Publication 6309

Cecchin G., Barbetta P. & Toffanetti D. (2005) Who was von Foerster, anyway?. Kybernetes 34(3/4): 330–342. Fulltext at
Purpose: What is therapy? Which would be today Heinz von Foerster’s answer? The authors try to unveil the mystery of an answer coming from a conversation among them. They think that Heinz von Foerster, like Gregory Bateson, was one of the most influential philosopher of therapy. In the paper they analyse some very basic key words – like trivial machine, human becoming – and key concepts – like “broaden the field of possible” – in order to understand if there is an order or a purpose in doing therapy. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is a confrontation between epistemology and therapy. The trick is that, unlike von Foerster, the authors are therapists. So probably their conversation will not be reliable. But usually therapists, in doing therapy, do not look for reliability. They try to be accountable, which is a different issue. Findings: Probably therapy is a language game. If yes, the language game of therapy is a trick without a trickster. A map in a stranger land. That can be considered the main finding which follows from von Foerster’s thought. Practical implications: Nevertheless, such a wrong map sometimes could help who is lost, provided that map and territory will never be the same thing. Originality/value – The original value of the paper is, first of all that it can be considered the last essay written by Gianfranco Cecchin before his death. In the very last period of his life Cecchin was considering and sounding a new perspective for therapy. Pietro Barbetta and Dario Toffanetti were working with him in therapy and theoretically to find new frames for therapies in the post-modern era.
Key words: cybernetics, ethics.

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