is often the wisest
for a human
being to think about"
sigan pollakis esti sopho-
Nem. V, 18-19)
What is your opinion regarding information
theory and modern ICTs such as the Internet and mobile technologies?
ubiquitous information-gathering capability affect information theory?
was modern information technology and
particularly computer devices that gave rise in the late forties of the
century to the so-called information theory. Claude Shannon's problem
fact, as stated in the title of his famous paper, "a mathematical
of communication" (Shannon 1948). The
concept of information within this theory of communication has little
with the everyday meaning of this word, i.e., with 'knowledge
is being communicated between a sender and a receiver is not
are messages. Nevertheless Shannon
about "transmitting information." In my opinion a comprehensive
theory of information must deal also with the semantic and pragmatic
message communication which are excluded in Shannon's
we use the framework of systems theory
and second-order cybernetics, we cannot say that there is something
"ubiquitous information-gathering capability" just because
information is not something out there that can be gathered but the
result of a
selection within a system on the basis of a meaning offer, i.e., of a
becomes ubiquitous is then the possibility of sending and receiving
the basis of an interpretation process the meaning of a message becomes
information for a given system. This corresponds to the categories used
sociologist Niklas Luhmann when he states that there is a difference
meaning offer or announcement ("Mitteilung"), a selection process
("Information"), and an understanding process
("Verstehen"), their unity being called communication
("Kommunikation") (Luhmann 1984). The crucial question is the
possibility of making a difference between the meaning offer and the
process. When we read a text, for instance, we can take our time in
think about what possibilities of interpretation can be considered.
more difficult in the case of a face-to-face dialogue or even of modern
real-time media, because we have little time to reflect on what is
as analysed for instance by thinkers like Paul Virilio. 'Ubiquitous
information-gathering capability' does not mean to gather something
information which is already there but the possibility of making all
and everywhere a difference between a meaning offer and an
process. Information technology affects indeed information theory as
far as we
have to think about what kind of communication processes are taking
what dimensions are lost or won.
What is your opinion on the
philosophical relationship between power and information? Is
me try to give first a few historical
references about the concept of power following some of the hints given
article "Macht" of the "Historisches Wörterbuch der
Philosophie" (Röttgers 1980). The concept of power is derived in
Western tradition from Greek dynamis
(Latin potentia) meaning the capability or potentiality of
Plato's philosophy this concept is used in a political sense. Platon
the sophists because in their view power was not subjected to or
reason. The sophist Gorgias considered the power of words -- and, we
the power of the selection from a meaning offer, i.e., the power of
-- as a kind of pure force (bía). For Plato tyrants are
powerless because they do not achieve what they really want, namely the
the Roman tradition there is a difference between power related to a
position (potestas) and the recognition of one's authority (auctoritas).
In Italian Renaissance Machiavelli does not look for a metaphysic
power because the question of power is something that must be stated
regard to each particular case. This kind of casuistic or Machiavellian
philosophy is closely related to the thinking of Francis Bacon for whom
"human knowledge and human power meet in one." Bacon stresses the
importance of human dominance over nature through empirical based
and thus of science and information, as a necessary condition for
power. Kant makes a difference between power ("Macht") and
force ("Gewalt"). Force is the kind of power needed to overcome
another power. In both cases we deal with the idea of overcoming and
subordination. Force ("Gewalt") is a necessary condition for the
establishment of a legitimate power that can protect freedom and law.
freedom without force means anarchy, law and force without freedom
despotism, force without freedom and law means a barbarian situation,
finally force with freedom and law means a republican state. Hannah
distinguishes between force ("Gewalt") as related to means and ends
from power ("Macht") as a situation of institutional dependence. In
other words, not only the question of technological means and their
decisive for social order but also the question of power, i.e., of
legitimisation. Michel Foucault explores the question of "bio-power"
as related to specific institutions such as hospitals and jails.
Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben
has recently considered the question of power (potenza, potere)
within the context of political violence (violenza) relating
perspectives, the one by Hannah Arendt and the one by Michel Foucault
2002). He interprets the present situation as one in which the
of parliamentary democracies has changed into a permanent "state of
emergency" (Carl Schmitt), the paradigm of such a situation being the
"camp" in which human beings such as refugees are kept in their pure
physical existence at the same time inside and outside the geographic
limits of national states.
my opinion the question of information
and power should be stated today within this context of the crisis of
democratic states facing digital globalisation. Information is thus a
force that cannot be controlled by legal state regulations alone but
be also seen as a danger for national security. This is a paradoxical
of the ideal proclaimed by the Enlightenment with regard to censorship
societies. Some human beings have "informational existence" while
others remain excluded from it in what we are used to call the digital
way of dealing with this problem are international regulations such as
being discussed at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
evident that digital information can be used and is being used for
violence and millions of people suffer from all kinds of digital
as viruses and daily (sexual) spam. We could call this last
sarcastically as the penis enlargement syndrome.
Could you explain the
solution of your "trilemma" with some examples?
"Capurro's trilemma" see: W.
Hofkirchner Ed.: The Quest for a Unified Theory of Information.
of the Second International Conference on the Foundations of
Science, Gordon and Breach Publ. 1999, pp. 9-30. A short version was
in: World Futures 1997, Vol 49. Online
apparent solution of the trilemma is
to say that we do not need anything like a common information concept
fields. We operate with different concepts defining them in different
which is what we do for instance when we use the concept of force in
in everyday life or in politics (Capurro/Hjørland 2003). This
proposed by the philosopher Peter Janich (see Capurro 1998)
when he states that it is possible to solve this
kind of semantic problems with adequate definitions, i.e., restricting
meaning of a concept to a specific field (Janich 1998). But the problem
that Janich does not admit at all the use of the information concept
the human sphere. He admits this use only as an analogy. And here we
the trilemma once again, i.e., the question of using this concept
equivocally or univocally.
solution is the idea of emergent
qualities and thus of different but evolutionary connected concepts as
suggested by Wolfgang Hofkirchner which is similar but not identical to
Wittgensteinian suggestion of connecting different information concepts
according to their "family resemblances" within a network allowing
different kinds of relations some of them analogical, some equivocal,
univocal. This means nothing less than
creating a double-bind connection or a hermeneutic circle between
scientific terms and natural language. This is the path suggested by
physicist Carl-Friedrich von Weizsäcker when he relates
information to language
(Weizsäcker 1974). This means not only the question of translating
of science into everyday language but, more basically, the question on
everyday words can be seen as a source of scientific concepts, giving
instance to different kinds of metaphors and analogies. There is a
tension between the semantic polyvalence of words and univocal
definitions within the framework of scientific theories. This question
also the difference between Western languages, which are more
and Eastern-languages, which are more word- or even silence-oriented.
the matter of Heidegger's "Dialogue with a Japanese" (Heidegger
Why are the "technologies of
the self" called "technologies"? Is your concept of it the same
believe that Foucault had in mind the
old and ambivalent Greek concept of techne that is of the
things are being produced (poiesis). There is a classic
this between Plato and Aristotle, Aristotle being the one who, on the
made the distinction between techne and phronesis which
word he uses for ethical knowledge, i.e., for the kind of knowledge
specific human and related to the moulding of our character and actions
while techne refers to the knowledge need for the production of
things or poiesis. But, on the other hand, Aristotle also uses
the word techne
with regard to the moral as well as to the political sphere. Foucault
about four kinds of technologies, namely the first one concerning the
production of material things, the second one concerning the production
signs, the third one concerning the production of power and finally the
regarding the operations of the individuals with themselves and with
that he calls "technologies" but also "practices" of the
view on this matter was to look for the
connection between technologies of self and technologies of sign
such as modern information technology. My question is to explore in
we use such technologies in order to produce or model or, remembering
origin of the word 'information', namely informatio, in-form
as individuals and as a society, as we have been doing this for
printing technology and with writing. But information technology is not
mean to an end or a mere instrument but in a more basic sense we are or
online. This is the reason, I believe, why information ethics cannot
the instrumental perspective. If this diagnosis of modern information
technology as a digital ontology -- in the Heideggerian sense of this
is right, then we are dealing with a projection ("Entwurf") of Being
and not just with the production of digital beings that pervades, for
for worse, our existence, similarly as, for instance, in the case of
physics, to which Heidegger refers in "Being and Time." The basic
ethical question is then how do we model our lives within and beyond
criticise "modern" thought, you are not a "postmodern"
philosopher but a "hermeneutic" philosopher who deals with multiple
realities made in private and public life world. Do you agree?
