Information and the History of Philosophy

According to the publisher, “Information and the History of Philosophy is the first comprehensive investigation of the history of philosophical questions around information, including work from before the Common Era to the twenty-first century. It covers scientific and technology-centred notions of information, views of human information processing, as well as socio-political topics such as the control and use of information in societies.”

Information is, technically, everywhere around us: from tree rings, to shopping lists and so-called ‘quantified selves’. But what exactly is information? How can you acquire, process, or control it? How does information shape individual lives and entire societies?

While talk of an ‘information age’ might be somewhat recent, actual thinking about information goes way back. Or at least traces of it. This edited volume contains original studies into the philosophical history of thinking about information by the most amazing authors, who I was so lucky to have contribute to the work. The papers address questions about the metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and socio-politics of information. If you’re curious about the (pre-)history of philosophical reflections on, or related to, information, this collection could help you get on your way.


Introduction, by Chris Meyns

Part 1: Information before 500 CE: Natures

  1. Yinyang information: Order, know-how and a relation based paradigm, by Robin R. Wang
  2. Plato on the act of informing: Meaningful speech and education, by Tamsin de Waal
  3. On information in Aristotle: Nature, perception, knowledge, by Miira Tuominen
  4. Information and history of psychiatry: The case of the disease phrenitis, by Chiara Thumiger

Part 2: Information 500–1500: Access

  1. Vācaspati on aboutness and decomposition, by Nilanjan Das
  2. Seeing and recognition in the Arabian Nights and Islamic Alexander legends, by Anna Ayse Akasoy
  3. Avicenna on information processing and abstraction, by Luis Xavier López-Farjeat
  4. Thomas Aquinas on cognition as information, by Cecilia Trifogli

Part 3: Information 1500–1800: Control

  1. Leibniz as a precursor to Chaitin’s Algorithmic Information Theory, by Richard T. W. Arthur
  2. Information visualisation in the Philosophical Transactions, by Chris Meyns
  3. ‘Dwindled into Confusion and Nonsense’: Information in a copyright perspective from the Statute of Anne to Google Books, by Stina Teilmann-Lock
  4. Information in the pursuit of social reform, by Lynn McDonald

Part 4: Information in the nineteenth century: (Dangerous) systems

  1. The nineteenth-century information revolution and world peace, by Edward Beasley
  2. Charles Babbage’s economy of knowledge, by Renee Prendergast
  3. Mendel on developmental information, by Yafeng Shan
  4. Information and eugenics: Francis Galton, by Debbie Challis and Subhadra Das

Part 5: Information after 1900: Insurgencies

  1. The racialization of information: W.E.B. Du Bois, early intersectionality, and social information, by Reiland Rabaka
  2. The many faces of Shannon information, by Olimpia Lombardi and Cristian López
  3. Computers and system(s) science—the kingpins of modern technology: Lotfi Zadeh’s glimpses into the future of the information revolution, by Rudolf Seising