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.
Context: Society is faced with “wicked” problems of environmental sustainability, which are inherently multiperspectival, and there is a need for explicitly constructivist and perspectivist theories to address them. Problem: However, different constructivist theories construe the environment in different ways. The aim of this paper is to clarify the conceptions of environment in constructivist approaches, and thereby to assist the sciences of complex systems and complex environmental problems. Method: We describe the terms used for “the environment” in von Uexküll, Maturana & Varela, and Luhmann, and analyse how their conceptions of environment are connected to differences of perspective and observation. Results: We show the need to distinguish between inside and outside perspectives on the environment, and identify two very different and complementary logics of observation, the logic of distinction and the logic of representation, in the three constructivist theories. Implications: Luhmann’s theory of social systems can be a helpful perspective on the wicked environmental problems of society if we consider carefully the theory’s own blind spots: that it confines itself to systems of communication, and that it is based fully on the conception of observation as indication by means of distinction.
Open peer commentary on the article “Maturanian Observer-Dependent Immunology” by Nelson Monteiro Vaz. Abstract: I highlight Vaz’s contributions to the field of immunology and the radical invitation of his proposal to think about the implication of the observer in the construction and investigation of immunology, as an object of knowledge, in language. Luiz Andrade
The present paper wants to show the extent to which prosody, or best, prosodies, as Firth (1948) put it, contribute in their own and specific ways to enaction, at various levels of operational closure. On the one hand prosodies (stress, accent, melody) are linked to speech and exchange in a non-escapable fashion, as opposed to gesture for example. Hearing speech implies hearing syllables, tones, intensity variations; it does not imply seeing face or gesture (though one may object the language-dependency of prosody – gesture pairings). Simon & Auchlin (2004) described the independent timings of parameters, such as pitch range, height and intensity, speech rate: the first two or three syllables of speech alone inform on speaker sex, age, mood, investment in speech, importance of speech for her, or intentionality; the meaning of the whole utterance is obtained much later, thus the first flow somehow frames the second which, in turn, may allow blending with previously accessed information. In that way, linguistic meaning incorporates prosodic manifestations. On the other hand, one of the most basic prosodic dimensions, namely speech rate (articulation rate + pauses) is properly speaking a shared dimension between speaker and hearer: no one can hear slowly, or more rapidly than the speaker speaks. Speech rate is properly un-escapable, or necessarily shared dimension in dialogue. Indeed, interpreting is constantly anticipating – but anticipations timing still depends upon speech rate. Note that speech rate is also un-escapable for the observer, provided (s) he enacts the discourse, turning herself into a participant in the piece of interaction (s) he wants to describe (Auchlin, 1999). Sharing the temporal grid, i. e. entering it, is essential to such now. Indeed, interactionists’ work (P. Auer, E. Couper-Kuhlen, F. Müller; M. Selting; J. Local, i. a.) precisely describe verbal interactions’’ ballet temporality. Yet, their descriptive claim, which constrains empirical work, deliberately rejects any kind of theoretical conclusion or generalization; and their need to '‘objectively’’ describe speech events firmly contradicts what is mandatory for the enactive approach, namely the epistemological experientialist turn, first posited by Lakoff & Johnson (1980). The present paper examines a couple of emblematic cases of prosodic enacting meaning experience that should contribute to grounding the concept, both on its epistemological and its empirical sides.
Bäcker A. (2021) Zur Autopoiesis der Einbildungskraft [Towards the autopoiesis of imagination]. Gestalt Theory 43(2): 167–178. https://cepa.info/7444
Already in the romantic it has been assumed, that there is an existential interrelation between nature, human being and mind. According to this idea, there is a narrow interrelation of creation between literature, science, dream and reality, which should be expressed in a progressive universal poetry. Gestalt theory and the concept of autopoiesis, developed by Maturana and Varela, could be regarded as a scientific enhancement of this approach and are united in that sense. By analyses of dreams, it becomes evident, that neurobiological and mental processes are determined by the same principles of self-constitution and gestalt production. They are attending in equal measures to homeostatic conditions. The interaction of living systems with their environment as well as their evolution base on recursive reorganisation. Following this principle, imagination, speech and self-reflection are developed. The observer comes to existence by his own distinctions. Phenomenal appearance and real existence, poetry and scientific findings are results of the autopoietic organisation of living, of which we form a part.
