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.

Radical constructivism accentuates the subjectivity of constructions of reality and thus refutes the possibility of insights gamed by independent observers. In the context, constructivistic didactics hold out the prospect of a modelling of subject-oriented worlds of learning in the course of a corresponding averting of linear-causal models. The author examines constructivistically oriented didactic concepts as a result of pedagogical strategies of gratification with the help of which radical queries can be smoothed out and fitted into current debates on reform.

Bexte P. (2005) Heinz von foerster in the art department: A collide-oscope in four parts. Kybernetes 34(3/4): 485–489. https://cepa.info/1011

Purpose: To provide illumination of how systems tend to produce an output nobody expected. It is in these moments that observers may learn something about their own expectations. Design/methodology/approach – The paper discusses two cases in the history of art: faked Vermeer paintings and a test Heinz von Foerster did in the art department at the University of Illinois. Findings: McLuhan’s notion of the “collide-oscope” is applied to the way Heinz von Foerster (ab)uses images in his own texts; furthermore it is applied to the way the BCL was organized. The formal structure of the “collide-oscope” offers a model of perception. Originality/value – Provides a discussion of a fundamental message of cybernetics – that we cannot escape collisions and disturbances. They are its essence. Relevance: This paper relates to the second-order cybernetics of Heinz von Foerster.

Brier S. (2002) Varela’s Contribution to the Creation of Cybersemiotics: The calculus of self-reference. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 9(2): 77–82. https://cepa.info/3205

Excerpt: The idea of evolution of living beings did not establish a firm foothold in the thinking of our culture until the 19th century. Evolution, though a biological concept, was nevertheless basically understood as a material change in body structure and function. In such a materialistic view great problems occur when one is trying to explain how mind came into being. How is it possible that the original “dead” world consisting of “pure” matter can foster living beings or observers with a sense of their own psychic existence?

Buchinger E. (2014) Second-Order Observation in Social Science: Autopoietic Foundations. Constructivist Foundations 10(1): 32–33. https://cepa.info/1155

Open peer commentary on the article “Second-Order Science: Logic, Strategies, Methods” by Stuart A. Umpleby. Upshot: Second-order science requires a specific methodology. It thereby reverses the classical observer-observed relation in favor of the observed - i.e., the first-order observers - if the principle of autopoiesis is acknowledged.

Cariani P. (1992) Emergence and artificial life. In: Langton C. G., Taylor C., Farmer J. D. & Rasmussen S. (eds.) Artificial life II. Addison-Wesley, Redwood City CA: 775–798. https://cepa.info/4930

Excerpt: There has been a long-standing debate – from Leibnitz to Lady Lovelace to the present – over whether purely computational devices are capable of fundamentally-creative, truly emergent behavior. This paper will discuss various kinds of devices capable of emergent behaviors and take up the question of whether we can by purely computational means amplify our capacities as observers and actors in the physical world.

Cariani P. (1993) To evolve an ear: Epistemological implications of Gordon Pask’s electrochemical devices. Systems Research 10(3): 19–33. https://cepa.info/2836

In the late 1950's Gordon Pask constructed several electrochemical devices having emergent sensory capabilities. These control systems possessed the ability to adaptively construct their own sensors, thereby choosing the relationship between their internal states and the world at large. Devices were built that evolved de novo sensitivity to sound or magnetic fields. Pask’s devices have far-reaching implications for artificial intelligence, self-constructing devices, theories of observers and epistemically-autonomous agents, theories of functional emergence, machine creativity, and the limits of contemporary machine learning paradigms.

W. Ross Ashby was a founder of both cybernetics and general systems theory. His systems theory outlined the operational structure of models and observers, while his cybernetics outlined the functional architecture of adaptive systems. His homeostat demonstrated how an adaptive control system, equipped with a sufficiently complex repertoire of possible alternative structures, could maintain stability in the face of highly varied and challenging environmental perturbations. The device illustrates his ‘law of requisite variety’, i.e. that a controller needs at least as many internal states as those in the system being controlled. The homeostat provided an early example of how an adaptive control system might be ill-defined vis – vis its designer, nevertheless solve complex problems. Ashby ran into insurmountable difficulties when he attempted to scale up the homeostat, and consequently never achieved the general purpose, brainlike devices that he had initially sought. Nonetheless, the homeostat continues to offer useful insights as to how the large analogue, adaptive networks in biological brains might achieve stability.

Cariani P. (2011) The semiotics of cybernetic percept-action systems. International Journal of Signs and Semiotic Systems 1(1): 1–17. https://cepa.info/2534

In this paper, a semiotic framework for natural and artificial adaptive percept-action systems is presented. The functional organizations and operational structures of percept-action systems with different degrees of adaptivity and self-construction are considered in terms of syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic relations. Operational systems-theoretic criteria for distinguishing semiotic, sign-systems from nonsemiotic physical systems are proposed. A system is semiotic if a set of functional sign-states can be identified, such that the system’s behavior can be effectively described in terms of operations on sign-types. Semiotic relations involved in the operational structure of the observer are outlined and illustrated using the Hertzian commutation diagram. Percept-action systems are observers endowed with effectors that permit them to act on their surrounds. Percept-action systems consist of sensors, effectors, and a coordinative part that determines which actions will be taken. Cybernetic systems adaptively steer behavior by altering percept-action mappings contingent on evaluated performance measures via embedded goals. Self-constructing cybernetic systems use signs to direct the physical construction of all parts of the system to create new syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic relations. When a system gains the ability to construct its material hardware and choose its semiotic relations, it achieves a degree of epistemic autonomy, semantic closure, and pragmatic self-direction.

Cariani P. (2012) Infinity and the Observer: Radical Constructivism and the Foundations of Mathematics. Constructivist Foundations 7(2): 116–125. https://cepa.info/254

Problem: There is currently a great deal of mysticism, uncritical hype, and blind adulation of imaginary mathematical and physical entities in popular culture. We seek to explore what a radical constructivist perspective on mathematical entities might entail, and to draw out the implications of this perspective for how we think about the nature of mathematical entities. Method: Conceptual analysis. Results: If we want to avoid the introduction of entities that are ill-defined and inaccessible to verification, then formal systems need to avoid introduction of potential and actual infinities. If decidability and consistency are desired, keep formal systems finite. Infinity is a useful heuristic concept, but has no place in proof theory. Implications: We attempt to debunk many of the mysticisms and uncritical adulations of Gödelian arguments and to ground mathematical foundations in intersubjectively verifiable operations of limited observers. We hope that these insights will be useful to anyone trying to make sense of claims about the nature of formal systems. If we return to the notion of formal systems as concrete, finite systems, then we can be clear about the nature of computations that can be physically realized. In practical terms, the answer is not to proscribe notions of the infinite, but to recognize that these concepts have a different status with respect to their verifiability. We need to demarcate clearly the realm of free creation and imagination, where platonic entities are useful heuristic devices, and the realm of verification, testing, and proof, where infinities introduce ill-defined entities that create ambiguities and undecidable, ill-posed sets of propositions. Constructivist content: The paper attempts to extend the scope of radical constructivist perspective to mathematical systems, and to discuss the relationships between radical constructivism and other allied, yet distinct perspectives in the debate over the foundations of mathematics, such as psychological constructivism and mathematical constructivism.