Ernst von Aster’s Theory of InformationJune 26, 2021
We will convey the thoughts of Ernst von Aster, who taught philosophy, history of philosophy, morality, and philosophy of law at Istanbul University for more than twelve years, on the theory of knowledge.
Aster is a philosopher who was brought up in the German neo-Kantian philosophy tradition. When he came to Turkey, Hans Reichenbach was teaching philosophy courses. Having devoted most of his life to research on the history of philosophy, Aster has returned to systematic philosophy in recent years.
The most important problem of his theory of knowledge is the “truth” problem. True and false are the adjectives we give to propositions. From ancient times, truth has been defined as conformity. This conformity is either the conformity of a proposition to an object, or the conformity of a proposition to other propositions. These two views have continued as a matter of debate throughout the history of philosophy. Recently, new positivists such as Carnap and Neurath have examined this second view and put forward what they call protocol propositions. These depend on the state of the observers and are considered to be correct with some records only provisionally. General propositions can be reached based on the protocol propositions. The truth of each proposition consists in its consistency with other propositions. So what is true is not a single proposition, but the logical system of all propositions formulated in the language of science.
A proposition that is tentatively accepted as true may turn out to be false when it turns out that other protocol propositions are often not reconciled. According to von Aster, this theory is not worthless. Von Aster explains his view of truth as follows:
“What does it mean to get a proposition to be true empirically? Someone says to me ‘it’s raining,’ and I want to know if it’s true. I look out the window: I see the sky, the clouds, the pavement shining like a mirror, the open umbrellas, and I say, ‘yes, it’s true, it’s raining.'” “Yes, I’m waiting for something when I say, ‘It’s raining. The confirmation of a proposition is always the confirmation of a wait. It is always these ‘Waiting’ that turns out true and false.”
Every proposition is a perceived sign. This sign indicates something that will always happen, something that is expected to come. Here the premise is just like a red or green light that indicates crossing the road. He makes something wait for those who understand this sign. Comprehension shows that the expected sign is true. So, the meaning of the sign is these waits.
What is wait?
According to von Aster:
1. We look at the facade of a building. We see this facade as an object.
2. I now remember this facade that I saw yesterday. Meanwhile, there is not the object but the recollection of its image.
3. When I search for the façade of the building, I design it with my imagination. I expect what will come out in the future, what I conceived. This wait happens. This realization is a mismatch between what I conceive and what I perceive.
We unconsciously expect many things. Some of these occur in consciousness. When something unexpected happens to me, I realize that I was wrong. Every sign accepted as true awakens a multitude of “waits” that directly govern our actions. We can guess what we’re waiting for. Our expectations govern our behavior. Each wait is linked to a behavior. For example, when I want to go out, I wait for the weather to be clear so as not to get wet. Our expectations either confirm or falsify our judgments. To say true or false, a proposition must be verifiable and falsifiable. This “validation” may not apply now. But it is enough that it is possible and imaginable. The occurrence of a wait is always the occurrence of a single wait. According to von Aster, the output of a single wait is never a complete confirmation of a proposition. Because we know that every proposition is only provisionally true. However, any proposition can be “true”.
It can rightly be said that not all the propositions of science are true; only possible. They express possibility, not truth. However, this new view does not change the main idea of the truth problem, according to Aster. Possible propositions need verification as much as true propositions, and verification is empirical. The only difference is that verifying a possible proposition is somewhat more complicated. A true proposition can turn out to be true or false in the same experiment. Not every verification proves the truth of the proposition, though. However, many experiments and statistics are required to confirm or falsify a possible proposition. For the possible proposition gives information to some extent from the frequencies of a phenomenon. A possible proposition is a proposition that needs verification like any other. In other words, it is the realization of a “waiting”.
According to Aster, there are important “boundary concepts” in philosophy that separate problems from each other. The foremost of these problems is “being”. “Why does something exist?” We cannot answer the question, we have to accept it as it is. For example, “Why does consciousness exist?”, “What is the essence of our consciousness?” like questions. We know that the duality of subject and object is conceived only through consciousness. But we cannot decipher consciousness itself. According to von Aster