The paper recalls some skeptical comments Norbert Wiener made regarding the potential use of cybernetics in social sciences. A few social scientists were seduced by cybernetics from the beginning, but cybernetics never really caught on in sociology. The paper argues that one reason for this may lie in the mathematical theory of communication entertained by early cybernetics. This theory which maintains that there are probability distributions of possible communication is at odds with the sociological theory’s idea of a communication driven by improbable understanding. Yet the move from first-order cybernetics to second-order cybernetics, by re-entering the observer into the very systems she observes, provides for a bridge between cybernetics and sociology.
The paper deals with Aristotelian logic as the special case of more general epistemology and sociology of both science and common sense. The Aristotelian principles of identity, of noncontradiction, and of excluded middle are to be supplemented by the secondorder cybernetic, or cybernEthic principles of paradox, of ambivalence, and of control. In this paper we collect some ideas on how to evaluate the scope of Aristotelian logic with respect to the laws of thought they tried to determine and to do so within the historical moment of the impact of the invention of writing possibly triggering this determination. We look at some modern doubts concerning these laws and discovering an understanding of complexity that is not to be resumed under any principle of identity. The invention of sociology, epistemology, and the mathematics of communication follow suit in focusing not only on the observer but more importantly on the distinction between observers to further contextualize any talk of identities and operationalize both talk and fact of contradiction, paradox, and ambivalence.
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.
Balint T. S. & Pangaro P. (2017) The emerging roles of the observer on human space missions: Curated autonomy through boundary objects. In: Proceedings of the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2017), Volume 18. International Astronautical Federation, Paris: 12309–12324. https://cepa.info/7369
The roles of art, design, and architecture on long-duration human space missions could have deep, significant impact on the functional capabilities of human environments in space, far beyond mere form and aesthetics. Yet, today’s technology-driven paradigm of space design pays limited attention to “soft” disciplines that relate to artistic and designerly modes of operations. This current worldview is governed by engineers and project managers. “Soft” considerations are looked at as nice-to-have add-ons at the end of the project, dependent on resource availability. While sufficient for short missions, this unnecessarily constrained view of artistic and designerly modes must change for long-duration missions, as the crew spends nearly 100% of their time inside a severely limited volume, in virtual isolation. Thus, it becomes necessary for all the systems, usable objects, and artistic artifacts inside the habitat to be connected to the goal of facilitating engaging interactions with the crew. Artifacts – as boundary objects in the intersection of various disciplines – facilitate circular conversations between an observer (crew member) and the environment of the spacecraft, and have many important functions. They provide emotional connections and comfort, promote well-being, support autonomy, help thinking to evolve novel ideas, and aid discovery and entertainment. When designing for experiences and interactions in space, artists, designers, and architects are able to look at artifacts from the perspective of the crew as observers, and imagine a rich set of interactions through various aspects and stages of the spaceflight. As a result, these artifacts support the higher-level needs of the observer, beyond basic physiological, psychological, and safety needs. They are designed for the well-being of the crew members, while sustainably utilizing the habitat volume and resources. In this paper we systematically show how human-centered roles and circular conversations between the observers and their environments can be incorporated into the culture of designing for space travel through the involvement of artists, designers and architects, from an early stage of designing the mission and its elements. This process is inclusive of the people who envision and create the environments and user experiences, and those who experience, use, and evolve them. Making the case about the importance of these considerations may help artists, designers, and architects to reframe the discourse of their contributions to space exploration and, in effect, find a stronger acceptance from the decision makers of a technology-driven human space exploration paradigm.
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.