am indeed not a postmodern philosopher
in the sense of pertaining to a historical epoch of philosophy that
in Western thinking particularly during the seventies and eighties of
century and that was mostly an eclectic movement. But in a more general
we could say that all present thinking is postmodern as far as it does
simply and purely rely on the presuppositions of modern philosophy. The
question about conscience as a firm basis for thinking as established
instance by Descartes or Husserl is being radically questioned by brain
scientists as well as by some leading philosophers. I basically agree
Gianni Vattimo with regard to the hermeneutic or "weak" nature of
human understanding. Hermeneutic thinking opens the possibility of a
with the tradition or, better, with traditions and orders of values
wrong alternative between eclecticism or fundamentalism. The true
being the one between solipsistic and dialogical thinking.
would say that a dialogue is not only a
question-answer exchange but a message-message exchange. Questions are
possibility of message content, but not every message is a question.
to Hans-Georg Gadamer, every statement can be seen as an answer and the
hermeneutic problem is to explore what was the question that gave rise
answer. In other words, hermeneutic brings a dialogical and dynamic
into the world of static texts. This presupposes not only the exchange
messages but the very fact that a message is indeed accepted by the
relevant and vice versa. The analysis of these conditions of message
announcement and transmission is what angeletics deals with. The effect
message announcement and transmission is what hermeneutics calls the
but taking at the same time for granted this very phenomenon of
message and dealing only with its interpretation. Within and between
we may indeed ask questions or look for the questions behind the
not every message is embedded within such a question-answer structure.
basically: every statement can be considered as an announcement, but
necessarily as an answer to a question. In fact, most of the messages
receive everyday are not questions that require an answer but just
announcements that as far as they are seen as relevant by the receiver
to another message. Take for instance a message telling you that you
ten million Yen in the lottery and that you are kindly requested to
your money or another message from your girlfriend telling you that she
be with you during the weekend. In case you consider these messages as
to you, you may like to answer them or not without considering them as
question. In case you reply sending a message, this one is then not an
to a question but a message that may be again relevant to the lottery
your girlfriend and who may send you again another message and so on.
words, answering a message is not the same as answering a question. We
that the message-message structure is the essence of communication.
What do you think
about a "message ethics"?
is indeed a very relevant question as
we live in a message society (Capurro 2003). Of course, every
society has been a message society but we live today in a society in
digital messages and messengers play a significant role not only in
and economics, but also in everyday life. This is due particularly to
ongoing transformation of the 20th century society dominated mass media
their hierarchical one-to-many structure of message distribution and
consumption. This transformation which is due to the invention of the
is still difficult to evaluate. The ideals proclaimed by the 'founding
of the internet, such as free access to knowledge for everybody or
learning from each other have turned more and more into the opposite.
of traditional mass media, the so-called media ethics, was and is still
concerned with such questions of centralised moral monitoring of
selection and distribution, i.e., with the problems faced by the
and actors, journalists in particular, of such an angeletic setting.
particularly difficult the question of ethics with regard to the
not only the variety of stake holders and, of course, of share holders,
also the question of how far the internet affects directly or
digital and material life of millions of people, i.e., either because
the possibility of being online or because they have not such a
ethics of the message society should not be restricted to the realm of
digital, being some kind of 'angel-ethics' -- as far as angels have no
and temporal existence, they are not concerned, at least in the same
we are, with the constraints of morality and the possibility of ethical
reflection -- or with the ethics of digital action alone, but it should
with the impact of such action on the physical life of society.
