Luhmann Explained

Luhmann Explained (from Souls to Systems) . Hans-Georg Moeller . Open Court Publishing Company (Carus Publishing) . 2006 . ISBN13 978-0-8126-9598-4 . ISBN10 0-8126-9598-4

Preface

Luhmann’s basic claim is that society does not comprise of humans. This goes against the common opinion (conventional wisdom) that the individual is the pivot and society is civil; this is often seen as scandalous and antihumanistic. However, the objective of this book is to show that Luhmann’s theory explains the current reality well. Human beings are in this way denied a central role in society, but not because of a lack of respect for their material being, but because they are such a complex ‘assemblage’ that they are difficult to understand in terms of a single concept: ‘Luhmann’s theory should be read, I believe, not as a denial of human experience, but as an attempt to sort out and do justice to the extreme multiplicity, or, to put it more dramatically, the existential division of such experiences

[p ix]

. The project of modernity can be seen as attempt to reunite the Cartesian split between body and mind; Luhmann gives up this experiment and grants every aspect of human experience its own right of existence; in this sense he is more postmodern (whatever this may mean) than modern; but his ‘antihumanism’ is not a replacement of ‘human nature’ with systems. ‘Social systems theory does not describe reality as it “essentially” is, but as what it has actually become – and it could have come out otherwise’ [p x]. And he points out how unlikely the current outcome is: it is not in any way necessary: the strange functionings we are all part of are transitory and temporary, and not ‘essential’ nor ‘substantial’(DPB: I have used the word ‘substantial’ many times to point at the ‘organization’ of a firm, or the body of an organism &c.).

Introduction

The present book will highlight its (Luhmann’s social theory) unique relevance in regard to current social and political issues’ [p xi].

Part I

A New Way of Thinking about Society

1. What Is Social Systems Theory?

(a) Systems Theory

There are more complaints about being treated as a number. Economically all that matters is money. Politically there is perceived a lack of true democracy, in the sense of rule by the people. Organizations and multinational corps via political parties taking their donations gain influence over governments and out of the hands of citizens. Technology and mass media occupy more of people’s space and time; people feel marginalized bu sophisticated machines. Bio-engineering reduces the importance of people’s reproductive faculties and further dehumanizes them. People feel a need for ethics (professional, religious) to come to the aid of human values. Paradoxically all of the above developments are received with enthusiasm also: the end of deceases, the increase of intellect and the realization of human potential and, lastly (by the development of the markets) the increase of prosperity and freedom for all. These positive, optimistic and negative, pessimistic outlooks can be found in the same person; perhaps this is because both feelings are “humanist”. But the gap between present day society and what is conceived as a “human” world is large; pessimistic people may have a nostalgic inclination to change the world back to a more human version; optimistic people may want to change the attitude. The task of Social Systems Theory is do away with the traditional view of a human society that is used as a reference by both: society can no longer be understood as a human one, but it does not blame society (as the cultural pessimists do). ‘.. nor does it celebrate the dehumanization of the humane as the greatest human perfection’[p 5]. The starting point of social systems theory is that society cannot be analyzed on the basis that it is humane, or that it is an assembly of people. This seems odd, perhaps because we are used to traditional / Old European descriptions of society (a group of people with a common way of life) instead of our current actual experiences. This started with Plato and did not change much thereafter: a group model and communication between human beings, an anthropocentric approach to society. The change from the human centered approach to the social systems approach is to describe actions of people not as human interaction in the context of a community but as events in a function system (democratic, economic, mass media). From this follows a basic assumption: ‘human beings do not and cannot communicate – only communication can’ [p 6]. The change is that society is not described on the basis of its members (people or a community) but based on its events (what actually happens). The events are political, economic, and mass media communication: language is not a necessary requirement, ballots, money &c. can do the job (although language and semiotics have influenced social systems theory). But do these events not invariably point at one single member (e.g. vote, transaction, mass media consumption)? Physically yes, but individual people can take part in a number of communications simultaneously; these communications are handled by ‘instances of them’: therefore the nexus of communication cannot be the individual person. Their mental individuality is preserved because people mentally switch up and down between communications, but the individual communications do not and separate streams occur flawlessly and seamlessly. From the perspective of the communications the individuals are not an integrated part of the events of communication. In this sense people are an external condition for communication and not an internal sine qua non for it. When people talk then communication communicates: they can connect their communication to the communication of others but not themselves to the others themselves. Social systems theory distinguishes systems of communication (social systems), systems of life (organisms, brains), and systems of consciousness (minds); each of them is in the environment of the others; each of them is individual (human body, mind, communication) and singular (national economies are parts of the ‘economy’). Individuality is now a systemic individuality: people can be part of (are divided in) segments (namely one body, one mind, one or more communication system(s)) that form separate individualities. Neither of the individuals can claim to be the ‘essential’ element or the ‘true’ individual aspect of a human being: these systems are not in a hierarchical relation and hence they cannot exert control over the other: what aspect do you perceive if you ‘see’ that person over there? ‘Once more: this by no means denies that the human being has a body and a mind outside of communication – it is rather to absolutely confirm this, and to say that human beings exist as much bodily as they exist mentally and socially – but rather that none of these three realms can claim to include the other two. .. While minds, bodies, and communications can be “individual”, a human being cannot. The “human being” does not exist as a singular entity. According to systems theory, the traditional notion of the “human being” is a simplification of the actual complexity of human existence’ [pp. 10-11]. DPB: tnhis reminds me of the discussion with ML about the ‘role’ of people and her question: What kind of entities are your people: psychological, or social? Though people are referred to as unity’s or individuals who are supposed to communicate; but neither bodies nor minds can communicate; what is uttered is different from what is perceived: ‘Communication systems and mental systems are operationally separate. The “human being” can be reduced to neither one of them. Thus, social systems theory holds it that if “we” want to understand how society functions or operates, we cannot reduce it to such an extremely broad and “metasocial” notion as that of the “human being”’ [p 11]. Social systems theory tries to explain the growth of a social system using the same systems and concepts as biological organisms: ‘Systems theory diverges from such classical models (demiurge, first moves, creator god) and replaces the notion of external agency or “input” with the notion of self-construction. Reality is no longer a created one (neither a created one nor a created one) but a constructivist complexity. Every system produces itself and thereby its own reality. The world ceases to be a general “unit” or “oneness”. Reality is not an all-embracing whole of many parts, it is rather a variety of self-producing systemic realities, each of which forms the environment of all the others. There is no common “world” in reality, because reality is in each instance an effect of “individual” systemic autopoiesis. Reality is transformed from created oneness to constructed difference

[pp. 13 – 14]

. Varela describes: ‘This is the core of autonomy. This is also exactly what is meant by operational closure. My shortest definition is: The results of systemic operations are once more systemic operations. This is the case in many areas. (Biological) autopoiesis is only one example. Other examples are language, and, possibly, families, firms, etc. (1997, 148-9)

[p 14]

. Varela strongly suspects that autopoiesis is not merely a biological process but that it has a more wide meaning. Living systems each produce their systemic reality; what happens in their environment can produce a response but only in the boundaries and operational means of the system: There is neither a direct input nor an immediate output. ‘Social systems theory borrows not only the concept of autopoiesis from biological systems theory, but also the concept of operational closure. The theory views social systems as “operationally closed” because, like biological systems, they are self-producing “organisms” of communication that consist of the connecting of system-internal communication with system-internal communication’ [p 15]. Once established, the autopoietic system can only proceed by its own operational means: ‘It cannot import other means without losing its systemic integrity and its “membrane” and thus its reality’ [p 15]. The introduction of the concepts of autopoiesis and operational closure into the social theory entails a paradigm shift: ‘.. (assuming operational closure and autopoiesis) .. it also breaks with the epistemology of the ontological tradition that assumed that something of the environment enters the understanding and that the environment is represented, mirrored, imitated, or simulated within a cognizing system. In this respect, the radicalism of the new approach can hardly be underestimated (Varela 2002a, 114)’ [p 16]. DPB: this is I think exactly what I have tried to explain. And what John Holland has tried to model. I think what is meant in the above is that there is no mapping in the sense of a logical connection (as a map, a mirror image, imitation or simulation) between the reality (outside) and the cognitive system (inside); the boundary distinguishes what gets computed inside the system and what occurs outside. But the quote above means that anything goes in regards to the rules defining the anticipatory powers of the cognitive system concerning the uncertainties offered by the environment. ‘How a system is real depends on its own self-production, and how it perceives the reality of its environment also depends on its self-production. By constructing itself as a system, a system also constructs its understanding of the environment. And thus, a systemic world cannot suppose any singular, common environment for all systems that can somehow be “represented” within any system. Every system exists by differentiation and thus is different from other systems and has a different environment. Reality becomes a multitude of system-environment constructions that a re in each case unique’ [ p 16]. DPB: this last part is very important because it explains how systems namely firms are never twice the same. Operational closure means that systems can be open to one another, but not operationally so. Biological operations in a cell are only open to other biological operations, psychological operations in a mind only to other psychological operations in that mind and communicative operations only open to communicative operations in that system: ‘If you want to formulate it radically, you may say that cognition is only possible because there are no relation, no operative relations to the environment’ [p 17, Luhmann Theories of Distinction, p 93]. The question: Who sees the environment more correctly? has hence become obsolete in systems theory. Autopoietic systems (body, mind, communication) are operationally closed and thus open towards each other. They are also structurally coupled: communication can only occur where there is a body and a mind; a mind can only exist if there is a body. This dependency is called a structural coupling: ‘One cannot imagine that a consciousness could have evolved without communication. Similarly, one cannot imagine that there would be meaningful communication without consciousness. There must have been a kind of coordination, that, because it relates to the different forms of autopoiesis, lead, on the one hand, to an increase of complexity within the realm of possible mental contents and, on the other hand, within the realm of social communication. It seems to me that this mechanism of coupling is language (Luhmann Theories of Distinction, p 122)’ [p 19]. Structural coupling means that systems shape each others’ environments such that they both depend on the other for the continuation of their autopoiesis and this results in an increase of their structural complexity. ‘The structural coupling between the brain as a living system, the mind as a psychic system, and society as a communication system seems to be of a specific structure with the mind somehow in-between the two other systems. .. It seems that the mind is some kind of filter between the brain, on the one hand, and communication, on the other

[p 20]

. DPB: this reminds me of the idea that if the environment of some system were fully random than o brain (or mind) would have been required. The brain (an d the mind) serve to identify and make sense of and deal with (anticipate) patterns in the environment. And hence the development of cognition develops with the development of the pattern in the environment that is also a developing cognitive entity. They are both individuating as cognitive and thinking entities using each other as ‘practice material’.

(b) Social Systems

Social systems theory recognizes psychic and biological systems as their environment; it uses terminology from biology; but social systems do not really ‘live’, they do communicate. Society is metaphorically described as an ‘organism’ and in terms of ‘consciousness’. Social systems theory rejects the idea that society has a biological or a psychic grounding: life and consciousness are not a part of society and they operate outside society’s ‘boundary’ or ‘membrane’; communication has its own autopoiesis; society does not consist of human bodies or minds, but of communication events (money, language, gestures, &c.). ‘Orderly communication, in which we can first expect to be understood by others and second to understand them, emerges from double contingency. Not anything, but any communication goes on, but it goes on only if and when it is able to establish some kind of order, when the problem of double contingency on both sides of the “understanding” of that communication is solved. Communication that is not mutually understood will not continue’ [p 22]. DPB: this is exactly what I have tried to model in my Logistical Model: the party at either ‘end’ of the communication must perceive the utterance for it to become part of the communication. But what the perceived utterance in fact ‘is’ is unimportant: it is defined as a communication by the fact that it is being uttered and it is being perceived, and hence by the fact that the communication is not ended by a lack of either. This is also exemplified by an economic transaction: only if the buyer buys whatever is on offer is the transaction complete and the communication continues uninterrupted. Communication is then a unity of announcement, information and understanding (Mitteilung, Information, und Verstehen): ‘Communication only continues and grows if it establishes certain patterns that allow for it to continue in that certain way along with that certain order. All emerging patterns of communication (of announcement, information, understanding) – or social order – can be explained as a solution to the problem of double contingency. What is communicated and how it is communicated is totally contingent: there is no basic a priori condition for communication’ [p 23]. DPB: I have situated these communication events in situations. What I have left implicit is that the communication ‘wants’ to proceed one more event (and one more) and whatever is expressed only has the function as a stepping stone onto the next unknown event that bears some relation to the current, but is oblivious to the next: it is a road to nowhere. The equation of AIU (MIV) should only lead to the next event in a chain of events that only afterwards becomes clear, and no more is required of this threesome. ‘Once communication goes on, however, how it goes on is contingent upon these patterns that have been established’ [p 23]. DPB: this reminds again of Oudemans’ restrictions: at every state there are attractors and repellers for the next possible states. Once a system has developed an economy then that pattern is binding and it is only possible ‘.. to communicate economically by communicating economically. Nobody can buy anything with noneconomic communication’ [p 23]. In social systems theory these patterns of communication constitute society: ‘Society consists of social systems, of certain communicational “organisms” that emerged and have established their own specific types of operations’ [p 23]. DPB: interestingly the claim that these patterns áre social systems is left unsaid / implicit. I have claimed this on the basis of memetics: that these are selfish. Now I need to rephrase that into a claim that includes communication, social systems and taking into account individuation. The question is to what extent I can keep the memes alive? And to what extent I will need them, because to an increasing extent I feel that they are a kind of a support mechanism to explain and connect expression and perception (in my model); perhaps it is the same as communication as is it intended by Luhmann? Luhmann calls the individual communication systems function systems. DPB: I think Heylighen calls them aspect systems, which I prefer, because a function system is too intentional a term and aspect is more neutral. I also am not sure that they are really different (as in separable) systems: I am rather fond of the idea that a landscape of Jobs (are these the same as communication events?) exist where all kinds of ideas are undergoing operations. These can be part of more than one system: to which system they are decided to belong depends only on the observer: she decides which aspect system this specific Job belongs to. Now it gets tangled up if the aspect or function systems are called subsystems of society: ‘They are “subsystems” of society. Each function system has its own social perspective and creates its own social reality. They are all, so to speak “subrealities” of a general social reality. Still, they are not, strictly speaking, “parts” of a “whole”: society does not become less “whole” when a system ceases to function and it does not become more “whole” when a new on emerges’ [p 24]. DPB: it does makes sense if they, as they develop, also their reality develops with them as a proper cognitive system. But the “subsystems” are not integrated to form some kind of a super-system. In this sense society consist only of subsystems without a hierarchical relation between them or between them and a super-system. Now each of the function systems observes the other subsystems from its own perspective, unmediated. The function systems communicate based on their “codes”, namely the distinctions that identify them; these codes are further detailed in “programs”. DPB: but isn’t this upside down: form a body of details there emerges a distinction? Or is the distinction at the basis of all of the detail that specifies a subsystem? For the legal subsystem, the code is legal/illegal, and what is the distinction at the basis of the economy: economically true of false: ‘bought and sold’? The function systems procreate their own functioning and their own social function (‘Funktion’); the function of a social system can also be distinguished for its efficacy (‘Leistung’), namely how it contributes to the other social systems. ‘Modern function systems have developed into communicational “organisms that communicate with more effective and diverse tools than simply language. They have developed their own media. A medium is, simply put, that which can take on form in communication, and in the case of many function systems these media are called by Luhmann (on the basis of Talcott Parson’s terminology) “symbolically generalized communication media” (symbolisch generalisierte Kommunikationsmedien)’[p 26]. For example it is difficult to buy something or to serve a punishment with pure language, and hence additional measures are required: media. Media are capable of increasing the inequalities between the function systems if the symbolic expression of the one performs better than the set of the other: ‘Society does not expand lie leavening; it does not symmetrically grow in size, complexity, and differentiation as supposed by the nineteenth-century theories of progress (which could suppose this because they understood society as merely an economic system). Modern society rather increases the complexity of some systems and lets others wither. (The Society of Society 1997a, 391-92)’ [p 28] (bronverwijzing lijkt niet te kloppen). DPB: the medium is no part of my model, but it should be. This looks a lot like the medium of Heylighen, namely the Stigmergic medium in which the organisms exist and use it as an externalized memory. But also: why is language a medium and not just another evolving social system that has connections with other such function systems; in that sense it could have a role like some of the others (economy, science, religion &c) touching on more than one other function system? The media contribute to the dynamics of their systems. Communication systems have no ‘essence’, there is no natural order, nor unchanging stability: ‘All systems continue their autopoiesis, and thus they all “develop”. It seems that a central aspect of this development, especially in the conditions of a modern society, is the adequacy and efficacy of a system’s symbolically generated communication medium. These media seem to be decisive factors when it comes to gaining “social space” [ p 28]. Awkward media such as faith experience stiff competition with power or money or legislation, and hence contribute to the marginalization of ‘its’ function system. Function systems do not ‘cover’ the whole of society; some events do not fit in any one of them; for the formation of these trivial or temporary system-environment distinctions emerge: for that to happen it suffices that there is a double contingency. ‘In the terminology of social systems theory such short-lived “anarchic” social systems that do not fit into any of the established functional realms can be called “interactions” (Interaktionen). Interactions typically operate on a “face-to-face” level and presuppose physical presence (see Baraldi, Corsi, and Esposito 1997, 82-85) [p 30]. DPB: I have called the changing of a meme a Situation and on completion of the changing of memes I have called an Interaction; no physical presence is required, it can even be the result of a broadcast or an old newspaper article or a post on-line, whatever. As it seems to be intended here it is a waste bin of emerging distinctions such that they die out because the communication ceases to continue, similar to mine; what is different they should not match any of the existing ‘grand’ systems and apparently have no room to exist: ‘A casual conversation in the elevator begins and ends physical presence. Once the two people are back in their offices, they will continue to communicate in the function systems of law (if they are lawyers) or in the function systems of education or science (if they are professors). There they will communicate in a more systemic manner’ [p 30]. Luhmann calls these interactions ‘function-free’: I find this to be too serious (re just-so stories) and also it smells of reduction: now that we know that these sub systems exist we can start laying stuff on them / conversations in elevators are not systemic, but this depends on the view of the observer. ‘While interactions are the communicational sea on which the function systems float, there is another type of social system that is more closely intertwined with the function systems. This type of social system is small-scale in comparison with social subsystems, but large-scale in comparison with interactions – it is the increasingly important “organizations” (Organisationen)’ [p 31]. DPB: why is this another type? Can’t this just be the same type? They have developed along with the development of communicational subsystems of society: Politics>parties, Education> Schools, Economy> firms, Legal>courts, &c. Organizations are not necessarily confined to one subsystem and vice versa. ‘A central characteristic of organizations is membership. Organizations include people by accepting them into themselves. In order to enter a university, a sanatorium, or Al Qaeda, one has to somehow qualify for membership, for instance, by grades, a diagnosis, or a common enemy’ [p 31]. ‘Organizations can also be called “systems of decision”. What an organization does depends on its decisions. Their communicative life is mainly one of decisions. .. And the decisions of an organization are typically made in the context of further decisions. The autopoiesis of an organization thus becomes an autopoiesis of decisions – one decision generates endless decision-making (just think of serving on a university committee or making a managerial decision in a company). Luhmann says in regard to organizations: “As a result there comes into being an autopoietic system that is characterized by a specific form of operations: it produces decisions by decisions. Behavior is communicated as decision making’ [pp. 31-32]. DPB: an important intermezzo here is that the communication maintain itself autopoietically and so it has to keep going. That in itself is sufficient to not break the chain of communications, of decision making, and keep the organization intact and going. The importance of organizations increases as well as their power, as they occupy more and more ‘communicative space’ within various function systems. The entities (patterns) that can be distinguished are: functional systems, organizations and interactions; another might be social / protest movements.

Society is operationally closed from biology and psychology. And in the same way functional systems are closed from one another in their intrasocial environment. And if society is functionally differentiated then the functional communications cannot just connect to any other communications, but rather to their ‘own’ functional ‘strand’ (e.g. economic communications to economic communications &c.); per subsystem can autopoiesis only be maintained by communications of the same subsystem. By virtue of their codes, functions, media &c, have social subsystems come differentiated into systems with incompatible discourses: a quote from the Bible can in general no longer counter a scientific argument, one cannot represent oneself in a court of law. ‘In a modern society, attempts to reject functional differentiation are not easily accepted nor are the likely to succeed. .. The conditions of functional differentiation do not favor attempts to merge operations of different systems or attempts to steer the operations of one system by operations of another

[p 33]

. One example in between is of a religious politician participating in two functional systems: too fundamentalist or too political. A second example is the failure of the communist system in eastern Europe: the economic communication still functioned as such and political communication as such, but they could not be made to overcome their operational closure and connect between them. The economy could only avail of political data; the same can occur in religious states, where the political system can only have religious information about itself. In both cases the autopoiesis of the economic and the political system respectively are not maintained or with difficulty. ‘It may be important to note that neither social systems theory in general nor Luhmann in particular intends the theory of the operational closure of functional systems to speak in support of a “market economy” or capitalist propaganda that hails the beneficial effects of a “free” economy’ [p 35]. But functional systems cannot control one another. DPB: but they can integrate other autopoietic systems or they ‘interpenetrate’ one another in a kind of a co-evolving, lizard-glass sense. ‘Moreover, like communist politics, capitalist democracies tend to deny the systemic gap between the economy and politics. They create the illusion that political communication about the matters actually “helps” the economy. Like communist regimes, democratic regimes counterfactually pretend that their political communication about the economy actually somehow “steers” economic development’ [p 35]. But although the function systems are operationally closed they are capable to influence each other; the function systems are each other’s environment; they are closed and separated from the environment by a membrane (boundary) distinguishing them from it; and because they are distinct from their environment they can self-reference as well as hetero-reference.; anything can be religious, legal, economic, political, scientific &c and in addition any of them them can be about any of the others. ‘Operational closure does not prevent other-reference (hetero-reference); it is rather a condition for “making sense” of the other systems’ [p 37]. DPB: Heylighen talks about sensemaking a lot (which articles?). I like it because it reminds me of ‘distinction of patterns / pattern (re)cognition’. Social subsystems can enter into ‘structural coupling’: their autopoiesis is operationally closed yet in contact with the other system, in the case of the economic and political systems: ‘The coupling between politics and economy is primarily established through taxes and tariffs. This does not alter the fact that all monetary dispositions are carried out as payments within the economy. The disposition can, however, be conditioned politically and in this case it will not be oriented to profit-making. For which purposes a nation’s budget is used then becomes a political issue, and when much (or little) money is available, this will irritate the political system. Still, the spending of money itself is subject to the market rules of the economic system (nothing becomes more or less expensive because it is paid for with tax money) and it has significant consequences for the structural development of the economy when the state quota of the money flow increases (The Society of Society 1997a, 781)’ [p 37]. DPB: had er meer van verwacht, beetje vaag verhaal van Luhmann hierboven, zie beter dit: ‘Systems such as politics and the economy can be “connected” in such a way that the operations of one system more or less continually “aim” at the operations of the other system’ [p 37]. Structural coupling in this sense does not violate the operational closure but it makes particular interrelations between the autopoietic processes. DPB: Is this not what Maturana calls ‘orienting’? ‘Structural coupling establishes specific mechanisms of irritation between systems and forces different systems to continuously resonate with each other. The two concepts of irritation and resonance are used by social systems theory to explain how operationally closed systems “interact”’[p 38]. This is fully in line with the arguments of the autopoietic theory.

In the case of “extra-social” coupling between communication and psychic systems, the common medium of language provides for the structural coupling between individual minds and society. This structural coupling allows for both systems to develop a higher complexity. People will accordingly develop mental structures that match the complexity of their society. The growth of social complexity is structurally coupled with the increasing mental complexity of the environment of society’ [p 38]. And this goes for any possible combination between social systems and the psyche. DPB: this is important because the minds of the people working at some firm will develop in terms of structural complexity contingent on the complexity of the firms the are employed by. In this sense subsystems cannot directly steer one another but via stable links they can irritate one another into the exhibition of a specific kind of behavior. It is not automatic that when a system irritates another it will itself not be irritated also by the changed behavior of the other system:’That social systems are interrelated primarily through structural coupling means that no system can dominate another; no system can exert influence without itself being influenced’ [p 39]. DPB: pure autopoietic theory. But this will have to be a very important part of my thesis: how firms react to outside irritations, to internal changes &c. ‘Systems theory is a theory of contingency, not one of liberty’ [p 39-40]. And importantly (even if only for my understanding of the coherence of the whole theory: ‘Systems theory describes society not on the basis of an underlying unity but on the basis of difference. Society is not made up of small units that constitute larger units, it is rather based on differences that constitute more differences. System theory is a “theory of distinction” (see Luhmann 2002b). Luhmann says: “The thesis was that a system is not a unit, but a difference, and that one thus ends up with the problem that one has to imagine the unity of a difference (2002b, 91). Society is not a unity – it is a difference, consisting of differences. Systems theory is, strictly speaking, not a theory of systems, but of system-environment distinctions’[p 40]. This difference is the core of the social systems theory, not some essential thing at the core: ‘A social system is what it is, not by virtue of its inner structure, but by how it distinguishes itself from its environment’ [ pp. 40-41].

(c) History

Luhmann claims that there are four main types of social differentiation: Segments (descent), Stratified (caste, class), Functional (different roles of individuals in (functional) subsystems), Center-Periphery (core group vs others). ‘Looking back in history, and also at non-European societies, Luhmann discerns four types of social differentiationbut he does not claim that this list is complete or indicative of any general law behind social evolution. Social evolution does not “progress” to “better” kinds of differentiation; and the fact that certain types of stratification are sometimes replaced by others does not mean that the earlier types are inferior to the later ones’ [p 41]. The existence of hybrids is more the rules than the exception; DPB: this presupposes the existence of essences in regards of these differentiations. The primacy of differentiation means that one group can regulate the application of another group. ‘The function systems are what they are by being “equally” distinct from one another. Of course, this does not mean that subsystems are totally “independent” of each other. Structural couplings still tie systems together, but the function systems do not gain their identity by being a certain element within an established order of rank’ [p 46]. DPB: but this remark is redundant, because never is anything ‘established’ and hence never is anything an element in an order of rank. I find that the faintest inkling of essentialism pervades the theory here. Conversely the differentiation in society and more specifically the individual’s position in it determines ‘who she is’: e.g. an aristocrat at all times. In a functionally differentiated system a person cannot locate herself wholly in one of the subsystems, nor even identify herself primarily with one of the subsystems: ‘She cannot carry one systemic identity into another: The differentiation of one subsystem into one particular function means that this function has priority for this system (and only for this system) and gains precedence over all other functions for it. Only in this sense, one can speak of functional primacy (Luhmann The Society of Society 1997a, 747-48)’ [p 48]. And in addition can a subsystem only operate on the basis of its own function only: ‘Every function system can only perform its own function. No one can in the event of a crisis or on a continuing or supplementary basis sit in for another one .. (Luhmann The Society of Society 1997a, 763)’ [p 48]. And in a situation of functional differentiation a society is not free of class distinctions: ‘Functional differentiation does not mean that a society is free of class-distinctions (and neither that society is without center/periphery distinctions), it simply means that class (or center/periphery distinctions) are no longer equivalent with social order’ [p 49]. ‘Humans are no more equal today than they were in the Middle-Ages – but social systems are. Since society does not consist of human beings but of social systems, an absence of a systemic hierarchy cannot be equated with an absence of a hierarchy among people. Under the conditions of functional differentiation the inequality among people no longer corresponds to the inequality of social strata’ [p 49]. Functional differentiation has begun to take place after the Middle-Ages (sixteenth to eighteenth century) and it still does, at an ever more intense rate. Postmodernism is an attempt to explain this intensification that, however, takes place within the same ‘domain’, but in a more modern form, and hence it is de facto a description of modernity: ‘Functional differentiation has developed from humble beginnings to into a grand structure, a giant social “organism” of global scale and extreme functional intensity’ [p 50]. Modernity and postmodernity are attempts to describe society by defining its semantics: ‘The jargon of both academic and common speech are expressions of the semantics of a society. Both represent the “sense” a society ascribes to itself and to the issues it deals with. Obviously these semantics change’[p 51]. DPB: I find this interesting because it the refers to the sense-making of systems by ‘wording’ it, or rather by expressing the pattern they seem to perceive and translating the patterns for others to see also, even far befor ethey are actually named and incorporated into the society’ s jargon, and reserached by the academia and injected into its jargon &c. ‘Social systems theory has, of course, a semantics too – a semantics that describes society and its structures. This semantics tends to be retrospective: “The structural change of society is beyond the observation and description of its contemporaries. Only after it has been completed and it becomes practically irreversible, semantics takes on the task to describe what now becomes visible”(Luhmann 1989, 8). It is exactly this task that social systems theory takes on’ [p 52]. DPB: this reminds me of hyperobjects. It is impossible for any one individual, not for any organization smaller than the whole to distinguish the behavior of the subsystem from the background.

