Now Playing: COUNTERFACTUALS WEEK (REPOSTED)
An Objective Counterfactual Theory of Information
By Jonathan Cohen & Aaron Meskin
Philosophers have appealed to information (as understood by [Shannon, 1948] and introduced to philosophers largely by [Dretske, 1981]) in a wide variety of contexts; information has been proffered in the service of understanding knowledge, justification, and mental content, inter alia. However, the standard accounts of information in circulation suffer from two defects. First, while they construe information in terms of probabilities, the particular conditional probabilities they appeal to are difficult to make sense of on any of the usual understandings of probability. Second, standard accounts relativize the information carried by a signal to the background knowledge of the receiver, and consequently make essential reference to doxastic states of subjects; but if so, then information can't provide the objective, reductive explanations of notions in epistemology and philosophy of mind that many have hoped it could. This paper is an attempt to solve these problems, and thereby to restore the metaphysical bona fides of information.
We'll begin by showing why the usual, probabilistic understandings of information are unsatisfactory (?1). Next we'll go on to propose an alternative account based on counterfactuals (?2), and compare it against Dretske's more familiar account (?3). After that, we'll turn to questions about objectivity: we'll argue that information should not be relativized to doxastic states of subjects, and show how the account of ?2 can be formulated in non-doxastic terms (?4). Finally, we'll consider objections against the our proposed account (?5). At the end of the day, we'll suggest, the objective counterfactual account of information should be taken as a serious contender to more traditional rivals.
Source: Online Papers in Philosophy
Posted by Tony Marmo
at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Sunday, 4 December 2005 07:11 GMT