Citation for this page in APA citation style.           Close


Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
Isaiah Berlin
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
Michael Burke
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
Sam Harris
William Hasker
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
C. Lloyd Morgan
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Karl Popper
Huw Price
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf


Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
John Herschel
Werner Heisenberg
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek


Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
Is the Good something that exists in the world? Existentialists thought not. They thought we have freedom, but saw this freedom as absurd because there is nothing to help us evaluate our options. Without values, no evaluations. Most religions place the origin of good in a supernatural Being. Existentialists denied that Being. "God is dead," they said, and thus denied any essential objective Good.

The traditional source of normative values, of morality, of ethics, of what one "ought to do," has been religion. It is often said that science, the empirical study of the natural world, cannot possibly help us to define the good. David Hume is often cited as saying we cannot derive "Ought" from "Is." This is sometimes called the "fact/value" dichotomy. Science, it is said, can help us to do what we decide to do. It can help with prudential or instrumental decisions about "means," but not with moral decisions that depend on the intrinsic value of "ends."

It is difficult to generalize about the thousands of religions invented over the ages by their prophets and founders, but most include a code of moral behavior. Some founders told their followers that they had simply discovered the correct moral codes. Some prophets claim to have been explicitly told the "truth" about good and evil in a conversation with God, or by a mystical vision. With founders and prophets mostly long gone today, moral codes are typically handed down by various traditions.

The power of the institutions that has grown up around world religions lies entirely in their ability to limit the knowledge of their members to their beliefs about the "truth." Where these traditions vary in their beliefs, and they do disagree in fundamental ways, they cannot possibly all be right, unless all cultural beliefs are relative, which they may well be at the present time.

Humanists think that good and evil are human inventions, that value systems are relative to a local community or society. "Man is the measure of all things." Comparative ethics is the study of disparate value systems in the hope of finding come commonly held rules, for which one can claim some universal or objective significance, for example, the golden rule, "Do unto others" or commandments like "Thou shall not kill." Some philosophers make human life an objective good. Some make one own's life the ultimate good. Some think the good is the maximization of pleasure, or happiness, or well-being, for all humans (or maybe just one own's family, tribe, community, or nation?), John Stuart Mill, for example.

Modern bioethicists hope to avoid all this relativism by situating value in all life, seeing humanism as short-sighted, if generalized, self-interest. A variety of ancient religions looked to the Sun as the sustainer of all life and thus found an objective good outside of human life. They anthropomorphized the sun or the "bright sky" as God. Dark and night were stigmatized as evil and "fallen." Echoes of these ancient views persist in our metaphors of light, of enlightenment, as good.

Philosophers have ever longed to discover a cosmic good. The ideal source of a cosmic good is perhaps as remote as possible from the Earth in space and as distant in time. Many theologians and philosophers think it must be "outside space and time." For Plato, it was a timeless Good to be found in Being itself. For his student Aristotle, it was a property of the first principles that set the world in motion. For Kant, it was a transcendental and "noumenal" God outside the everyday "phenomenal" world of experience.

Information philosophy has found that the story of human evolution does not start with Darwin and DNA. It starts much, much earlier, at the very beginning of the universe. For those of you thinking that your origins and place in the universe might be found outside of animal evolution, beyond a mere material explanation, you might be happy to learn that your most distant beginning was in the primeval formation of immaterial, abstract information, a kind of metaphysical spirituality you can tie directly to the information content of your innermost thoughts.

Ha information philosophy discovered the cosmic good? Does it at least identify the prerequisite source of anything resembling the Good? Yes, it does. Does it resemble the Good anthropomorphized as a God personally concerned about our individual goods? No, it does not. But it has one outstanding characteristic of such a God. It is Providence. Information philosophy has discovered the fundamental process in the universe that provides for our well-being. It provides the light, it provides life, it provides intelligence. For all of these things, should we not be thankful and reverent toward such a creative process, attitudes humans normally feel towards a providential god?

