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Natural information, factivity and nomicity

Authors
  • Baker, Ben1
  • 1 University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA , Philadelphia (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Biology & Philosophy
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Apr 06, 2021
Volume
36
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10539-021-09784-4
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Biological and cognitive sciences rely heavily on the idea of information transmitted between natural events or processes. This paper critically assesses some current philosophical views of natural information and defends a view of natural information as Nomic and Factive. Dretske (Knowledge the flow of information/Fred Dretske, MIT Press Cambridge, Mass, 1981) offered a Factive view of information, and recent work on the topic has tended to reject this aspect of his view in favor of a non-Factive, probabilistic approach. This paper argues that the reasoning behind this move to non-Factivity is flawed and mixes up different problems with Dretske’s original view. I show that one of these problems—strictness—has to do with Nomicity rather than Factivity. The other problem—reference class ambiguity—is not solvable just in terms of a theory of natural information. On the Dretske-inspired view I defend, natural information is Factive and Nomic but is insufficient to determine the cognitive or biological content of a natural process. In sum I present an examination what natural information is and what role it can (and cannot) play in our understanding of living and thinking things.

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