Informational Content

Liz, Manuel
 Incorporated contributions
Liz (08/11/09)
 Usage domain
Semantics of information, Situational theory
contenú informational
 German informativer Inhalt

The main references for the notion of informational content are the works of Fred Dretske. According to him, the ideas of Shannon and Weber can be adapted in order to characterize  the informational content of a given signal. Dretske’s proposal is the following one. A signal s coming from a certain source S and registered by a certain system R having some knowledge K about S (for instance, that S can be F or G or H) would have the informational content that S is F if and only if the probability that S is F, given s and K, is equal to 1. Other proposals have been made in the context of teleosemantical approaches, like the one favoured by Millikan, and in the context of the “situation theory” elaborated by Barwise and Perry.

Because of the way they are defined, informational contents must be very wide and they cannot be erroneous. In contrast with informational content, semantic content is very specific and it can be erroneous. In particular, this is the case with respect to the semantic contents associated with propositional attitudes.

Informational content can be converted into a semantic content through the intervention of functions. Given the existence of a function bearing some information in particular, then informational content can be made narrow and the relevant information can be activated in an erroneous way. Dretske’s approach considers three ways in which such functions can be introduced: 1) as some sorts of natural functions selected by biological evolution, 2) as some sorts of attributed functions created by artificial design, and 3) as some sorts of functions acquired by individual learning.

  • BARWISE, J. et al. (1991) Situation Theory and its Architecture, Stanford, Stanford Univ. Press.
  • BAR-HILLEL, Y. (1955) “An Examination of Information Theory”, Philosophy of Science, 22.
  • DRETSKE, F. (1980) Knowledge and the Flow of Information, Cambridge, MIT Press.
  • --------- (1988) Explaining Behaviour. Reasons in a World of Causes, Cambridge, MIT Press.
  • --------- (1997) Naturalizing the Mind, Cambridge, MIT Press.
  • FLORIDI, L. (ed.) (2004) The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information, London, Blackwell.
  • MCLAUGHLIN, B. (ed.) (1991) Dretske and his Critics, Cambridge, Blackwell.
  • MILLIKAN, R. (1984) Language, Thought and Other Biological Cathegories, Cambridge, MIT Press.
  • SHANNON, C. (1949) The Mathematical Theory of Communication, Champaingn-Urbana, Univ. of Illinois Press.
  • VILLANUEVA, E. (ed.) (1990) Information, Semantics and Epistemology, Oxford, Blackwell.
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Manuel Liz (08/11/2009)
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