Information philosophy replaces the difficult problem of “Does God exist?” with the more tractable problem “Does Goodness exist?” Humanists situate values in reason or human nature. Bioethicists seek to move the source of goodness to the biosphere. Life becomes the summum bonum. Information philosophers look out to the universe as a whole, beyond the obviously beneficent Sun to find a cosmos that grew from a chaos. The growth of that cosmos continues today, in a cosmic creative process that formed the galaxies, stars, and planets, that led to life and then to the evolution of the information-processing minds that created language and logic. It is this process that we propose creates objective value.

Exactly how that is possible requires a subtle understanding of the second law of thermodynamics in an expanding and open universe. The second law is the tendency of isolated systems to become more disorderly, to increase the "entropy," a quantitative measure of disorder. When entropy increases in the system, information is destroyed irreversibly.

A very small number of processes that we call ergodic can reduce the entropy locally to create macroscopic information structures like stars and planets as well as microscopic ones like atoms and molecules. And most important to human beings, this creative process is not only responsible for our existence, it has made us creative individuals in its own image! In what sense? It is that we are creative beings. We are co-creators of the world we live in, wielding a power to create, for better or for worse, that is unparalleled in the history of the world.

Every living thing is an information processor. But the handling of information suggests four different levels of processing among the animals.

  1. The lowest organisms are created with a fixed amount of information that is essentially constant their entire lives. Their behavioral repertoire is almost completely instinctive. They have little or no learning capability. Their automatic reactions to environmental conditions are "built in," transmitted genetically. Information about past experiences (by prior generations of the organism) is only present implicitly in those inherited reactions.

  2. Animals with a learning capability can acquire new information during their lifetimes. Their past experiences condition their current choices. Mostly habitual reactions are developed through experience, including instruction by parents and peers.

  3. The ability to predict the future evolved in animals with an Experience Recorder and Reproducer that can play back beyond the current situation. These animals have foresight and imagination that help them evaluate the future consequences of their choices. They can generate alternative possibilities for future actions, based on the playback of multiple past experiences in similar situations.

  4. Normative information appears in human societies that have externalized and codified their past social experiences. Future actions are evaluated based in part on ideas about the past, in addition to the individual's actual experiences. Conscious deliberation about community and universal values influences the choice of behaviors.

All four levels are emergent, in the sense that they did not exist in the lower, earlier levels of biological evolution. The emergence of human beings also marks the emergence of information and information processing that is going on outside of biological organisms. The storage and retrieval of information in the form of writing, then printing, and now the world-wide web, has enabled the transmission of knowledge to leap over vast distances in space and time.

Francis Bacon saw clearly that knowledge is power. Information philosophy defines knowledge as information that has meaning for humans, in the sense that it expands the possible alternative actions to let us choose the best means to achieve our ends. The power of this knowledge is shown in the exponential growth of humanity on the planet. A mere ten thousand years ago the biomass of humans and their domesticated animals was about one percent of the biomass ot terrestrial vertebrates. Today it is near ninety percent. Humans have taken over the planet.

The Sum of human knowledge will soon be accessible to anyone in the world with a tablet computer or smartphone. We estimate this will be nearly the entire human population by the year 2020. If this comes to be the case, there is an opportunity to expose young children to the most universal of human values, perhaps before they have been indoctrinated by their local cultural values.

This will be vehemently opposed by conservative governments and fundamentalist religious forces whose hold on power depends on keeping young minds closed to "outside" ideas.

A battle rages between cosmic ergodic processes and chaotic entropic processes that destroy structure and information. Anthropomorphizing these processes as good and evil gives us a dualist image that nicely solves the monotheistic problem of evil." If God is the Good, God is not responsible for the Evil. Instead, we can clearly see an impersonal Ergodic behind Divine Providence – the cosmic source without which we would not exist and so a proper object of our reverence. And Entropy is the "devil incarnate," as Norbert Wiener saw.