(d) Globalization

Given that society is no longer differentiated regionally: the functions transcend geographical borders and they are global; only the political subsystem is tied to a geographical location. The possibility of an integration or a aggregate of the functional systems was lost when the concept of God was lost on humanity: that was the last entity where the functions could have been dissolved into a larger whole: ‘Global society consists of a plurality of systems that are both universal and particular (Luhmann The Society of Society 1997a, 930-31). Global society exists as a multiplicity of functional subsystems, but it does not exist as a multiplicity of societies. .. There is no seconf global (DPB functional) system – and if there was, it could not be communicated with. The global system is one system but, again, it is not a harmonious whole. .. The global system consists of subsystems of communication, not of people. Taking part in its operations provides inclusion in a system’ [p 54]. DPB: this reminds me of the Jobs: applied to that concept, the above implies that once the people are involved or engaged with some set of ideas then they are included into it and their identity comes to depend on it. But this depends on the sphere of the ideas, namely to which functional system the ideas themselves belong. If a Job has an economic signature then the person engaged inn the Job, with regards to the economic function, is engaged with such and so specific economic idea (or rather an event). When she engages with an idea in the political sphere then she is included in that idea. And as a consequence the identity of the person is a ‘patchwork’ of the ideas from the different but otherwise between them equally important functional systems. And an important effect of the globalization of the systemic functions is that: ‘The emergence of all kinds of regional separatism and “fundamentalism” can well be explained as an effect of the globalization of functional differentiation. Th expansion of political, economic, and other social structures meets with all kinds of regional peculiarities and resistance. Function systems “neglect” regional, religious, or cultural identities’ [p 57]. In this sense fundamentalism is a “demonstration of non-irritability”: ‘These movements display a pose of immunity against the effects of functional globalization’ [p 58]. But the effect is exactly the opposite: ‘Once more – functional globalization allows every Muslim to be a Muslim and every Serb to be a Serb, but only as long as they accept that their religion or ethnicity is ultimately neglected by the function systems’ [p 58]. But the people belonging to these factions won’t easily relinquish that and: ‘On the one hand, one can ask: how do you expect operationally closed function systems not to neglect race, religion , and region? And, on the other hand, one can ask: how do you expect “fundamentalists” not to neglect the systems of law, politics, and education? And: how else can their neglect be demonstrated than by sabotaging the function systems? Sabotage is the neglect practiced by those neglected by “globalization” [p 59]. In addition to neglect and counter-neglect social exclusion is produced: ‘ .. And this would mean that some human beings will be persons and others only individuals; that some are included into functions systems for (successful or unsuccessful) careers and others are excluded from these systems, remaining bodies that try to survive the next day… (Luhmann 1997b, 12) [p 59]. Function systems aim at all inclusion (of human beings); they neglect other social systems apart from the other function systems, which they have to deal with an the basis of equality. ‘While the function systems are, in principle, all-inclusive – and while this all-inclusiveness of globalization is celebrated by “rightist” propagandists and demanded by “leftist” critics (who are not against globalization as such, but only an evil and unjust globalization) – they produce, in fact mass-exclusion. .. The exclusion from one system, for instance, the exclusion from the economy because of a lack of money, easily leads to exclusion from other systems’ [p 61]. DPB: this reminds of the ‘cabin in Alaska’ example, where one goes off-grid to leave all function system, but to what extent is it possible to leave them all? So the statement above is that if one is excluded of one the relation with the others is damaged also; if one wants to leave them all, then what happens? The point is that although in principle there is no limit to be fee and equal in the function systems, in practice it is easy to end up with less money or power than others and as a consequence to be excluded from that system and, as a consequence of that to be excluded from other function systems too. ‘It seems as if functional differentiation produces massive social exclusion that reduces the lives of many people to a purely bodily existence that is primarily concerned with bare physical survival. .. Functional differentiation cannot simply be steered or changed by good intentions. Society is much too complex and polycentric for such illusions. No person can steer a society of autopoietic function systems. Systems steer themselves’ (Luhmann 1997c) [pp. 62-63].

2. What Is Real?

(a) Making Sense, Making Reality

Psychic systems and social systems share language as a medium; they also share the “universal medium (Universalmedium)” “sense (Sinn)”. The definition of “sense” from the Oxford English Dictionary (on-line March 2018) is: “a feeling that something is the case”, and more specifically: “a keen intuitive awareness of or sensitivity to the presence or importance of something”. ‘Society and minds are continuously “making sense” – they are “sense-constituting systems (sinnkonstituerende Systeme)”. Minds make sense of the world and themselves, and so do social systems. What we think and perceive has a certain sense – and even if it is nonsense, it is not non-sense. Making nonsense is also making sense’ [p 65]. DPB: the definition from the March 2018 on-line Oxford English Dictionary of ‘to make sense’ is ‘be intelligible (“able to be understood, comprehensible”), justifiable (“be a good reason for”), or practicable (“able to be done or put into practice successfully, able to be used, useful”)’, for example ‘it makes sense to start saving early for higher education’, ‘the policy made economic sense’. The phrase or term sense-making makes it possible to categorize minds and social systems into the same category; the concept is different from concepts such as cognition, thinking, anticipating &c, which are often associated with activity of individual people, but not with social systems. ‘We cannot think and perceive without operating on the basis of sense’ [p 65]. DPB: first there is sense; and once there is sense, then, on the basis of that, there can be thinking and perception! DPB: this reminds me of the attribution of connotations to ideas; in that way the ideas are in a way embedded in the world-view of the individual; very colloquially speaking it is said that ‘they are assigned a place’; is this the same as being ‘framed’ in the sense that an idea is put into some context of other ideas and compared to that and, even if temporarily, its relations to these other ideas are fixed; this fixation can be undone and replaced by another, but this gets increasingly difficult if the entire thing of ideas and-cum-relations, namely idea_embedded, becomes more familiar for the individual; this happens in the Jobs. ‘In an analogous fashion, communication makes sense, too. If communication takes place – as the unity of announcement, information, and understanding – then sense is produced. As with minds, even nonsensical communication makes some sense. If tis does not make sense then commmunication ceases to be communication’ [p 65]. DPB: this is the definition of communication: it lasts while the exchange of signs continues and so if it stops because the signs no longer make sense (they are now mere signals) then there is no longer communication, and hence it stops to exist. ‘making sense couples minds and communication at an even more general or “universal”level: communication makes sense, and this sense irritates minds and makes them think. Conversely, what we think makes sense, and communication resonates with the sense produced in our minds. If communication processes complex sense, our minds will be forced to cope with this complexity and to therefore increase the complexity of their sense-making’ [p 65]. DPB: this reminds me in a visual sense of throwing paint onto something unknown so as to make sense of it by by distinguishing its contours and perhaps even pry some reaction loose from it, if one is so lucky; the paint being the ideas attempting to make sense out of the bloody thing; once the paint sticks and the thing is cladded in color then a pattern appears that can now be named &c.; this is the function if you like of the just-so stories representing the ideas thrown at the thing, that by their color explain what the thing is, but only for their part. The above quote of Luhmann also reminds me of my Jobs: this is the linking pin between the workings of memes, namely in their environment of memeplexes and memes external to those, and, on the other hand, of the structures of the mind with which these memeplexes interact; these I have referred to as Jobs: the nexus of exchange between individual people’s minds and memes. That is what I believe Luhmann describes here. Not only the mind, but communications systems can be intentional; both create a reality based on a distinction between themselves and the external world and a relation between them: ‘Mental and communication systems create a reality by locating themselves within a “horizon of sense”. Sense, and the sense-horizon, is the “product of the operations that use sense – and by no means a quality of the world thanks to a creation, a donation, or an origin” (Luhmann The Society of Society 1997a, 44, referring to Deleuze 1969)’ [p 66]. DPB: sense in this way produces sense and a sense-horizon; before sense there was nothing; the amount of sense in the world increases, but related to what? Psychic and communications systems create a framework using the medium of sense, and locate themselves in it; and hence do we, by making sense of the world, make sense of ourselves, and so does communication [p 66]: ‘This is similar to a ship that finds its position and direction by locating itself within the horizon of the sea. Of course, this horizon continuously changes. Through its motion, the ship continuously relocates itself within a horizon and thus has the horizon change with it. The horizon – the ship’s environment – is a direct product of the ship’s own operations, of its own movements. Sense is therefore technically defined by Luhmann .. first as the “unity of the difference between the actual and the possible” ( Baraldi, Corsi, Esposito 1997, 170-3). .. A ship locates itself within its horizon – but thereby realizes that it can move. The ship is not bound only by its actual location; its horizon is a horizon of possibilities. It could also be elsewhere. Sense-making is this interplay between the actual and the possible. What we think makes sense within a horizon of possibilities. Without a context of sense, thoughts cannot make sense. Similarly, communication without a context without a context of sense cannot make sense. Our minds and communications operate within a sense-horizon like a ship operates on a body of water. These operations take place on the basis of a distinctiion between what is actual and what is possible. Secondly, and in connection with the previous definition, sens can also be defined in terms of the distinction self-reference / other-reference: cit. ..’ [pp. 66-7]. There is a distinction between the sense-maker and that which makes sense for the sense-maker; this is the distinction between the ship and the horizon; ‘It makes sense / to me’; the two distinguishing but interconnected dimensions are actual / possible and self / other. ‘And this last distinction is somehow “reflected” within the system itself. Sense-making systems make sense by making sense of the difference between themselves and their environment, by making sense of the difference the “it” that makes sense and the “I” that makes that sense. By making this distinction, the system makes a re-entry. It re-enters the distinction it just made’ [p 67]. The system can now reflect on itself in its environment and it can even reflect on itself as an environment for itself (the self as an it and a self):’The difference system / environment occurs twice: as the difference produced by the system and as the difference observed within the system (The Society of Society 1997a, 45). Autopoietic and sense-constituting systems construct themselves and their horizon though their own operations. Making sense is equivalent to making reality, both self-referential and other-referential. By distinguishing itself from its environment a system establishes itself and the world around it’ [p 68]. DPB: I think this is an important quote. It reminds me of individuation: while the system is in the process of making sense of the world it is itself becoming (becoming more coherent) and in so doing they can make more sense to other systems. A summary of Luhmann’s constructivist theory of reality is: ‘If one accepts this theoretical disposition, one can neither assume that there exists a world at hand (vorhanden) consisting of things, substances, and ideas, nor can one designate their entirety (universitas rerum) with the concept of a “world”. For sense-systems the world is not a giant mechanism that produces states out of states and thus determines the systems themselves. The world is rather an immeasurable potential for surprises, it is virtual information that needs systems to produce information, or more precisely; to ascribe to selected information the sense of being information (Luhmann The Society of Society 1997a, 46)’ [p 68]. DPB: he world is not a vat of things and relations that need only to be explored (nothing is ’vorhanden’, at hand); instead: ‘According to systems theory, the sense and essence of the world do not precede the being of systems: the being of systems rather precedes the sense and essence of the world – to put it in Sartrean terms. The world’s sense and essence is what the autopoietic, sense-processing systems make it to be’ [pp. 68-9]. Not the world determines what makes sense, but the systems determine what does, thereby determining its reality: ‘Sense can only be processed when the world is regarded as information’ [p 69]. Sense-making, observation, and production of information are cognitive tools of both psychic and communications systems. Observe = produce cognition = produce reality. ‘That reality results from cognitive construction, that is results from observation, does, of course, not make it less real – a reality constructed by observation is not less real than one that is “at hand” prior to observation. It just make reality different, more complex and plural’ [p 69]. So as reality emerges when observed by an observer, the observer emerges when observing the observed: ‘The cognition of the world not only constructs observed, it also constructs the observer. The observer may observe operations – but at the same time is also an operation: “other than as an observation the observer cannot exist. The observer is a formation that constitutes itself by linking operations to each other (Luhmann 2002a, 143)’ [p 70]. DPB: this reminds of the concept Marta uses for memes in the conception of a Luhmannian universe: that which remains the same in a flow / a sequence of differences. ‘”The question how systems are able to produce cognition within an environment can then be reformulated as the question how systems can uncouple themselves from their environment” (1988b, Cognition as Construction, 13)’ [p 71]. In this way uncoupling between system and environment establishes their distinction, and hence paves the way for cognition, and hence for the possibility of reality.

(b) Second-Order Cybernetics

Reality is a cognitive construct associated with observation: as a consequence descriptions of reality are descriptions of observation. Observation is an integral part of reality; there is no place where all that is real is located and observation is no longer simple, namely a generating element of reality. The focus is now on the observing of observing of reality and not simply on observing of reality alone. That is second-order observing, also second-order cybernetics. ‘Second-order cybernetics is concerned with the reality-construction of observing systems – and here the expression “observing systems” has a double meaning: second-order cybernetics observes systems that are themselves systems of observation, it is observing systems that are observing systems. When second-order cybernetics uses the expression “observing systems”, the term “systems” is grammatically both an object and a subject

[p 71]

. DPB: and so the observing systems are observed; they observe because they are observed. Systems in the theory of second-order cybernetics are autologically and paradoxically included in it: ‘The subjective and the objective sides of the observation become equally valid and mutually constitutive’ [p 71]. DPB: if there is no observation, there is no second-order observation, there is no distinction, there is no cognition and there is no reality. Only from the first observation could there have been reality. Only from the first observing (spotting?) of the emergence of a firm does it exist in reality. Observation is a formal term: ‘..“First of all, something that causes problems over and over again has to be pointed out. One can say it a hundred times without avail. The observer is not necessarily a psychic system, not necessarily consciousness. The observer is defined purely formally: to distinguish and to indicate. A communication can do this too” (Distinctions 2002a, 147)’ [p 72]. The second-order observation is a first-order observation of a first-order observation simultaneous; complexity of observation of reality is gained, but at the loss of ontological certainty about it. Higher level observations cannot transcend this pattern, they remain first-order observations of fist-order observations of &c. ‘.. every observation, regardless of order, has its so-called blind spot: .. When handling a distinction you always have a blind spot or invisibility in your back. You cannot observe yourself as the one who handles a distinction, instead you have to make yourself invisible when you want to observe. .. The observer has to make him/herself invisible as the element of the distinction between the observer and the observed(Luhmann Distinctions 2002a, 147)

[pp. 73-4]

. As an illustration: the second-order observer can observe that the first-order observer cannot observe herself as the second-order observer can; the first-order observer sees what’s in front but not what is behind her back; the blind spot signifies her particular perspective; when she turns around to look, there is a new blind spot behind her. But this is true for all observers: every one has a blind spot, and hence every observation creates a blind spot, and hence reality depends on blind spots [p 74]. ‘Social systems observe – and thereby, of course, construct reality – by observing how others observe. Functional differentiation plus second-order observations are two main characteristics of the present’ [p 76]. An important example of this is the interplay between politics and the mass-media, another is the interplay between science and the mass-media in the sense of publications.

3 What Happens to the Human Being?

(a) Beyond Humanism

The “humanist” concept of the human being will vanish [Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, final paragraph]; human beings are not the oldest nor the most constant that human knowledge has dealt with: ‘Antropocentrism is by no means a given in the enterprise of understanding and cognition’ [p 79]. The social systems theory of Luhmann is in this same sense non-anthropocentristic: not to erase the human being, but to go beyond the conceptual limits of the overly human approach popular for a few centuries. Traditional humanism is too simplistic to explain the complexity of reality. Luhmann explains the notion of a human being in three autopoietic realms: biological, psychic and social (see chapter 1). ‘Various traditional philosophies then discussed the so-called mind-body problem – how a singular entity could consist of two parts. Social systems theory does not offer a new and easy solution to this problem, it rather suggests that “human reality” is even more complex: we do not only have to deal with the mind and the body – we also have to take into account communication. And in the face of such multiplicity it might be wise to give up the attempt still to “singularize” the human being

[p 80]

. None of these three systems is shown to be dominant and social systems theory does not attribute essences or cruces to one: ‘And since the human being cannot be essentially defined, it does not make a lot of sense to use it as a starting point for a theory. This is the reason why social systems theory tries to wipe out the humanists’ one-dimensional portrayal of the human being and replace it with a more complex model of reality’ [p 81]. The social systems theory identifies the three autopoietic and operationally closed systems, such that the mind is the interface between reality and the communications system: ‘No “outside” information can enter communication without first being processed by the mind’ [p 81]. In regard to the meaning of the three realms for social systems theory is the relation mind-communication more relevant than the relation body-mind: ‘Minds and society depend on and independent of the other. They depend on the other’s existence for the continuation of their own autopoiesis, while, because of their operational closure, they are independent as no direct determination or interference is possible. ‘They (the two systems) can only actualize and specify their own structures and thus ca only change themselves. They use each other for reciprocal irritation of these structural changes. Systems of communication can only be stimulated by systems of the mind, and these in turn are extremely attracted to what is conspicuously communicated by language (DPB: ‘via’ would have the term of my choice here). My argument is as follows: the independence of each closed system is a requirement for structural complementarity, that is, for the reciprocal initiation (but not determination) of the actualized choice of structure (Luhmann 1994a ?? p 380)’ [p 82].

(b) Problems of Identity

Minds and society (communication) are structurally coupled. Therefore they co-evolve. This is possible because they exist in the common media of language and sense. This conception leads to a specific conception of the human identity or individuality: attaining a human identity requires co-evolution involving operations of the mind and of communications; and hence can that process be described from the perspective of the autopoiesis of the one or that of the other: there is no singular view. Identity and individuality are not singular objects, but they exist in both the mind and in society. ‘In the case of the mental systems, individuality identity emerges as a result of self-socialization; in the case of social systems, individuality, and identity are part of an important semantics of the self-description of society and are connected to the inclusion of “persons” in society. .. “the autopoietic system of society that operates on the basis of communication makes its own complexity available for the construction of psychic systems”; and conversely, inclusion means that “an autopoietic psychic system that operates on the basis of consciousness makes its own complexity available for the construction of social systems” (Luhmann 1989 Ecological Communication, 162)

[p 83]

. DPB: this is the explanation of Jobs: I had explained the fluidity (complexity) of memes or memeplexes that fall as a mist over the landscape of individuals and shaping them, but I had not at the time (I think) explained that the individual people on the landscape of people are more than neutral substrate, but they are themselves shaped by the ongoing influence of the communication taking place in society. At a later stage I have explained this, namely in the Theory and also in the Logistic Model, where through the operations people are familiarized with the ideas they encounter in society and the more frequent the encounters, or the more their connotations suit the existing structure of their minds as it has developed as a result of the previous encounters, the more the people become familiar with them and the easier they will reproduce them. Every mind is unique and in that way each mind will resonate in their unique way with their environments and especially with their social environments with which they are structurally coupled (Parson: they interpenetrate). ‘Mental systems autopoietically develop themselves and can only develop an understanding or consciousness of themselves by way of self-socialization’ [p 83]. DPB: the mind is damaged by the encounters with (principally) the social system and vice versa. The point above is that the mind is closed and perceives only vague signals for them to interpret as signs with a meaning; only they can damage themselves based on the signals they perceive from the social systems they have encounters with; Luhmann calls this phenomenon self-socialization; ‘socialization is a “do-it-yourself” project’ [p 83]. DPB: I reckon the concept of autopoiesis has not fully permeated throughout my thesis, and as a consequence I don’t believe that the signals / signs dichotomy has been sufficiently incorporated; there might still be (will surely be) traces of penetration of signals from external sources as signs into the mind. How the consciousness of an individual is structured is in the end decided by the consciousness of the individual; ‘.. mental structures are “the result of an individual system history” of the mind (Luhmann Theories of Distinction 2002a 137)

[p 84]

. But the psychic system is operationally fully independent and cognitively fully dependent: ‘The language and the sense (Sinn) of individuality link or couple our perceptions of our individualities to society. Each individual consciousness has its own particular systemic history, its own individual mindset – but in each case this history and resulting mindset are informed by the available “cultural supply” (Luhmann 2002a Theories of Distinction, 137)’ [p 84]. And vice versa do individual minds damage the social systems around them: ‘On the other hand, communication systems ascribe individuality to “persons”. This is how they are able to resonate with the psychic complexiity in their environment. .. Inclusion is the term for the manner in which social systems can recognize persons. By inclusion, social systems assign persons with a social position so that there is a framework “in which they can act in conformity with expectations, or, to put it more romantically,: in which they can feel at home as individuals” (Luhmann The Society of Society 1997a, 621). Successful inclusion takes place when society is able to prepare molds for “individuals” to fit in’ [p 84]. How social inclusion develops depends on the evolution of the differentiation of social systems: social evolution and the unfolding of history result in a variation of the “cultural supply”. Human individuality is a product of semantics and language that couple psychic and social systems. In a stratified society (up to appr. 18th century) the stratum (family, household &c.) is the social locality where an individual becomes an individual, including rank and attributes ‘.. “in the sense of its socially respected characteristics”’ [p 86]. In a stratified society socialization takes place within the house where one’s social life is, resulting in a fixed, inviolable, and hence an indivisible social status (ref. literal meaning of individual), but not yet a uniqueness: the individual was shaped by birth and divine creation, but not yet original as differentiated from all the other individuals thus positioned. When the stratified societal structure came to change into a functional structure, the direct inclusion of old was replaced by a form of exclusion: ‘The “general” was no longer outside of the individual and inside society and religion, but was moved into the individual itself. .. Individuality no longer means indivisibility, but uniqueness. The individual is now supposed to be an individual by being different from all others – by being a “subject”’ [p 87]. As from this point on the individual is expected to identify itself in regard to its individuality and this means: ‘ “.. in regard to that which distinguishes itself from everybody else. Self-observations and self-descriptions can no longer (and if still, then only externally) rely on social positions, affiliations, inclusions” (Luhmann Ecological Communication . 1989, 215)’ [p87]. Functional differentiation for an individual means differentiation into the various subsystems of society; their boundaries mark the social differentiation; the individual cannot be entirely at home with any of them: ‘Whatever the individual makes of himself and however society contributes to this: it has its standpoint in itself and outside of society. The formula “subject” symbolizes nothing else. Thereby the individual is external to all function systems. It can no longer participate (Luhmann Ecological Communication 1989, 212)’ [p 88]. The individual has now left society but it can partially re-enter, namely with particular roles. This is problematic, because 1. by being unique individuals cannot be unique and 2. by characterizing one as not x, one has to choose what one is from a source of not x, that is socially accepted and general, and hence not unique and 3. it is no longer possible to be an ‘in-dividual’, in the sense of an indivisible entity, because one is party to multiple function systems; one risks to fall apart into multiple selves. To overcome this risk the subjective individual has the choice to become an homme copie, an “imitational person.” ‘“This means: to admit from the first the failure of the programme of individuality and to establish one’s principle of life on the opposite> To be able to be different then means: to be just like someone else” (Luhmann 1989 Ecological Communication, 221). In living a “copied existence,” one borrows one’s originality from others. Just like in the world of fashion, one becomes special by copying what others present as being special

[p 89]

. This programme of individuality may lead to a multiple self or an imitational person. But this is due to the multiplicity if the functional systems (differentiation) and the difficulties to choose one’s role from them: father or employee &c. ‘If, in accordance with the semantics of modern society we become persons by being subjects that take on a variety of functions, what does this mean in “real life?”

[p 91]

. We go through careers, assume positions and develop a history with each of the functions we are active in; to state one’s class does not suffice and one has to explain one’s history and ensuing position in each functional system (married twice, children, successful politician, not particularly wealthy, terrible cook &c). ‘And what is above all decisive is that in modern society the career (..) has advanced to become the most important mechanism for the integration of individuals and society (Luhmann The Society of Society 1997a, 742)’ [p 92]. The concept of a career is wide (all function systems) and deep (an unsuccessful career counts also). But although careers can be based on psychic characteristics, they are social and not psychic: they connect people to society, but they do not necessarily connect people to themselves; that is a job for subjectivity, namely how people select their partial identities from what is available. ‘The semantics of subjectivity – that flourished after the American and French revolutions – allows the retaining of some self-respect. It is a fine addition to the structural reality of the functional differentiation and supplies us with dignity’ [p 95]. Social systems theory does not see communication as a result of human action (contrary to theories of action), but instead it sees human action as a result of communication: ‘.. ; and it (DPB: social systems theory) describes “human action” as designated by communication systems’ [p 97].

4. What Can Be Done?

(a) Limits of Activism and the Conformism of Protest

Social systems theory does not deny the impact of social theory and social activism; the impact as in the case of Marxism can be immense: ‘But it does not believe that such an impact can be predicted or decided by a theory or the political groups that claim to represent it. In a society based on functional differentiation, social developments cannot be imposed by one system on another. Society as a whole cannot be directed. Function systems are operationally closed and function autopoietically’ [p 101]. DPB: and the same holds true for the economy and for organizations, see ch 1 above. They in other words cannot be changed by people, with regards to movements with an objective to make changes to society: ‘Society is addressed “as if it was not a system”(Luhmann 1986a Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy, 20), as if it could be generally changed if only people would start to think and act better. Luhmann sees a role of systems theory in “disciplining the accusations towards the address of society” (Luhmann 1986a Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy, 20). The accusations against society are, according to Luhmann, based oon an inadequate understanding of how society functions, of how society can change itself, and of how the own social nature of the activist movement itself’ [p 102]. Concerning the Green movement in Germany, in summary: proposed changes in function systems result in changes in the function systems themselves and not necessarily in the ecology. So called protest movements do not oppose society, but they contribute to its functional differentiation by increasing its complexity and so they they are in accord with it: ‘Modern “protest” movements are possibly among the best adapted and systemically conformist developments in society’ [p 108].

(b) Negative Ethics

Movements frequently use a type of communication called moral discourse; this usually indicates the existence of a conflict; under normal circumstances function systems do not require this mode. Luhmann sees this as an ethical task, ethics being treated as the reflection on morality: his ethics aim at explaining morality from the nonmoral perspective of society (hence the negative ethics in the title). Luhmann states that the religious paradigm is lost, academic ethics have failed and he is skeptical with regards to the finding of new a paradigmatic ethics; he states that philosophy should stop looking for “the” reasons for ethics: ‘He says: “Ethics can’t provide reasons for morality. It finds morality to be there, and then it is confronted with the problems that result from this finding” (1989 Ecological Communication, 360)’ [p 111]. But it is possible to provide a theory that describes how a morality works within a functionally differentiated society. Morality is associated with social and hence communicative operations; in that light morality must be seen as ‘a specific type of communications for processing information on esteem of disesteem’ [p 111]; esteem is similar to approval (distribution of some achievement in a limited context such as sport) but extended to the entire person; it distributes esteem or disesteem among persons in the sense of systems theory in the function systems: all other function systems can add moral code (good / bad) to their operations: a moral code can be attributed to the concrete operations of a particular system. Used in this way a moral code polarizes; it also suffers of ‘l’englobement du contraire’, or the ‘interdiction of self-exemption’: once the distinction is made, one identifies oneself with the positive side of it. ‘One should, Luhmann says, be very cautious with morality and “only touch it with the most sterile instruments’, since it is a “highly contagious substance” that easily infects communication (Luhmann Ecological Communication 1989, 359)’ [p 113]. Systems theory can say: there can be no ethical propositions, positive ethics cannot be expressed, what is good shows itself as good in practice, and there is no correspondence between good theory and good practice. The exercise to identify a positive ethics in the sense of a rational and universal morality has turned out futile. ‘Ethics could rather concentrate on studying the empirical communicative effects of moral discourse in society under the conditions of functional differentiation’ [p 114]. If it is used in broadcasts and performances it should be supplemented with a warning like: ‘This product is full of morality and may therefore lead to unwanted communicative overengagement, possibly resulting in damage to both personal and social health’ [p 114].

(c) Subtle Subversion

Society cannot be steered by people, moral discourse does not change it; society changes itself autopoietically. Social systems theory is itself a social system (within the science function system) and so it itself can only change itself autopoietically. ‘Like any other scientific theory, social systems theory also somehow “makes a difference” but is can only do so immediately within science because it has to wait for its irritation to change the science system and its social environment, namely, the other function systems’ [p 115]. DPB: above all this reminds me of the billiards game ‘tien over rood’ where points can be scored either by playing the white ball at the targeted ball via a third ball in between, or via the side of the table. Anyhow there can unsurprisingly not be direct influence on society. And equally impossible is it to steer in a direct sense the behavior of an organization such as a firm. But the above quote says something about the success in terms of the changes that a theory for firms that is based on these theories (or that isn’t based on them for that matter) can be expected to bring about. This expectation has to be modest: the best it can do is to stir the minds of scientists (or other readers), who then in turn stir the minds (or irritate as Luhmann formulates it) of the people that carry the meme (or are, as per Luhmann, included in the communication of) the other function systems and of subsystems such as organizations including firms. ‘With social systems theory, like with all other communication, society is no longer exactly what it was before, but how society resonates with social systems theory (DPB: or any theory) is eventually up to society – and not to this theory’ [p 115]. And so social systems theory is skeptical about the expected results of its explanations but it can hope to clarify some facts better such that the behavior of society can be better understood by those associated with it: ‘It tries to enlighten society .. about the limits of rationality in a society of function systems’ [p 115]. This expression is modest and it shows that other attempts are prone to pompousness; Luhmann hopes for more, namely that the discomfort the theory produces will have disruptive effects. Humanist semantics still shows a blind faith in our nonhumanist society. DPB: this I like: ‘Society tends to comfort itself – and this self-comfort is supported by critical theories and protest movements – that while some aspects are not “humanist” enough, it could make itself more human, if only, for instance, the right policies were adopted’ [p 116]. DPB: but imagine what a load of spare time virtually everyone would have if these half-baked attempts at improving society were abandoned. Where this theory truly challenges the existing semantics at its foundations, the cries for more democracy, emancipation, human rights &c. only confirm the existing traditional and rather hopeless semantics. If society is indeed structured in function systems then people cannot rule and cannot be free, and hence democracy and liberation are meaningless concepts. ‘Social systems theory is quite radical in its distrust of these traditional semantics that are shared by the political system, by the mass media, by education, by protest movements, and so on. And its effects will be discomforting if it is able to irritate society so much that these semantics lose their credibility. It is potentially more subversive than many of the current protest or human rights movements regarding the distrust it has of the currently dominant social self-descriptions’ [p 117].

