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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book
This book is a classic, well worth reading for those with any kind of interest in contemporary epistemology or the philosophy of mind. Dretske develops an ingenious and elegant theory of informational content, and then puts it to work giving information-theoretic analyses of knowledge, perception, beliefs and concepts. Not surprisingly, since he's tackling hard...
Published on October 29, 2000

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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not something to spend time with.
Dretske starts with Claude Shannon's mathematical theory of communication, and from this foundation, tries to justify a semantic theory of information and explain something about perception, meaning, and belief.

In this book, Dretske reminds one of a philosopher who, upon understanding the beauty in a small portion of applied mathematics, tries to explain the...
Published on February 28, 2010 by Real Name


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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, October 29, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Knowledge and the Flow of Information (Paperback)
This book is a classic, well worth reading for those with any kind of interest in contemporary epistemology or the philosophy of mind. Dretske develops an ingenious and elegant theory of informational content, and then puts it to work giving information-theoretic analyses of knowledge, perception, beliefs and concepts. Not surprisingly, since he's tackling hard problems, there are difficulties with these, and Dretske himself has changed his position quite a bit since 1981. But in each case his attack on the problem at hand is of at least as much interest as where he ends up. Dretske begins his account of perception, for instance, by reworking the analogue/digital distinction, using the modified version to give a clear and plausible account of the distinction between perceptual and cognitive processes. Whatever the fate of his theory of perception itself, this a good idea, and has been deservedly influential. The book is filled with good ideas of this kind.
Finally, a comment on the preceding review. The claim that meaning can be quantified is neither the main nor any other thesis of Dretske's book, and foisting it on him is wildly unfair. Drestke clearly and often distinguishes between the meaning of a sign and the information it carries. Moreover, his account of informational content certainly isn't just communication theory in disguise, as he hammers home time and again. As if this wasn't enough, early in chapter 2 Dretske explicitly rejects as absurd the claim that the amount of meaning in a message can be measured. Since warning lights of these kinds appear in the preface and regularly in every chapter thereafter, the preceding reviewer must indeed have found Dretske's (perfectly lucid) prose indigestible. There's every sign that he just hasn't bothered to digest it.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic, October 8, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Knowledge and the Flow of Information (Paperback)
~It's kinda nonsense to call a thought nonsense without any argument against it. It is in fact a totally sensible position (actually many great philosophers hold it) to consider meaning as quantifiable.
This book is a classic of both epistemology and philosophy of mind. I don't agree with Dretske that our cognition is only concerned with digitalization, so that perception is mainly out of conceptualization. But the application of digital/analog distiction is really helpful to understand our~~ cognition in terms of information flowing. As one reader said, I really like this part of the book.
Also, his contribution to the definition of knowledge should not be neglected. There are a few philosophers who think of knowledge in terms of information, rather than in terms of justification. Although few people are interested with knowledge now, this line of thought is very intuitive and elegant.
It's been more than 20 years, since this book was published. But still, many parts of this~~ book help to understand more contemporary discussions of epistemology and philosophy of mind.~
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, August 4, 2014
This review is from: Knowledge and the Flow of Information (Paperback)
I WANT TO SEE THE TABLE CONTENTS OF AMAZON BOOKS!!!
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not something to spend time with., February 28, 2010
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This review is from: Knowledge and the Flow of Information (Paperback)
Dretske starts with Claude Shannon's mathematical theory of communication, and from this foundation, tries to justify a semantic theory of information and explain something about perception, meaning, and belief.

In this book, Dretske reminds one of a philosopher who, upon understanding the beauty in a small portion of applied mathematics, tries to explain the world with his newly found tool. Of course he does not explain the world; only expansive topics of perception, meaning, and belief. Dretske is clearly awed by Shannon's innovative work--we can excuse him for that. Shannon's theory opened up an entire field of study and technology.

For those who already understand the mathematics of information theory, Dretske takes the well-defined mathematical concept of mutual information and evaluates it at a particular value, in symbols:

I(S;R=ri)=H(S)-H(S|R=ri), where I(S;R=ri) is the mutual information, H(S) is the entropy of S, and H(S|R=ri) is the conditional entropy evaluated at a particular value of R=ri. S and R are variables representing source and receiver messages.

Dretske calls I(S;R=ri) the amount of information carried by a particular signal ri. He grounds the entire book on this concept, yet, this foundation nearly becomes irrelevant after he defines the information content of a signal: "A signal r carries the information that s is F" = P(s is F|r,k)=1.

Now Dretske turns to conditional probability for answers to deep philosophical questions. Yet philosophers and scientists are far from understanding the nature of probability itself, and it is not clear that a conditional probability of 1 says anything more than exactly that. You may say that P(X|Y)=1 means that Y carries information about X, but that interpretation adds nothing to our understanding--it simply defines a natural language sentence in terms of a probabilistic sentence. Philosophers looking to justify their work by connecting natural language concepts to math might find this impressive. Others will see it for what it is: using 'big words' or 'mathematical words' to sound smart.

Check out Shannon's original paper on 'information' theory online:
[...]
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11 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst university press book I have ever read, February 24, 2000
This review is from: Knowledge and the Flow of Information (Paperback)
I was required to read this book in grad school (I was embarrassed for the teacher, since the selection reflects on the selector). It is a genuinely awful book. The style was (for me, at least) indigestible. The main thesis of the book, that *meaning* -- as opposed to bit configurations -- can be *quantified* is not just nonsense, but *frightening* nonsense, since quantifying everything gets funded these days. The book is worth buying if you want to discover how appalling what Joseph Weizenbaum described in his fine book: "Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to calculation" can get!
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Knowledge and the Flow of Information
Knowledge and the Flow of Information by Fred Dretske (Paperback - March 1, 1999)
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