Baecker D. (1994) The intelligence of ignorance in self-referential systems. In: Trappl R. (ed.) Cybernetics and systems: Proceedings of the Twelfth European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research, Vienna, Austria, 5–8 April 1994. World Scientific, Singapore: 1555–1562. https://cepa.info/7609
Self-referential systems theory does not provide for a concept of intelligence. There is even a certain resistance to intelligence that seems to block any explicit exchange of concepts with artificial systems theory. The paper describes the intelligence service in self-referential systems as the self-referential and, hence, paradoxical switching from the self-reference of these systems to other-reference. How this might work is shown by means of G. Spencer Brown’s calculus of indications and Heinz von Foerster’s notion of double closure.
Baecker D. (2013) A calculus for autopoiesis [Maturana and education as a multivocal and transforming daily experience]. In: Baecker D. & Priddat B. P. (eds.) Ökonomie der Werte: Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Michael Hutter. Metropolis, Marburg: 249–226. https://cepa.info/7679
The paper looks once more at the understanding and definition of autopoiesis as developed by Humberto R. Maturana, Francisco J. Varela, and Ricardo Uribe. We will focus on the question whether George Spencer-Brown’s Laws of Form presents us with a possibility of translating Maturana’s definition into a kind of a calculus. We look at Maturana’s emphasis on components, networks, and boundaries and try to figure out how this emphasis can translate into an understanding of form that knows about self-reference, paradox, and play.
The paper is a reading of Martin Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Even) by means of Ranulph Glanville’s notions of black box, cybernetic control and objects as well as by George Spencer-Brown’s notion of form and Fritz Heider’s notion of medium. In fact, as Heidegger was among those who emphasized systems thinking as the epitome of modern thinking, did in his lecture on Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom a most thorough reading of this thinking, and considered cybernetics the very fulfilment of modern science it is interesting to know whether second-order cybernetics, as it was not known to Heidegger and as it delves into an understanding of inevitable complexity and foundational ignorance, falls within that verdict mere modernity or goes beyond it. If modern science in its rational understanding considers its subjects to be objects sitting still while being observed, then indeed second-order cybernetics is different. It looks into the observer’s interactions with black boxes, radically uncertain of where to expect operations of a self, but certain that we cannot restrict it to human consciousness.
Brier S. (2009) Cybersemiotic Pragmaticism and Constructivism. Constructivist Foundations 5(1): 19-39. https://constructivist.info/5/1/019
Context: Radical constructivism claims that we have no final truth criteria for establishing one ontology over another. This leaves us with the question of how we can come to know anything in a viable manner. According to von Glasersfeld, radical constructivism is a theory of knowledge rather than a philosophy of the world in itself because we do not have access to a human-independent world. He considers knowledge as the ordering of experience to cope with situations in a satisfactory way. Problem: Von Foerster and Krippendorff show that the central goal of a constructivist theory of knowing must be to find a way of putting the knower into a known that is constructed so as to keep the knower, as well as the knowing process, viable in practice. Method: The conceptual and philosophical analysis of present theories and their necessary prerequisites suggests that such foundation for viable knowing can be built on the analysis of what the ontological prerequisites are for establishing viable observing, cognition, communication and observer-communicators, and communication media and vehicles. Results: The moment an observer chooses to accept his/her own embodied conscious presence in this world as well as language, he/she must accept other humans as partly independently existing conversation partners; if knowledge and knowing has to make sense, he/she must also accept as prerequisites for our observation and conversation a pre-linguistic reality from which our bodies come and which our conversation is often about. Furthermore, we can no longer claim that there is a reality that we do not know anything about: From being here in conversation, we know that the world can produce more or less stable embodied consciousnesses that can exchange and construct conceptual meanings through embodied conversations and actions that last over time and exist in space-time and mind, and are correlated to our embodied practices. We can also see that our communication works through signs for all living systems as well as in human language, understood as a structured and progressively developed system of communication. The prerequisite for this social semiotic production of meaning is the fourfold “semiotic star of cybersemiotics,” which includes at least four different worlds: our bodies, the combination of society, culture and language, our consciousness, and also an outer nature. Implications: The semiotic star in cybersemiotics claims that the internal subjective, the intersubjective linguistic, our living bodies, and nature are irreducible and equally necessary as epistemological prerequisites for knowing. The viable reality of any of them cannot be denied without self-refuting paradoxes. There is an obvious connectedness between the four worlds, which Peirce called “synechism.” It also points to Peirce’s conclusion that logic and rationality are part of the process of semiosis, and that meaning in the form of semiosis is a fundamental aspect of reality, not just a construction in our heads. Erratum: The paper erroneously refers to “pleroma.” The correct term is “plemora.”
