Information and Consciousness: A Critique of the Mechanistic foundation of the Concept of In-formation

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Søren Brier


Cybernetics & Human Knowing, Volume Vol. 1, Issue 2/3 (1992)



<p><i>The paper presents a discussion of the epistemological and ontological problems of attempts to found information concepts on the often implicit mechanistic idea that the physical sciences hold the key to the nature of reality and information. It is furthermore shown through an analysis of the ethological and the Batesonian understanding of cognition and behavior that it is impossible to remove the fundamental epistemological position of the observer through a definition of information as neg-entropy. Instead Maturana and Varela&#39;s concepts of autopoiesis and multiverse are invoked. But where the idea to derive information from the concept of negentropy is too physicalistic Maturana&#39;s idea of a multiverse seems to be too close to a constructivistic idealism. To develop a more fruitful non-reductionistic world view it is shown that the more pragmatic understanding of physics, where thermodynamics is understood as the basic discipline and mechanics as an idealization, opens for a non-reductionistic con-ceptualization of chaos. Attention is drawn to C.S. Peirce&#39;s conception of pure chance as living spontaneity which is to some degree regular as a realistic but non-reductionistic theory, which comprises a solution to the different world view problems of Bateson and Maturana. A fruitful connection between second order cybernetics and semiotics will then be possible and a bridge between the technical-scientific and the humanistic-social parts of cybernetics can be developed.</i></p>