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Information era highlights problems, importance of philosophy

PAN YUEFEI | 2018-11-01
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The development of information civilization has brought new challenges and opportunities to contemporary philosophical studies. Photo: FILE


An information civilization is developed when informatization and intelligentization have been realized on the foundations of communication technology, cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence. The development of an information civilization has presented contemporary philosophical studies with new challenges and opportunities.

Duan Weiwen, a research fellow from the Institute of Philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that information platforms have become a basic interface for production and living. Contemporary philosophy is presented with the opportunity to grasp the essence of this new form of social existence, revealing the future trends of human development against the background of informatization and intelligentization, exploring the significance of this new stage of civilization on the evolution of human civilization.

Yang Qingfeng, a professor of philosophy from Shanghai University, said that if contemporary philosophy can be considered a form of resistance, expressed by our times, set against a type of arrogance embodied within traditional rationality, then the development of technology in information society lays down the material foundation for this kind of resistance. This new resistance adopted by contemporary philosophy stresses technical practices, existing as the opposite of theories. Enormous energy will be released when it clashes with traditional rationality.

Duan suggested that the fundamental challenge presented to philosophy by the modern information era is that the complexity of human development in material and spiritual terms has gone far beyond the human level of cognition or ability to process. In the face of a future of greatly diverse and complex forms of knowledge and practices, the wisdom-loving attitude embodied by philosophy shows the way forward, because it is premised on the acknowledgement of one’s own ignorance. Only in this way can the human race accept the uncertainty of the future and grasp the secrets of civilization, Duan said.

Contemporary philosophy adopts a type of resistance that stresses technical practices, and this way of resistance brings uncertainty to technology and modern practices, Yang said. This uncertainty constitutes a core aspect of the challenges facing contemporary philosophy. Humanity needs to solve the problems caused by information technology and construct a liberal relationship between humanity and technology, he added.

Liu Yongmou, a professor of philosophy from the Renmin University of China, said the intelligent revolution has an overall, deep-seated and fundamental impact on society. The intelligent revolution is also double-edged, and philosophy can help identify the risks of intelligent society from a macroscopic, future and critical perspective, he said. Philosophy will play a role in studying artificial intelligence and cognitive science. At the same time, the intelligent revolution will greatly affect social governance and the social system, and philosophical reflections may also contribute to intelligent governance.

Duan suggested that informatization and intelligentization will reveal the intrinsic information technology of humanity and the world; information will form a connection among all things.Ontological studies will present ways for us to comprehend this new form of existence of humanity and the world, he said. In terms of epistemology, the problems of identifying cognitive division, cognitive trust and epistemic dependence present new challenges to existing epistemology, which identifies individuals and the professional community as the subjects of cognition.

In the face of opportunities and challenges, academic circles are paying great attention to the future development of contemporary philosophy. Yang suggested that cloud-computing, big data and artificial intelligence will bring the world to an unprecedented technological peak. Being at the technological peak will facilitate reconsideration of the basic issues of traditional philosophy, from a new and technology-inspired perspective.

Liu suggested that Chinese philosophical circles should pay attention to and study the issues of science and technology. Students of contemporary philosophy lack basic knowledge of natural science and technology, and the divisions between the social sciences, the humanities and the natural sciences should not be so distinct in philosophical education.


(edited by SHAO YIJIA)