Information and Misinformation. An Investigation of the Notions of Information, Misinformation, Informing, and Misinforming

Finally got my hands on a copy of the book Information and Misinformation. An Investigation of the Notions of Information, Misinformation, Informing, and Misinforming, by Christopher Fox. The book was published in 1983. I have come across references to it in some of the contemporary philosophy of information literature and this piqued my curiosity. My interest was largely due to the fact that it struck me as being a book that had faded into relative obscurity and was being somewhat rediscovered via contemporary references. Fox addresses the question of the nature of information by developing notions of information, misinformation, and misinforming to serve as a part of the foundation of an information science.

One review contains the following:

Employing the methods of contemporary analytic philosophy, Fox has produced a careful, thought-provoking work on information and misinformation, providing essential clarifications for a foundation of information science. His methodology should not deter anyone from tackling the work, for one of its assets is that it supplies a manageable and coherent introduction to the methods and rationale of analytic philosophy. Since language is a rule-governed activity, an analysis of the use of information in ordinary language can give us some insight into its nature…. Fox’s work interrogates critical issues and arguments.

This ordinary language analysis of information is thorough, insightful and fruitful. I certainly think it the case that one very good task for an analysis of information to invest in is an analysis of how the term `information’ is used accompanied by suitable clarification and making things precise. However, this is not sufficient for a complete account of information; there is more to the notion of information than its meaning as a word.

Two ideas from the book I am currently incorporating into my own work

  1. Fox distinguishes between these two senses of the term `information’: information-how and information-that. Elsewhere, these are referred to as instructional information and factual information respectively. Information-how is information that consists of instructions about how to carry out a task or achieve a goal and it is carried by imperative sentences. In contrast, information-that is information to the effect that some state of affairs obtains and is carried by indicative sentences.

    No doubt there are parallels between the instructional/factual information dichotomy and the knowledge-that/knowledge-how dichotomy in epistemology. With the latter, it is sometimes argued that knowledge-how is ultimately reducible to knowledge-that. According to Fox, whether this is so or not, it certainly is the case that the parallel reduction of information-how to information-that can be carried out. He provides a simple reduction method that I find acceptable and use.

  2. Fox argues persuasively for a definition of information which identifies it with propositions. The information that ‘bananas are yellow’ is identified with the proposition that bananas are yellow. This is a definition with which I strongly agree and I already held this view prior to coming across it in this book. In fact, it is probably the most common held view. Identifying information with propositions rewards an account and explication of the nature of information and facilitates working with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *