Ackermann E. K. (2015) Author’s Response: Impenetrable Minds, Delusion of Shared Experience: Let’s Pretend (“dicciamo che io ero la mamma”). Constructivist Foundations 10(3): 418–421. https://cepa.info/2169
Upshot: In view of Kenny’s clinical insights, Hug’s notes on the intricacies of rational vs. a-rational “knowing” in the design sciences, and Chronaki & Kynigos’s notice of mathematics teachers’ meta-communication on experiences of change, this response reframes the heuristic power of bisociation and suspension of disbelief in the light of Kelly’s notion of “as-if-ism” (constructive alternativism. Doing as-if and playing what-if, I reiterate, are critical to mitigating intra-and inter-personal relations, or meta-communicating. Their epistemic status within the radical constructivist framework is cast in the context of mutually enriching conversational techniques, or language-games, inspired by Maturana’s concepts of “objectivity in parenthesis” and the multiverse.
Alroe H. F. (2000) Science as systems learning: Some reflections on the cognitive and communicational aspects of science. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 7(4): 57–78. https://cepa.info/3160
This paper undertakes a theoretical investigation of the “learning” aspect of science as opposed to the “knowledge” aspect. The practical background of the paper is in agricultural systems research – an area of science that can be characterised as “systemic” because it is involved in the development of its own subject area, agriculture. And the practical purpose of the theoretical investigation is to contribute to a more adequate understanding of science in such areas, which can form a basis for developing and evaluating systemic research methods, and for determining appropriate criteria of scientific quality. Two main perspectives on science as a learning process are explored: research as the learning process of a cognitive system, and science as a social, communicational system. A simple model of a cognitive system is suggested, which integrates both semiotic and cybernetic aspects, as well as a model of self-reflective learning in research, which entails moving from an inside “actor” stance to an outside “observer” stance, and back. This leads to a view of scientific knowledge as inherently contextual and to the suggestion of reflexive objectivity and relevance as two related key criteria of good science.
This paper is a discussion of the sustainability of a concept of “world” compatible with the “operative constructivism” and the operative conception of observation of systems theory of according to Niklas Luhmann. The paper scrutinizes the concepts of observation of H. von Foerster, H. Maturana, G. Günther and N. Luhmann, providing the general framework of “operative constructivism.” Particularly, the paper will focus on N. Luhmann’s understanding of the role of observation in the constitution of the self-reference of the social systems of the modern society. The case of the “systems of art” will be briefly inspected. What place shall we concede to the idea of an “objective” world, according to the systems theory? Are systems “objective”? According to N. Luhmann, for the description of systems only operations are “objective.” However, an operation is not an entity, which means that we need to depict a new kind of “objects,” very different from the ’thing-objectivity” of the ancient metaphysics and different from the Cartesian concept of “res.” What does objectivity mean according to systems theory? This question was at stake in the formulation of N. Luhmann’s Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft: Society is “weder Subjekt noch Objekt.” This paper attempts to address this formula. Relevance: The paper deals with the epistemological explanation of second-order observations in social systems according to Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory. It clarifies the world vision of the constructivism movement.
Balsemão Pires E. (2016) Second order ethics as therapy. Lambert Academic Publishing, Saarbrücken. https://cepa.info/4578
The classical formulation of the object of ethics refers to a knowledge of the rules of the adaptation of the human species to their natural environments, to normative expectations supposed in the others and to the biographical evolution of the self. Accordingly, a doctrine of the duties was edified on three pillars, embracing a reference to the duties towards nature, towards the others and towards oneself. Notwithstanding the fact that human action obeys to a variety of factors including bio-physiological conditions and the dimensions of the social environment, ancient and modern metaphysical models of ethics favored the commendatory discourse about the predicates “right” and “wrong,” concurring to ultimate goals. The ethical discussions consisted chiefly in the investigation of the adequacy of the subordinate goals to the final ends of the human action or in the treatment of the metaphysical questions related to free will or determinism, the opposition of the intentionality of the voluntary conduct of man to the mechanical or quasi-mechanical responses of the inferior organisms or machines. From a “second order” approach to the ethical action and imperatives, I propose with this book a critical analysis of the metaphysical and the Kantian ethics. Relevance: In “Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics” (1992) Heinz von Foerster referred the importance of the application of his notion of “second-order cybernetics” to ethics and moral reasoning. Initially, second-order cybernetics intended an epistemological discussion of recursive operations in non-trivial machines, which were able to include in their evolving states their own self-awareness in observations. The application of his views to ethics entails new challenges. After H. von Foerster essay, what I mean with “second-order ethics is an attempt to identify the advantages of the adoption of his proposal, some consequences in the therapeutically field and lines for new developments.
Context: For many people, religion and/or spiritual experiences are an important part of their daily lives - shaping their thinking and actions. Studying these experiences relies on qualitative religious studies (RS) research that engages respondents on a deeply personal level. Problem: Researchers are unable to provide an apolitical, value-free approach to research. There lacks a rigorous methodological approach to qualitative RS research that addresses this epistemological obstacle. This is particularly relevant when studying a cohort with radically different beliefs from the researcher. Method: Researcher coupling is presented as a topic that defines the researcher and her participants as a systemic entity. By demonstrating how the researcher’s worldview is tied to her research, an argument for personalised and relational observer-dependent research is presented. Five reflexive questions are proposed as a starting point for personalised research to demonstrate the relational and intersubjective nature of this activity. Results: By linking the researcher to her research and changing the goal of research from independent and objective research to one that is relational and contextual, the scholar can report on her research in an ethical and socially just manner by linking her worldview to her research. Implications: The traditional research activity is redefined as one that should embrace the scholar’s worldview instead of attempting to hide it. The scientific ideals of independence and objectivity are replaced by interdependence and hence a proposal is made for personalised research that embraces the intersubjective nature of this activity. This proposal is meant to alleviate some of the epistemological weaknesses in RS. This paradigm shift promotes rigour as a qualifier for methodology including changes to how research is categorised. Constructivist content: Margaret Mead’s ideas of observer dependence in anthropological research and how the observer constructs her research findings are discussed. The circularity that exists in this relational context is analysed according to Bradford Keeney’s ideas on recursion and resultant future behavioural correction. Ranulph Glanville’s ideas of intersubjectivity and his concept of “in the between” are used as a foundation for the researcher-participant relationship. Ross Ashby’s notion of experimenter coupling is used as a basis for researcher coupling.
Purpose: There is a lack of epistemological considerations in religious studies methodologies, which have resulted in an on-going critique in this field. In addressing this critique, the researcher’s observer effect needs to be actively accounted for owing to the influence of the researcher’s epistemology in the author’s research. This paper aims to answer the question of why a researcher should address one’s epistemology in the research. Design/methodology/approach – Using second-order cybernetics as an approach, observer dependence is exemplified and justified in the context of religious studies research methodology. The research activity is shown as a relational temporal coupling that introduces inter-subjective aspects to the research. The research process is analysed showing the need to provide scope for the researcher’s epistemology in one’s research. Findings: A relational observer-dependent approach to research embraces the epistemology of the researcher and the participants providing equality in the relationship. The research results are thus framed according to the nature of the relationship and are thus not detached. This addresses social justice and reduces troubling truth claims. Research limitations/implications – This first paper focuses on the question of why epistemology should be included in scholarly research. A detailed framework for how scholars may achieve this goal is to be part of the future study and is not presented in this paper. Practical implications: In many positivist approaches there is a motivation to hide the researcher; however, recently there has been a move towards including authors in the first person, realising that science is tied to politics, which does not reach its ideals of objectivity. Cybernetics is presented as an approach to addressing the move from “objective” to “subjective” research. Social implications – Researchers cannot get into the minds of their participants and thus an authorial privileged presentation by the researcher of the participant’s experiences is fraught with epistemological weaknesses. Attempting to own one’s own epistemology could address social justice in research by personalising the research and accounting for the observer effect and the inter-subjective attributes of the research relationship. Originality/value – The principle of observer dependence in cybernetics is not new; however, a research approach that focuses on the nature of knowing and how this may influence one’s research in religious studies is uncommon. It is thus presented here as a viable option to address the critique of epistemologically weak research methodology in religious studies.
Becerra G. (2016) De la autopoiesis a la objetividad: La epistemología de Maturana en los debates constructivistas [From autopoiesis to objectivity: Maturana’s epistemology within the constructivist debates]. Opción. Revista de ciencias humanas y sociales 32(80): 66–87. https://cepa.info/4528
This paper analyzes Humberto Maturana’s understanding abour the objectivity of scientific knowledge through a critical dialogue with other contemporary epistemological constructivist theories. The two subjects discussed are the relations between knowledge-reality and knowledge-society, which are the most common senses that guide the philosophical discussion about objectivity. This paper also includes a systematization of the main theses of Matuana’s biology of cognition, and a brief evaluation of the role of the notion of “autopoiesis” for the understanding of objectivity.
Bitbol M. (2009) Decoherence and the constitution of objectivity. In: Bitbol M., Kerszberg P. & Petitot J. (eds.) Constituting objectivity: Transcendental perspectives on modern physics. Springer, Berlin: 347–357. https://cepa.info/6884
A transcendental interpretation of decoherence theories is presented, as a middle way between the realist and empiricist interpretations. From a transcendental standpoint, the latter interpretations are both biased. The realist one is biased in favor of formal constructs taken as descriptive of a reality more real than phenomena; and the empiricist one is biased in favor of phenomena, thus forgetting that they acquire their meaning from the formalism in which they are embedded. By contrast with these two positions, transcendental epistemology sees decoherence as one step in a stratified process of constitution of objectivity adapted to microphysical phenomena.
Bitbol M. (2012) Downward causation without foundations. Synthese 185(2): 233–255.
Emergence is interpreted in a non-dualist framework of thought. No metaphysical distinction between the higher and basic levels of organization is supposed, but only a duality of modes of access. Moreover, these modes of access are not construed as mere ways of revealing intrinsic patterns of organization: They are supposed to be constitutive of them, in Kant’s sense. The emergent levels of organization, and the inter-level causations as well, are therefore neither illusory nor ontologically real: They are objective in the sense of transcendental epistemology. This neo-Kantian approach defuses several paradoxes associated with the concept of downward causation, and enables one to make good sense of it independently of any prejudice about the existence (or inexistence) of a hierarchy of levels of being.
Four of the papers in this issue belong with a set, still in progress, of papers devoted to the implications of the work of Humberto Maturana. Imoto reviews the philosophical nature of Maturana’s work and concludes that Maturana has provided a renewed view of objectivity based on our human biology of cognition. Russell and Ison, as well as Bilson consider the implications of assuming a constitutive ontology in two different domains of praxis, namely in stakeholder involved research, and in addressing the vexed issue of power in social service programs, respectively. Bond addresses the concerns of a runaway technology, and offers a reconciliation between technology and art, suggesting an escape from the demands of technology through generating and participating in networks of conversations as works of art, in what I see as an aesthetic composition of a world to live forth.