
This is precisely it. I would say that concept and percept arise together in a kind of counterpoint. It's like music. The counterpoint contrives to give form and meaning to understanding. But meaning and understanding can only arise if the interactions of the counterpoint contrive to create "nothing".

It's only by creating "nothing" that the patterns upon which meaning and understanding operate can arise. 

This, it seems to me, is new. It's where Peter Rowlands's physics and Lou's mathematics point to a profound new development in our understanding of nature and complexity.

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