The fundamental moral guide to action found in information philosophy is then very simple – when faced with a moral dilemma, choose to preserve information structures against the entropy. But the discovery of a cosmic source of value also suggest a basis for societal ethical and legal norms, as we explore below.

Celebrating the first modern philosopher, René Descartes, we call our model for value the Ergo. For those who want to anthropomorphize on the slender thread of discovering the natural Providence, we call it Ergod. No God can be God without being Ergodic, standing in opposition to the forces of darkness and destruction.

Ergodic processes are those that resist the terrible and universal Second Law of Thermodynamics, which commands the increase of chaos and entropy (disorder). Without violating that inviolable law overall, ergodic processes reduce the entropy locally, producing pockets of cosmos and negative entropy (order and information-rich structures). We call all this cosmic order the Ergo. It is the ultimate sine qua non.

Information Theory of Value
A Science of Morality?
The idea of a moral science has a long history. John Stuart Mill's Logic of the Moral Sciences was a major influence. Translated into German as Geisteswissenschaft, or science of the spirit, Mill's "moral science" was then back-translated into English as the Human Sciences or what has become the humanities in today's universities. Of course, David Hume and his great English colleague, Adam Smith, had given us a hundred years earlier great insights into what they saw as "natural" moral sentiments or feelings. Hume thought he could make a science of human nature based on laws as definite as Newton's laws of motion. But this was to be a failure.

Maybe so, but we believe a moral society should be and can be informed by the best scientific knowledge about human origins, human capacities, and our current status in the universe.

An Information-based Moral Code?
The first rule of an information-based morality is that all choices should be made so as to minimize the destruction of abstract information and concrete information structures. All natural processes increase the entropy. Some can decrease the entropy locally. These we call ergodic. In principle, one should calculate the entropy increase and the negative entropy gain for each choice and maximize the production and preservation of information.

Because abstract information can be duplicated and disseminated at near-zero cost in the information age, our second rule is that we should share all information (our knowledge Sum) to the maximum possible extent. Practically, this means nourishing and educating all the world's children, especially the females, who are more likely to assist in this project of nourishing and education than are the males.

By contrast, a concrete "information structure," or "wealth" in the form of low-entropy information-rich matter and energy, is subject to the laws of economic scarcity. The natural distribution of wealth and income among individuals follows statistics like Pareto's "80/20" rule, where the largest percentage of wealth is "normally" concentrated in a minority of the population.

Some inequality is the unavoidable consequence of the "normal" distribution of human intelligence and capability due to chance. It is also the avoidable consequence of the historically random distribution of opportunity, including the inheritance of material property. Redistribution of wealth through a progressive taxation system is the means to regulate income and wealth inequality to a societally acceptable norm that allows even the least capable humans to exercise their creative freedom to their limits.

A Minimum Moral/Political Message?
Information philosophy has established that every human being is uniquely capable of creating new information. This includes the abstract ideas that are the Sum of human knowledge. It also includes the creation of concrete information structures which add to the stock of material wealth, although material objects are subject to the laws of economic scarcity. From this, we can formulate our basic insight into human freedom and creativity,

Our Thoughts Are Free, Our Actions Are Willed, Self-Determined,
Limited Only by Our Creative Control Over Matter and Energy

Everything we know and much of the material value that we enjoy today is the product of past and present creative human beings. It is therefore of vital interest, a core value, for human society to protect that free creative power for everyone.

Deriving ought from is, we can say that human beings should have the right to exercise their ergodic freedom to create new ideas to the maximum of their individual potential.

This right requires a minimum standard of well-being and education, and a minimum of constraints on self-expression so society can hear those new ideas.

The right to exercise this creative freedom comes with a responsibility, an obligation to protect that freedom and opportunity for others, and to see that the fruits of that creativity are distributed as fairly as possible to all humanity, while preserving adequate property rights for the creator.

