This interview was held in April 1997 in Heinz von Foerster’s home in Pescadero. In this interview, questions by Albert and Karl H. Müller are marked in italics. The German version has been published as Foerster H.v. (1997). Der Anfang von Himmel und Erde hat keinen Namen. Eine Selbsterschaffung in sieben Tagen (A. Müller and K. H. Müller, Eds.). Vienna: DöckerVerlag. The English translation has been prepared by Michael Kasenbacher and Elinor Rooks. It will be
Foerster H. von, Müller A. & Müller K. H. (2011) Radikaler Konstruktivismus aus Wien: Eine kurze Geschichte vom Entstehen und vom Ende eines Wiener Denkstils. Bibliothek der Provinz, Weitra.
This book pursues two different agendas. On the one hand this volume presents two important contributions by Heinz von Foerster, which are both related strongly to Vienna. The first contribution is a reprint of Foerster’s early book on memory (Das Gedächtnis), published in 1948. The second contribution is a reflection by Heinz von Foerster on the Vienna Circle as a parable for a specific style of thought. The second agenda for this book lies in a historic and systematic account of a Viennese intellectual tradition or, to use Ludwik Fleck’s term, a Viennese thought collective with a specific style of thought. This thought collective comprises, inter alia, Ernst Mach and Otto Neurath as their most prominent exponents. In this book the argument has been made that Heinz von Foerster became socialized into this specific style of thought, which manifests itself clearly in his first big publication, namely in his book on memory. Moreover, it can be shown that the roots of important components of radical constructivism already existed within this specific Viennese thought collective.
Foerster H. von, Müller A. & Müller K. H. (2014) The beginning of heaven and earth has no name. Fordham University Press, New York NY.
Heinz von Foerster was the inventor of second-order cybernetics, which recognizes the investigator as part of the system he is investigating. The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name provides an accessible, nonmathematical, and comprehensive overview of von Foerster’s cybernetic ideas and of the philosophy latent within them. It distills concepts scattered across the lifework of this scientific polymath and influential interdisciplinarian. At the same time, as a book-length interview, it does justice to von Foerster’s élan as a speaker and improviser, his skill as a raconteur. Developed from a week-long conversation between the editors and von Foerster near the end of his life, this work playfully engages von Foerster in developing the difference his notion of second-order cybernetics makes for topics ranging from emergence, life, order, and thermodynamics to observation, recursion, cognition, perception, memory, and communication. The book gives an English-speaking audience a new ease of access to the rich thought and generous spirit of this remarkable and protean thinker. Relevance: It presents the most comprehensive interview with Heinz von Foerster available in English.