On Philosophy

June 30, 2006

More On The Transmission of Information

Filed under: Epistemology,Information — Peter @ 2:53 am

Earlier I argued that for us to have information about an event that event must lie in our casual past, such that the event in question can be said to be the cause of at least some of our mental states. (see here for a longer explanation)

Consider then the following objection: Say a certain type of particle, P, has a chance to decay into particles Q and R, which are found in nature only when a particle of type P decays. Now let us assume that we find a Q particle. We know then that an R particle must also exist. However the R particle doesn’t lie in our casual past. Is this a counterexample to the theory I earlier proposed?

No (if it was the word “retraction” would be in the title). We have information concerning the decay of P particles into Q and R because such events do lie in our casual past (i.e. P, Q, and R are in many cases all in our casual past). From this we have generalized, and assume that every P decay results in Q and R. Thus we might say that we have information concerning the class of P decay events since we have observed some instances of P decay. What makes the counterexample invalid is the assumption that information about a class of events yields information about specific instances. I would argue that in the “counterexample” we only really have information about P and Q. The reason can be seen simply as follows: it is possible that our generalization was wrong, and that sometimes P decays into Q and S. In the case we observed it is possible this did indeed happen, thus there was no R particle only and S particle. Since this is possible clearly we don’t have information about R, because to have information about R would be to know for sure, or at least have good reason to believe, that R exists. Thus the theory stands, for the moment.

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4 Comments

  1. Couldn’t you take this further, and say that you don’t have any knowledge of the past. What if Q doesn’t necessarily come from P at all? What if it just appears out of nowhere without a cause? What if you thought you saw Q, but really, you’re being deceived? Etc.

    Comment by Carl — July 1, 2006 @ 12:16 am

  2. We aren’t talking about knowledge here, simply the flow of information. Also see previous posts on causation.

    Comment by Peter — July 1, 2006 @ 2:25 am

  3. Well, if you’re talking about information in the physics sense and not knowledge in the philosophical sense, then you do have information about R, because from the physics point of view, the laws of physics are set and not provisional, as they are from the philosophical point of view.

    Comment by Carl — July 1, 2006 @ 2:32 am

  4. No the laws are recognized to be approximations in physics as well, that is why we conduct experiments to test them.

    Comment by Peter — July 1, 2006 @ 2:51 am


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