Publication 1810

Scott B. (1996) Second-order cybernetics as cognitive methodology. Systems Research 13(3): 393–406. Fulltext at
For some of us, the attraction of cybernetics is the very idea of it, the idea that the search for transdisciplinary truths is both possible and valuable. Many would accept that cybernetics has helped unify the first-order study of observed systems. In this paper, I explore ways in which second-order cybernetics may unify debates and discussions in the vast range of disciplines concerned with the observer, his experiences and his accounts of those experiences. The first part of the paper is deliberately first person and anecdotal, in the spirit of von Foerster’s dictum, life is studied in vivo not in vitro. The second part re-examines the classic cybernetic concepts of self-organisation and circular causality from the perspective of the constructivist epistemology of second order cybernetics and, by making the metaphorical status of the concepts explicit, shows how second order cybernetics may serve as a methodology for exploring modes of being. A major aim of the paper is to seek ways of navigating or building bridges between the praxes of rational science and the discourses of phenomenology and poetics.

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