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Interdisciplinary Research between Theoretical Informatics and the Humanities
Information 2011, 2(4), 624-634; doi:10.3390/info2040624
Essay

Towards Quantifying a Wider Reality: Shannon Exonerata

1,2
1 Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8525, USA 2 University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Solomons, MD 20688-0038, USA
Received: 14 July 2011 / Revised: 14 September 2011 / Accepted: 26 September 2011 / Published: 25 October 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Selected Papers from "FIS 2010 Beijing")
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Abstract

In 1872 Ludwig von Boltzmann derived a statistical formula to represent the entropy (an apophasis) of a highly simplistic system. In 1948 Claude Shannon independently formulated the same expression to capture the positivist essence of information. Such contradictory thrusts engendered decades of ambiguity concerning exactly what is conveyed by the expression. Resolution of widespread confusion is possible by invoking the third law of thermodynamics, which requires that entropy be treated in a relativistic fashion. Doing so parses the Boltzmann expression into separate terms that segregate apophatic entropy from positivist information. Possibly more importantly, the decomposition itself portrays a dialectic-like agonism between constraint and disorder that may provide a more appropriate description of the behavior of living systems than is possible using conventional dynamics. By quantifying the apophatic side of evolution, the Shannon approach to information achieves what no other treatment of the subject affords: It opens the window on a more encompassing perception of reality.
Keywords: apophasis; constraint; entropy; flexibility; hegelian dialectic; information; meaning; positivism; probability; sustainability apophasis; constraint; entropy; flexibility; hegelian dialectic; information; meaning; positivism; probability; sustainability
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ulanowicz, R.E. Towards Quantifying a Wider Reality: Shannon Exonerata. Information 2011, 2, 624-634.

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