Dear Loet and colleagues,

One of the advantages of a new discipline is the simplification of discourse, the creation of a new space where you can easily build new knowledge without copious management of other unnecessary, circumstantial ideas. I have already quoted in this list the famous quotation by Whitehead about the "mental liberation" in arithmetic that implied the use of zero. Something similar may happen nowadays concerning the wide reaching domains of information. But I see two problems about delineating the "information zero". One, that life is not incorporated yet as the starting point of communication (I do not mean "biology"--rather it is each one's biography, historically and evolutionarily augmented/contemplated). At the end, every living agent "communicates" with other living agents, and the available tools to do that are signals that mean "portions" of its own life-cycle. We humans have shared sensorimotor tools that provide the common ground for our communication, for exporting those missing portions or needs in our lives. Formalizing the life cycle is quite problematic, however. And the second "zero" concerns the need to constitute a new informational observer, endowed with the general mental characteristics required for information science. The observer of physics, chemistry, etc., is well equipped and we assume that his/her mind is properly "charged" with the corresponding principles, theories, experiences, etc. But in the case of info science, the topic matter is open-ended. What is the "charge" of this new observer? Depending on our specializations, we equip this observer with our preferred approach; so our unending back and forth. But many other knowledge bodies (or at least the 4-5 basic disciplines that Xueshan was commenting) may be needed to make sense of that particular informational/communicational phenomenon in cells, organisms, people, disciplines, enterprises, countries... If we accept this "ecumenical" contemplation of information science, how can that multi-observer be viable at all? Our cognitive limitations are so obvious... An elementary provisional solution (a pre-zero, a pre-science tool) for making it possible was suggested in those ten principles weeks ago. In any case, I think these two absences or "zeroes" might be successfully filled in, without having to wait for too long.

Best wishes--Pedro

El 26/10/2017 a las 20:08, Loet Leydesdorff escribió:
Dear Terry and colleagues,

(...) , there cannot be interminable regress of this displacement to establish these norms. At some point normativity requires ontological grounding where the grounded normative relation is the preservation of the systemic physical properties that produce the norm-preserving dynamic.
I have problems with the words "ontological" and "physical" here, whereas I agree with the need of grounding the normative. Among human beings, this grounding of subjective normativity can be found in intersubjectivity. Whereas the subjective remains/cogitans/ (in doubt), the intersubjective can be considered as/cogitatum/ (the thing about which one remains in doubt).

For Descartes this/cogitatum/ is the Other of the/Cogito./ The/Cogito/ knows itself to be incomplete, and to be distinguished from what transcends it, the Transcendental or, in Descartes' terminology, God. (This is the ontological proof of God's presence. Kant showed that this proof does not hold: God cannot be proven to exist.) Husserl (1929) steps in on this point in the/Cartesian Meditations/: the/cogitatum/ which transcends us is intersubjectivity. It is not physical. The physical is/res extensa/, whereas this remains/res cogitans./ It cannot be retrieved, but one has reflexive access to it.

Interestingly, this philosophy provides Luhmann's point of departure. The intersubjective can be operationalized as (interhuman) communication. The codes in the communication can relatively be stabilized. One can use the metaphor of eigenvectors of a communication matrix. They remain our constructs, but they guide the communication. (Luhmann uses "eigenvalues", but that is a misunderstanding.) Using Parsons' idea of symbolic generalization of the codes of communication, one can continue this metaphor and consider other than the first eigenvector as "functional differentiations" which enable the communication to process more complexity. The model is derived from the /Trias Politica/: problems can be solved in one of the branches or the other. The normativity of the judiciary is different from the normativity of the legislative branch, but they both ground the normativity that guides us.

The sciences are then a way of communication; namely, scholarly communication about rationalized expectations. Scholarly communication is different from, for example, political communication. An agent ("consciousness" in Luhmann's terminology) recombines reflexively and has to integrate because of one's contingency. The transcendental grounding is in the communication; it remains uncertain. Fortunately, because this implies that it can be reconstructed (by us albeit not as individuals).

A non-human does not know oneself to be contingent. Lots of things follow from this; for example, that the non-human does not have access to our intersubjectivity as systems of expectations.



Loet Leydesdorff

Professor emeritus, University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) <>; Associate Faculty, SPRU, <>University of Sussex;

Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ. <>, Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC, <>Beijing;

Visiting Fellow, Birkbeck <>, University of London;

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Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud
Centro de Investigación Biomédica de Aragón (CIBA)
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