PART III Mass Media

5 The Mass Media as a System

This less traditional subject of his theory exemplifies the nontraditional and “radical” character of his thought. While there is no hierarchy or domination between systems, Luhmann concedes that there appears to be an “unequal growth of function systems” (1997a Society of Society?, 391). Some systems can gain ground in some state (of them and of the other function systems) while others may lose relevance to even fade away completely; the present state of the mass media is of the category rising star. It emerged with the emergence of speech, writing, printing press and its distribution accelerated with the emergence of radio, TV, and internet. It is well suited to demonstrate the modern aspects of the social systems theory: ‘..its nonhuman, global, polycontextural, and radically constructivist features. In addition to this, the mass media may demonstrate more drastically than any other systems a certain facet in the meaninglessness of contemporary sense-production’ [p 122]. DPB: this means that sense is being made of patterns perceived by the communication systems, but there is no meaning in the sense that is made. But to make sense is a double concept (it makes sense to me): the thing observed makes no sense or I am not able to make sense of that thing I am observing. DPB: it was / is not my intention to read all of this. The relevance of the concept for my research is in the way that the function systems are spread over the population to include human beings in their ranks. Because only with the messages of the evangelies of the capitalist system (the belief in the idea of progress) can individuals be included in the ranks and hence be motivated to behave such that this kind of economy appears with this kind of firms as a part of it. And so I will start to read Part III, but I may not complete it ad refer to it for further reference. ‘Luhmann defines the mass media as follows: “the term ‘mass media’ includes all those institutions of society which make use of copying technologies to disseminate communication” (Luhmann 2000a The Reality of the Mass Media, 2)

[p 122]

. DPB: this definition to an increasing extent includes corporations, because newspapers and websites use their disseminations via press releases often without further research or critical questions; this makes the firm effectively inclusive to (member of) the function system of the mass media. An essential element, however, is a lack of interaction among those co-present can take place between the sender and the receivers; interaction cannot take place because of the interposition of technology. DPB: this reminds me of the concept of coevalness, whereby human beings are denied a common experience, and hence a distance exists between the observer and the observed that itself becomes a difference and is treated as a difference of their time-lines. Also it reminds me of the way that interactions take place in my Logistical Model: I have treated direct communications and other kinds such as written or recorded in the same way: they can all have some effect on the participants and in this way they can manage to make changes to the memes in people’s minds. I have assumed that there is no fundamental difference: they are all signals entering (or not) the mind of the person to there be assigned a meaning (or not) through associations with other ideas. Luhmann makes a distinction between private communications (one-on-one e-mail &c.) and public communications (visiting a publicly accessible website &c.). But the fact that there is technology in between the sender and the receiver is no reason for Luhmann to decry the inauthenticity of these communications (like Heidegger and Baudrillard apparently do); rather the technology now enables the copying of information on a large scale without the need for physical presence or contact; this separation makes it impossible to centrally coordinate the transmission (at a presentation I can leave something out that I didn’t want a particular person to hear or I can overrule him by e.g. shooting him, but in a mass communication I cannot). Luhmann does not ascribe specific importance to the particular technologies involved: the technology is merely the environment of the communication, not the beast itself: ‘Technological developments therefore cannot produce revolutions in communication’[p 124]. DPB: but I would argue that they could accelerate revolutions in other function systems: revolutions can only be brought about by the function systems themselves, but irritations can occur at a larger scale and more frequently. Mass media make communication global. ‘Like all other function systems – but even more noticeably – the mass media system is, in principle, laid out for all-inclusion and does not recognize geographical borders. It is everywhere at all times’ [p 125]. If mass media is to be understood as a function system it must have a code: in this case it is information / noninformation: information is what it selects to broadcast, noninformation is what it selects not to. Mass media observes its intrasocial environment and constructs information by selecting and producing it. The information is public to all, it is general even if it is restricted for some, it is fully open to those for whom it is not (rated movies). Mass media information is not specific information, ‘.. rather about that “which is known to be known”, it is about that “one has to assume that everyone knows (or that not knowing would entail a loss of face and is therefore not admitted to)” (Luhmann 2000a The Reality of the Mass Media, 20)’ [p 126]. Mass media in this sense constitutes what we know about the world in which we live, and specifically our society. The ‘mass’ refers to the multiplicity of included others we share the information shared by the mass media with: ‘If we had only private or professional knowledge, it would be difficult to talk to a stranger about our common reality. Thanks to the mass media, we share a world’ [p 126]. DPB: and this information that is shared with the mass of others includes information about commonly held beliefs; this includes the idea of progress and people’s belief in it. And hence the mass media play a role in the constitution of the idea and the keeping up / fresh / remembered of the rules (memes), the ‘required’ motivations and the proper enactment if those rules. The relation to time is: ‘Information cannot be repeated; as soon as it becomes an event, it becomes non-information. .. If information is used as a code, this means that the operations in the system are constantly and inevitably transforming information to non-information. The crossing of the boundary from value to opposing value occurs automatically with the very autopoiesis of the system (Luhmann 2000a The Reality of the Mass Media, 19-20)’ [p 127]. And as a consequence this transition puts time pressure on the system. DPB: the surprise is taken out, the randomness reduced, the order increased, organization irreversibly increased, time flows in the direction of the increase of irreversibility. Once the information is divulged by the mass media, everyone will irreversibly know about it, and as a consequence time in practical terms flows in the direction of the release of new information. This mode of operation is specific for mass media as a function system: no other is known to transitions its one side to its other irreversibly (apart from some cases in the economic realm maybe: once paid, something immediately becomes unpaid for the next owner). The issue is maybe not that the system experiences pressure of time, but that time is created there; in terms of counting of events: the events in the mass media are many and of a high frequency compared to other function systems and as a consequence from those other systems time may seem to pass fast in the world. In special cases, such as advertising, repetition is in order, because it just shows how important this product is to show people it time and again. Roles of news, entertainment and advertising: ‘self-organization of folly’, ‘to provide people with no taste with taste’, and ‘the stabilization of a relation of redundancy and variety in everyday culture (Luhmann The Reality of the Mass Media2000a, 50)

[p 131]

. This appears to be a also the description of the role of the mass media in general as a function system: to in fact supply society with norms and choices. ‘Advertising is thus crucial for establishing our society as “a kind of best of all possible worlds with as much order as necessary and as much freedom as possible. Advertising makes this order known and enforces it” (Luhmann The Reality of the Mass Media2000a, 50)

[p 131]

. Another function (apart from the one mentioned above) of the mass media is: ‘.. the impact on social dynamics, the speeding up of time. Luhmann says: “It might be said, then, that the mass media keep society on its toes. They generate a constantly renewed willingness to be prepared for surprises, disruptions even. In this respect, the mass media “fit” the accelerated auto-dynamic of other function systems such as the economy, science, and politics, which constantly confront society with new problems” (Luhmann The Reality of the Mass Media2002a, 22). The mass media system accelerates the speed of society by continuously providing new irritations. It provides new information – and then converts the same information to noninformation

[pp. 134-5]

. The systems provides two timelines: one in the future where new information is uncovered and another in the past where obsoleteness is produced. DPB: I am not sure that these are two timelines, perhaps it functions like a kind of a metabolism, first selecting and producing new information and then digesting it (chewing it up) to give it over to obsoleteness. ‘By producing new information, the mass media system also produces old noninformation. The other function systems cannot ignore this production of time

[p 135]

. ‘Luhmann suggests that the mass media can be ascribed the general function of providing society with a universally available memory. And by memory he means, more specifically, the generation of familiarity and its variation from moment to moment (Luhmann The Reality of the Mass Media2002a, 101)’ [p 135]. DPB: familiarity is a term I have also used but in a more narrow perspective, namely to explain how a person can ‘get used’ to particular signals and record them in her memory in association with other such ideas; but always as a matter of repetition of information, perhaps together with the association powers with others: ‘The memory is for Luhmann never a storehouse or stock, it is, quite to the contrary, a continuously operating production of actuality

[p 135]

. DPB: this is exactly how I have modeled it in the Logistical model: in situation (bad name?) and interactions, memes are adapted and they are recorded in memory of persons as per their familiarization; in this way their memory is continuously changing and never the same! More than just memorizing events, the mass media is capable of forgetting of not only what they didn’t select in the first place, but also of what they have selected but have now converted to the other side of noninformation; as a consequence the mass media constructs memory largely through forgetting and not through recollection. ‘By the mass media, society is informed about itself in a general way, a universally valid reality is constructed’ [ p 136]. This is a distinction from the individual realities of all the function systems, but in a general way of memorizing, a kind of a background reality and also not all of reality is comprise in there, not is it based on consensus. The medium that the mass media deal with and produce is the public opinion; this means a set of nonconsensual and nonpersonal data or ratings; it is not a shared or agreed opinion or an opinion of “the people”. The mass media system is concerned with its autopoiesis, the continuation of its operations by providing connectivity; ‘The medium of public opinion is very efficient in this respect. It never grows tired; you can always connect it with itself. A poll can be done and redone – it is usually slightly different the next day, and even if it is the same as yesterday, this is still information! Today’s public opinion is the basis tomorrow’s and the continuation of yesterday’s: “The respectively current public opinion … is as the result of previous communication the condition ofor future communication” (Luhmann The Society of Society 1997a, 1104)’ [p 138]. DPB: this reminds me of the concept of individuation: there is sufficient similarity in the differences to be comparable and there is sufficient difference in the similarity to be in a state of forever becoming. Luhmann is aware of this because he refers to Deleuze (see far above). ‘Public opinion is, after all this, neither the mere fashion of opinions as it was believed in the seventeenth century nor is it the medium of rational enlightenment or the “puissance invisible” which were expected in the eighteenth century to leave tradition behind. It is the medium of the self-description and the world-description of modern society. It is the “Holy Spirit” of the system, the communicative availability of the results of communication (Luhmann 1997a The Society of Society, 1108)

[p 138]

. Public opinion is a communicative medium becomes possible through the development of the mass media into an autopoietic global function system. With the production of a memory, there arise the need for a “currency”. The memory must take shape, it must assume a form. It is the medium for general reality to manifest itself. Public opinion is this communicative medium that is produced within the mass media system. It is the ‘stuff’ of society’s general self-descriptions; it is the basis for tomorrow’s reality: ‘With public opinion, mass communication can revolve around itself and continue its on-going self-reproduction. Public opinion transforms itself in eternal spirals’ [pp. 138-9].

6 Beyond Manipulation

7 The Reality of Mass Media

There is not such thing as a reality; reality is not distorted by the mass media; mass media instead construct reality; how do the mass media construct reality? DPB: this is potentially a useful concept also for the how the of a firm constructs its reality. The people associated with the firm are the producers and the users of information concerning the firm. This reminds me of the section in the manuscript that describes and illustrates the corporate discussions: from which leased car to choose up until the quality of the salad bar and who is dating whom. This is the reality of a firm under permanent construction! It is impossible to give a full account of anything, just as it is impossible to make a one-on-one map of a geographical area. An account is a structured de-complexified reduction of reality: ‘A structured and nonchaotic reality is based on the reduction of complexity, on selection, on systemic observation. Memory is based on forgetting. A coherent reality – be it the reality of a life or a war – can only be constructed from a certain perspective and this perspective has to be itself highly structured in order to be able to present a well-structured picture

[p 150]

. DPB: this reminds of the remark of Wolfram that the processes in nature that create reality should be just about as complex as the processes that have produced our powers of perception enabling us to make sense of those processes in nature. It also reminds of the law of requisite variety: the complexity of the controller must be similar to the complexity of the process it controls. The question is: how do the mass media, or in fact how do all observing systems(!!!), construct reality? : ‘And the question must “autologically” take into account that its answer will itself be a construction / observation

[p 150]

. But mass media does not construct all of reality: ‘The mass media construct a “public” reality. But this reality is not more or less real than the reality constructions of other observing systems’ [ p 150]. DPB: this information processing is all there is; the mass media attempt to embrace all of the world’s events, the function systems process the information produced in there and firms process information produced there. ‘The Reality of the Mass Media’ (title of Luhmann’s book) is grammatically ambiguous and this reflects the “operational constructivism” that underlies the systemic concept of reality: ‘The (mass, brackets DPB) media are the grammatical subject and object of this expression. If the mass media are the grammatical object, then reality is the subject, and thus the reality of the mass media is simply the reality that they “objectively” constitute. As a grammatical subject, the mass media “subjectively” produce a reality – they present us with with a reality that is their production or “object”. What is meant by the expression in the first sense are the operations proper to the media: the broadcasting and printing as it is performed (Luhmann The Reality of the Mass Media 2000a, 3). What is meant in the second sense is the reality that “appears to them, or through them to others, to be reality” (Luhmann The Reality of the Mass Media 2000a, 4)’ [p 151]. For the first approach above, first-order observation is enough, as if we were dealing with facts. For the second approach, a second-order observation is required. DPB: All the ‘ingredients’ I use in the Logistical Model are presented here also: is the concept of reality relevant for my subject at all?: ‘We must observe the mass media as an observing system that produces both its own reality and the reality of what it observes by its observations’ [p 151]. DPB this reminds me of the operators epsilon and beta and the question of they are one and the same: ‘Construction of reality always implies the reality of construction’ [p 151]. DPB this approach integrates the notions of construction and reality and that seems to me to be the same as the reciprocity of the operation of one system (say the mind, or communication) that expresses something and the operation of another system (say communication, or the mind) of making sense of the same thing. The belief in progress associated wit the capitalism or market economy infuses continuous change into the communication of the mass media, and hence no stability. This kind of construction/observation ongoing presents society with a new reality as opposed to a former version of reality: ‘With different types of construction, different realities emerge’ [p 152]. Examples are a religious, capitalist, traditional &c. construction leading to different realities.

8 Individuality and Freedom

Individuality is an important element in social reality constructed by the mass media. Events and communication are attributed to individual agency. ‘The construct of the “cognitively more or less informed, competent, morally responsible human being” helps the function system of the mass media constantly to irritate itself with regard to its biological and psychic human environment ( Luhmann 2000a The Reality of the Mass Media, 74)

[p 158]

. But human being are too systematically split (re functional differentiated systems) to be presented as one individual. But through structural couplings with other function systems as well as with the human mind system, by presenting persons as individual agents, they give the minds something to think about, namely about social inclusion and self-socialization. The persons appearing in the mass media increase the complexity of social and psychic systems. Luhmann uses terminology from psychology to explain structural coupling between the mind and the mass media, especially the notion s of schema and script: ‘Schemata allow for cognitive selection. With their help, cognition can both sort out what it takes note of and what is does not. They provide a framework with which information can be categorized and ordered. These schemata are not fixed, they can be varied and altered, they are not so much readymade images but patterns for the construction of images. .. Schemata are not the storehouse of cognitive impressions, but rather the cognitive tools for the production of information (DPB: tools for thought) – and thus for the performance of cognitive autopoiesis. Luhmann assumes that “the structural coupling of mass media communication and psychically reliable simplifications uses, and indeed generates, such schemata. The process is a circular one. The mass media value comprehensibility. But comprehensibility is best guaranteed by the schemata which the media themselves have already generated” (Luhmann 2000a The Reality of the Mass Media, 100)’ [pp. 158-9]. Minds and communication are coupled by meaning and language, in addition minds and mass media are coupled by cognitive schemata [p 152]. DPB: the concept of schemata reminds me of the concept of memes, the tools for thought; I believe that they are not only relevant in the sphere of the mass media or their interface with the mind, but have a wider application, for instance in the way people think about economic issues. ‘Schemata are rather the “thermostats” that link the mind and the mass media together’ [p 159]. DPB: they are at the same location as my operators E and B. And indeed via familiarization, they can become a mold of association that are used for decisions in the future. I find the thermostat comparison strange because they can only give a reading and not an action. Is that the intention here? ‘In order to be a modern personality we have to have a personality that goes beyond our functional identities. .. one has to be something “unique” as well. One has to have an identity, a history. One has to be as special and unique as everyone else is. The mass media display all these uniformly unique characters – and the mind resonates with these schemata. And in turn, of course, the mass media resonate with the mental individuality schemata. .. Luhmann explains: “When individuals look at media as text or as image, they are outside; when they experience their results within themselves they are inside. They ghave to oscillate between outside and inside. .. For the one position is only possible thanks to the other – and vice versa”(Luhmann 2000a The Reality of the Mass Media, 115). When structurally coupled with the mass society through the mass media – we are both inside and outside of society. The schemata have these two extremes – our psychic existence outside of society and our social existence within it’ [p 160]. DPB: this last part outside / inside reminds me a lot of the Logistical Model in regards to the making sens of the environment and then influencing the environment with the amendments of memes &c.

Part III: Philosophical Contexts

This section is a short summary of the main influencers of the work of Luhmann: Kant, Hegel, Husserl and Marx, according to Habermas and also according to the number of references in his texts. Mueller finds the work of Luhmann closest to the work of Hegel (influenced by it or borrowed from it, although he doesn’t admit it); and as such it is more of a philosophy of consciousness than a philosophy of social systems.

Kant

Radical constructivism, however, begins with the empirical assertion: Cognition is only possible because it has no access to the reality external to it. A brain, for instance, can only produce information because it is coded indifferently in regard to its environment, i.e. it operates enclosed within the recursive network of its own operations. Similarly one would have to say: Communication systems (social systems) are only able to produce information because the environment does not interrupt them. And following all this, the same should be self-evident with respect to the classical “seat” (subject) of epistemology: to consciousness. (Luhmann Cognition as Construction 1988, 8-9)’ [pp. 167-8]. Luhmann’s system theory is rooted in Kantian epistemology: What is cognition and how does it operate? But if cognition is a matter of consciousness then how can it relate to what it recognizes? Kant no longer occupies himself with the general structure of the world, but with the structure of cognition and how it operates and conceives of a world. And as a consequence, to understand reality we must first understand cognition. This idea introduces constructivism into epistemology. According to Kan, the realization of reality is an effect of cognitive construction but it makes sense to assume that the world still is as it is and the transcendental structure of cognition is relevant. Luhmann radicalizes this by assuming that reality consists of its own realization (over and above the idea that the realization of reality is a way of relating to reality). ‘Cognition is no longer simply a way of relating understandingly to a reality. Here reality emerges as cognition’ [p 168]. Cognition is however not seen as ideal or the self-realization of a higher consciousness, but instead it has no “essence”: ‘It can operate, for instance, ”materially” in the form of biological life, mentally in the form of thoughts, or socially in the form of communication’ [p 169]. There is no rule for how this can come about: ‘Cognitive systems establish themselves by operational closure. By differentiating themselves operationally, they construct themselves by establishing a difference between themselves and their environment. Cognition is based on the establishment of this difference – it does not happen in spite of this difference, but because of it’ [p 169]. DPB: this is a connection with the concept of individuation, where a shape or a contour is distinguished from a scatter of possible enemies (or food, or spouses) and that process of distinction (while being distinguished) is the process of cognition and it also is the process of individuation. As it comes to individuate, it comes to cognize. And this can only take place because a distinction is made between self and the environment, and hence because the system is operationally closed. And this process has been called “thinking” and I am also fond of the term “computation” in this sphere, meaning the processing of information. In the context of my research it means the processing of the information belonging to the social system, namely communication, and the processing of information belonging to the psychic system, namely belonging to the mind. These systems are operationally closed, and hence closed to the exchange of information by one another, but yet they influence the other indirectly. Differences of Luhmannian and Kantian theory: 1. Cognition can take any operational mode and hence is not an act of consciousness 2. Cognition constructs itself empirically in a different way from process to process, and there is no a priori transcendental structure of cognition 3. No complete description of all cognitive processes is possible because they evolve and hence new modes emerge 4. Reality is not singular but instead a complex multiplicity of system / environment constellations 5. A description of reality is itself a contingent construction within a system / environment relation [pp. 169-170]. With regards to the subject /object distinction (and its replacement with system / environment): ‘The subject “constructs” reality by transcendental unification through self-reference. The system does this by differentiation. The conceptual framework of system / environment is not only radically constructivist but also radically differentialist”’ [ p 170]. Consciously cognizing subjects are replaced with systems of observation that make distinctions (‘make splits’) into the world constituting a multiplicity of system / environment relations. In addition to the abolishing of the subject as an element of pure reason as above, Luhmann also criticizes its use for ethics and social theory: ‘The term “subject” does not designate a substance that, by its pure being, shoulders everything else, the subject is rather self-referentiality itself as the foundation of cognition and action. .. ‘ [pp. 170-171]. In other words: subjectivism should also not be use in social studies. DPB: the approach of Luhmann reminds me of my Logistical Model namely there is no subject, but a mutual evolution of the thought processes and the individuation processes. This comes about via the temporary existence of a connection between psychic and communication systems. Their connection, a Job or a Bubble, is the ‘owner’ of the operators that make the self- end hetero references, because only if the utterance was sent and received is it ain fact a communication and can it damage the mind such that the mind can damage the communication. What bothers me is Husserl’s concept of intersubjectivity, it sounds good, why can it not work? And also: it was mentioned in relation to the concept of coevalness.

Hegel

Hegel imports concepts of consciousness into social theory, ‘.., Luhmann rejects any general type of cognition for systemic autopoiesis – it may be consciousness, but is can also be communication, life, or perhaps, something else’ [p 173]. Luhmann’s shift from subject to system implies a shift from unity to multiplicity and from identity to difference (also compared to Hegel). Luhmann claims that his theory is able to include itself within itself. There is some level of self-inclusion in Hegel’s theory when the subject becomes fully self-reflective: ‘But Hegel, at least in Luhmann’s view, forgot to include himself, the perspective of the theory of subjectivity, into the story. He failed to take into account that the epistemologist is himself within the labyrinth of cognition. Hegel .. did not really achieve an “autological” theory of observation’ [ p 175]. ‘Luhmann’s theory is a “supertheory” because it fully includes itself within itself. But this self-inclusion leads to the breakdown of any declarations of finality, completion, or foundationalism’ [p 175].

Marx

Luhmann agrees with Marx that Hegel’s focus on consciousness such that social structures can be emancipated from being mere effects of spirituality. He, like Marx, believes that society has its own forces, that cannot be seen as a function of nonsocial forces; but he finds that Marx does not distantiate himself sufficiently from the same one-sidedness as Hegel, but with a focus on modes of production instead of a focus on consciousness. So as Hegel identified consciousness as the basis principle of all society, so Marx identified modes of production; and so both can be seen as fundamentalists or ontologists; both have not been able to introduce difference into their theories; and in the same way as Hegel, Marx has also not been able to include self-reflectivity into his theory autologically: ‘”Marx himself, however, seems to have been unable, just as Hegel, to account for his own theory within his own theory” (Luhmann 1997a Social Theory, 1080, n. 350) ’[p 177]. Neither theory was in this sense really a supertheory. Luhmann found Marx’s insight groundbreaking that the economy is not some law of nature but a social construct; in this way he could introduce the constructivist ideas already present in Kant and Hegel, into his theory of social construction: ‘With Marx, it became possible to conceive of society as an autopoietic, self-constructing mechanism that operated on its own accord, rather than under the unchangeable laws of some trans-social realm’ [p 178]. Marx was focused on the economy; this denies the influence that the function systems can have on one another; and so social theory had to be broadened to other areas also. In addition Luhmann does not agree with the “humanist upholstery” that Marx applied to his theory. ‘There is a thorough discomfort about normativity and morality in Luhmann that are, for him, not only simple-minded, but may quickly lead to intellectual and, more dangerously, social totalitarianism’ [p 180].

Husserl

Luhmann explicitly takes over structural and methodological aspect of cognitive and constructivist theory as well as Husserl’s terminology to use for his own conceptual apparatus. Husserl had already detected some principal features of autopoiesis, but failing to appreciate it, because of his epistemological idealism: ’Luhmann therefore wants to apply Husserl’s terminology not in explaining only the “characteristics of consciousness”, but also for “the emergence of order in general” (Luhmann Modern Sciences and Phenomenology (Die neuzeiten Wissenschaften und die Phänomenologie) 1996b, 50)’ [p 182]. He is interested in how the cognitive construction functions amongst other nonconscious systems, particularly social systems, namely society; he is interested in the ‘making sense’ of systems and rejects the ‘transcendental subject’. Luhmann translates Husserl’s terminology into systems language: ‘Intention is nothing but the positing of a difference’ (Luhmann 1996b Modern Sciences and Phenomenology (Die neuzeiten Wissenschaften und die Phänomenologie), 31)’

[p 182]

. No longer a mental interest, ‘Intention’ is now a primal operation. DPB: this reminds me of the description of Oudemans: at some state there is a difference and then that state determines which attraction or repulsion there is to establish the next state. Based on and because of its intentionality can a system make a distinction and differentiate between itself and its environment; a cognizing system can differentiate between itself (its operations) and that which it cognizes outside of itself: ‘Intentionality paves the way for a distinction between a system and its environment. Only through this difference can a system identify itself by distinguishing itself from what it observes’ [p 183]. This difference between self-reference and other-reference establishes the membrane, namely the boundary between the system and the environment. And this holds not only for conscious systems but for all self-referential systems, including social systems. In a likewise manner Luhmann defines sense as the unity of the difference between actuality and possibility to be applied to all sense-processing systems. Sense emerges in a context, it needs a horizon and it is always connected to something else that makes sense; the circular closure appearing as the ultimate horizon of everything connected is the world. According to Luhmann it is not possible for something nonsocial such as minds (or humans) to form the social and as a consequence he rejects Husserl’s intersubjectivity (see remark above, this is why, it is easy).

Habermas

14 Postmodernity, Deconstruction and Techno-Theory

Luhmann was mainly interested in post-modernism (at least the movement) when it indicated a loss of trust in the traditional (modern) self-descriptions; the overturn of modernity is not a structural but a semantic turn. A concise description of post-modernity is: ‘..renunciation of claims to unity and transition towards radically differentialist concepts (1997a The Society of Society, 555)’ [p 194]. Through deconstruction as a second-order observation Luhmann connects his theory with Derrida’s (and de Man) theories of deconstruction. ‘Luhmann finds that deconstruction recommends “the reading of forms as differences, to look at distinctions without the hope of regaining unit at a higher (or later) level”, and it “is deconstruction of the ‘is’ and not the ‘is not’”, because it deconstructs the assumption of presence, of any stable relation between presence and absence, or even the very distinction between presence and absence” (1993a, Deconstruction as Second-Order Observing, 766)’ [p 195]. All statements of an ‘is’ are based on distinctions and, as a consequence, presence is a construct of differentiation; it never actually gains self-identity; every presence if the result of an observation that is different from it; deconstruction can observe the observation that observes the presence; it observes (as per a second-order observation) the construction of the ‘is’, and hence the deconstruction of this construction. Any deconstruction can be the subject of further deconstruction (it applies to itself) and there can be no final unity that does away with difference. Luhmann refers to Deleuze’s concept of ‘sens’ as an antecedent for his use of ‘Sinn’ (at the expense of Husserl).

15 Conclusion: From Metanarrative to Supertheory

So as for Hegel, religion was a thing of the past, so for Luhmann philosophy was a thing of the past also. Religion (and philosophy respectively) were in waiting to be ‘sublation’ (‘Aufhebung’). Luhmann did not consider himself a philosopher but a social scientist; he in fact tried to elevate the entire project of philosophy. ‘A supertheory reflects on the fact that that it and its validity are its own product – and is therefore absolutely contingent. What a supertheory says has to make general sense to it. But this sense itself is not general, it is contingent upon the theory that is constructing this horizon of sense in the first place. A supertheory is a theoretical endeavor, and there is nothing more to it. What it says is relevant only theoretically, only within its confinements. .. Supertheory does little outside of theory. With supertheory, the world does not become morally better, more rational, or spiritually complete. It only becomes more distinct’ [p 201].

Appendix A: The Society of Society

Pages 24-35 from Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (Frankfurt/Main Suhrkamp 1997), translation by Hans-Georg Mueller.

In the current conception of society the assumptions are found that societies: 1. consist of concrete human beings and their relations 2. are constituted or integrated by consensus between human beings, their correspondence of their opinions and complementarity of their goals 3. are regional and territorially limited units 4. can be observed from outside. PS: that there was a problem with this was clear in sociology from the start, Durkheim says: ‘la société n’est pas une simple somme d’individus, mais le système formé par leur association représente une réalité spécifique qui a ses charactères propres’ (Durkheim, 1927, Les règles de la méthode sociologique, 8th edition, 127). PPS: even today many researchers refer to the human being as the basic unit for society. The assumptions above (1 / 3) prevent the definition of the object of society: ‘Instead, the relation between the individual and society now becomes a problem. .., obviously not everything that individualizes human beings (if anything) belongs to society. Society does not weigh exactly as much as as all human beings together, and its weight also does not change with every birth and every death’ [p 231]. It is not consensus that keeps society together: ‘This body of teaching, however, collapses when one asks more persistently how consensus, in a psychologically realizable sense, should be possible at all, and also how a sufficiently harmonized direction of coordinated expectations should be attained in this way’ [p 232]. DPB: this is exactly the crux: what is the organization that turns out to form a society by the coherence of the behavior that people appear to exhibit?

Appendix B: Cognition as Construction

Erkenntnis als Konstruktion (Bentelli Bern, 1988), translation Hans-Georg Mueller.

Distrust an assertion if it is amplified: why radical constructivism? ‘No matter if one preferred solutions of transcendental theory or dialectics, the problem was: how is cognition possible in spite of having no independent access to reality outside of it. Radical constructivism, however, begins with the empirical assertion: cognition is only possible because it has no access to reality outside of it’ [p 242]. The mind and communication can produce information because they are operationally closed: ‘Similarly one would have to say: communication systems (social systems) are only able to produce information because the environment does not interrupt them. And following all this, the same should be self-evident with respect to the classical “seat” (subject) of epistemology: to consciousness’ [pp. 242-3]. DPB: the above reminds me of a definition of information stating that the more surprise/newness it holds the more information it contains; the limit sits at randomness, which holds the most surprise (the information has no pattern, it is irreducible). Suppose that systems produce information while they are cognizing and suppose that more information is produced if the difference between the system’s states and the systems in the environment is larger. Difference between consecutive states of (behavior of) self or between self and the systems in the environment supposes comparability (the relation is less than random), and hence difference supposes a minimum of similarity between states of one system as cognized from another system. If there is too much difference for the systems to be comparable, then, as a consequence, individuation is impossible (a connection does not occur). If a change takes place in the environment (of the observed system), then an increase of difference is induced, and hence an increase of the amount of information produced by the system while it is making sense of the change in the environment; eventually the changes occurring and hence the amount of information can get so big that all similarity is lost and there is no longer a difference; and this represents again randomness. Rephrase: the information in the system and the behavior of the environment is unclear. ‘Constructivism could achieve a novelty effect if it would pursue the question of how uncoupling (in other words: indifference, closure) is possible

[p 243]

. DPB: interesting choice of words. The distinction between the system and the environment can cater for uncoupling by closure in the light of the differentiation of systems and it can cater for observation of observing systems (2nd order cybernetics).

II

It is (perhaps naively) assumed that all cognizing systems are real systems. In light of the above, the question how systems can cognize can be reformulated to how can they uncouple themselves from their environment. Self-isolation does not imply freedom of choice of operations, the opposite is the case, namely a coercion. Closure is only possible as an effect of the operations of the system itself and by the production of its own operations ‘within the network of their recursive anticipations and recourses’ [p 245]. This ‘going on’ is called autopoiesis by Maturana and other things by other philosophers: ‘Systems theory, however, makes it possible to formulate the result with particular clarity. No system can operate outside of its own borders, and neither can a cognizing system’ [p 245]. Luhmann assumes a concept of observation based on distinction and indication: cognition is manufactured by the operations of observation and recording of observations (descriptions), including the observation of observations and the description of descriptions. A distinction is made and an indication is made accordingly. ‘Everything that can be observed is the observer’s own accomplishment (Eigenleistung), including the observation of observers. Thus there is nothing in the environment that corresponds to cognition, since everything that corresponds to cognition is dependent on distinctions within which cognition indicates something as this and not that. .. There is not even an environment in the environment .. The distinction between system and environment is itself an operation that guides cognition. This course of reflection does not allow for any conclusions in regard to the irreality of the environment. It also does not allow for the conclusion that nothing exists besides the cognizing system. .. Indications such as “reality”(matter, ultimate reality) or “world” are, for cognition, themselves based on distinctions. They formulate the unity of that which is distinguished by a distinction – or, if you wish, their spirit’ [pp. 246-7].

II

An operative epistemology conceives of cognition as a kind of operation it can distinguish from other operations. As an operation, cognition happens or not depending on whether the autopoiesis of the system can be continued with such operation or not. The most important consequence of this approach is that it makes no difference whether cognition produces truth or errors’ [pp. 247-8]. DPB: this reminds me of the definition of communication (Luhmann, Logistical Model). Many authors find that it is intentional, I find it must be just-so. This statement above allows for cognition to ‘work with’ just-so stories; it produces whatever, not necessarily truth alone. Neither consciousness systems nor communications systems are divided into (or work in some other way with) true/false distinctions. Initially an autopoietic system works indifferently in regard to a true/false divide and now a binary code can be imposed: but who does the imposing? An observer observes A (distinguishes A from something else) , but he must observe other observers to find out whether it is true that A is. As long as epistemology relates itself to the concept of autopoiesis to explain cognition, it can claim for itself the status of external observer, given that it admits it is itself ruled by the same physical/chemical/biological/psychological conditions as the conditions it observes. [p 250]. DPB: this is my claim to lead my arguments back to laws of physics! I have no possibility to do that extensively, but now I can refer to this claim here! But: it changes with the sociological concept of cognition because there is only one society, only one comprehensive system of communication. Now there is no escaping (to another system) and the observer is trapped in the same system as the observed. DPB: this is why I am not particularly taken with the idea of communication as one system, divided into the functional systems; I find this is artificial. Anything individuating can become a system with some density and there is no need for an ultimate unity of communication, or is there? In the above (Luhmann) system all externalization can only be explained as a system differentiation: ‘Only with the sociology of cognition does a radical, self-inclusive constructivism become possible’ [p 250].

IV

The radical in radical constructivism can only be explained historically. The role of distinctions could only be played by religion: ’God is beyond all distinctions, .. In him, everything that transcends distinctness coincides insofar as it transcends distinctness – i.e., that which cannot be conceived as greater, as smaller, as quicker, as slower (coincidentia oppositorum)

[p 251]

. Everything else stems from a ‘contract’ with God, and hence is is distinguishable, and, in doing so, God makes himself comprehensible (in his incomprehensibility); ‘and that truth, although finally incomprehensible, consists for human beings in the correspondence of their distinctions with those of things’ [p 251]. DPB: God made the distinctions in this way and human beings can learn them by heart. To know God in his incomprehensibility, one had to observe his doings directly but in addition observe his observers, the devil as a first source of critique, and his self-observation also: ‘The escape route came fatally close to the assumption that God needed creation and the damnation of the devil in order to be able to observe himself, and it lead to writings that Nicolaus (Cusanus) believed unprepared minds with their weak eyes had better not read’ [p 251]. As a consequence the partner for radical constructivism is not traditional epistemology, but traditional theology.

V

One would now like to know how distinguishing and indicating is possible as a unitary but two-component operation’ [p 252]. DPB: this question reminds me of the problem of the ‘principal’ of the operator working between the psychic system and the communication system in the Logistical Model. ‘This leads one to the already anticipated insight that strongly limiting conditions have to be contributing’ [p 252]. DPB: what does this mean to say? Does this refer to that issue with the owner of the operators, namely that if and only if something is uttered as well as perceived by human beings can it be (become) part of the realm of communications? And conversely does it mean to say that if and only if it is perceived and (re-)uttered by human beings can it become part of their minds? ‘What presumably plays a role is that it is just about possible – at least in the realm of the sense operations of consciousness and communication – to view a twoness as a oneness, or, put differently; to see contrasts’ [p 251]. DPB: This supposedly means that if and only if the uttered thing and the perceived thing, up to that point two things, become one thing from there on. But what is meant with the seeing of contrast? If time is taken into account and if the system is complex, then sensitive dependence on initial conditions plays a role in its oscillations (between operations E and B to and between mind and communication). ‘This also, of course, presupposes the uncoupling of the system, namely, its own time (Eigenzeit) for its own operations while there is doubtless a simultaneous environment

[p 252]

. DPB: this reminds me of my position with regards to time as the counting of events. Events are the differences between the system and the environment, as far as they go noticed by the system, and hence they are irreversible, because they cannot become ‘unnoticed’. Time is a result of the counting of the events and not an independent parameter. Luhmann sees time differently, namely an Eigenzeit, time of the thing itself and perhaps even time of the environment where things run simultaneously. This position makes me think of the role of the operations inside the system in the production of irreversibility and hence of the production of time: this is different from the difference in the unfolding of events in adjacent systems. ‘This refers again to the necessity of memory, namely, on the one hand, to an ongoing consistency check along with the activation of the respectively appropriate structures, and, on the other hand, to a schema of observation that interprets occurring inconsistencies as distinctions in time or space and thus stretches them apart’ [p 252]. This leads to an ever more detailed specification of unlikely but necessary (Luhmann says possible) evolutionary processes that produce cognition. The environment presents to a system contrasts from its changes as persistent and hence allows for repetition (while the corresponding identifications are of course up to the system); the identification is a condition of the identification of the being and not of the being itself; the cognizing system can deal with the object (tolerating the observation) even if that has changed. ‘And, even more astonishingly, the cognizing system can, insofar as it has language, use constant terms to indicate something that is conceived as inconstant – for instance, the word “motion” to indicate motions. In other words, it does not have to simulate the changeable through its own change’ [p 253]. The hypothesis now emerges that ‘the differentiating of a cognizing system in any case leads to situations that are ordered simultaneously but no longer rhythmically synchronic with the environment; and this can only be achieved when there are also discontinuities in the environment from which the system can distinguish its own operations’ [p 253]. DPB: each system clicks away according to its own operations and as a consequence there are differences between the systems; these differences are not necessarily congruent synchronic because they only depend on the operations of the individual systems themselves; their behavior is of course conditional to of the irritations that they are dealt out by their neighboring systems. In addition the differences in the reality conditions of the reality perceptions: cognizing systems can compare the signs reaching them from different sources such as sound and visible location in such a way that they can make distinctions and identifications. ‘Cognition is therefore not possible in a “random” environment, but only in one that is suitable for cognition. This, however, does not justify assuming any “adaptation” of cognition to reality’ [p 255].

VI

There are at least some clues indicating that a reality that remained unknown, if it was totally entropic, would not enable cognition to take place’ [p 255]. But cognition itself cannot by itself bring this distinction because it would paradoxically have to be part of its own exteriority. DPB: this is the problem with the operators E and B between perception and behavior also: to whom do they belong, of what are they a part? Cognition is internal and does not know anything external to it that would correspond to itself: cognition does not have a model of the outside world that maps the world to its own operations. ‘We wish, without making a definite decision, to suggest three further concepts, which may very remotely resemble the teaching of the trinity. We wish to speak of the world in order to indicate the unity of the difference between system and environment. We wish to speak of reality in order to indicate the unity of the difference between cognition and object. We wish to speak of sense in order to indicate the unity of the difference between actuality and possibility’ [p 256]. The negation of the world lies in the world, the negation of reality is a real operator and the negation of sense makes no sense if it makes no sense. Luhmann goes on to state that cognition is an extremely unlikely type of operation, but I believe the contrary is true: this is very common and not unlikely at all, because every multiplicity of things from ‘the beginning of times’ has no other option than to make do with whatever else there is, by making sense of it, and such that from an early form of cognition it develop to what it is now, &c. ‘Additionally, it has to be noted that the aforementioned distinctions system/environment, cognition/object, and actuality/possibility display an obvious asymmetry. There is connectivity only on one of their sides; and they allow re-entry only on one side in the sense of Spencer Brown’s logic, i.e. re-entry of the distinction into what is distinguished. In this way the world can only be a concept for orientation within the system, a concept that re-enters the difference between system and environment into the system. In this way the difference between cognition and object is a distinction that is immanent to cognition; and the assumption that reality has to be something that entails both sides is, correspondingly, based on the very practice of cognition. And finally, in this way the difference between actuality and possibility only makes sense if it is practiced in actu, i.e., if the momentarily practiced operation refers to a horizon of other possibilities (and here it does not matter if these are real possibilities or possibilities that are only thought of or that can be only fictionally imagined)’ [p 257].

VII

One has to distinguish between psychic and social systems, between actually operating consciousness and communication. Both systems can make use of language to articulate thought as well as communication. For both systems a build-up of complexity to the degree we are familiar with becomes possible only through language. Both systems, however, operate as closed systems under entirely separate operational (autopoietic) and structural conditions. There is not the slightest operational overlap, because the recursive networking with other operations of the respective system imposes entirely different conditions of connectivity on everything that functions as an elementary operation within a system’ [p 258]. DPB: Luhmann designates a special position to language as a go-between for social systems and psyche ‘It is no system at all. Its efficacy lies in the structural coupling between consciousness and communication’ [pp. 258-9]; I find this artificial and I believe language is one of the social systems, evolving in an environment of peers, of which the closest (most frequently dealt with) are the mind and communication. ‘Language keeps its central function with respect to the ongoing structural coupling of psychic and communicative operations. It fascinates consciousness. .. During communication, one can also rely on the notation capability of psychic systems, on their memory’ [p 259]. DPB: this is not a very strong quote; there is more, but it appears descriptive and it does not exactly pinpoint how language is exactly that different from another social system, but has its own special position. ‘All these considerations demonstrate the importance of a structural coupling between psychic and social systems that is compatible with gains in complexity. It can only be explained by language’ [p 259]. DPB: I am not convinced it can only be explained by language; (the generative rules of) processes in nature including the processes of the mind and the processes that generate language are sufficiently complex to explain the gains in complexity of their respective (and coupled) behavior.

Appendix C: Beyond Barbarism

Niklas Luhmann Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik. Studien zur Wissenssoziologie der Modernen Gesellschaft, vol. 4 (Frankfurt/mAIN: Suhrkamp, 1999), 138-50), translated by Hans-Georg Mueller.

Should old ‘word-shells’ be discarded? Barbarian &c. are used to express disgust and to lend objectivity to the expression. Savages experience the world in a sensual way (as a variety of the diverse), barbarians have subscribed to reason; they grant primacy to reason over variety and individuality of all the phenomena. ‘Barbarians are those who have only one iron left in the fireplace’ [p 261].

II

III

Moreover, the absorption-system of the old-style corporations no longer exists, instead there are modern organizations based on membership decisions, that is to say on the inclusion of few members and the exclusion of all others’ [p 265]. As opposed to these membership organizations of corporations, the function systems (politics, religion, economy, science, law &c.) are in principle open to all.

IV

Barbarism has thus disappeared. ‘Culture is initially simply a doubling of all artifacts, including texts. Besides their immediate usage, artifacts gain a second meaning as documents of a culture. Pots are on the one side pots, but on the other side they are also signs of a specific culture that distinguishes itself by its kind of pots from another culture. And what is true for pots is also true for religions’ [p 268]. DPB: this reminds me first of the ‘other meaning’ of culture, similar to the chapter 14 of the management handbook. This illustration of the concept of culture can be connected with my use of Cargo religions such as John Frum &c. Also this is a way for behavior (and the memes that are at their foundation) to discriminate between them as a matter of Darwinian variation (or perhaps rather to enable selection to take place: now there is something to choose from). How can there be inclusion of there is no exclusion?

V

In modern supply-society, freedom is not restricted by coercion, but rather structured by supply in such a way that the enacting of freedom can no longer be attributed to the self-realization of the individual. One buys for a good price, watches the advertised films, chooses a religion or not as one likes – just like the others. Even God is a supply-God. He offers, and the model is of course Pascal’s wager, his love so impressively and so independent of moral judgments that the refusal would be meaningless or, theologically speaking, would fulfill the definition of sin. This demonstrates that culture and social conditions have made the enacting of freedom so asymmetrical that the individual is only left with meaningless decisions – or with protests that do not change anything’ [p 271].

Glossary of Terms

Blind spot (Blinder Fleck): when we observe something we establish a point of view, there is thus something else behind our back we cannot see. Cognition presupposes conditions that cannot be themselves cognized. The world cannot be seen as a whole, seeing is determined by nonseeing.

Connectivity: ‘Connectivity of operations is the for the self-establishment of an autopoietic system. Operations of the same kind have to be capable of connecting to each other so that a network of operations arises. In communication systems, communication has to be able to be continued. If not, the system stops reproducing itself and thus ceases to exist’ [p 217].

Constructivism: all cognition is construction. This term can be contrasted with realism, namely that reality is as it is and it can be represented as such. Constructivism means that “reality” is produced by construction by the observer.

Contingency: this means that things could have been different. Observations and distinctions, cognitions and selections are contingent: they are not dictated by human nature, but by (social) evolutionary processes and so they could have been different. The function systems are a result of distinctions but these in turn have evolved and have no essence.

Environment: that in which a systems exists other than itself: complementary with the term system. But an environment is specific for thát system and so there are as many environments as there are systems.

Information: 1. one of the moments or “selections” that constitute communication and 2. information/noninformation is the basic code of the mass-media.

Irritation: orignaly Irritation, meaning distraction to perturb, perhaps better translated as perturbation. This term is used to avoid deterministic cause-effect sequences.

Observation: an act of distinction and indication.

Operation: ‘Operations are what systems consist of; operating is what systems do. Different types of systems consist of different types of operations’ [p 223]. ‘Operational closure goes along with cognitive openness. By being operationally closed and differentiated from its environment, a system can have cognition of its environment. Once a system has reached operational closure, it can observe the environment in its own terms’ [p 223].

Re-entry: the re-entry of a distinction into what is distinguished.

Self-reference and Other-reference: ‘A system that has distinguished between itself and its environment and, by way of re-entry, has copied this distinction into itself, can, quite naturally, distinguish between itself and its environment. It can therefore refer to itself or to its environment when communicating (if it is a communications system)’ [p 224].

Semantics: this is the term for the specific ways in which society produces meaning or how it makes sense of things.

Structural coupling: this term (Maturana) is used in later work to replace interpenetration (Parsons).

Unmarked space: like the term ‘blind spot’ (Spencer Brown) this term also expresses the idea that when something is observed something else remains unobserved. In order to focus, other things have to be left out of sight.

Theories of Distinction

Luhmann, Niklas . Theories of Distinction: Redescribing the Descriptions of Modernity . 2002 . Stanford University Press . Stanford California . ISBN 0-8047-4123-9

Preface

Luhmann likes to theorize, to ‘think for its own sake ‘ [Preface IX].

Introduction: The Self-Positing Society

(William Rasch)

The goal of Western philosophical tradition is to understand the cosmos and to discover the purpose and meaning of all human life.

Philosophy as a quest for wisdom is a quest for universal knowledge, for knowledge of the whole, .. , the knowledge of the natures of all things: the natures in their totality are the ‘the whole’ (Leo Strauss 1988).

This knowledge may never be achieved but its possibility must be confirmed (p1).

Reason serves as the bond between human nature and the nature of the cosmos and to deny it is to foster incomprehensibility for the individual and the species (p 2).

Modernity is characterized by the loss of faith in this reason linking human nature and the cosmos (p2). The outcome of our reasoning is often unpredictable and infinite: the whole disappears beyond an infinite horizon; in this ‘world picture’ we no longer feel embedded in the whole (p2). The whole remains as a mythical origin or a utopian telos but it remains invisible: the mission has become historical (p2). This modernist philosophy is exhausted in the 20-th century: ‘At any rate, what has dominated in both the philosophical and the social-theoretical projects of the past hundred years has been an intense concentration on the immanence* of the posited** world’ (*quality of remaining within a system …, ** put forward as a fact or basis for an argument) [p 2].

The whole that is modernity is the whole that strains to see itself and thus a whole that forever divides itself with every observation into more and more ‘facts’’ [p 3]. This whole now becomes self-referential, and hence paradoxical; philosophy becomes second-hand: observations of observations. The general idea of the purpose of ‘observations of observations’ is to find latencies and cure the personal respectively correct the social error whence they originate [p3]. Luhmann radicalizes the observation of latencies by locating latencies in all observations ‘that cannot be finally and fundamentally accounted for. What is needed, then, is a theory that can account for this lack of accountability’ [p4]. Some of the themes treated there that were relevant for the twenty-century modernists are: self-reference, paradox and partiality of observation

[p4]

.

Self and Not-Self

The paradox involved in self consciousness is that to refer to Self is to distinguish it from itself; in so doing the Self makes of itself something else than itself. To be conscious of itself, it must be conscious of other as Self and hence split itself into two. It must posit itself as the Self (self-positing) and as its negation (reflected object) the not-Self [p4]. This must occur simultaneously, not as an afterthought. But it is logically impossible to posit itself as Self (A) and as its negation not-Self (-A) and so the Self loses its identity. But the Self originally enables the existence of the not-Self and the not-Self annihilates the Self, .., hence a logical paradox. [p 5]. This paradox is resolved through the introduction of the concepts of the finitude of space and quantity. If Self and not-Self are thought of as complementary: they are mutually exclusive, they limit one another and they occupy different parts of space. They become divisible and indeed define that very notion [p 5]. But now a double negation comes into view: reference to Self as the not not-Self, another paradox [p 5]. This is resolved by introducing a quantifiably determinate self stands in opposition to or contradiction from the absolute self.: ‘That self still remains – and must remain – invisible and without predicate if it is to serve as the undivided ground for the unity of the difference between self and not-self. The absolute self is ‘equal to itself’ and ‘posited as indivisible; whereas the self to which the not-self is opposed is posited as divisible. Hence, insofar as there is a not-self opposed to it, the self is itself in opposition to the absolute self’ [pp. 5-6]. Self positing has severed self from not-self in a limited space of mutual determination, and severing the absolute self from that limited space of the (now empirical) self and its partner the not-self. The paradox is of a self that alienates itself from itself in the act of self-positing [p 6].

Stuk overgeslagen, moeilijk door te komen.

Part: Husserl, Science, Modernity

1. The Modern Sciences and Phenomenology

I

The peasant-artisanal family economy has disappeared from Europe (and the world). Life may take place in families or similar communities, but it depends on markets and ‘organizations of professional work. The ensuing transformations are perceived by the individual as external and intractable. ‘The integration of the individual and society is becoming a matter of market forces [Konjuncturen] and careers [Karrieren] – K.u.K., if you will’[p 34]. Transformation on the macro-level are the developments of the financial markets, relocation of work to cheap labor countries and massive demographic movements. In the political sphere there are relocation to cheap labor countries and migration issues. ‘The fact that ‘regulation’ and ‘intervention’ have become prominent political concepts betrays a new kind of awareness of the problem

[p 35]

. The availability of atomic energy has had a large consequence for warfare and energy production. It is now possible to interfere directly in genetic structures determining life. Ecology now for the major part faces self-induced challenges. With each gain in knowledge, the sciences produce more ignorance. Husserl considers technology a modern phenomenon; it is applied science. He sees modernity in the light of the fall of rationality, namely waiting for the technical realization of science (you cannot blame Newton for the effects on the ‘lifeworld’). But today we believe technology does not depend on the tools and developments of scientific discovery alone: you cannot simply look it up and execute a procedure, you have to mess around experimenting. The humanities have distinguished themselves from the natural sciences by becoming self-reflexive. So fared the natural sciences amongst each other: they observe objects that observe themselves. Objective cognition had to be given up as a fiction since Heisenberg and if an ‘objective reality’ exists it is not available for observation or to refer to it. ‘Geist’ is not required for them, they are projects of cognition in the natural sciences. The métarécit (comprehensive explanation or overarching narrative about historical meaning and knowledge, offering social legitimation) of today: there are no métarécits capable of consensus. But philosophies can be (run the risk to be) inspired by the social issues of their era, without it becoming expressed in their arguments (philosophy involving market capitalism is an example). Husserl pointed at a changed meaning of critique: ‘Critique – that only means, anymore, observing observations, describing descriptions from a standpoint that is itself observable’ [p 37].

II

Problems with Husserl’s text are: 1. It is focused on Europe only assuming that its traditions would not change or dissolve into others 2. Only when society came to grow on a global scale it became necessary to keep a control over the concepts related to it. Now what was discovered and what existed previously is declared part of culture. Only now existed culture as one could speak about it in conceptual terms. Philosophies of many disciplines are possible, including the philosophy of culture. But what would be the meaning of a culture of philosophy (e.g. a European flavor)? ‘Must philosophy now organize resistance against culture in the name of authenticity, genuineness, originality? .. Culture absorbs even that’[p 39]. But the question is raised what conditions philosophy must satisfy if is to be culture and to be comparable to all other elements in the category. What form must it have such that it reconciles philosophy with its own contingencies. 3. Husserl solves this philosophy-culture problem with an asymmetric distinction: such that one side of the distinction dominates the distinction itself, such that the maker of the distinction is the master of both sides of it (l’englobement du contraire’ [Dumont 1966, 107-8]). In this way the humanities dominate the distinction between the humanities and the natural sciences, because only they can ask in what spirit the natural sciences are conducting research. This is transjunctional: by making the distinction the middle is indeed excluded but the maker of the distinction cannot takes sides and masters the situation securing a place at the side he prefers. 4. The European resolve to not accept any tradition unquestioningly is itself a tradition and legitimated by tradition: anti-traditionalism as a tradition. Philosophy must be expected to reflect on this, not assume it a given. This is an entelechy, an original and still-possible motivator; the original and the goal are the same: ‘.. which derived its demands upon the virtue of those now living from the origin of a state or of a noble family and could therefore treat neither the past as vanished nor the future as open’ [p 41]. Following the tradition of self-critical anti-tradition, the outcome may be very different from the paradigm of that tradition itself; but the alternative is to turn to an uncritical self-critical stance.

III

Arguments rendering philosophy uninteresting: philosophy as a museum / critique understood as the emphatic rejection of the object of critique / negligence of sociological phenomenology that runs into the trap of objectivism bound to the non-concept of ‘intersubjectivity’ as a non-existing way to negotiate between objectivism and subjectivism for sociologists only. Postwar sociology did not espouse the critique of Husserl (?) on the relation between tech and science. The functional differentiation of society was seen as a concertation of all functional systems to improve individuals’ overall conditions of life. ‘In this description, more wealth, more freedom, more chances for individual self-realization were expected, in part through an evolutionary development, in part through a scientifically informed politics’ [p 42]. In this double faith (evolution / politics) lay the belief that the idea of modernity contained an immanent rationality and that the development of society is an achievement of society itself. The problem sits in the political-ideological differences of opinion between the liberal-democratic and socialist paths. The modernist project has vanished, now the key terms are freedom in the sense of a market economy, in the sense of freedom of expression, of electoral democracy, or freedom of research pursuing its own goals. This concept of a largely successful path to a more modern modernity is detrimental and hardly credible ‘in view of consequences that are already evident’ [p 43].

IV

Husserl insisted on a transcendental foundation of phenomenology: concentration on the transcendental subject and not a theory-free approach to things. He opposed an objectivistic conception of science, void of spirit. Distinction is the discovery of self-reflection, independent of all empirical evidence – as transcendental evidence as it were. Everyone can find it in him- or herself. The theory that describes this, relying on its own evidence, is hence called ‘transcendental phenomenology’ [p 45]. Now phenomena are no longer the thing to penetrate cognition but the thing itself, the ‘realia’ that are part of the operation of consciousness. The difference between noesis (faculty of the mind necessary to determine what is true or real) and noema (object or content of thought, judgment or perception) between presenting and presented that ensures the describability of the world and that constitutes determinable objects. The above can be reformulated as a difference between self-reference and hetero-reference, revealing that the references condition each other: consciousness cannot self-reference if it cannot distinguish itself from something else and there would be no phenomena for consciousness if it cannot distinguish them from self-indications. ‘The operational method of consciousness that steers by means of intentions is possible only on the basis of this distinction between self-reference and hetero-reference’ [p 47]. ‘Consciousness exists as accessible to itself only in its own operations, and hence there can be time only in the form of momentarily present retention or protention’ [p 47]. Note: According to Husserl, perception has three temporal aspects, retention, the immediate present and protention and a flow through which each moment of protention becomes the retention of the next. Retention is the process whereby a phase of a perceptual act is retained in our consciousness. It is a presentation of that which is no longer before us and is distinct from immediate experience. Protention is our anticipation of the next moment. The moment that has yet to be perceived. [wikipedia 18 feb 18, lemma protention]

A link exists between this theory and neuroscience which shows that present, past and future are intertwined, also in memory: “memory is not only about the past, but is also about the future”. While memory serves as the ability to recall previous experiences, the recall itself is not solely directed toward the past, but is guided by the present for the service of the future. Now the concept of time is introduced: the present is an incision between the past and the future. But if consciousness has an inner subjective time, then why is this covered with the concept of an external objective, chronological time in which it has to reconstruct itself as self-moving, as a stream of consciousness [p 47]? But this is beyond the descriptive internal findings of phenomenology; however, to ask for the ontological metaphysical appears to be a dead end. In the European tradition of time as a flow Husserl measures time as a schema of before (retention), during (present) and protention (after). On the one hand this technical approach to time gives a problem with the earlier critique of technology. But on the other hand if time is not a measurable thing then what justifies the image of time as a flow? The difficulty starts already with the fact that we don’t know what time is; but there are two footholds: 1. the operational manner of intending implies the existence of time, at least the condition must be transcended and 2. given that self-reference and hetero-reference exist then one must be allowed the time to reflect on the question of ‘Why does that interest me at all? If one disregards time or if one relies on an ontologically oriented logic that cannot include time, one encounters paradoxes, as technicians of formal calculations know. One must either ‘Gödelize’- that is, transcend the boundaries drawn by the premises of calculus – or ‘temporalize’, that is, endow the calculating system with time. It is then no longer a matter of true / false but rather of flip / flop’ [pp. 48 – 49]. The connection between operation, time, oscillation and bistability (self- and hetero-reference) supports itself and the unity sought can be the oscillation itself. But that implies a kind of a memory to grasp what has been released to be reoccupied: ‘Memory objectivizes, it contracts, it reckons the relation of identity between the designations of observations that, as operations, can be carried out only one after the other’

[p 49]

. Concerning recursive functions, the re-entry of forms into themselves, the system must be equipped with memory and with the ability to oscillate between the distinctions used. These functions can be separated only if one divides them into past (memory) and future (the possibility of oscillation). It appears as though distinguishing time in time is not a measurement nor a processual substratum but it is necessary to endow systems with the possibility to operate in a sensible self-referential way [p 49-50].

V

That is possible if the distinction consciousness/phenomenon is translated to self-reference/hetero-reference. This opens the way to a cognitive science oriented towards cognitive systems, a so called empirical epistemology. Cognitive systems operate with a distinction between self-reference and hetero-reference. They can calculate (sic) an idea of the environment only through hetero-reference (phenomenologically). But the environment remains operatively inaccessible because a system cannot operate in its environment. Also systems cannot distinguish the environment as they designate it and the environment as it is. But the idea is that the environment must be cognitively accessible lest the distinction between self-reference and hetero-reference would collapse. In that case hetero-reference (consciousness of phenomena) would in the end only be self-reference (consciousness). This must have consequences for rationality and Western reason à la Husserl. But this line of thought is coming close to the idea of a/p systems. It belongs in ELENS or perhaps in ECOG (DPB). If reality is seen as an illusion then one ends up with radical constructivism, the complete (including knowledge) operative inaccessibility of the environment. Self-reference makes an image of the environment based on self chosen distinctions without a correlate in the environment. But this conflicts with the requirements of a systems-rationality because it resolves the distinction between self-reference and hetero-reference into self-reference. But it can be illustrative to work with this paradoxical limit-idea of paradoxicality (sic) and an illusion of reality. The tradition of radical constructivism developed as follows: logical self-correction > latent unconscious projection surrounding the apparatus of knowledge > language dependent view of reality > reflexivity, the application of these theories to themselves. All of these tools for psychological and social self-correction and self-discipline. The suspicion of projection was universalized and made autonomous (as a school of thought I assume DPB) as Radical Constructivism. But how can the illusion of reality be saved if cognition is produced internally through the procedure above? Given also that that illusion depends on the structures of the identification and distinctions of the system and their recursive use?

The function of the illusion of reality lies in the enabling of the transition from one construction to another. In a therapeutic (pathological/normal) scheme ‘normality’ can be defined as a less painful, more bearable construction, and not a better adaptation (this is reminiscent of the idea that organisms optimize towards a reduction of stress, and to express their fitness as such DPB). And even when therapy is not in order then the illusion of reality offers the possibility to make a transition from one construction to another. Modern society is a polycentric and polycontextual system allowing for many different frames. He existence of transjunctional operations is required that make it possible to change from one context to another and in each case to mark which distinctions are accpeted and rejected. A 2-value logic is insufficient to cognize reality and reality would in that case be an object isolated from knowledge and without describable qualities. ‘Suppositions of reality are needed, however, only in order to accept a multiplicity of incommensurable constructions and, when needed, to move from one of them to another. Radical Constructivism can accept exactly that. For reality is then nothing more than the correlate of the paradox of the self-referential unity of self-reference and hetero-reference (or of subject and object, or of consciousness and phenomenon). And this simultaneously implies that one cannot linger with reality in itself. Like a paradox, reality requires ‘unfolding’. It is only an aid for reaching one construction from another. Consequently, the reality that is given as a paradox is the only knowledge that is unconditionally given, that cannot be conditioned in the system – and therefore remains unproductive’[p 52].

VI

How can an extremely formal theoretical configuration help us in the face of the countless problems with which our society presents us and which we increasingly recognize as consequences of its own structures?’ [p 53]. A form of operative constructivism has revealed itself, which goes under various brand names: formal calculus, 2nd order cybernetics, autopoietic systems, radical constructivism. But these constructs are homeless in the sense that they do not belong to any philosophical tradition. ‘Its manner of argumentation sounds rather naive to the ears of trained philosophers (above all in the cases of Maturana and von Glasersfeld) [p 53, Why? DPB]. Autopoiesis as a concept leads to a conceptuality that is not bound to a type of operation, such as chemical, physical, neurological, biological &c., ‘but that can organize, on these different bases, the reproduction of a difference between system and environment and, independently thereof, can organize cognition’[p 54]. This concept, and others, have turned away from the figure of the transcendental subject. ‘Or is a theoretical construction present in transcendental phenomenology that, if one may formulate it so paradoxically, can separate itself from itself, can become independent of itself?’[pp. 54-55]. To establish this issue no longer purely belongs to the realm particular to consciousness, but to the realm of the emergence of order as such. ‘The rigor of this departure from the transcendental can be recognized if one considers the possibility of omitting consciousness as the medium of the formation of forms and, despite this, of maintaining the structure that was discovered by Husserl, namely the insight into the interrelation of the conditions of the capacity for operations , the separation and simultaneous processing of hetero-reference and self-reference as well as temporality from the standpoint of the respective operations. I believe that this is possible if one determines to presuppose meaning as the general medium for the formation of forms and then to distinguish whether systems are constructed on the basis of intentional acts of consciousness or on the basis of communication. .. I think that such a theoretical program, which radically distinguishes between psychic and social systems, is practicable, but this is not the place to demonstrate this. The question is only: How would the landscape of theory look if such a theoretical program would be practicable? .., but rather a theory that keeps the paradoxing and deparadoxing of its principal differences open in the event that the forms it can offer are no longer persuasive. It would be a theory of self-referential, nontrivial, therefore unreliable and unpredictable systems that must separate themselves from an environment in order to gain their own time and their own values, which limit their possibilities. It would be a theory that assigns to cybernetics the task of controlling the indeterminacies that are generated in the system itself. There is no question then that one can construct the good old subject in this way. However, the decisive factor is that social systems, too – society too – can be described with this concept’ [pp. 55-56, this can go to ELENS; PS I like the underlined phraseology!].

VII

Given the possibility to distinguish operations that constitute meaning concerning social systems and psychic systems in their recursive self-reproduction, respectively it has now become more possible to introduce Husserl’s intuition of a theory into a different ‘lifeworld’. One could imagine that a theory of society could be worked out on the basis of these sketched-out foundations, a theory in which communication would be understood as basic operation, information as hetero-reference, utterance as self-reference, and understanding as a prerequisite of the transferal of communicatively condensed meaning into further communications, with the option of looking for the focal point of the connecting communication either in hetero-reference or in self-reference, an option that perpetually reopens the theory and that is to be perpetually decided anew’ [pp. 56-57; this is a description of a system for (open-ended) cultural evolution; EIMM ELENS ECOG EMEM maar ook ELOG]. Communication cannot operate outside of the system. A system can distinguish between self-reference and hetero-reference and is bilaterally stable and open to the future. ‘It (such a theory-type DPB) could record the moods of the time, such as the fascination with self-referential circles and paradoxes, the necessary incorporation of ignorance into knowledge, and the interaction of construction and deconstruction on the basis of self-limiting system operations’[p 57]. Science like anything does not move by flashes of genius, but instead it must start a journey with some historical and factual state of knowledge that defines and limits its susceptibility to stimulus. ‘It is thus rather an evolutionary process that records certain chance impulses but cannot register others at all. Therein lies the flexibility in the distinctions that can be applied to a given way of formulating knowledge – . One who wishes to opt out of all of these distinctions has hardly a chance of being understood. On the other hand, .. – that one who opts within these frames is compelled to reformulate already already-used-up thoughts, and thereby covers up the already visible theoretical intuition’[p 58, underline originally italic by author].

VIII

Concerning the redescribing of existing descriptions (and this is not the same as a critique or an attempt at progress or hermeneutics=interpretation of the meaning): ‘In view of the facility of this kind of textual production, one can redescribe it, too, and thereby surpass the self-understanding of its authors’[p 59]. A redescription of a redescription of a description is an autological process and it does not provide a grounding nor does it need to go on infinitely: ‘It does what it does and in this manner it represents itself. It itself operates autopoietically, without aiming for a palliative conclusive formula’[p 59]. It is possible that this style of thinking requires a different relation to time. In Husserl’s universe consciousness observes time ‘out of the corner of its eye’ [p 60]. Time was conceived in the Western tradition of philosophy, as a river, a movement, a process. Now descriptions of descriptions are the past and prospect of future descriptions are the future. ‘It understands its own present as the difference between its past and its future. It articulates its position no longer in time, but rather with the help of time. ..; rather time is now a definite form of observation, a world-construction with the help of the difference between the infinite horizons of past and present’[p 60].

2. The Modernity of Science

I

Science represents itself as ‘modern’ and it is widely seen as such, and unlike some other activities its modernity seems to go without saying. Regional and historical contingencies exist, but a regional comparison does not explain what is historically new: novelty is in the final analysis not in comparison to Europe’s own history. Modern society creates its own newness by stigmatizing the old. Society self-describes through degradation of the world of one’s father to ‘ancient history’. This practice burdens self-interpretation and leads to controversy (one is a father’s child). The modrnity of science consisted in the progress of knowledge and in this way science dictated its own modernity, it wás a constant modernity. Then problems arose because new fields of study were opened such that theories were put in their final classical form or enhanced the powers of dissolution of existing knowledge into new forms. But now the connection between science and society is lost, because they could no longer be categorized; some elements of science newly came into existence; others before them had been considered true but were now dissolved into them or replaced by them. Only with the incommensurability theory of Kuhn were theories that apparently addressed some issue in a different paradigm to co-exist in history (their contributions valued). And with that practice science’s claim to modernity went overboard: all theories in some order come to claim their place in history. A particular paradigm’s claim to superiority is only grounded in its own view: the constructivism of modern epistemology is grounded in itself only.

NO. From the analysis presented here the situation is the other way around: a connection exists between functional differentiation of the social system and a constructivist self-understanding of science: ‘Modern society’s form of differentiation makes possible, or even enforces, the autonomy of separate functional areas; this is accomplished by the differentiation of certain operationally closed, autopoietic systems. Functional differentiation thus imposes on systems an obligation to reflect on their own singularity and irreplaceability, but an obligation that must also take into account that there are other functional systems of this kind in society’[p 63]. Knowledge is one form of social ‘potency’ among others: in different arenas its relevance is experienced and valued differently. Communication presupposes knowledge, society requires knowledge to communicate, yet society does not depend on this particular expert scientific knowledge for the autopoiesis of its communication as such [p 63]. Science in specific must make new achievements and not define society, contrary to other forms of communications in society. This state of affairs of a loss of reference (also loss of experience, loss of meaning, loss of belief) is registered by the stances of relativism, conventionalism and constructivism. Their content is negative when historically compared to the prevailing metaphysical ontology including essentialism, religion and categorial approach to nature, supposing a correct order. These must fail and relativity and contingency come into play, namely the provisional and hypothetical character of knowledge.

Truth is not possible without reference to an external world. But not only the designated (referred to) must be real, given that the operation of reference is real. This statement is insufficient because the operation is inaccessible to itself and to the observer it can be referred to only as something he designated: tis is the controversy between realism and constructivism – as if they were incompatible. Modern society must formulate its epistemological problem, namely the problem of reference and the problem of truth, differently (now it is bivalent): true = positive = being = reference (&designating, claiming, recognizing). Untrue is to confirm the act of referring. As a consequence a loss of reference comes as a loss of truth. This logically leads to the paradox of nihilism: only the untruth can be true. Logic is structurally not rich enough to represent more complex situations (DPB: why is this so: Boolean = TM). It is required to separate the problems of truth from the problems of reference. The starting point for these reflections is difference-theoretical: they arise from a conception of reference and of truth as form in the sense ’.. – as a two-sided form, as difference, as the marking of a boundary whose crossing takes time

[p 65]

. DPB: is this similar to the concept of difference of Deleuze as p/ Weaver PhD? With regards to truth: this is a code to mark the (self-referential) difference between truth and untruth. Regarding reference: there is a distinction between self-reference (internal reference) and external reference: as both sides of the distinction they exist only as a pair of opposites. Accepting this formulation of reference the problem plays on two levels. ‘Reference itself is nothing but the achievement of an observational designation’: each reference designates something (it has an object) [p 65]. ‘The opposite concept here is simply operating’, because unlike referring, operating is an objectless enactment (sic) [p 65]. ‘In the observation, the difference between observation and operation can be reformulated in an innovative way as the distinction between self-reference and external reference. Self-reference refers to what the operation ‘observation’ enacts. External reference refers to what is thereby excluded’ [p 65]. (Intuitively internal (self-)reference is the result of having put oneself in a relation to something through an observation and in the case of external reference not having done so, respectively DPB). Now the predicate ‘real’ is no longer attributable to what is designated, but to what is distinguished – the distinction (either a relation exists because it is observed or it is not DPB) [p 65]. ‘And this holds for every distinction – for the distinction between self-reference and external reference as well as for the distinction between true and untrue’ [p 65]. Now the problem bifurcates into a problem of distinctions of {distinctions of self-reference and external reference} and of {distinctions of true / untrue}. These two distinctions are of different dimensions (‘at right angels to each other’): self-referential observations can be both true and untrue &c. There is no (automatic) privilege left for the truth of the observer’s introspection, but self-observation and self-description remains a certainty without criteria; but only the operation of observing (the capability to see) is put beyond doubt. But what is referred to (designated, objectified, recognized) can be designated both as true and untrue, ‘depending on the programs that serve as criteria for a correct classification for these values’ [p 66]. A systems can only construct its environment internally; it has a different access to itself than to its environment. But the interpretation cannot be that the self-reference is easier to achieve than external reference, produces better results, or has a higher probability of truth. The observing operation is a communication that exposes itself in its enactment and not only in its effects (this means that the behavior ís the signal DPB). By the fact that the system is operating the distinction regarding its ‘form’ is enforced. Self-reference and external reference can be coded in the same code (I find this odd, because external reference is about what it is not and that is a lot to be aware of and to code accordingly DPB). ‘.. and this encoding takes place in a different way depending which of its function systems society uses’ [p 66] (I think these functions are Francis´s aspects). This situation repeats itself at the level of function systems, which themselves also distinguish between self-reference and external reference in their operations [p 66]. Modern pattern of the social system is articulated through its function systems; they participate in the structural richness of modern society ‘.. – a society that only they put in this form’ [p 66]. These functions require descriptions that are rich in structure to account for the distinction of distinctions as above. The ensuing semantic forms are modern; but they are historically conditioned by their socio-structural cause and their semantic expression.

Constructivist epistemology can deal with this state of affairs; this has led to a theory that describes cognition in a radical way as a self-produced distance [p 67]. This seems to imply an increased knowledge of knowledge; however, this falls short of explaining the break between radical constructivism and transcendental idealism (where did that come from? DPB). ‘If, on the other hand, one defines modern society structurally in terms of functional differentiation and derives from this principle its semantic requirements through such concepts as polycontexturality (r! DPB), second-order observation, and the distinction of distinctions – especially the distinction between problems of encoding (for example, true/untrue) and problems of reference (self-reference and external reference) – then, in any case, an opportunity for observations and descriptions presents itself that is richer in structures’[pp. 66-67].

II

The conclusion is that the specificity of modernity is to be found in the differences that are produced when an observer designates something and makes a distinction. Another route to arrive at this conclusion is as follows. Another description of modernity is in its tendency to formalize, idealize, technicalize, account &c. ‘At stake is the fact that science accepts technology as a form of its own (of science ?DPB). .. We are only asking: in what sense is technicalization (we continue to use this word) a form? And what is the other side of this form?’ [p 66]. Husserl distinguishes technicalization from the ‘lifeworld’, namely the always already employed concrete foundation of meaning for subjective intentions. He goes on to make a distinction between the self-realization of reason under the guidance of philosophy; and the other side of that is the actualization of meaningful human life under the guidance of reason. To explain the arbitrariness of the behavior of the state the behavior of individuals had be treated as unreliable. In the same vein individual cognitive experience had to be unreliable to set off against calculable measurements. ‘Once one has made a distinction – and one cannot begin without one – and then continues in one’s action, then an order of increased complexity arises, intelligible to everyone, which leaves only the options of either agreeing or refusing to join in. Consensus can only be achieved by reduction; or, in order to formulate it paradoxically, by relinquishing consensus. .. Nothing else is meant when we speak of differentiation in the terminology of systems theory. In exactly this sense, technicalization (or, to remind the reader, formalization, idealization &c.) can be regarded as a specific element of modern science’ [p 69].

Scientific theory and technology find one another in their simplification in the sense of disregarding other things. But economic and accounting technology and in so doing calculates which behavior is too and which is not profitable. But human individuals are not as material. This leads to a disregard of what a human being is for himself. Modern society has made these abstractions central to its existence and has left it to the individual to distance himself from this dependence and ‘imagine his ownmost being [sein Eigenstes] as the center of the world – in a mode ‘free of technology’, if one may say so’[p 70]. Technology is a simplification. But the world is not a simple place. These are facts that need no discovery: science is not discovery but construction [p 70]. Also the world is not covered by a phenomenal surface that forms an ‘appearance in order to discern a mathematical or categorical framework that carries the world’ [p 70]. No, science tries out simplifications, incorporates them in a given world, and figures out if the isolations required for these experiments are successful. Science must reflect on this; this reflection requires a double formulation. In systems theory differentiation is about the operational closure of a system that is simultaneously inclusive and exclusive. Concerning complex systems: ‘.. the construction of complexity can be initiated only by a reduction of complexity

[p 71]

. ‘The modernity of all function systems, including science, consists in the effects of these interrelated conditions. These effects block a description of the world as an object given to (or ‘standing opposed to’) the observer. Correspondingly, the problem of the unity of the difference between cognition and its object loses the classical significance it used too have in guiding reflection’ [p 71]. Science does not represent the world as it is (but a simplification) and hence it cannot present itself as the instructor of others about it. However it explores possible constructions that function as forms and hence produce a difference.

III

A social theory that intends to take the issues above into account encounters this paradox that is relevant for both society and for the world. On the one hand a ‘comprehensive global social system [Weltgesellschaftssystem] has developed in an evolutionary process’

[p 72]

. In addition: ‘Everything that is communicated is communicated in society. Everything that happens, happens occurs in the world’[p 72]. For that reason they cannot be viewed as a unity: ‘.. the unity of society (of the world) cannot be re-introduced into society (the world). For each observation and description requires a distinction for its own operation. The observation of the One within the One, however, would have to include what it excludes (that against which it distinguishes its designation)’ [p 72]. This re-entry is possible but it requires an imaginary space to replace the classical a priori of transcendental philosophy. The paradox can be solved if it is replaced with a distinction, between operations and observations in this case; all operations are self-observing operations and all observations must be enacted as operations: ‘We can then say: the unity of the system is produced and reproduced operatively. The operation, at the same time, observes itself – yet it does not observe the the unity that includes it, that comes into being, and is being changed, in this enactment. The observation of unity, in contrast, is a special operation in the system (in the world), which must use a special distinction (for example the distinction between system and environment or the distinction between the world and being-in-the-world) and which itself can also be oberved in the process of its distinguishing and designating. The observation and description of unity from within unity is therefore possible, but only as an enactment of precisely this operation, only on the basis of the choice of a distinction whose own unity remains imaginary, and only in such as way that the operation ‘observation’ is itself exposed to observation. We have thus reached the point where the significance of second-order observation becomes evident. .. Instead of appealing to final units, one observes observations, one describes descriptions. At the second-order level, we arrive again at recursive interrelations and begin to search for ‘eigenvalues’, which remain unchanged in the course of the system’s operations. .. Put differently, they are perhaps only functions to be fulfilled while a very limited choice of functional equivalents is available’[p 73]. This is analogue to my quest for invariants concerning the existence of firms DPB. Changing for another research or refraining from it implies changing to other eigenvalues (or another attractor DPB) which implies a catastrophe, namely the re-orientation to another eigenvalue. If one wishes to not move towards another kind of society then the only alternative for scientific research is scientific research. In this way the observation of observations can experience a ‘blind spot’ with regards to what he can see using his distinctions and what he cannot see. With regards to second-order observations, society can operate with the distinction manifest/latent so as to include the second-order observer also.

Paradox and Observation

3. The Paradox of Observing Systems

I

To submit formal structures to sociological analysis means to find correlations between formal structures and social conditions. The conditions and the structures were to be variables the values of which would have to be contingent. But they are ‘natural’ with regards to society and ‘necessary’, namely dependent on axioms in the case of the formalisms. In order to do that one would have to assert that the natural is artificial (produced by society) and the necessary is contingent (different forms under different conditions).These statements are paradoxical, but we need them to differentiate observers (self- and external) as well as observations (for instance for the self-observer they are natural while for an external-observer they are artificial); but all the while the world remains the same and hence the paradox (but Wolfram suspects a solution: ‘I suspect that CA are in fact the same as systems in nature’ DPB). An observer is supposed to decide which is which; but who can observe the observer making the decision as well as the decision, contingent for that particular observer? Can the observer refuse to observe without taking the decision to, or does he have to withdraw to the position of a nonobserving observer?

II

Paradox has a logical and a rhetorical use. The logical tradition suppresses paradox making use of the distinction between being and nonbeing; only being exists according to its own distinctions; being is what it is (the observer can make true or false statements or (be) correct(ed) by others). As a consequence being is framed by secondary distinctions and not by its distinction from nonbeing: ‘Being does not need to be distinguished from, or to exclude, nonbeing to be itself. It simply is, by itself (nature) or by way of creation

[p 80]

. The rhetorical tradition introduce paradoxical statements to enlarge the frames of opinions and to prepare the ground for innovation. The two traditions seem to be different and rhetorical paradoxes seem to not show logical contradictions; are they conventionally mere exercises of wit? No, the traditional definition is to go beyond the limits of common sense: to deframe and reframe the frame of normal thinking, namely of common sense. But to deframe means to focus on the frames of common sense, and hence it needs its own frame; it is required to look at the commonsensical paradox from the outside and lead back to common sense [p 81]. Only cancellations explains too little to carry the entire meaning. If paradoxes are teleological operations aimed at a perfect state then that state can be described as enriched common sense. But this is a (Kantian) final cause without a finality and hence paradoxical; in this sense ‘The rhetorical paradox, then, may be an autological (word expressing a property it possesses DPB) operation, infecting itself with whatever is a paradox’[p 81]. In the logical (and since the work of Frege, Russell, Cantor the mathematical) realm paradox is to be avoided. But if frames are considered useful / worthwhile then we may describe the hierarchies devised by he above as frames, not of commonsensical opinions but of logical operations. If observing frames is serious then does the distinction between rhetorical and logical paradoxes make sense at all?

III

In the above it was discussed how a sociology of knowledge can include objects such as mathematics and logic. Now we have to ask the question: How is it possible to observe frames? ‘Whatever difficulties may emerge during this investigation, we will certainly need a medium that is the same on both sides of the frame, on its inside and on its outside. I propose to call this medium meaning (emphasis of the author), and thereby exclude two other possibilities – the world and truth. The world, .. , seems tto be too large. Truth, on the other hand, is too narrow because it itself serves as a frame, as the inner side of a form whose outside would be everything that is not true. But what, then, is meaning?’ [p 82]. It was discussed that paradoxes can be observed as deframing and reframing, as deconstructing and reconstructing operations; the adopted concept of meaning should not restrict the range of these operations. Examples are the logical empiricism methods of the Viennese school that enforce the exclusion of metaphysics as meaningless as well as the subjective experience of individuals concerning the meaning of something; these examples are not suitable because they exclude unmarked possibilities and they are only valid in their respective frames: ‘They are, that is, deframable (deconstructible) meanings and do not fulfill the requirements of a medium that gives access to both sides of any (emphasis by the author) frame’[p 83]. A concept of meaning is needed that coextensive (emphasis DPB) with the world; meaning in this sense will have no outside, no negation, no antonym; every possible use of this medium called ‘meaning’ will reproduce meaning and even an attempt to cross the boundary into unmarked space will be a meaningful operation. And hence a concept of meaning (a medium) is needed that can assign meaning to emergent behavior and its products. Meaning can be seen as the simultaneous presentation of actuality and possibility (Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology): ‘The actual is given within a ‘horizon’ of further possibilities. Since operationally closed systems consist of operations only and have to renew them from moment to moment, they can maintain their self-reproduction only by continuously actualizing new meaning. This requires selection from many possibilities and, therefore, will appear as information’ [p 83]. This is the structure and dynamics of monads: meaning is embedded in how the future is molded from the restrictions of actuality: what are the attractors and the repellers embedded in the current instance of the system that shape its future (DPB, monads, EIMM?, ELENS). On the ‘actual’ side of the actual/possible distinction that distinction itself reappears while the system operates: ‘.. it is copied onto itself so that the system may have the sense of being able to continue actual operations in spite of an increasing change of themes, impressions, intentions’ [p 83]. The structure of the actual system attracts to some possible future states and is repelled from others; but the current state shapes the domain of possibilities of future states – and as the distinction is copied onto itself it maintains particular traits (properties, distinctions) such that particular corresponding themes impressions and intentions are maintained in the system’s behavior. Yet in other words: ‘If we observe such a reentry, we see a paradox. The reentering distinction is the same and it is not the same. But the paradox does not prevent the operations of the system. On the contrary, it is the condition of the their possibility because their autopoiesis requires continuing actuality with different operations, actualizing different possibilities (emphasis of the author)’ [p 83-84]. The consequences of the basis of psychic and social systems being in reentry are: 1) an imaginary space is created that includes unmarked space and allows for ‘expressions of ignorance’ 2) the system is indeterminate, and hence nontransparent to itself 3) every operation of the system starts from its own output; and it needs a memory function to distinguish remembering from forgetting 4) the system’s future is a succession of marked and unmarked states, or self-referential and hetero-referential states (it must oscillate between the sides of its distinctions): ‘An oscillating system can preserve the undecidability of whether something is inside or outside a form. It can preserve and reproduce itself as a form, that is, as an entity with a boundary, with an inside and an outside, and it can prevent the two sides from collapsing into each other’[p 84]. ‘To see (and we will say: to observe) possibilities and to use meaning as a medium, the system will use the distinction between medium and form. ‘Medium’ within this distinction means a loose coupling of possibilities without regard to actual happenings, and ‘form’ means tight couplings that construct the form, for example a thing, with an outside. Again, the medium is inside and outside, but the attention of the system has limitations and observes only forms. Forms are actualized in time just for a moment, but since the system has a memory it can reactualize well-tried forms and direct its operations from form to form, thereby reproducing the medium. The distinction medium/form serves as a frame without outside , as an internal frame that includes, via reentry, its own outside

[pp. 84-85]

. DPB: there must be a relation between this interpretation of memory ad the constructal law.

IV

Now a basis exists to observe the observer, and to enter the universe of the Observing Systems. The expression observing/observer must be adapted for use in this theory; it is now not only attentive sensual perception: ‘In more recent literature, initiated by George Spencer Brown, Humberto Maturana, and Heinz von Foerster, the term corresponds to to the autopoietic self-reproduction of systems, to the operation of reentry, and to the oscillation between marked and unmarked states, to the inside and the outside of forms and self-referential and hetero-referential indications. Observing means making a distinction and indicating one side (and not the other side) of the distinction‘ [p 85]. Normally an indication will encompass a number of ‘nested’ categories: Bloomington and no other university (in no other city), implies a double boundary, indicating the city and the university from other cities and universities, and the second from the unmarked spaces of all other things respectively. Asking about fine wines in Bloomington, one is forced to cross the second boundary with the unmarked space (B. from its unmarked state) to go look for restaurants &c. Following this procedure from frame to frame (form to form) will reproduce the unmarked space; ‘It will maintain the world as severed by distinctions, frames and forms, and maintained by its severance. “We may take it”, to quote Spencer Brown, “that the world undoubtedly is itself (i.e. is indistinct from itself), but, in any attempt to see itself as an object, it must, equally undoubtedly, act so as to make itself distinct from, and therefore false to, itself”’ [p 85]. Any such system remains forever elusive to itself; any such theory cannot be holistic: no part can represent the whole:’The miracle of symbolization, the marvelous, that which has been most admired by our tradition, has to be replaced by a difference that, when observed, always regenerates the unobservable. The operation of observing, therefore, includes the exclusion of the unobservable, including, moreover, the unobservable par excellence, observation itself, the observation-in-operation [p 86]. The place of the observer is in the unmarked state; from there it must cross a boundary to make a distinction; as such the observer as a system can only be distinguished (by way of form, frame) from other observers or psychic from social observing. We arrive, then, at the autological conclusion that the observing of observers and even the operation of self-observation is itself simply observation in the usual sense – that is, making a distinction to indicate one side and not the others’[p 86]. And just to be sure: ‘We resist the temptation to call this creation’ [p 86].

V

To elaborate on its self-description remains one of the possibilities an observer sees and can, if required, actualize. But even then, it will just change its frame, cross the boundary between self-reference and hetero-reference; it will mark itself as a thing among others or as an observer among others. Switching frames, proceeding from form to form, is the normal way of observing operations, and the ‘self’ of the system can appear and disappear as suggested by circumstance’[p 86]. ‘For social systems, the emergence of organizations that can communicate in their own name makes all the difference. No other social system can do that, no society, no societal subsystems, no interaction. If the “estates” of the old European society wanted to have a voice, they formed a corporation (“Standschaft” in Germany), and if the economy wants to have a voice in political affairs, it sends representatives of its organizations. Nations have names, but to be able to participate in communication, they form “states”. .. There is simply no time to include the world or the complete reality of the observing systems (as “subjects”and as “objects”) in the operation’[p 87]. If one looks for an all-inclusive statement one will end up with a paradox: ‘The world is observable because it is unobservable’ [p 87]. Observation requires distinction, but the operation to distinguish is itself indistinguishable; it can be distinguished, but by another operation: ’It crosses the boundary between the unmarked and the marked space, a boundary that does not exist before and comes into being (if “being” is the right word) only by crossing it. .. Obviously this makes no sense. It makes meaning. It makes no common sense; it uses the meaning of “para-doxon” to transgress the boundaries of common sense to reflect what it means to use meaning as a medium’ [pp. 87-88]. But paradox has itself two distinctions: 1) it is the unit of distinction (ceci n’est pas ..) and, but paradox can be unfolded (by making a rule at each scale and forbid ‘strange loops’) such that a distinction can be paradoxified and deparadoxified, depending on conditions of plausibility. But now 2) a distinction exists between the paradox and its unfolding, depending on those conditions. Only the paradox itself is unconditional.

VI

We must distinguish observers, namely society and the encompassing social system: ‘Society produces culture – memory – and its culture will decide whether distinctions and indications may be communicated as natural (not artificial), as normal (not pathological), and as necessary or impossible (not contingent). In periods of semantic uncertainty and structural transition, paradoxes will become fashionable, ..’ [pp. 88-89]. Society in this day and age, now globalized, is in a similar situation of uncertainty and paradox is again fashionable; two interconnected reasons: 1) the establishment of a world society with a plurality of cultural traditions and 2) the structure of modern society is determined by functional differentiation (no unifying principle) and no longer by hierarchical stratification. Society appears the same but its description depends on the functional subsystem describing it (politics, economics &c): ‘The integration of the system can be thought of no longer as a process of applying principles but rather as a reciprocal reduction of te degrees of freedom of its subsystems’[p 89]. This is a central condition of modern society and everything that does not comply with this central idea, namely that adaptation would not be required is not seen as ‘serious’.

VII

Important distinctions in our traditions are 1) between being and non-being (ontology) and 2) between good and bad (ethics). Ontology is about substances (individual beings) and essences (generic entities), visible as ideas; there is no non-being, but there is imperfection and in cognition there are true and false opinions. The essence of cognition is its capacity to distinguish. But: ‘Why don’t we, operating as observers, that is, as systems, start from the distinction between inside and outside (Herbst 1976, 88)? Apparently, being is the strong side, the powerful side of this distinction. It is the “inner side” of the ontological form. You can operate on the side of being but not on the side of nonbeings. Only beings have connecting value. .. That is, what would happen if we permitted the question of what kind of society lends plausibility to these ontological assumptions?’ [p 90]. Similar questions can be asked concerning ethics: What is good and what is bad? But only good actions have connecting capacities, and bad actions are isolated events or habits. This means that being is good: ‘.. it is good to distinguish the good from the bad and that ethics itself is morally good’ [p 91]. The good represents both the positive side of the distinction and the distinction itself; from a linguistic perspective this is due to a confusion of levels; in social communication this presupposes authority; in structural terms this unfolding of the paradox presupposes a society with center / periphery differentiation. What is labeled as “modern” here reacts to the dissolution of all sorts of these premises: ‘Having to digest these social changes (patterns of organizations becoming independent of nobility DPB), the social and political semantics has to change its conceptual frames. But is also – and this is our point – has to provide new patterns for the unfolding of the paradoxes inherent in all distinctions that are used for framing observations and descriptions’[p 91]. ‘The substantial being and the reasonable good take the place of the paradox’ [p 92]. ‘But the so-called “modern” solution could never achieve a similar (to the old-European tradition of resolving paradox with fetishism and disavowal DPB) stability. Its “present time” became “pregnant with future”, that is, with the unknown and with the prospect oscillating within the framework of its distinctions – now described as “ideologies”. There wwere many competing distinctions, such as scoiety and state, society and community, individual and collectivity, freedom and institution, progressive and conservative politics, and, above all, capitalism and socialism, but in none of the cases did the unity of these distinctions, the sameness of the opposites, become a problem (Luhmann 1990a, 123-43). The paradox now becomes resolved as oscillation, that is, as the still-undetermined future. Supported by a universally accepted “open future”, these distinctions (and others as well) stand in for the paradox of any frame used by an observer. If “modernity” relies on its future for its deparadoxification, it is, and will always remain, an “incomplete project” (Habermas 1981). The future never becomes present; it never begins but always moves away when we seem to approach it. But how long are we to run into troubles with our present society?’[p 92].

We need only ask the question “What is the unity of this distinction?” to see the paradox. And what prevents us from doing exactly that? We would have to use the distinction between paradoxification and deparadoxification of distinctions. We would have to admit that all distinctions, including this one, can be reduced to a paradox. In this sense, paradox is an invariant possibility, and all distinctions are of only temporary and contingent validity. We can always ask: Who is the observer? And then, Why do we distinguish him or her? If thre are sufficient plausible reasons in present-day disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, systems theory may offer itself as a way out of the paradox – for the time being’[p 93].

4 Deconstruction as Second-Order Observing

A ‘deconstruction kit’ can be applied to distinguish (make a distinction) between homosexual and heterosexual, namely by deconstructing the distinction. In so doing the presupposition of a hierarchical opposition, namely an inherent or natural primacy of heterosexuality by way of ‘l’englobement du contraire’ is seen, destroyed. But this abolishing of prejudices is for illustrative purposes only: ‘Deconstruction draws attention to the fact that differences are only distinctions and change their use value when we use them at different times and in different contexts’ [p 95]. But what if we asked the question: Who (which system) is the observer? What does she invest in making this distinction? What will she lose in maintaining it? [p 95]. DPB I associate this idea / these questions with the idea that firms can be owned, or rather, that business processes can be owned and that the ownership can be listed on a stock exchange and traded accordingly. Perhaps these questions are also relevant for (from the perspective of) the other systems (people) associated with firms: employee, banker, manager, even customer and supplier: What is their assumption about ownership. And also: What is their distinction? I reckon this association stems from the similarity of questioning: Whois the observer, What does she invest, What might she lose in maintaining this ownership? ‘The illusion to be deconstructed is the assumption that all these systems designate the same object when they use the distinction heterosexuals/homosexuals’[p 95]. And with regards to the ownership and in the same vein: Deconstruction of the assumption that all involved systems designate the same object when they use the distinction owner/nonowner. Observing the individual observers shows that they are not observing the same thing: each operates in its own network and each has a different past and a different future. ‘..,a second-order observer observer observing these observers would only see loose couplings and lack of complete integration’ [p 95]. In the context of the above question the human body is important because it decides to be attracted or not; observing this observer leads to the question if it follows cultural imperatives or if there is a lack of self-control in play ‘.. or whether there is an unavoidable akrasia (lack of self-control), .. , a lack of ‘potestas in se ipsum’ (self-control) in humans and in social systems’ [p 95]. Given akrasia can a soldier know how his body will observe a situation including homosexuals and where privacy is limited? Does the body make the same observation as the mind? And can a potential difference between these observations implicate a male soldier as a homosexual? If so the whole definition of the problem changes: akrasia was originally a distinction made at the discretion of an observer installed by God to oversee His creation using reason (as opposed to passions). ‘Deconstruction destroys this “one observer – one nature – one world” assumption. Identities, then, have to be constructed. But by whom? The problem.. is the problem of how to protect the fragile and eventually self-deceiving constructions of individuals; it is the risk (not untypical for soldiers anyway) of wearing badly fitting garments’ [p 96].

I

Deconstruction seems to recommend the reading of forms as differences, to look at distinctions without the hope of regaining unity a a higher (or later) level, or without even assuming the position of an “interpretant”in the sense of Peirce’[p 97]. But are there any framings that are not themselves deconstructible: ‘Or would applying deconstruction lead only to reflexivity, recursivity, and self-reference resulting in stable meanings, objects, or what mathematicians call eigenvalues? It seems that there is only différence’ [p 97]. ‘Deconstruction, then, is deconstruction of the “is”and the “is not”. Deconstruction deconstructs the assumption of presence, of any stable relation between presence and absence, or even of the very distinction between presence and absence’[p 97]. ‘It may be sufficient to for maintaining the dance to be aware of the “trace de l’effacement de la trace” (“trace of the erasure of the trace”)’ [p 98]. ‘In other words, any kind of observing system, whatever its material reality (be it biological or neurophysiological or psychological or sociological), can be described as determined by the distinctions it uses. In the case of autopoietic (that is, self-reproducing) systems, this would mean that an observer has to focus on the self-determined and self-determining distinctions a system uses to frame its own observations’ [p 99]. What are the distinctions that guide the observations of an observer and do stable objects appear when these observations are recursively applied to their own results?: ‘Objects are therefore nothing but the eigenbehaviors of observing systems that result from using and reusing their previous distinctions’ [p 99]. Another tool is transjunction: these are neither conjunctions or disjunctions but distinctions at a higher level. If a distinction is found then the corresponding frame can be accepted or rejected. The entire form may be rejected and replaced by another (e.g. a moral code can be replaced by a legal code of good and bad).

II

A famous dictum of Humberto Maturana (in the context of his biological theory of cognition) says: Everything that is said (including this proposition) is said by the observer’. The Derridan interpretation of Joseph Margolis leads to a very similar result: “Everything we say … is and cannot but be desconstructive and deconstructible.” For language use itself is the choice of a system that leaves something unsaid. Or, as Spencer Brown would say, drawing a distinction severs an unmarked space to construct a form with a marked and unmarked side. It may go too far to say that language use as such is deconstructive. But observing and observer uses language certainly is. .. At the level of second-order observing, everything becomes contingent, including the second-order observing itself’ [p 100]. But what is gained by the transition from deconstruction to second-order observing? 1) Observations break symmetry: distinctions are forms>forms are boundaries>boundaries separate inside and outside> the inner side is the marked side (the indicated, having a connective value)>next operation. In the inner side lies the problem of finding a next suitable operation. Observations have to presuppose both sides of the form they use as a distinction or frame; they can only operate within the world: ‘This means that something always has to be left unsaid, thereby providing a position from which to deconstruct what has been said

[p 101]

. 2) If one tries to see two sides of the distinction at the same time then one sees a paradox, an entity without connective value: ‘The different is the same, the same is different. So what? First of all, this means that all knowledge and all action have to be founded on paradoxes and not on principles; on the self-referential unity of the positive and the negative – that is, on an ontologically unqualifiable world. And if one splits the world into two marked and unmarked parts to be able to observe something, its unity becomes unobservable. The paradox is the visible indicator of invisibility. And since it represents the unity of the distinction required for the operation called observation, the operation itself remains invisible – for itself and for the time being

[p 101]

. DPB: this reminds me of the different properties of systems at their component level and on the level of the whole; it reminds also of the nestedness of a/p system, although I am not sure why it reminds me of it (could it be the domains of interactions eigher at the level of the components or of the domain of the interactions of the whole, but not both domains at the same time); lastly it reminds me of the narrative of the hubbub and respective chanting USA! in a football stadium. To unfold a paradox is to replace it with stable identities by way of finding distinctions that protect from identifying what cannot be identified. But distinctions become visible when one tries to observe their unity: ‘Unfoldments, then, are the result of unasking this question. This means that one has to observe the observer to see when and why he takes the risk of an unfoldment – of a deconstructible unfoldment’[p 102]. 3) The distinction between a paradox and its unfoldment is itself a paradox: ‘Given this dead end, only time can help. Time can teach us that there is no end; everything goes on, and systems continue to operate as long as they are not destroyed

[p 102]

. 4) With regards to empirical systems, problems of identity and stability are “temporalized” and theories of structural stability are replaced with theories of dynamical stability. ‘But contrary to a hidden assumption of structuralism, the only component of a system that can change is its structure. So if we focus on the form (=distinction), what is the other side of this form? On the other side we find events or the operations of the system. Events (and this includes operations) cannot change because they have no time for change: they disappear as soon as they appear, they vanish in the very process of emerging. So again, one of these cheerful paradoxes: the only unchangeable components of systems are inherently unstable’ [p 103]. And as a consequence systems have to use their operations in order to be able to use their operations &c; this is roughly what is called autopoiesis; a/p systems are the products of their operations; they are unreliable machines, distinguished from trivial machines that use fixed programs to transform inputs to outputs. 5) ‘A system that can observe may have the capacity to observe itself. To observe itself it has to distinguish itself from everything else, that is, from its environment. The recursively interconnected operations of the system draw a boundary and thereby differentiate system and environment. The operation of self-observation requires a reentry (in Spencer Brown’s sense) of this difference into itself, namely the operation of distinguishing system and environment within the system. .. But a reentry is a paradoxical operation. The distinction between “before”and “after”the reentry is the same and not the same. This shows that time (that is the temporal distinction of an observer is used to dissolve the paradox

[pp. 103-4]

. Theories of the mind and theories of society must be based on this paradox unfolded.

III

Who is the observer? Using second-level observation, the question becomes: Who is to be observed by whom and for what reasons? ‘This means: an observer has to declare (or even justify) his preferences for choosing and indicating a specific observer to be observed – that one and not another one’[p 104]. If the second-level observer rejects the choice of the observed observer, then he makes a transjunctional operation to use third-level observation to describe the second-level observer with specific preferences for selecting specific observers (e.g. a family therapist observing the mutual observations of the family members). ‘There is, in other words, no logical, ontological, or even natural primacy involved in using the distinction being/nonbeing

[p 105]

. This selection of observing systems is doable for sociologists, the societal system being the most important observer to observe. For conscious systems it is less doable because the selection of one over another (of 5bn) is difficult. Other societal systems such as science are mere societal subsystems. Most important is how modern society observes and describes itself and its environment. Some theoretical preparations: 1) ‘Observation is nothing but making a distinction to indicate one side and not the other, regardless of the material basis of the operation that does the job, and regardless of the boundaries that close the system( brain, mind, social system) so that it becomes an autopoietic system, reproduced by the network of its own operations, and eventually irritated but never determined by its environment’[p 105] 2) The concept of society: ‘Conceived as an observing system, society cannot be described as a collection of different, somehow interrelated items, .. . We can think of society as the all-encompassing system of communication with clear, self-drawn boundaries that includes all connectable communication and exclude everything else. Hence, the society is a self-reproducing system, based on one, and only one, highly specific type operation, namely communication. It excludes other types of operationally closed systems – cells, neurons, brains, minds

[p 106]

. This is presupposed in the processes of communication. It is presupposed in the sense of a necessary environment; the form of a system is the difference of that system and environment. Living systems produce only their own reproduction; in so doing they replace states of awareness for other. But they can never communicate: ‘For communication requires the production of an emergent unity that has the capacity to integrate and disintegrate the internal states of more than one operationally closed system

[p 106]

. Without operational closure systems would continually mix up its operations with those of its environment, internal states with external states and words with things: ‘It could not make the (reentering) distinction between self-reference and hetero-reference

[p 106]

. It could not match internal and external states, it could not separate observer from observed: ‘The lack of an operational access to the environment is a necessary condition for cognition (emphasis by the author)’ [p 106].

IV

The system of society (global as it is) seems to be unable to produce one and only one self-description. And this leads to the question of how it can describe itself and its environment: ‘This observing and describing is done by the mass media

[p 107]

. This gives one the impression to be first-order observing, but in fact it is second-order. Mass media cooperate in producing a coherent image of the world: ‘We know this is preselected information, but we do not and we cannot in everyday life reflect upon and control the selectivity of this selection’ [p 108]. The selection and presentation by mass media is not a distortion but a construction of reality. There is no distinct reality out there – for who would make the distinctions? – all the distinctions are made by the observer. And there is no privileged observer. And there is no transcendental subject. For lack of a powerful alternative we have to accept these presentations. But we can deconstruct the observations of the mass media; and in order to do so, we replace deconstruction with making second-order observations, observe their observing. Mass media prefer: discontinuity over continuity (because they have to produce information) / conflict over peace / dissensus over consensus / drama over normal life / local interest over global issues / elements of that need no further explanation because they are distinctions themselves / bad over good news / good over bad adverstisement / clear moral distinctions (and a practical hero) / morality and action. ‘What has become visible after some centuries of impact of the printing press and after a hundred and more years of mass media is a much more complicated, some say hypercomplex, description of complexity – hypercomplex in the sense that within the complex system of society there are many competing descriptions of this complexity. The unity of the complexity becomes unobservable. Intellectuals occupy themselves and others with describing description, philosophers become experts on philosophical texts – and literary criticism takes over, nicknaming “theory” something that we suppose has been done elsewhere

[p 109]

.

V

Describing history presents the unity of the past as a guarantee for the unity of the present. The past had to be presented as a coherent sequence of events, ‘a unity of diversity’ [p 110]. There can be said to be a focus on the past to create unity within the present [p 110]. To return to history means to return to diversity: ‘The common heritage, the canonical texts, the “classics” all require a new reading’ [p 110]. Deconstruction of the metaphysical system by philosophers attempts to loosen the binding forces of tradition and replace unity with diversity; this uproots historical semantics radically; the transform from one form of stability to another is a catastrophe. Marx used the concept of class structures as a correlate between social structures and semantics; he constructed a typology of changing modes of production that generated historical ideologies. We can enlarge this framework by substituting forms of differentiation for class. Now the classical sociology is opened for structural complexity and we can use systems theory to elaborate on forms of differentiation: ‘Differentiation becomes system differentiation; system differentiation becomes a reentry of system-building within systems, new boundaries within already bounded systems, forms within forms, observers within observers’ [p 110].

This is “the world we have lost”, the world of ontological metaphysics, the world of “being or not being”, the world of the two-value logic that presupposed one (and only one) observer who could make up his mind simply by looking at what is the case. Cognition, but also passion such as love, was a passive reaction to a reality out there, a “being impressed”, and errors in cognition or passion could be corrected by reason

[p 111]

.

5. Identity – What or How?

I

It should also be recalled that, at this time, the modern novel began to give readers the ability to observe what the heroes and heroines of the novel could not themselves observe, above all, in a pre-Freudian way, their sexual interests’ [p 113]. DPB: today this element is relevant to investigate what the characters of the book would have could have should have done, in other words what their domain of possible interactions is in an autopoietic sense . This statement above also reminds of the use of research or investigative journalism as a function of the mass media. This occurs at a time when modern society begins to see its break with its predecessors as irreversible: ‘This demands a distance from immediately fact-related observations and descriptions, demands a second level, on which one can observe and describe observations and description themselves’ [p 113]. Von Foerster calls this phenomenon second-order cybernetics (understood as a circular network of knowledge operations), and others have pointed at it concomitantly. The distinction between the “what” and the “how” questions points at these different levels of observation. The character of these levels is not linguistic or logic – to solve a problem of paradoxality – but empirical: ‘Every observation designates something and distinguishes it therewith from other things. What it designates can be another observer. When an observation observes another observer, it uses a more complex, two-tracked process of distinction. It must first of all distinguish the observer from what he observes, and at the same time, it must be able to distinguish the operation of observing from other operations, for instance from the mere generation of a difference. How can an observation do that. Note that we ask, “How?”

[p 114]

. The answer is that this can be done: 1) by the second-order observation as a first-order observation in the shape of a simply executed operation. This operation is not to be understood as an activity of a subject (‘of a carrier founded upon itself’): ‘Its particularity lies only in the autological (in the case of an autological word: it has the property it describes, e.g. the word ‘short’ is a short word DPB) components of its observing, that is, in its drawing conclusions about itself on the basis of the activity of its object. To this extent, it itself is that from which it distinguishes itself’ [p 114]. DPB: the observing operation is not an activity but a procedure executed based on the shape of the observer, in that sense it is an autological procedure. Because the observation is now now immanent to the shape of the observer and because the observer distinguishes herself from something else, and hence the observation distinguishes itself from itself. The observation cannot know everything that it is not but it is what it is not: ‘It itself, as a second-order observation, is a first order observation. And “autology” then means nothing more than the dissolution of this paradox through the recursive calculation upon itself of its own establishment’ [p 114]. Second-order observation is less than first-order observation because it only observes observers. It is also more because over and above the observer it is observing, it sees what its object sees. In that sense it sees what it does not see, and it sees that it does not see what it does not see &c: ‘On the level of second-order observation, one can thus see everything: what the observed observer sees, and what the observed observer does not see. Second-order observation conveys a universal access to the world. The world thus becomes the imaginary metaworld of all worlds that form themselves when systems distinguish system from environment’ [p 115]. But: ‘Only one thing is necessarily excluded: the observation that is actualized in the very moment of observing, its functioning as a first-order observation. For the distinction necessary for every observation cannot distinguish itself in the very moment of its use (for then another distinction would be necessary. .. For every observer, the unity of the distinction he uses for the designation of the one (and not the other) side serves as a blind spot, for the first-order observer as well as for the second-order observer. For is is exactly the meaning of this drawing of distinctions that it is foundational as difference and not as unity’[ p115]. An observer because of how she is shaped has a blind spot produced by how she designates as a consequence of her distinguishing of the one (and not the other).

II

Ontology is further to be the form of observing and describing to distinguish between being and nonbeing, and hence not a metaphysical understanding of it nor one that cannot be transcended, but used in a meta-ontological sense: ‘general .. rules of the use of form apply to the ontological manner of observation. .. Rather form is the marking of a difference [Differenz] with the help of a distinction that compels one to designate one or the other side, in our case, either the being or the nonbeing of something’ [p 115]. According to Spencer Brown the concept of form does not presuppose a negative; it has an inside and an outside: ‘That from which being distinguishes itself is the outside of the form, namely that which is left over from the “unmarked state” when the caesura of the form is posited. The inside of the form, that is, being or the positive value, designates the possibility of attaching further observation and description. The outside is the side from which the form is reflected, the contingency of he other side is perceived, and the conditions of connectability can be established

[p 116]

. The concept of form designates a border that must be crossed to get from one side of the distinction to the other; to be able to cross one must give a designation to the other side of the distinction, and thereby the “unmarked state” becomes “nonbeing”: ‘But, thereby, the distinction being/nonbeing becomes itself specifiable. Being becomes applicable as a concept. Out of being(hooked upperline intended designating inside and outside) arises being.nonbeing (hooked upperline intended idem). .. Crossing the border implies an operation. An operation requires time, for, even though both sides are simultaneously given, one cannot operate on both sides at the same time, for that would mean not using the distinction as a distinction. The form thus represents a paradoxical (and in exactly this sense realistic) temporal relation, namely the simultaneity of the before and after in a time that anticipates further befores and afters’ [p 116]. This conception of form leads to a more fundamental (and less artificial) position for time in logic: ‘Interpreted as an instrument of observation, this concept of form leads to a theory into which time (and by way of time, system formation) is built in foundationally and does not have to be added retroactively (as in our tradition through the form of motion in contrast to the unmoved’ [p 117]. DPB: this explains at a more fundamental level how time is not a driving force, but a result from the dynamical nature of systems interacting, namely in the sense of observing one another. ‘ .. the form is settled .. on both sides. On the case of ontology, it is not a form of being, but a form being/nonbeing. Thus it does not vanish when one crosses the border (for one can always return). It would disappear only if we were to erase the marking of the border, but that would reproduce the “unmarked state” in which one can observe nothing’[p 117].

III

The question addressed in this lecture is sociological, namely how modern society can observe and describe itself; one answer is that it can not be an ontology, a special kind of thing. The root of the problem is in the observing of the observers and not in the plurality of the subjects that can be aggregated into a unit. ‘However, when one observer observes what another observer establishes as identical, he can take the liberty of identifying otherwise; of using other distinctions; of interpreting based on other, contrary concepts; in other words, of treating the same as not the same. .. The problem is rather that one can observe an observer only when one allows what the other sees to be given to one by the other. Otherwise, two different first-order observers would simply be looking into the world side by side

[p 119]

. DPB I really like this above statement: it paints the picture of observing observers and what they are observing very clearly. And in addition it seems to be a foundational choice for a society where people are required to understand other people: ‘Society as a whole then operates as a system that can see that it cannot see what it cannot see

[p 119]

.

IV

Identity (what is identical=expressing an identity) is not presupposed and the question can be asked how identity is produced and what the consequences are of this manner of production: ‘This question aims at a genetic theory of the constitution of meaning. If it can be answered, one will gain access thereby to the phenomenal complexity of the world. .. The genetic perspective is marked by the form in which the question is posed. We do not ask what something identical is, but how something is generated that, as identical, grounds observation. With this, the concept of identity shifts in the direction that is today designated as “constructivist”

[p 119]

. Not the form in which it exists is the crux, but the design of its production as a result of the synthesis of externally originated impressions that – for exactly that reason – cannot be identified. DPB: this reminds of the way monads exist as an identity. ‘Finally, in the context of a theory of autopoietic systems, the concept of identity designates only the form that secures the continuing of the sequence of operations in a system; to be exact, it secures them through the distinction identical/nonidentical

[p 120]

. DPB: identity is a property of thát organization that maintains autopoiesis, and not another. Observation is designating of one side of a distinction, but this does not (yet) make clear what it is that is supposed to be identical: ‘An identification is first required when the operation is to be repeated, hence when a system is formed that reproduces itself in the linkage of operation to operation

[p 120]

. DPB: this reminds of the concept of individuation of Deleuze, see thesis Weaver. There is a lengthy example of someone greeting twice in a row, a repetition and hence an identity. This can be narrated for instance as a greeting unnoticed and performed again, but also as the second greeting to be a confirmation of the first: ‘It is not simply another, a further greeting. It is a second greeting as second to the first greeting, a first and second greeting. An identity is formed that is compatible with different situations and that therefore designates a certain playing field of possibilities

[p 120]

. This explains the genesis of meaning: a core of meaning arises and ‘a horizon of reference to other possibilities

[p 120]

. A difference now has come into existence between actuality and possibility, ‘.., which we see as the constitutive difference of the medium that is meaning’ [p 120]. ‘The observation of the generation of meaning, the observation of repeating, condensing, and confirming, is always a second-order observation, even when it is for its part repetitively condensed and confirmed and concomitantly forms autological concepts adequate to its end

[p 121]

. DPB as per Luhmann: observe only its own condition. ‘If one grasps meaning in this manner as the unity of distinction, whether it is the distinction between condensation and confirmation or the distinction between actuality and non-actuality (virtuality), it makes no sense to designate meaningfully in turn that from which these distinctions are distinguished. The reference for this goes missing. To that extent, meaning is a concept without difference

[p 121]

.

V

Nonbeing is the title given to the unmarked state left over when being is distinguished. Ontologically with this distinction the impression is given that something distinguishable is on the other side: ‘However, this cannot be presupposed if one wounds the world with a first distinction

[p 122]

. This would imply the use of the principle of the excluded middle, an item of classical logic, and one can no longer be capable of distinguishing the distinction of ontology, ‘.. and one explicates, without seeing other possibilities, an ontological metaphysics

[p 122]

. Now it is demanded that there be a distinction between “unmarked state” and “nothing”; we can address this problem with a further distinction: ‘When one starts with being and crosses the border and returns, it is a though one had never dome so. One stands again at the starting point. Spencer Brown names this axiom “the law of crossing” and the corresponding form “cancellation”. .. But what happens when one (temporarily! – everything is temporary) does not return but rather remains on the other side and wishes to operate from there? In this case, the other side becomes “nonbeing”, and from there one can observe the contingencies of being’ [p 123].

VI

A transition from an ontological construction of the world to a constructivist one implies a transition from a strictly bivalent logic to a calculus of processing distinctions (forms); but the transition cannot be called progress or superior

[p 123]

. One of the structural characteristics of modern society is functional differentiation. Binary codes allow operations using them to be ascribed to such systems ‘as a procedure of recognition [Erkenningsverfahren], as a condition of self-identification, as a condition of the autopoietic operation of he relevant systems themselves

[p 124]

. Some examples are: good grades/bad grades, loved/not loved, dominant/subject &c. These codes cannot be made to be congruent in the sense that one side is always the positive one (the sick are powerless, poor, losing &c.). ‘The differentiation of functional systems instead presupposes that these codes, independently of one another, fulfill functions that direct operations, and that it is also impossible to integrate them through a supercode, for instance through the code of morality

[p 124]

. DPB: this reminds me of the model for the coherence of memeplexes. Morality functions as one code among many, and, equal to the other codes, it cannot be coupled to the other codes as a moral qualification. ‘If one wishes to describe a society that describes its world and itself according to these conditions, one must choose polycontextural forms. What that specifically means has not yet been clarified, despite efforts of Gotthard Günther. In any case, one can quickly see that the individual values of the codes neither join together nor allow themselves to be expanded into multivalent codes. One is aware that all efforts toward a transitive, or otherwise ordered, architecture of values have failed. It is conceivable that, for the purposes of an analysis of the whole of society, one could assign transjunctive operations to every code, operations with which the code accepts itself and rejects all others

[p 125]

. DPB: this reminds a lot of the connotations that ‘glue together’ the memes into memeplexes, especially in relation toe the recognition mentioned above. ‘Society is an operationally closed, autonomous system of communication. Consequently everything it observes and describes (everything that is communicated about) is self-referentially observed and described. That holds for the description of the societal system itself, and it holds with the same necessity for the description of the environment of the societal system. The self-descriptions and the hetero-descriptions are self-referential descriptions. Consequently, every description of the world made in the autonomous system designates self-reference as the point of convergence between self-reference and hetero-reference – and remains unsayable

[p 125]

. ‘However, modern society reproduces this problem in many ways, namely for each of its operatively closed functional systems .. In this situation, the paradox of drawing a distinction takes the place of the conclusive thought that testifies to unity. One gains thereby not a “solution to the problem” but rather a more precise understanding of the fact that the solution to the paradox can employ various distinctions and thus diversify the problem

[p 126]

.

VII

For all system operations, as undisputed research into the logic of self-organization has shown, are possible always only as conditioned operations. And human beings are socialized though participation in social communication to such a degree that they can choose only from within the framework of possibilities that have been made accessible for this choice. If one looks at individuals, any notion of choosing at will disappears. The rule of second-order observation then runs: observe the conditionings by which they distinguish and designate. And if one is not satisfied with observing these individuals – which from among five billion? – and instead wishes to observe modern society, this rule again holds: observe the conditionings by which it distinguishes and designates

[p 127]

.

6 The Cognitive Program of Constructivism and the Reality That Remains Unknown

I

Epistemological questions involve cognition concerning empirical research. Cognitive instruments are acquired via the researched object by means of those same instruments. Brains are not able to maintain contact with the outer world, but instead operate closed in upon themselves: ‘How does one come, then, from one brain to another?

[p 128]

. The classical view was that all knowledge was founded on convention or that it was the result of negotiation, but that attempt points at the problem of the unity of knowledge and reality and hence this approach does not solve the problem. This approach is (radical) constructivism (Constructivism: a philosophy maintaining that science consists of mental constructs created as the result of measuring the natural world. Social constructivism: knowledge is constructed in social interactions, human development is socially situated DPB) But Plato already refers to everyday experience as opinion and asks what the reality behind it is. Arriving in the modern times, modern science led to ‘the conclusion that this “underlying” reality was knowledge itself’[ p129]. This concept of the subject is constructivism. ‘There is an external world – which results from the fact that cognition, as a self-operated operation, can be carried out at all – but we have no direct contact with it. Cognition could not reach the external world without cognition. In other words, cognition is a self-referential process. Knowledge can know only itself, although it can – as if out of the corner of its eye – determine that this is possible only if there is more than mere cognition. Cognition deals with an external world that remains unknown and, as a result, has to come to see that it cannot see what it cannot see

[p 129]

. DPB: the big surprise is that this is such a surprise; all people (or organisms in general) are capable of is to utter noises. And then these noises can be recognized by others. But the subject, that incited the generating of the noises, remains largely in the dark for both the noises utterer and the utteree. Happily NL continues with ‘So far there is nothing new here ..’; nothing much new if constructivism is only about the unknowability of reality.

II

Concerning the knowability of reality, the question can be asked: ‘By means of what distinction is the problem articulated?

[p 130]

; to recognize knowing it is necessary to distinguish it from what is not knowing (the concept of distinction is in this way radicalized). Now the search has transformed into an operation for making distinctions, and: ‘It is, further, easy to recognize that circularity and paradoxes can no longer be rejected but will come to play a role

[p 130]

. DB: this appears to be an important plus, but why concretely? Is it a crucial connection with complex systems / behavior, systems theory in general, a likely property of reality, a new kind of logic? The question above reformulated is: ‘By means of what distinction is the problem of knowledge articulated?’

[p 130]

. It is not fruitful to approach constructivism starting from the controversy whether the system is a subject or an object: 1) the subjectivist approach was “intersubjectivity”, namely to view the world of others through a process of introspection 2) the objectivist approach was to describe knowledge as a condition or process in an object (often an organism). Neither solves the problem: 1) is just a word, 2) it is impossible to describe an object completely: ‘In order to avoid these problems, which arise from the point of departure taken, both subjectivist and objectivist theories of knowledge have to be replaced by the system/environment distinction, which then makes the distinction subject/object irrelevant. With this we have the distinction central to constructivism: it replaces the the distinction transcendental/empirical by the distinction system/environment

[p 131]

. DPB: I understand this to mean that the distinction that is central to constructivism is the same distinction as the one that is the pivot of the problem of knowledge as per above. ‘What we call “environment” today had to be conceived of as the state of being contained and carried (periechon), and what we call “system” had to be thought of as order according to a principle. Both of these were already objects of knowledge

[p 131]

. Kant developed the transcendental/empirical distinction to avoid a self-referring loop, because the system/environment concepts were not available when he did. Systems theory including the above systems/environment distinction is relevant for all knowledge theory; the relevance often emerging as a side-effect of other research. ‘It has been known for some time already that the brain has absolutely no qualitative and only very slight quantitative contact with the external world. All stimuli coming from without are coded purely quantitatively (principle of undifferentiated coding (DPB: the incoming signal is a ‘wall of sound’, an undifferentiated multitude of signals for the system to allow through for further processing, or not, and for whatever reasons); furthermore, their quantity, as compared with purely internal processing events, plays but a marginal role. (DPB: how does this relate to the system 1 and system 2 idea of Kahneman?). Incoming stimuli are also erased in fractions of a second if they are not stored in internal storage areas with somewhat larger retention times (short-term memory) – an event that is more the exception than the rule. With this, even time is made to serve the internal economy of complex processes. (DPB: spot-on ouwe!, there is no doubt about this in my mind). Apparently it is fundamental for the functioning of the brain that selected information is enclosed and not that it is let through. As if it were already information (or data) before it motivates the brain to form a representation. Such knowledge as this was not used by theoretical epistemology and it is only a formulation in terms of systems theory that leads to an insight that must seem surprising to epistemologists: only closed systems can know. The sociology of science has arrived at similar conclusions (which are still, for the most part, rejected as being too shocking

[p132]

. The paradox is that only non-knowing systems an know, only who cannot see can see. If a knowing system has no access to the external world it can be denied that this world exists, but it can also be claimed that the external world is what it is; this calls into question the distinction being/nonbeing: ‘Systems theory suggests instead the distinction between system and environment

[p 133]

.

III

Starting there, then an answer to: How is knowledge possible? begins with: As the operation of a system separated from its environment. If the system is also assumed to be operationally closed then assumptions are added concerning self-reference and recursivity. This kind of operations are only possible within the context of a network of operations of the same system: ‘There is no single operation that can emerge without this recursive network. At the same time the network is not an operation. “Multiplicity does not act as a relay” (Serres 1984, 238). The whole cannot as a whole itself become active. Every operation reproduces the unity of the system as well as its limits. Every operation reproduces closure and containment. There is nothing without an operation – no cognition, either. And every operation has to fulfill the condition of being one operation among many, since it cannot exist in any other form, cannot otherwise possibly be an operation. As a result, for an observer the system is a paradox (DPB: U-S-A), a unity that is a unity only as a multiplicity, a unitas multiplex. Even when the system observes itself, one has what is true for every observation (?). If a system wants to know what makes it possible that it can know, it encounters this paradox

[p 133]

. Systems cannot perform operations outside of their limits and if new operations are integrated then the limits of the system were extended: ‘Consequently, the system cannot use its own operations to connect itself with its environment since this would require that the system operate half within and half without the system. The function of the boundaries is not to pave the way out of the system but to secure discontinuity. Whatever one wants to call cognition, if it is supposed to be an operation then the operation necessarily has to be one incapable of contact with the external world, one that, in this sense, acts blindly

[p 134]

. Can what becomes perceptible here be called “knowledge” at all? Let’s introduce a distinction (the second) between operation and observation: ‘An operation that uses distinctions in order to designate something we will call “observation”. We are caught once again, therefore, in a circle: the distinction between operation and observation appears itself as an elemtn of observation. On the one hand, an observation is itself an operation; on the other hand, it is the employment of a distinction

[p 134]

. A corresponding logic must accommodate for the reentering of the distinction into what is has distinguished (in Spencer Brown’s “drawing a distinction”, time is employed to resolve self-referring circles and paradoxes). DPB: this is very common: from the logistics of parallel interactions in a grid to the way information travels in a group. ‘An observation leads to knowledge only insofar as it leads to reusable results in the system. One can also say: Observation is cognition insofar as it uses and produces redundancies – with “redundancy” here meaning limitations of observation that are internal to the system

[p 134]

. From this a passage to constructivism is possible with the insight that: ‘it is not only for negations that there are no correlates in the environment of the system but even for distinctions and designations (therefore for observations)

[pp. 134-5, emphasis of the author]

. The reality of the outside world, that an observer can observe that, how a system is influenced by its environment, how it acts upon the environment, are beyond doubt. But all distinctions and designations are internal recursive operations of the system: all achievements are internal achievements; ‘There is no information that moves from without to within the system

[p 135]

. ‘There can be no doubt, therefore, that the external world exists or that true contact with it is possible as a necessary condition of the reality of the operations of the system itself. It is the differentiation of what exists that is contributed by the observer’s imagination, since, with the support of the specification of distinctions, an immensely rich structure of combinations can be obtained, which then serves the system for decisions about its own operations

[p 135]

. And hence are we getting closer to the idea of associations that store patterns for later use (and here also introduced the imagination, I take it to be the “drawing of associations”): ‘Cognition is neither the copying nor the mapping nor the representation of an external world in a system. Cognition is the realization of combinatorial gains on the basis of he differentiation of a system that is closed off from its environment (but nonetheless contained in that environment)

[p 136]

. Knowing systems are real systems in a real world (real=empirical, observable).

IV

Cognitive systems (at least the brain, consciousness, and the systems of communications called societies) operate on the basis of events that have only a momentary presence and that already begin to disappear at the moment of their emergence. Furthermore, these systems operate on the basis of events that cannot be repeated but that must be replaced by other events. Their structures must, therefore, provide for the passage from event to event – something for which there are no equivalents in the environment

[p137]

. Neither does the environment change with the same tempo and rhythm nor are the autopoietic structures of systems in the environment somehow translateable into one another: ‘How then is the time relation between the system and the environment to be understood? The answer can only be: as simultaneity

[p 137]

. DPB: time is associated with the counting of events, then it is a comparison of the number of events in the system and the number of events in the environment. ‘The foundation for the reality of the system – whatever the contours of its meaningful observations might be – is the simultaneity of its operation with the conditions of reality that sustain it

[p 137]

. Systems’s distinction between a nonpresent past and a nonpresent future contributes to a present that is simultaneous with the environment. But their presents are simultaneous, and hence they cannot influence each other causally, and so they are not sychronized, and yet they are a precondition for the application of distinctions in time: ‘The system can place itself in relation to time between future and past, or as a moment in relation to duration or to eternity. Whatever might emerge from this, the system constructs time in relation to itself. What one does not have control over is the simultaneity that reemerges from moment to moment in all the operations of the system

[p 137]

. ‘It is out of the unavoidable certainty of the simultaneity of the system and the environment that current time projections can arise

[p 137]

. DPB: this reminds of my Frivolity on Time and also it reminds of the remark of Weaver of the ‘counting of events’ , that I have now come to think of as counting differences in states as compared to states of the in their simultaneity. Systems can now based on the patterns in some element of the behavior of their environments make projection concerning some of its future behavior; this is not the same as perceiving future present times; in the case of highly cognitive systems they can now even make prognoses. DPB: on their various levels of sophistication these systems can anticipate (draw anticipations of) their futures. ‘Presumably, prognosis has to be understood as a product of our imagination that can be evaluated by the memory, that is, as the creation of an excess of individual possibilities that is then offered up for selection according to self-constructed criteria of “suitability”. In other words, systems that make prognoses can prepare themselves for risks that they themselves have created and derive benefits from this

[p 138]

. DPB: I find this interesting and possibly even important in the light of the discussion in my manuscript, EFRE, concerning the belief, expectations, predictions &c. This sheds some light also on the freedom of will: the thoughts thought are limited to the ideas that the thinker has available. Within the range of the combinatorial production (what word uses NL?) of these thoughts she can make a selection (the hurdle of which is also driven by ideas imprinted in social processes). ‘Cognitive systems, therefore, have only a momentary existence, as a result of the burden of simultaneity that keeps them on the ground’[p 138]. And then on, with a bang: ‘This existence must reproduce itself autopietically in order to attain stability, even if it is only a dynamic (why the only..?) one. They experience the world, therefore, with future and past – that is, as duration – only in the form of nonpresentness. These systems can, therefore, consider their history to be finished insofar as they do not makee present – as if in a dream – retrospective preferences. In the same way their future is full of enticing and threatening possibilities (although in reality there is no possibility at all, since everything is as it is)

[p 138]

. And this is why bureaucracies exist and records and accounting systems and banks: ‘It is possible to keep the nonpresent constant, which yields in turn the fascinating possibility of cognition’s representing changes in the external world by terminological constants instead of by changes in the system itself). As a result, such systems need records, which can, however, be accessed only currently; subsequently these systems help themselves with a kind of “vicarious learning”, with observing observations of others that have the same limitation. The vast unfolding of he world materially, temporally, and socially is a construct anchored in the simultaneity of the world, a world that, in this regard, never changes but is nonetheless inseparable from every realization

[p 138]

. On the other hand, the contemporaneous is reduced to an instant nearly without meaning; this explodes the number of possible futures; cognition has to find its way in this vastness.

V

This theory of constructivism dissolves the continuum of being and thinking. It also rejects the theoretical transcendental position assumed as a reaction towards this dissolution. And it rejects the possibility of a subjective faculty of consciousness that guarantees the conditions for cognition. But does not suffice to replace this idea with distinction between a perturbation​ from outside vis a vis a self-determination from inside: ‘What remains (and has to replace those assumptions) is the recursivity (emphasis author) of observation and cognition. A process is called “recursive” when it uses the results of its own operations as the basis for further operations – that is, what is undertaken is determined in part by what has occurred in earlier operations

[p 139]

. In systems theory such a process would be said to use it own outputs as inputs. Recursivity requires continuous testing of consistency; in processes of perception and memory of the human brain this requires a binary representation at the neurological level (Von Foerster 1969), to cater for rejection and readiness. The states that have been produced so far by system operations form the criteria for the acceptation and rejection for further operations; stimuli from the environment play a part also; decisive, however, is the continuous self-evaluation of the system by means of a code to permit acceptance and rejection of future states. DPB: this whole section reminds a lot of the Oudemans section on the workings of monads (where I had put it originally); it is in fact rather similar to the way that I envisioned how recursive systems get from state to state. I had also connected this idea with the existence of attractors and repellers, such that seeming intentions are not required. ‘The brain functions in this way. And the same will be true for psychic and social systems. The codification true/false gives this schematization only its final finish and a form that is used only under very special circumstances’ [p 139]. DPB: I would say at any one cycle after an external (or internal indirect, self-inflicted) perturbation has occurred: now the systems has to sort itself out, and of all the possibilities on its domain, it must find which will be its next state; this seems to be a sequence of not this one, not this one not this one but this one: ‘One can, therefore, think of binarily schematized recursivity as a continuous calculation of operations on the basis of the current states of the system. The pleasure/pain mechanism also seems to function in this manner. With regard to observations, this structure makes possible the observation of observations. This can mean, first of all, that one repeats the same operation in order to see whether its results are confirmed or not confirmed. This leads to a “condensation” of units of meaning whose verification can no longer be obtained by a single operation. More or less clear deviations can be built into such a replication. One observes the same thing at different times in different situations, under different aspects, which leads to a further enrichment of the condensed meaning and finally to the abstraction of denotation for what seems identical in the different observations. Thus it can safely be assumed that the meaningful construction of the world comes about, gaining thereby a power no single operation can possibly dispose of. One speaks here, in the language of mathematics, of the “eigenvalues” of a system’[ p 139-40]. DPB: many things come together here: first there is the subject of the restricting of the possible future states, then the subject of computation (calculation) is touched upon and lastly the individuation of the variations of instances that can come to be seen denotatively as an abstraction (e.g. a species from the variety of individuals). The sequence of operations has an element that is invariable such that it consistently brings about a pattern and hence is invariable and is hence likened to mathematical eigenvalues. This explains how distance is bridged by knowledge (Donald Campbell, Egon Brunswik: distal knowledge): ‘If one takes into consideration the dependence of all observation on distinction, other possibilities of recursive observation emerge. .. The usual understanding of the observations of observation focuses above all on what an observer observes (distinguishing thereby between subject and object, but concentrating above all on the object). Constructivism describes an observation of observation that concentrates on how the observed observer observes. .., by this means one can also observe what and how an observer is unable to observe. In this case one is interested in his blind spot, that is, the means by which things become visible or nonvisible. One observes (distinguishes) the distinction used by the primary observer in his observing. .. In terms of sociology one could also say that observation is directed now to the observed observer’s latent structures and functions’ [p 140]. To what invariants will a system converge when it extends the recursivity of its observations towards things that other observers cannot observe.

VI

How must paradoxes be treated in a constructivist theory? ‘By a paradox is meant a permissible and meaningful statement that leads nontheless to antinomies or undecidability (or, more strictly, a demonstrablee proposition that has such consequences)’ [p 142]. ‘We suggest instead a view from the side, the observing of observation’ [p 143]. This enables one to observe how other render their paradoxes invisible: ‘To see what other cannot see (and to accept that they cannot see what they cannot see) is, in a way, the systematic keystone of epistemology – taking the place of its a priori foundation. It is, therefore, of importance that every observer involves himself in a paradox because he has to found his observing on a distinction’ [p 143]. As a consequence the observer cannot see the beginning nor the end of this observation’– unless it be by means of another distinction that he has already begun to make or by continuing with a new distinction after having ended. This is why every projection, every goal, every formation of an episode necessitates recursive observation and why, furthermore, recursive observation makes possible not so much the elimination of paradoxes as their temporal and social distribution onto different operations’ [p 143]. This remedy can be realized in the theory of autopoietic systems, where a network of operations generates a network of operations as per the conditions of its generation and where there is no operation that has no reference to other operations. And: ‘A consensual integration of systems of communication is, given such conditions, something that should sooner be feared than sought. For such integration can only result in the paradoxes becoming invisible to all and remaining that way for an indefinite future. ’ [p 143].

VII

What is the understanding of reality that constructivism has? Objectivists claim that reality is manifold and no observation can be made from a single point: what is not observed is hidden behind what is observed. Subjectivists claim a multiplicity of perspectives each of which gives a conditional seeing, but disabling the chosen perspective. ‘Constructivism goes beyond these positions by radicalizing the relationship between cognition and reality. It is no longer a question of the difficulties that arise from a multiplicity of sides or perspectives, and the problem is no longer how one arrives, given this situation, at unity. This multiplicity, regardless of whether it is a multiplicity of sides or of perspectives is itself a product of cognition, resulting from certain types of distinctions, which, as distinctions, are instruments of cognition. It is precisely by means of distinguishing that cognition separates itself from everything that is not cognition. Nonetheless, one is always dealing with concretely determined operations – even in the case of knowledge’ [p 144]. All reality must be constructed (by cognition) and consequently all reality is constructed, and hence is the constructed reality not the same as the reality referred to. ‘The source of a distinction’s ability to guarantee reality lies in its own operative unity. It is, however, precisely as this unity that the distinction cannot be observed – except by means of another distinction that then assumes the function of a guarantor of reality’ [p 145]. ‘Another way of expressing this is to say that the operation emerges simultaneously with the world, which as a result remains cognitively unapproachable to the operation’ [p 145].

VIII

One has to postulate instead: Everything issuing from this process of transformation of limitations into conditions for the increase of complexity is, for the system in question, knowledge

[p 146]

. In contrast with idealism constructivism is not fixed on a ground.

IX

With observing, distinguishing, designating, we always mean an empirical operation that changes the system executing it – which means an operation that, in its own turn, is observable. No observer can avoid being observed, not even in its quality as “subject”

[p 147]

. This is as opposed to a transcendental position. The concept of observation allows for use in the “cognitive sciences”, such as the disciplines biology, psychology and sociology (including their differentiation). ‘Observation takes place when living systems (cells, immune systems, brain, etc.) discriminate and react to their own discrimination’. Observation occurs when thoughts that have been processed through consciousness fix and distinguish something‘ [p 147]. Now cognition is no longer a specific property of “man”: ‘.. “constructivism” is a completely new theory of knowledge, a posthumanistic one. .. the concept “man” (in the singular!), as a designation for the bearer and guarantor of the unity of knowledge, must be renounced. The reality of cognition is to be found in the current operations of the various autopoietic systems. The unity of a structure of cognition (or the “system” in the sense of transcendental theory) can lie only in the unity of an autopoietic system that reproduces itself with its boundaries, its structures, and its elements’ [p 147]. Luhmann refers to people as psychological systems (of which there are at the time of writing about 5bn). There is also a communication system called society. ‘What we know as cognition is the product of the system of communication called society, where consciousness plays a permanent but always only fractional role. It is only in extreme exceptions that one has to know individual persons in order to know what is known – and these are typical instances (for example, statements by witnesses in court) in which direct perception plays a central role’ [p 148]. Knowledge is an artifact of communication and it is amazing that it is still possible to pursue communication; this cannot be explained by some faculty of consciousness, but by the possibilities of storage of data in print and then digitally. ‘It is, finally, only in a sociological context that the ideas about recursive observation and second-order observation (i.e., the observation of observation) acquire their full significance. But why would an observer observe another observer as observer, as another psychical system. Why isn’t the other system seen simply as a normal object in the external world, that is, why iitn’t it simply observed directly instead of as a pathway for the observing of its observing?’ [p 149]. Classical and autopoietic explanations fail to explain the emergence of the observation of observations, namely how observers construct the objects they have constructed as other observers. ‘A third theoretical suggestion (which draws on sociology, since psychology and biology have not sufficed DPB as per the above arguments)) can begin with the assumption that the construction of the other observer is a necessary consequence of communication. For communication is possible only when an observer is able, in his sphere of perception, to distinguish between the act of communication and information, that is, to understand communicative acts as the conveying of information (and not simply as behavior). Out of this distinction – which remains stable only evolutionarily and reproduces itself as a communication system only when it is able to maintain itself – there emerges then a second one: that of subject and object. That communication can be continued requires no more than a kind of black-box concept for the subject and for the object, as far as the distinction operates’ [pp. 149-50]. For communication there is no need to know what goes on inside the subject nor is it required to know the essence of things. Systems of communication grow more sophisticated and differentiated and complex, other concepts for subjects and objects are required. In the course of this, the observer learns to observe others as observers, whether they are communicating or not, and ‘.. and finally even to observe that others do not observe what they do not observe when they are observing. Society, finally makes even latent observations of latent structures possible’ [p 150]. ‘The answer (to the question why communication together with its resulting achievement progresses) can only be that evolutionary force of a particular distinction – that between communication and information – has proven itself. This can, of course, be claimed of everything that exists, and it is still not an explanation. Important, however, In the constructivist context outlined above, is that this claim has been made for a distinction. With this, another distinction has been added to those already used – system/environment and operation/observation: that of communication/information, which is of special importance for the analysis for social systems’ [p 150].

X

It is perhaps not the least important function of constructivist epistemology to make society irritatingly aware of the fact that it produces science’ [p 152].

7 What is communication?

We no longer have a knowledge of psychological and social systems that can be integrated

After hundred years of differentiated research knowledge of psychology and of sociology can no longer be integrated. Both are complex and structured systems with nontransparent and nonregulable internal dynamics. This is not clearly represented in every theory concerned: in sociology action and communication are not: they presuppose an author designated as an individual or a subject to whom action or communication can be attributed: ‘But the concepts of subject or individual function therein only as empty formulas for a state of affairs that is in itself highly complex, one that falls under the domain for which psychology is responsible and does not further interest sociologists’ [p 155].

Only communication can communicate

If one calls this conceptual disposition into question, as I want to do, one usually hears the following: in the end, it is always people, individuals, subjects who act or communicate. I would like to assert in the face of this that only communication can communicate and that what we understand as “action” can be generated only in such a network of communication’ [p 156]. This is my landscape of Jobs, but what is presented here in a very strong way is that actions can ONLY come from this network. The second element is that there are interesting developments in the field of general systems theory concerning self-organization, namely autopoiesis. But this bears consequences for the organization of scientific research and levels and their distinctions.

Self-reference is not a special property of thought

Self-reference is the same as “reflection”. It is not specific for thought or consciousness, but it is a general principle of system formation, with consequences for evolution and the construction of complexity. ‘The consequence that there are many ways of observing the world, according to which system-reference each is based on, should then be inevitable’ [p 156]. Evolution has lead up to a world that has many different possibilities to observe itself, and without any of these observations being better than another. A theory with the ambition to deal with this must concern the observation of observations, à la Von Foerster, begging the question: What does a sociological theory that meets these requirements look like? The answer starts with the concept of communication, because that is an unavoidable social operation, not action. DPB: this reminds me of the Spinoza remark that people would be better off if they could steer their propensity to talk, but they can’t refrain from it. ‘In the main part of my lecture, therefore, would like to attempt to present a corresponding concept of communication, namely a concept that strictly avoids any reference to consciousness or to life, that is, to other levels of the realization of autopoietic systems’ [p 157] (underline DPB). Not that these are not required for communication to occur, so as are other conditions like bonding of atoms and the earth’s magnetic field, but to include them over generalizes the theory.

Communication comes about through a synthesis of three different selections

Life, consciousness and communication are emergent (self-generated) realities: ‘It comes about through a synthesis of three different selections, namely the selection of information , the selection of the utterance [Mitteilung] of this information, and selective understanding or misunderstanding of this utterance and its information’ [157]. DPB: this reminds me of my model concerning the exchange of signals. I had processed the utterance in an operator (E=expression) and the (mis)understanding in an operator (B=begrip/perception). I find it difficult to distinguish data from information and I had not included a separate operator for the selection itself of the information. To establish communication they have to appear together; this I had, only if signaling and reception ‘connect’ can the emergent ‘thing’ be called an utterance, or a communication. ‘Only together: that means, only when their selectivity can be brought to congruence (DPB: a signal is issued and recognized as a signal?). Communication therefore takes place only when a difference of utterance and information is first understood’ This distinguishes it from a mere perception of others’ behavior. By understanding, communication grasps a difference between the information value of its content and the reasons for which the content is being uttered. It can thereby accentuate one side or the other and thus pay more attention to the information itself or to the expressive behavior’ [p 157]. DPB: This accentuates more the actual attempt of the communicator to communicate as an operation per sé. I have integrated communication as a ‘kind of behavior’ that can have an effect on others, whether it is uttered or rather shown (attitude, body language) and can therefore be conscious to a larger or to a smaller extent. Selection depends on the experience of both sides, ‘.. thereby distinguishing them. .. we must presuppose that the information does not understand itself and that a particular decision is necessary in order for its utterance

[pp. 157-8]

.

It is of paramount significance to maintain the distinction between perception and communication

To maintain this distinction is important because communication offers ‘rich possibilities for an accompanying perception

[p 158]

. But perception is a psychological event without communicative existence: ‘Inside the communicative occurrence it is not connectable as it is. One can neither confirm nor refute, neither interrogate nor respond to what another has perceived. .. It can naturally become an external reason for a subsequent communication. Participants can bring to into communication their own perceptions and the interpretations of the situation that are bound up with them, but only according to the autonomous laws of the system of communication, for instance, only in the form of language, only by claiming speaking time, only through imposing oneself, making oneself visible, exposing oneself – thus only under discouragingly difficult conditions.’ [p 158]. DPB: here is an important difference with my view: I do not agree with the idea that communication can only occur through language. What is important however, is the idea that there are strong selective forces at play, namely to inject one’s ideas into the conversation, bringing them forward, not too far off the mark, within intellectual reach of all present (or not to look stupid) &c. In an autopoietic system this is how the discours (my choice of words) orients the new incumbent arguments (just-so stories).

Even understanding is itself a selection

Understanding is never a mere duplication of the utterance in another consciousness but is, rather, in the system of communication itself, a precondition for connection onto further communication, thus a condition of the autopoiesis of the social system’ [p 158]. DPB: this is an element of what I attempt to formalize in the Logistical Model. It goes on to separate the ‘bubble’ of the communication from the experience of the individuals participating in the conversation: ‘Whatever the participants in their own respective, self-referential, closed consciousnesses may think, the communication system works out its own understanding and creates processes of self-observation and self-inspection for this purpose’ [p 158] (emphasis DPB: thhis is the first time the communication is a referred to as a system).

The participants cannot communicate as simply as they would like about understanding and misunderstanding

It is possible to communicate about understanding and misunderstanding or lack of understanding – though again only under the highly specific conditions of the autopoiesis of the system of communication and not as easily as the participants would like. The utterance “You don’t understand me” therefore remains ambivalent and, at the same time, communicates this ambivalence

[p 159]

. It means: 1) You are not ready for what I am trying to tell you, 2) communication cannot be continued with this lack of understanding and 3) it is the continuation of the communication. DPB: the autopoiesis of the communication system requires that the interaction remains on the domain of interactions of the system. If a participant goes outside of the domain of possible interactions of the communication system then its integrity is at stake and the system can refuse to ‘goe there’ or perish. The technique to deal with these situations is a sequence of questions and answers to clarify the communication.

What is new about this concept of communication?

1) the distinction into three components

2) ‘In light of this, a systems-theoretical approach emphasizes the emergence of communication itself. Nothing is transferred. Redundancy is produced in the sense that communication generates a memory to which many people can lay claim in many different ways. (DPB: haha! My point of view exactly!) If A utters something to B, the subsequent communication can be addressed to A or B. The system pulsates, so to speak, with the constant generation of excess and selection’ [p 160]. And the connection with stigmergy: ‘With the emergence of writing and printing, this process of system formation is once more immensely heightened, with consequences for social structure, semantics, indeed for language itself, consequences that are only now gradually entering the view of researchers’ [p 160].

With these three components, it is a matter of different selections

These three components of information, utterance and understanding are not functions or acts, or building blocks, but rather different selections, ‘.. whose selectivity and field of selection (DPB: what is this?) can be constituted only through communication. There is no information outside communication; there is no utterance outside of communication; there is no understanding outside of communication. This is so .. in the circular sense of mutual presupposition’ [p 160].

A system of communication is a completely closed system

A system of communication is therefore a fully closed system that generates the components of which it consists though communication itself. In this sense, a system of communication is an autopoietic system that produces and reproduces through the system everything that functions for the system as a unit. .. Formulated more concretely, this means that the system of communication itself specifies not only its own elements – what in each case is a unit of communication that cannot be further dividedbut also is structures. What is not communicated cannot contribute to this’ [p 160-1]. And communication is interrupted when: ‘Sometime, and rather quickly, the useful limit of communication is reached or patience – that, the load-bearing capacity of the psychological environment – is exhausted, or the interest in other themes or other partners prevails’ [p 161].

Communication has no goal

‘Communication has no goal [Zweck], no immanent entelechy. It happens, or not, and that is all that one can say on that point’ [p 161]. DPB: this reminds me of the just-so stories. Luhmann refers to the ‘theoretical style of Spinoza’. Goal-oriented episodes can be formed in systems of communication, but to reach those goals is not their goal.

The theory of the rationality of communicative action is simply false on empirical grounds alone

Often, it is more or less implicitly supposed that communication aims at consensus, that it seeks agreement’ [p 162]. DPB: But this is an element in a widespread misunderstanding that systems should find some kind of equilibrium (to have an equilibrium is good), but: the fact that the body hangs still does not imply that the man is alright. ‘What it necessarily requires is one’s being able to leave aside the question of consensus or dissent in relation to themes that are not present at the moment

[p 162]

.

All communication is risky

Instead of an equilibrium oriented entelechy, systems theory states the thesis that: ‘Communication leads to the precise formulation of the question of whether the uttered and understood information should be accepted or rejected. One believes a piece of news or not. Communication creates at first only this alternative and thereby creates the risk of rejection. It forces a situation of decision that would not exist at all without communication. To this extent, all communication is risky. This risk is one of the most important morphogenetic (my emphasis) factors. It leads to the building of institutions that secure a disposition of acceptance even toward improbable communications’ [p 162]. DPB: the morphogenesis points at the process of unfolding following some design to arrive at some final shape. What this says is that the risk one experiences in communication (the information being true or false) is a source for morphogenesis: it shapes the process of becoming of the communication system. In addition, or perhaps rather, this risk leads to te development of institutions that are inclusive for communications, even when the risk that they are untrue is high. This reminds me of the question of reputation: people showing a very emotional reaction if their reputation is called into doubt and hence they are perceived as very reliable. Can this risk also be secured by institutions insetad of the reputations of people?

Communication duplicates reality

It creates two versions: a yes-version and a no-version., and thereby compels selection. .. The precise formulation of the alternatives of acceptance or rejection is thus nothing but the autopoiesis of communication itself’ [p 163]. Each statement in this way is a connecting element in the communication: either it attains consensus or dissent, or else it can pursue to conceal the problem and to try and avoid it.

The value-reference of communications

What one can observe empirically is, at first glance, that values are brought into communication by implication. One presupposes them already. One alludes to them’ [p 163].

