Publication 3983

Brier S. (1993) A cybernetic and semiotic view on a Galilean theory of psychology. Cybernetics and Human Knowing 2(2): 31–33. Fulltext at
From the perspective of second order cybernetics this paper examines in which respects psychology can claim to be a science. It focuses on the limits of mechanistic description in the behavioral sciences. Through the Danish psychologist Iven Reventlow’s works, the article analyzes the use of the Galilean concepts of law in psychology. Reventlow attempts to create basic methods and concepts for a Galilean (law determined) psychology in the tradition of Kurt Lewin through work with animal models in the tradition of ethology. His standard experimental model is the male Stickleback guarding its nest – a small fish in its partly self-created world. Reventlow’s aim is to describe the “behavioral personality” of the organism keeping description and causal analysis and explanation on the behavioural level. To this end he works with a statistical model which do not hide the individuals characteristics by rolling them into an average. In this process, however, he finds that he cannot make a final separation of the organism and the environment. It is not possible to carry through either the mechanistic or the dualistic point of view. This finding is discussed in the light of von Foerster’s and Maturana’s second order cybernetic positions on the observer, observation, autopoiesis and the multiverse. The limitations of these theories carries the analysis further. A realistic, non-reductionistic and constructivistic viewpoint is developed from some of N. Luhmann’s formulations.


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