This is a kind of freedom that some philosophers have only dreamt of. Sadly, many more have denied this creative freedom as logically or physically impossible. We are finite beings, they say, compared to the infinite powers that they mistakenly imagine are in charge. Ironically, it is their limited minds that have created the idea of such infinite powers.

The fact is that human beings are the universe's highest form of pure information creator, a natural outgrowth of the universe's cosmic creative process. Humans are inferior to the cosmic process in its power over useful matter and energy. That is the providential gift of incoming the negative entropy or Ergo. But humans are superior to it as the creators of ideas. Our ideas are immaterial and potentially immortal if added to the Sum of human knowledge.

Those additions ensure that the lives of our descendants can always be richer and fuller than those of our ancestors, both materially and spiritually. As Einstein knew, it is our ideas that let us comprehend the almost incomprehensible power of the universe.

An Information-based Social Contract?

With reference to past declarations of human rights, the discovery of a universal and objective standard of value by information philosophy suggests the following elements of a universal social contract, to be accepted by individuals reaching the age of consent, in order to have full participation in the society.

As a person coming of age in human society, I freely consent to the following limits on my natural free agency, in order to preserve a more perfect society.

  • As I seek maximum freedom and opportunity for myself, I will protect equal freedom and opportunity for all other human beings.

  • As I am free to think whatever thoughts come to my mind, my self-determined actions will be responsible, limited by the equal rights of others.

  • As I seek to gain my maximum allowable share of economic wealth and personal well-being, I will do my best to help others earn their own maximal shares.

  • As I seek to acquire the knowledge that will ensure my own future well-being, I will help disseminate that knowledge to the world, insofar as knowledge is our common human creation and inheritance from our ancestors, made possible by the cosmic creation process that radiates negative entropy on all people equally.

  • I will do nothing to others, nor advocate such things, that I do not expect would be done to me in similar circumstances, according to the laws of society. Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others.

  • I respect the limited protection of an individual's right to their created intellectual and material property, but eventually some ideas become common properties and these include the laws that govern our social behaviors. Laws can forbid only actions harmful to society. Anything which is not forbidden by law cannot be impeded.

  • All persons can to contribute personally or through representatives to the formation of the laws. Laws must be the same for all, either as they protect, or as they punish.

  • All persons, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally admissible to all public places and employments, according to their capacity and without distinction other than that of their virtues and of their talents.

  • Since the laws are our common property, I will not use my financial or political power to change those laws in order to advance my own personal cause, or that of my family, my business, my community, not even my nation. My power to change the laws I will limit to my powers of persuasion and my power through the ballot box to approve legislation.

  • I will respect the right of others to hold and to express their conflicting beliefs. But I will not impose my beliefs on others, for example, by insisting they be encoded as laws of society, and I will not allow others to impose their own beliefs on me, other than by their powers of public persuasion.

  • My right to think freely and to determine my own actions means that I take responsibility for them, and will accept punishment for my illegal acts which harm others.

  • No one can be punished except under a law approved by the legislature, with information about the law published before the fact of any particular offending action.

  • Punishment may include incarceration to prevent further physical harm to others. Government has a monopoly on the use of force to arrest illegal behavior, because it is necessary for the common good. But that force must be only that necessary and must minimize harm to the offending person.

  • A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but if arrested for cause, does not have the right to resist arrest by authorities. Resistance is itself illegal. However, if the arrest is found to have been unjustifiable, a person is deserving of appropriate compensation for the harm, the loss of abstract freedom, and possibly loss of concrete material value such as wages.

  • No one should face arrest for an act that does no physical harm or dangerously threaten such harm to others. No law should prevent behavior simply because others find that behavior objectionable.

  • No form of speech expressing unpopular opinions, however harmful to the feelings of others, shall be cause for arrest.

For Teachers
For Scholars

Part Two - Knowledge Part Four - Freedom
Normal | Teacher | Scholar