Cariani P. (2010) On the Importance of Being Emergent. Extended Review of “Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory” edited by Bruce Clark and Mark B. N. Hanson.Duke University Press, Durham, 2009. Constructivist Foundations 5(2): 86-91. https://constructivist.info/5/2/086
Upshot: Emergence and Embodiment is a highly worthwhile and well-crafted collection of essays on second-order cybernetics that draws together ideas related to self-organization, autopoiesis, organizational closure, self-reference, and neurophenomenology. Chapters include articles by Heinz von Foerster, Francesco Varela, Niklas Luhmann, George Spencer-Brown, and Evan Thompson and external commentaries on them that analyze the relevance of their ideas in the context of social and cultural theory. Despite some projective distortions to cybernetics that arise from the internal imperatives of culture criticism, the book contains many valuable insights and analyses of core ideas of cybernetics that significantly advance our understanding of them.
Ene P. (2013) Descriptions as Distinctions. George Spencer Brown’s Calculus of Indications as a Basis for Mitterer’s Non-dualistic Descriptions. Constructivist Foundations 8(2): 202–208. https://constructivist.info/8/2/202
Context: Non-dualistic thinking is an alternative to realism and constructivism. Problem: In the absence of a distinct definition of the term “description,” the question comes up of what exactly can be included in non-dualistic descriptions, and in how far the definition of this term affects the relation between theory and empirical practice. Furthermore, this paper is concerned with the question of whether non-dualism and dualism differ in their implications. Method: I provide a wider semantic framework for the term “description” by means of George Spencer Brown’s terminology in his calculus of indications as laid out in Laws of Form. The connection of descriptions and distinctions enables descriptions to comprise reflections and language as well as empirical observations. Results: Non-dualism can be thought of in different ways but still has essential elements in common with dualism. Implications: Non-dualism, as well as dualism, is an argumentation technique suitable for specific situations, but without significant differences in implications.
Glanville R. (1990) The self and the other: The purpose of distinction. In: Trappl R. (ed.) Cybernetics and systems ‘90: Proceedings of the European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research. World Scientific, Singapore: 1–8. https://cepa.info/2839
In this paper, the nature of distinction drawing, in the sense of George Spencer Brown, is examined with special reference to the distinction between the self and the other. It is noted that a distinction, which must draw its self, also requires an other and a transfer distinction, both within a particular distinction and for that distinction to be part of, and that these can generate the purpose of the distinction as becoming, of, by and for itself.
Glanville R. & Varela F. J. (1981) “Your inside is out and your outside is in” (Beatles 1968). In: Lasker G. E. (ed.) Applied Systems and Cybernetics: Proceedings of the International Congress on Applied Systems Research and Cybernetics, Volume 2. Pergamon, New York: 638–641. https://cepa.info/2094
This paper examines the grounding of George Spencer Brown’s notion of a distinction, particularly the ultimate distinctions in intension (the elementary) and extension (the universal), It discusses the consequent notions of inside and outside, and discovers that they are apparent, the consequence of the difference between the self and the external observer. The necessity for the constant redrawing of the distinction is shown to create “things”. The form of all things is identical and continuous. This is reflected in the distinction’s similarity to the Möbius strip rather than the circle. There is no inside, no outside except through the notion of the external observer. At the extremes, the edges dissolve. The elementary and.the universal thus re-enter each other. “Your inside is out and your outside is in.”
Gumbrecht H. U. (1996) Form without matter vs. form as event. MLN 111(3): 578–592. https://cepa.info/7919
Excerpt: The occasionally authoritative gestures of Niklas Luhmann’s writing may intimidate those who do not also perceive his gentle touches of irony. He seems to enjoy presenting obscure authors and counterintuitive arguments with so radical a lack of introductory scaffolding that readers may feel guilty about their own astonishment – and may, out of this feeling of guilt, begin to consume books and subscribe to arguments whose pertinence (or lack thereof) they are far from understanding. Although Luhmann is probably not its author, the short thematic presentation on the cover of Probleme der Form, a collection of essays dedicated to the fascination, in systems theory, 1 with the work of the British mathematician George Spencer Brown, is a good example of this production of authority by lack of insistence: “Von der Form der Unterscheidung zu sprechen, wie G. Spencer Brown es vorschlägt, löst den Formbegriff aus seinen Gegenüberstellungen zu Materie, Substanz 2 oder Inhalt. Er wird damit frei für einen Kalkül von Bezeichnungen, die in Abhängigkeit von Unterscheidungen getroffen werden und sich auf die Einschluß- und Ausschlußoperationen von Unterscheidungen hin beobachten lassen. Daraus läßt sich eine Theorie der einseitigen Verwendung von Zwei-Seiten-Formen gewinnen [.… ].” 3 It is perhaps of some anecdotal interest to mention here that such emphasis on discussing the form-concept as detached from notions of “matter” and “substance” (which had been coupled to it ever since Aristotle) resonates with a structurally similar remark in the entry “Form” from the fifth volume of the New Catholic Encyclopedia, published in 1967, during the heyday of Western neomarxism: “In recent philosophy the term form rarely occurs and the issues concerning the relationships between form and matter are no longer argued, the term matter being generally used without reference to form.”
Hennig B. (2000) Luhmann und die Formale Mathematik. In: Merz-Benz P.-U. & Wagner G. (eds.) Die Logik der Systeme. UVK Universitätsverlag, Konstanz: 157–198. https://cepa.info/4487
EX: Niklas Luhmann verwendet in seiner soziologischen Systemtheorie offenbar etwas, das er den Büchern des englischen Mathematikers George Spencer Brown entnimmt. Dessen Formenkalkül ist für Luhmann, wie Günther Schulte treffend bemerkt, “Mädchen für alles, mit dem er nicht nur in der Lage ist Teezukochen, sondern auch Auto oder Straßenbahn zu fahren.” Der erste Blick in Spencer Browns Laws of Form vermittelt einen anderen Eindruck: nichts scheinen sie mit soziologischer Systemtheorie zu tun zu haben. Der vorliegende Text bearbeitet hieran anknüpfend eine recht bescheidene Frage, die sich gleichwohl jedem Luhmann-Leser schon einmal gestellt haben dürfte: Was wollen die Laws of Form und was will Luhmann mit ihnen? Als Antwort ergibt sich, nach Zurückverfolgung der relevanten Fußnoten, eine gute und eine schlechte Nachricht. Die schlechte Nachricht ist, daß die Lektüre der Laws of Form offenbar niemandem wirklich weiterhelfen kann, auch Luhmann selbst nicht. Die gute ist folglich, daß dem Luhmann-Leser die Notwendigkeit erspart bleibt, einen so dunklen, weil sparsamen Kalkül zu verstehen. Das meiste nämlich, was Luhmann den Laws of Form angeblich entnimmt, steht auf den zweiten Blick nicht darin. Er wird es also ohnehin durch andere Texte begründen müssen.