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A logic of ethical information

Joseph E. Brenner

pp. 109-133


The work of Luciano Floridi lies at the interface of philosophy, information science and technology, and ethics, an intersection whose existence and significance he was one of the first to establish. His closely related concepts of a philosophy of information (PI), informational structural realism, information logic (IL), and information ethics (IE) provide a new ontological perspective from which moral concerns can be addressed, especially but not limited to those arising in connection with the new information and communication technologies. In this paper, I relate Floridi's approach to another novel perspective, namely, that of an extension of logic to complex real processes, including those of information production and transfer. This non-propositional, non-truth-functional logic (logic in reality (LIR)) is grounded in the fundamental dualism (dynamic opposition) inherent in energy and accordingly present at all levels of reality. The LIR description of the dynamics of processes and their evolution is relevant to what Floridi refers to as the possible non-linguistic aspects of information. It suggests answers to some of Floridi's "outstanding problems' in PI related to the ontological status of information and how it is used in cognition. Floridi's IL retains the formal structure of the doxastic and epistemic logics from which he correctly distinguishes it and is the basis for his conceptual PI. However, LIR fulfills Floridi's implied requirement that logic be regarded as a natural phenomenon dealing with other natural phenomena, recovering its original philosophical function. LIR provides a logical foundation for discussion of ethical questions based on kinds of information that complements IL. Both are reconsiderations of logic that, as Marijuan suggests, may be necessary for the advancement of information technology in an ethical direction (cf. also Brenner). IE focuses on entities as constituted by information in an overall strategy that generalizes the concept of moral agents. LIR and its related ontology naturalize critical aspects of Floridi's theses, especially, the moral value of being as such and a non-separable joint responsibility of individuals and groups. I compare IE to other current approaches to ethics and information technology (e.g., phenomenological and social constructivist). Ethical information is defined "ecologically" in process terms as reality in a physical space (cf. Floridi), with an intentional "valence," positive and negative, in the morally valued interaction between producer and receiver. LIR is neither topic-neutral nor context independent and can support an ethics involving apparently contradictory perspectives (e.g., internalist and externalist). Ethics involves practical reasoning, and unlike standard logics, LIR supports Magnani's approach to abductive reasoning in rational moral decision making. The basis of moral responsibility and the consequent behavior of individuals involved in information and communications technologies is the same logical–metaphysical principle of dynamic opposition instantiated at other levels of reality. The way moral responsibilities are actively accepted (or not) by individuals supervenes on their primitive psychological structure, which in turn reflects an evolutionary development grounded in the fundamental dualism of the physical world. The paper concludes with some suggestions of areas of philosophical research, such as causality, identity, and the ontological turn, where convergence of the Floridi and LIR approaches might be envisaged. Their overall motivation is the same, namely, the development of strategies for reinforcing and increasing ethical sensitivity wherever possible. The ethical information concept outlined in the paper supports the function of IE, assigned to it by Floridi, of potentially determining what is right and what is wrong.

Publication details

Published in:

Demir Hilmi (2010) Luciano Floridi's philosophy of technology. Knowledge, Technology & Policy 23 (1-2).

Seiten: 109-133

DOI: 10.1007/s12130-010-9099-3


Brenner Joseph E. (2010) „A logic of ethical information“. Knowledge, Technology & Policy 23 (1-2), 109–133.