What is the
difference between angeletics and Régis
to Marshall McLuhan's famous dictum,
"the medium is the message." It seems to me that we have done a lot
in order to explore what are media but that we have done little in
answer the question 'what are messages?' In his "Cours de
générale" Régis Debray points to the figure of the
mediator or the
"hommedium" such as "the scribe, the priest, the
intellectual." (Debray 1991). Debray is concerned with the study of the
medium or messenger that makes possible the transmission and
symbols, and he is also interested in the analysis of how "beliefs and
myths" disseminate in early stages. He defines messages
("messages") as being a kind of statement ("énoncés")
having the characteristic of being "calling" ("vocatif"),
and "prescriptive" ("prescriptif"), and as having
"pragmatic valences" ("valences pragmatiques") (p. 41). The
reason why he is interested in the early stages of message
that at this moment the difference between cool statements and hot
between science and ideology, is fuzzy (ibid.). His paradigmatic
this regard is the development of early Christianity, a religion that
religion of the mediation itself ("la médiation faite religion")
mediology is in fact a
secularised Christology: "la médiologie n'est qu'une
retardement, réflechie dans la sphère profane." (p.
93). His analysis of Christian mediations or
"interfaces" deals with militant institutions such as Catholic orders,
holy texts, and God's people (p. 143-144). At the end of his book he
categorises three mediatic ages, namely the age of the "logos" or
"logosphère" fixing an oral tradition, the graphic period or
"graphosphère", and the electronic period or
which he correlates with Comte's stages of human development (p. 387).
are indeed many similarities and
common insights between Debray's mediology -- not "medialogy," i.e.,
the study of mass media -- and my views on angeletics (Capurro 2003a).
concerns for instance his analysis of the dissemination of messages or
mediologic interfaces. But this is, I think, only one aspect of the
phenomenon, namely the question of the medium or messenger. The
include not only messengers, but also messages (content, form,
impact) and the process itself of announcing a message. In this regard
angeletics is closely related for instance to marketing, although
considers messages only within the horizon of economic profit. Such a
comprehensive angeletic analysis would be not primarily concerned with
construction of a system but with detailed and comparative case studies
as with different evaluation methodologies with regard to the social
messages and messengers. Debray's studies on Christianity and his
inspired system are indeed fascinating but too unique in order to deal
foundation of a "general mediology" or even for a general angeletics,
i.e., they are biased with regard to the Western mediological tradition
although they are an important contribution to comparative angeletic
it can be said that an empirical
science called angeletics should be distinguished from a philosophic
as well as from an angeletic philosophy. This is a similar distinction
one made between hermeneutic as a methodology, philosophic hermeneutics
developed by Gadamer, and Heidegger's hermeneutic philosophy. In my
Heidegger's phenomenology is in fact an angeletic thinking (Heidegger
G. (2002): Homo sacer. Die souveräne Macht und das
nackte Leben. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.
R. (2003): Ethik im Netz. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.
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Message Theory. In: H.H. Diebner, L. Ramsay (Eds.): Hierarchies of
R. (1998): "Das Capurrosche Trilemma". In: Ethik und
Sozialwissenschaften. Streitforum für Erwägungskultur,
R., Hjørland, B. (2003): The Concept of
Information. In: Annual Review of Information
Science and Technology Ed. B. Cronin, Vol. 37 (2003) Chapter 8, pp.
R., Fleissner, P., Hofkirchner,
W.: Is a Unified Theory of Information
Feasible? A Trialog
Hofkirchner Ed.: The Quest for a Unified Theory of Information.
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Science, Gordon and Breach Publ. 1999, pp. 9-30. A
short version was
published in: World Futures 1997, Vol 49.
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P. (1998): Der Informationsbegriff und methodisch-kulturalistische
und Sozialwissenschaften. Streitforum für
Erwägungskultur, 9 (2).
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Japaner und einem
Fragenden. In: M. Heidegger: Unterwegs zur Sprache. Pfullingen: Neske.
N. (1984): Soziale Systeme. Grundriß einer allgemeinen Theorie.
K. (1980): Art. "Macht" in: J. Ritter, K. Gründer (Eds.):
Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Basel: Schwabe, 585-604.
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Theory of Communication. Bell
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update: September 13, 2014