The Need for Philosophy in Information Science

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What seems to be clear from how meaning can be configured and represented is that knowledge is strongly influenced by various philosophical attitudes. Erwin Schrödinger stated that knowledge obtained within the confines of a discipline remain isolated in a narrow field. For such knowledge to be of any significance it has to be synthesised “with all the rest of knowledge” to be able to make a contribution towards answering core philosophical questions. The belief that one discipline on its own can be the only right path to truth needs to be challenged through an awareness of a certain amount of blindness found in assumptions and ideologies, and the danger of hanging onto them due to their familiarity. A narrow approach cultivates a narrow view.

An example of the influence of philosophical approaches on a discipline is found in information science. Two broad attitudes towards philosophy in information science serve as examples of how change in the various disciplines affects the humanities and social sciences at large. The two main attitudes are first of all those who recognise the existence of philosophy in information science, and the need for developing it further. A second group is against this opinion arguing that it is unnecessary and not ‘practical’, that there is too much of it already.

The relationship between philosophy and information science comes a long way. Reuben Peiss identified the affinity between philosophy and the library field as follows: “philosophy, as the love of knowledge, and libraries which are repositories of knowledge.” Jesse Shera stated that librarians are “dealing only incidentally with things but primarily with ideas, concepts, and thoughts.”


Keywords: Information Science, Philosophy, Knowledge, Interdisciplinarity
Stream: Knowledge
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Need for Philosophy in Information Science, The


Karin McGuirk

Lecturer, Department of Information Science, Unisa (University of South Africa)
Pretoria, Gauteng Province, South Africa

Currently registered for a Doctoral study (Information Science).Teach in areas of information ethics; philosophy of information; political economy of information; relationship between thinking, culture, information and technology; theory of information science. Special interest in the role of philosophy in information science, relationship between humans and knowledge, ‘post-human’ and virtual reality. Study background in Achaeology and Museology.

Ref: H08P0423