Publication 3330

Brier S. (2007) Applying Luhmann’s System Theory as Part of a Transdisciplinary Frame For Communication Science. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 14(2–3): 29–65. Fulltext at
Luhmanian sociocybernetics is an observation of socio-communicative systems with a specific difference. It is a second order observation of observations understanding society as being ‘functionally differentiated’ into autonomous autopoietic subsystems or meaning worlds in the symbolic generalized media such as money, power, truth, love, art and faith. Only communication communicates and the social is communication. The social system creates products of meaning which do not represent an aggregation of the content of individuals’ minds. The bioand psychological autopoietic systems only establish boundary conditions for the sociocommunicative systems, they do not control the socio-communicative system in any way. Somehow the socio-communicative systems seem to develop on their own (by will?) although they have no body and no subject. The psychic system in Luhmann’s theory is thus not a Kantian or Husserlian transcendental ego in spite of Luhmann’s use of aspects of Husserl’s phenomenology (while at the same time destroying its philosophical frame). On the other hand, Luhmann works with an open ontology, combined with Spencer-Brown’s philosophy that making distinctions is what creates the difference between system and environment. Thus observation is basic to the theory-but where is the observer in the theoretical framework of system theory? The inspiration from Hegel is hidden here, where distinction, creation and evolution merge. Also, Hegel has been taken out of his metaphysical frame while Luhmann never took the time to finish his own. On the other hand, the father of the pragmatic triadic semiotic C. S. Peirce-also inspired by Hegel-explicitly confronted some of these problems. Like Bataille, Peirce sees a continuity between mind and matter and his Firstness contains pure feeling, meaning that there is also an inner experience aspect of matter. The article compares Luhmann’s and Spencer-Brown’s strategies with Peirce’s, the latter of whom built an alternative transdisciplinary theory of signification and communication based on a Panentheistic theory of knowing. Surprisingly it fits well with Spencer-Brown’s metaphysics, which makes it possible to establish a consistent foundation for system theory.


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