One discusses not values but only preferences

Consequently, values are supposed to be valid because they are presupposed to be valid. He person who communicates with reference to values lays claim to a sort of values bonus. The other has to announce him- or herself if he or she does not agree. .. He or she has the burden of the argumentation. He or she runs the risk of thinking innovatively and having to isolate him- or herself. And since more and more values are implied than can be thematized in the nextstep, picking out, rejecting, or modifying is an almost hopeless task. One does not discuss values, only preferences, interests, prescriptions, programs’ [p 164]. This is not the same thing as a value system and it does not imply that there is a stable psychologically stable structure, quite the contrary in fact, because values have a labile existence: ‘Their stability, as I would like to formulate it provocatively, is an exclusively communicative artifact, and the autopoietic system of consciousness uses this artifact as it pleases’ [p 164]. DPB: I think this means that the values are a product of the communication system that has the shape of an autopoietic, and a complex system. The patterns produced by the system are perceived by its participants: ‘Exactly because structures of the autopoiesis of the social system are at play here, the semantics of values is suitable for the representation of the foundations of the social system for one’s own use. Their stability rests on a recursive supposition of the act of supposing and on a testing of the semantics with which it this either functions or does not function. The “foundation of validity” is recursivity, hardened through the communicative disadvantaging of contradiction’ [p 164]. DPB: 1) the individual (psychological) and the system (social) are made of the same stuff! 2) these selective processes (hardening) are the engine for the individuation of the social system (and I guess also for the ideas ‘ripening’ in the brain of the individual associated with the system).

There is no self-realization of values

What consciousness thinks of this is a completely different question. If it is well-versed, it will know that value consensus is as inevitable as it is harmful (DPB: sic! (parasitic)). For there is no self-realization of values, and one can allow everything that they seem to demand to go astray in their realization – in the name of values, naturally’ [p 164].

Consequences for the field of the diagnosis and therapy of system relations

1) Psychological systems operate with consciousness, social systems with communication; both are circularly closed each applying its autopoietic reproduction. A social system cannot think (what about computation, individuation, thinking?) and a psychological system cannot communicate. Closure means not that they are not causal, and not that their relations cannot be observed; the systems are opaque to each other and cannot steer each other. 2) ‘.. consciousness contributes only noise, interference, and disturbance to communication. and vice versa’ [p 165]. When you observe a process of communication you must know what went before to understand it, but in general terms you do not need the structure of the participants’ consciousnesses.

One’s own consciousness dances about upon the words like a will-o’-the-wisp

Social and psychological systems are interdependent. Psychological selectivity differs from social selectivity in the sense that one can or does usually not say exactly what one thinks for serious and frivolous reasons: hence the dancing about &c. Consciousness is superior to communication, because it deals not only with words and sentences, ‘.. but additionally and often more importantly with perception and with the imaginative constructions and dismantlings of images’ [p 166]. The capability to balance between observation and concentration on what has to be spoken while one speaks varies from person to person.

It is inevitable to adapt communication to the will-o’the-wisp of consciousness

Changing the system-reference and coming back to the social system of communication, all of this makes it inevitable that communication will be adapted to the will-o’the-wisp of consciousness. Of course, communication cannot transport bits of consciousness. Rather, consciousness, no matter what it thinks to itself, is maneuvered by communication into a situation of forced choice – or so it appears at least from the point of view of communication. Communication can be accepted or rejected in a way that is communicatively comprehensible..’ [p 167].

Communication can be interfered with by consciousness

8 How can the mind participate in communication?

I

‘Within the communication system we call society, it is conventional to assume that humans can communicate’ [p 169]. DPB: it is the societal systems that leads us to conventionally believe that, or, the societal system allows people to think that and does not oppose the thought. It is false and it functions only as a convention and in communication: ‘The convention is necessary because communication necessarily addresses its operations to those who are required to continue communication’ [p 169]. DPB: this reminds me of the statement of Spinoza that people have an urge to talk and they would be better off keeping silent sometimes. They have to believe that they can communicate and then they believe they have to do it incessantly, but: ‘Only communication can communicate

[p 169]

. It is unknown at this point how the mind can effect physical behavior or even communication): ‘We have to start any clarification with the observer’[p 169]; the questions to ask are: Whether and how does the mind participate in communication? It does participate, because without it there could be no communication just as without a molecular organization of matter there could be no life, but how? Humans are built of operationally closed (autopoietically organized) subsystems, such as cells. ‘The brain can be stimulated by an extremely small amount of external impulses, but only internal changes are available for its own operations, and it cannot initiate any contacts with its environment through nerve impulses, whether as input or output. .. Countless independent systems are at work within humans that determine, through their own structures, what operations will be carried out. They are, however, independent’ [p 170]. DPB: I like this as a very explicit explanation of why it is not possible for an organism to be open to its environment. In addition it states how this functions in an autopoietic system built of other independent systems. ‘In the same way, what we experience as out own mind operates as an isolated autopoietic system. There is no conscious link between one mind and another. There is no operational unity of more than one mind as a system, and whatever appears as a “consensus” is the construct of the observer, that is, his own achievement’ [p 170]. And in ultimo this means that the mind is fully isolated: ‘The mind cannot consciously communicate. It can imagine that it is communicating, but this remains an imagination of its own system, an internal operation that allows the continuation of its own thought process. This is not communication’ [p 170]. It is necessary to distinguish systems of the mind (e.g. conversation management and planning) and communication (social) systems: both are autopoietic and orienting their operations towards maintenance of their own operational organization.

II

What do mind and communication have in common? A system of consciousness can come into being and be active without communication. Communication cannot come into being without participation of the mind [p 171]. Assuming that there are some forms of signaling without conscious involvement of the mind (attitude, gestures &c.): ‘There is no communication without the mind; but: can there be communication without the mind’s communicating? We are faced with the following question: How is communication possible if it has such a fluid, constantly changing foundation?

[p 171]

. DPB: namely the volatile human mind. ‘The initial answer is a postulate: The continuation of communication obviously requires the maintenance of an organization that can cope with this material’ [p 171-2]. It might be possible to describe everything that is communicated on the level of mental states with the exception of the autopoiesis of the emerging system, what is the same as the description of what communication (or life) is [p 172]. DPB: autopoietic systems cannot be WIP. As a consequence Maturana’s autopoietic concept of “the conservation of adaptation” can be transferred from biology to sociology [p 172]. ‘Only when a system, in its autopoietic reproduction, adapts itself to the field in which it operates can it determine itself through its own structures. And only when it is in contact with its environment through its own structure can it continue its own operations. Reproduction either does or does not take place. Communication either is or is not continued. Whenever it does continue, it remains adapted, no matter how self-dynamically it proceeds. It is not the goal of communication to adapt itself to the respective mind. On the contrary, communication fascinates and occupies the mind whenever, and as long as, it continues. This is not its purpose, not its meaning, not its function. Only, if it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen’[p 172]. DPB: more Spinoza, memetics. This quote explains very well how mind and communication are entangled and separate. It is hence possible to build a stable social system on a multitude of volatile human brains that are not hooked up directly. And once humans began to make utterances, they have never stopped: ‘In saying certain things, each communication therefore reduces the possibilities of linkage, but still leaves open, by means of meanings, a wide spectrum of connected communication, including the possibility of negating or reinterpreting the received information or declaring it untrue or unwelcome. The autopoiesis of social systems is nothing more than this constant process of reduction and opening of connective possibilities. It can be continued only if it is already in progress’ [p 172]. DPB: This reminds of the restrictions of Oudemans with regards to the monads: each state leads to an attractor or a repeller such that the number of possible future states can change. Episodes have a contemplated ending; they serve as a transition to another possibility of communication; they can be determined by purposes. ‘Society is purposeless and must be treated in communication as untreatable through communication. It is possible to say: Stop! But the end of society can only be brought about by the and of its nonsocial conditions’ [pp. 172-3]. Autopoietic systems such as society and consciousness end when their operations are no longer continued. ‘Only an observer can talk about a beginning and an end’ [ p 173]. DPB: this reminds of Maturana’s explication that the only one talking is the observer. This also reminds me of the part of the theory concerning the starting of a firm; in connection it reminds me of the concept of a Job: there will be processes running on brains always, but they sometimes coagulate into some pattern at this location and then the coagulation dissolves (there) but the Jobs continue to exist and might form a pattern elsewhere in some different configuration of them. It is only the observer of the coagulation (the pattern) that strikes it as noteworthy that this patter of Jobs dissolves and another one emerges, through replacement or transposition or pure disappearance of one and emergence of another: ‘The observer observes through the use of a distinction. In this case, he distinguishes beginning and non-beginning, or ending and non-ending. A system that observes itself can proceed only in this way. .. In observation, the end of observation remains a paradox – a reentry of a distinction into itself. It is all the more important that, on the basis of its own operations, a system is able to observe when another begins or ends, free of paradox’ [p 173]. A system’s observation of its own demise remains a paradox, but for an observing system to observe the demise of another system should not be. ‘The evolution of social communication is possible only in a constantly operative link with states of consciousness’ [p 173]. First speech then writing then printing, but: ‘Decisive in this process is not the symbolic character so often claimed in for these developments but rather the differentiation of special experiential objects that are either extraordinary or fascinating’ [p 173]. DPB: I wonder what these objects can be with regards to the concept of a firm; I assume they must have some connection with the belief systems of capitalism. In this sense language and script guarantee the conservation of adaptation (concerning autopoietic systems) in the communication system: ‘.. the constant accommodation of communication to the mind. They define the free space of autopoiesis within the social communication system’ [p 173]. DPB: should this be seen as a buffer and a cache required by the communication system to be able to remain on its domain of interactions and hence this represents its free space. The conservative view, common opinion, mass media and market prices do not change this process, but they enable a more effective recursivity in the observation of the observation of others.

III

The mind thinks what it thinks and nothing else. From the perspective of an observer – either an another mind or a communication system that communicates about the observed mind – the mind can be seen as a medium that could accept and transmit a myriad of conditions. The observer can imagine the mind (doing what it does) as freedom, above all the freedom to allow itself to be influenced’ [p 174]. The observing one way or the other is done by an observer (and nobody else). But the mind itself does the changing of its states and structures and nothing else (and the observer might abstract from this to some extent). ‘Just as visual and auditory perception use light and air precisely because these cannot be seen or heard as media, so communication uses the mind as a medium precisely because communication does not thematize the mind in question. Metaphorically speaking, the mind in question remains invisible to communication’ [p 175]. DPB: spot on: the mind is a ‘tabula rasa’, I have raised ample evidence of this. Now this is more evidence but from a different angle: that the mind should not be thematized because it must evolutionary remain free to be inscribed with different themes: ‘When it becomes visible, it becomes disruptive, just as the strong whoosh and whistle of the air inside a car traveling at high speed disrupt words of communication. The mind functions as a medium when it is assumed that it can take in everything that is said’ [p 175]. But how can the mind be a structurally determined system and a medium at the same time? ‘Mind is no more a medium “in itself” than are light and air. It only allows for the evolution of language ( .. ), just as language is again a medium in which the mind can imprint concrete expressions by putting together words into sentences and eventually producing a corresponding communication in a way that does not use up the medium

[p 175]

. This last argument is great, the formulation is not so great. ‘The law of medium and form (Luhmann 1986b) states that the the more rigid form prevails over the softer medium. .. This requires a temporalization of the elements. Sentences that are thought and spoken are only parts of a process that disappear at the moment of their generation. .. Just imagine the noise that would result if spoken words did not fade away but remained audible!

[p 176]

.

IV

Communication is possible only as an autopoietic system. With the help of language, it reproduces communication from communication while using this structural requisite of its own reproduction to employ the mind as a medium. The mind therefore participates in communication as a structurally determined system and as a medium. This is possible only because the mind and communication, psychic systems and social systems, never fuse or even partially overlap but are completely separate, self-referentially closed, autopoietic-reproductive systems. As I said: humans cannot communicate’ [p176]. DPB: this perfectly explains the threesome relation between the mind, the communication social system and language. But isn’t language itself also an autopoietic system of the social class? ‘Perceptions remain locked up in the activated mind and cannot be communicated. .. Reports of perception are not perceptions themselves; thus communication operates blindly ..

[p 177]

. What is the relation of independence between these systems? ‘Systems of communication can be stimulated only by systems of the mind, and these in turn are extremely attracted to what is conspicuously communicated by language. My argument is as follows: the independence of each closed system is a requirement for structural complementarity, that is, for the reciprocal initiation (but not determination) of the actualized choice of structure

[p 177]

. DPB: this reminds of the mechanisms of co-evolution (or perhaps rather coadaptation). Communications systems can exist in very complex environments; but that environment can only stimulate and influence a small part of the system’s possibilities: ‘Apparently, then, no system could observe its environment (or more generally, develop cognition) if it had to ward off every event in its environment with an internal state. The lack of connectability between operations assumes a distinct limitation of sensibility toward outside events (Roth 1986)’ [p 177]. ‘Their (of autopoietic systems) sensibility is limited to a narrow spectrum of possible stimuli, and it is precisely in this area that their own operations are organized in a manner that is unspecific as to stimuli. Communication operates with an unspecific reference to the participating state of mind; it is specially unspecific as to perception. It cannot copy states of mind, cannot imitate them, cannot represent them. This is the basis for the possibility of communication’s building up a complexity of its own and refining itself to such an extreme that it would be highly unlikely to reproduce itself without being adapted to an environment it cannot know’ [p 178]. DPB: the system has a chance to become cognitive and then to become more sophisticated just because its range of possible sensibilities is limited. Only there is it organized such that it is unspecific to perceptions. This reminds me of a unit of computation and more specifically, one that has become complexified to the point that it can exhibit complex behavior and in addition that it can perform universal computations.

V

The interaction between systems of the mind and systems of communication is not integrated into a supersystem: ’Instead, systems of the mind are capable of observing communicative systems, and communicative systems are able to observe systems of the mind

[p 179]

. A concept of observation is therefore needed such that it is not attributable to either kind of system: ‘Observation is introduced here as a theoretical concept of difference. Observation is making a distinction. An operative foundation, whether of the mind or of communication, is not crucial for this definition, but it does assume that observation can be accomplished as an operation and as such is itself an operation (that is, it can observe itself only with the help of another operation. Operations of the mind and of communication proceed blindly. They do what they do. They reproduce the system. Meaning comes into play only on the level of observation, with all the provisions demonstrated by logic and hermeneutics: ..

[p 179]

. DPB: this is the earlier definition but it also reminds of individuation!

VI

How can it (a mind) arrive at the idea that there are similar phenomena outside itself?’ [p 180]. The Kantian solution is that one recognizes a similarity of some thing with one’s mind and so on; and this solution has been assumed by radical constructivism: ‘But how can a mind arrive at such an idea except by perceiving an analog to itself by itself?‘ [pp. 180-1]. In other words: how can the mind arrive at the idea that an interior exists within the other similar to one’s own interior but different to other systems? ‘The mind does not arrive at an analogy through another, similar case. It can take part in communication only if it can distinguish between utterance and information. An utterance is chosen from various behaviors; information is chosen from various facts; and communication combines the two into one event (Luhmann 1995b, 137ff.)’ [p 181]. DPB: this reminds me of the logistical model and how people construct expressions from memes and perceived ideas based on memes: the information is the core idea and the utterance is the way it is expressed. But I cannot discern here how the ideas are connected as per my connotations. I find it interesting however that communication is an amalgamate of information and utterance. But to know this is relevant for participation in a communication.

VII

The idea that people can communicate between them or even with the system is widespread in the social communication system; neither is the case: no system can effect operations outside of its own boundaries. This means that every expanse of the range of operative possibilities, and every increase of its complexity means an expansion of the system: no system is able to use its own operations to establish contact with the environment, because that would necessitate one end of the operations at least to take place at then end of the environment, and hence outside of the system [p 182]. For the “individual and society” theme, a concept with curious title ‘interpenetration’ was chosen: ‘”Interpenetration” can only mean: the unity and complexity (as opposed to specific conditions and operations) of the one is given a function within the system of the other’ [p 182]. The form that interprenetration takes can only be demonstrated in the structures and operations of the individual systems, and therefore it takes a different form in systems of the mind than in those of communication. Systems of the mind are socialized with systems of communication by processes of interpenetration. Communication systems experience interpenetration by the personal encounters of people in their physical and mental environment. ‘I call this (again with reference to Parsons) “inclusion”’ [p 183]. ‘Everyone knows, of course, that the word “human being” is not a human being. We must also learn that there is nothing in the unity of an object that corresponds to the word. Words such as “human being”, “soul”, “person”, “subject΅, and “individual” are nothing more than what they effect in communication. They are cognitive operators insofar as they enable the calculation of continued communication’ [p 183]. DPB: this belongs to monads also: the section where the name is explained and the position of essentialism.

9 I See Something You Don’t See

The relevance of the Frankfurt School is the subject. Start with a critique on the ontological presuppositions of knowledge. Ontology is understood to indicate that an observer operates with the distinction being/nonbeing; and with the help of this distinction the observer designates what he deems relevant. He needs one value to designate and one more value to control his observation, to reflect. In this way the values designate and control, but the negative has no correlate in reality (bivalent logic is specific for an observer; the operations run whether they render true or false results). ‘As long as there is one such observer, several observers are in the same situation. They can point out errors to each other; that is to say, they can break through the operative indistinguishability of recognition and error. They can learn with one another because they have only one value at their disposal to designate reality, and they stand, as it were, under compulsion to agree. Accordingly, ontology limits the observation of observers to two functions: critique and learning. There is only one world for observers, even if they observe one another – and hence there is perpetual conflict among them’ [p 188]. ‘Knowledge is objective is all observers agree about it. One can hence ignore the differences among the observers. One need observe not the observers but rather only reality itself, in order to recognize what the observers are observing. This does not hold for subjective knowledge. Here, one must observe the observer to recognize what he can and cannot observe. .. The neocybernetics of the theory of observing systems solves the problem in another way, namely by transferring all knowledge onto the level of the observation of observers’ [p 188]. Postmetaphysical thought has proceduralized these premises: the observers develop procedures to come to an agreement; the conflict of opinion is reduced to argumentation; they subordinate themselves to the norm of joint insight; that defines rational communication for them (and if they don’t reach it they at least have to want it, lest they are not rational: ‘They act, I would now say, under the assumption that they live in one and the same world and that it is a matter of reporting in accord about this world. Thereby, however, they are nothing but victims of the bivalence of their apparatus, the ontological structure of their primary distinction. Only for this reason is nonconflictual agreement a condition of rationality for them’ [p 189]. Francois Lyotard critiques that there is no unified account, but each account produces a difference. ‘Reality is only what is observed. But in contrast to the subjective deviation of idealism, the empirical observation of empirical observers is essential for what is ultimately accepted as reality. In this context, an abstraction of the concept of observation is first presupposed. Observation is the use of a distinction to designate one and not the other side. To draw a distinction is to mark a border, with the consequence that one can reach one side from the other only by crossing the border. Spencer Brown calls this “form”’ [p 190]. The use of distinctions is presupposed in every observation, and hence it is itself not distinguishable in its use as an operation, but: ’The distinction that is operatively used in observation but not observable is the observer’s blind spot. Formulated in logical terms, the observer is the excluded middle of this observation; he is not the “subject” but rather the parasite (Serres) of his observation. One can accordingly see what he cannot see if one merely asks about which distinction he is using – hence, for the ontologist, the distinction between being and nonbeing; for the moralist, the distinction between good and bad; or for Habermas, the distinction between technology and interaction, system and lifeworld, and so on’ [p 190]. These distinctions lead to a blind spot in the knowledge built on them and the question is if that is a sustainable situation, namely insight into its own blindness. Epistemology takes account of one simple observer, and hence the world is ‘a condensate of experiences that can be repeated’. Ontology is capable of exposing errors: ‘appearance and deception are consequently aspects of an ontologically conceived world’, and that includes the observation of other observers, but only to detect errors; they are treated normatively and asked to correct their erroneous opinions. ‘Second-order cybernetics, the cybernetics of observing observers, leads to a thorough shiting of this disposition. It grasps all observation, even its own, as being dependent upon distinction. It must withhold forcing its own distinctions upon the observed observer. .. It (instead) reckons with the fact that, in a society that continually enables an observation of observations, ultimately stable “eigenvalues” (David Hilbert, Heinz von Foerster) arise that are no longer varied with further observation’ [p 191]. Now it is also clearer how the difference between subject and object comes to be, namely ‘by sheer virtue of the fact that operations of “subjects” are often best understood if one takes them to be induced by observation, that is, unleashed by the observed object itself functioning as an observer

[p 191]

. The distinction subject/object comes proves itself in an operational stance, the observational praxis; his is a distinction that can be applied to biological systems, to psychological systems as well as to social systems, and perhaps even to electronic machines: ‘.. if the complicated, two-termed operation of observing observers succeeds’ [p 192]. ‘First, it is simply necessary to contest that they (Frankfurt School and Habermas’s theory of communicative action) represent the philosophical discourse of modernity at all. This contestation does not rely on the absurd thesis of a postmodern age. Disputes of this sort are the product of literary inbreeding. One need only cast a glance at the structural continuities of modern society, at the dependence of the economy upon money, at the intensity of scientific research, at the positive law that remains indispensable, at the differentiation of intimate relations, at the state-related politics, at the so-called mass media, to see that there can be no talk of a transition to a postmodern society’ [p 192]. What appears to be happening is the introduction of a transitional semantics related to the wish to do away with the aristocratic forms of society but not quit ready for modern society. This transitional semantics is now exhausted. ‘The distinction, above all, between affirmative and critical, a distinction so beloved in Frankfurt, misses the connection to what offers itself to observation. It is a specific case of blindness, for it excludes the possibility that what has become realized as society gives cause for the worst fears, but cannot be rejected. This holds if one considers the evolutionary improbability of supporting structures – to name but a few: the autonomy and reciprocal dependence (carried to an extreme) of function systems; grave ecological problems; the short-term nature of tenable perspectives in the economy and in politics. Finally, one will be allowed to inquire as to the foundations of the emphasis that, if no longer subject-theoretical, is at least humanist. Apparently one requires this engagement in order to make normative claims plausible. The theory sides with the human to join the latter in battle against enemy forces. But isn’t this human merely an invention of this theory, merely a veiling of this theory’s self-reference? ~ If he or she were meant as an empirical object (with the name of subject), the theory would have to declare who at the same time are living and acting, on a discursive search for good grounds’ [p 193]. This would imply a lengthy process, especially because of the bounded rationality of the involved people and the required simultaneity: ‘One cannot idealize society without taking account of time’ [p 193].

Alchian – Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory

Alchian, A.A. . Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory . The Journal of Political Economy Vol 58, No 3 pp. 211-221 . The University of Chicago Press . 1950

DPB: firms are exposed to the scrutiny of their environment and they can be adopted by it to a varying extent. The development of the elements in the environment is largely random. Firms are more inert and they develop less. But firms are not passive: they can be adaptive and devise methods to achieve success. One method of adaptation is to imitate organized behavior of a successful firm such that it is hoped that the success comes with the imitated behavior. Another method is to perform trial-and-error at any point in the development. Whether these experiments are successful can only be tried in practical terms. To predict success based on these is impossible because the relations of the firm with the environment are too complex, too variable and too many. This is useful: it corroborates with the idea that the organization of a firm is just-so. The starting point is that chance plays a pivotal role in the development and that personal brilliance has a limited effect for the success of the firm.

Incorporate incomplete information and uncertain foresight as axioms in economic theory. Profit maximization is dispensed with as well as predictable individual behavior. This approach embodies the concept of biological evolution and natural selection. The economic system is seen as an adoptive mechanism that chooses from exploratory actions adaptively, pursuing ‘success’ or ‘profit’. DPB: this sounds like ideas for profit being explored by the economic system through a selection mechanism. The applicability is not only to the standard situation but also to what is considered aberrations by the existing theory. The postulates of accurate anticipation and fixed states of knowledge are removed. Structure of the article: 1) where foresight is uncertain, the principle of ‘profit maximization’ is meaningless as a guide to action. 2) Construction begins with the introduction of the concept of environmental adoption: a posteriori most appropriate action based on the criterion of ‘realized positive profits’. The concept of environmental adoption is then fused with individually motivated behavior based on uncertainty and incomplete information: ‘Adaptive, imitative, and trial-and-error behavior in the pursuit of ‘positive profits’ is utilized rather than its sharp contrast, the pursuit of ‘maximized profits’ [Alchian 1950 p 211]. DPB: this is very interesting, because it allows for just-so elements, namely trial and error of economic practice. 3) Conclusions and conjectures.

1 Profit maximization not a guide to action

Economic agents are assumed to use demand and supply curves, but their position and slopes are uncertain. Under uncertainty one action can have various results, according to a distribution. After the action, the result will come to the fore. But the (distributions of the) results of different actions will overlap. To maximize a distribution does not exist. To select an action that generates maximum profit is only possible if there is no overlapping distribution. If they do overlap then the result does not point to one action. The task is therefore not to maximize profit, but to choose an action that leads to an optimum distribution, leading to a positive profit goal definition.

2 Success is based on results not motivation

Realized positive profits, not maximum profits, are the mark of success and viability. It does not matter through what process of reasoning or motivation such success was achieved. The fact of its accomplishment is sufficient. This is the criterion by which the economic system selects survivors: those who realize positive profits are the survivor; those who suffer losses disappear’ [Alchian 1950 p 213 (emphases by the author)]. Positive profits accrue to those who are better relative to their actual competitors (not a hypothetical ideal one). When uncertainty is larger the profit is more likely to go to the more venturous and lucky and less to the logical and well-informed. Concluding: a) success points at relative superiority and b) not motivation but circumstance may lead to the positive profit. Competitors with the most appropriate conditions will be selected by the environment for testing and adoption.

3) Chance or luck is one method of achieving success

Determination of the situation and the appropriateness depends on chance. Ability to adapt oneself to the situation is another element. The survivors may appear to have adapted to the environment, or the environment has adopted the survivors (emphasis DPB). A useful example is presented: travelers have to choose a path from one city to another. Petrol isn’t available on all of the paths. The travelers don’t know on which path petrol is available and on which there isn’t. Only the travelers on the path with petrol can travel, the others are not. They are considered smart, the others are not. When the petrol supply is changed to another path, then the latter travelers move and the others have to stop. Now these ones are considered the smart travelers and the others are foolish. The environment, namely the path infrastructure and the petrol supply, adopts the travelers. Their traveling skills can only be applied when the environment enables them to, they are ‘adoptable’. They travel when the environment ‘adopts’ them, and in that case they can show ‘their best traveling’, but whether they do get the opportunity is decided by chance. DPB: can this be translated into a situation of attraction and repulsion? A path with petrol attracts travelers: they are given the chance to travel, and in a particular direction. They are restricted by the availability of petrol: purposeful action is attracted to it, lack of it is repelled from it. The ‘correct’ direction of travel can be established if the availability of petrol on particular paths is certain. By determining the environment, the success of the travelers can be determined as well as the conditions conducive to it.

4 Chance does not imply non-directed, random allocation of resources

It might seem that the facts of life deny chance to be the deciding factor for the adoption principle in the economic system. Size of firms and heritage seem to indicate wisdom and foresight. Mathematician Borél has shown that these examples do not provide evidence against luck. If a million pairs play toss for 8 hours a day and one toss takes 1 second and the play stops if the winner of the first toss is equaled, then 100 pairs are still in play after 10 years. And, if the game is inherited, statistically 12 pairs play after a thousand years. So chance is likely to play a part in the survival of a 100 years old firm. There are not too many but too few firms to corroborate this analysis. Note that a) if all economic actions were random, the variety would be large and therefore the probability is large that the path of perfect foresight will turn out to be one of the survivors without him ever having had the intention. b) if some or even all of the participating firms behave non-random then the set of their behaviors is indistinguishable from a random set in terms of variety. c) A chance dominated model does not mean that the behavior cannot be predicted or explained. ‘It is sufficient if all firms are slightly different so that in the new environmental situation those who have their fixed internal conditions closer to the new, but unknown, optimum position now have a greater probability of survival and growth’ [Alchian 1950 p 216]. DPB: this matches very well the logic of process metaphysics. Where there are differences there is a chance that something will change. In that case an attractor can emerge from the changing environment to which the kind of firms, because of its ’internal conditions’, and knowingly or not, is attracted or repelled. This occurs because there are repeated trials and because there are more firms with a similar characteristic that have an elevated chance or landing in that basin of attraction and on that attractor. d) Not the characteristics of the firms change, but the characteristics of the set of firms that survives the new environmental circumstance. e) Individual motivations are sufficient but not a necessary condition. Instead what is required necessarily is the set of requirements of the economic circumstance.

5 Individual adapting via imitation and trial and error

Purposive motivation and foresight are added to the extreme model of adoption (and not to merge it with perfect foresight &c. and profit maximization). It is assumed here that the objective is the sufficient condition of realized positive profit. That is the condition for survival (not profit maximization). The fulfillment of the pursuit of profit is rewarded with survival. Only perfect knowledge of past results and awareness of the present do not guarantee perfect foresight: chance is a determining factor. As a consequence modes of conscious adaptive behavior replace this knowledge: a) common elements of behavior associated with the successes of successful enterprises are imitated. This is motivated by the absence of clear-cut criteria, a very large number of them, their variability, lack of room for trial and error, &c. Also imitation relieves one of the need to really innovate and be responsible for the outcome if it fails. ‘Unfortunately, failure or success often reflects the willingness to depart from rules, when conditions have changed; what counts, then, is not only imitative behavior but the willingness to abandon it at the ‘right’ time and circumstances. Those who are different and successful ‘become’ innovators, while those who fail ‘become’ reckless violators of tried-and-true rules’ [Alchian 1950 p 218]. DPB: behavior associated with success is replicated: perceive success and behavior, define which behavioral elements determine success and how, define the rules for own behavior, mimick them as long as required. b) trial and error is a second type of adaptive behavior. Trial, and with ensuing success continuation of, and with a lack of success a change of action. But firstly trial must be recognizable as success or not (local optimum). Secondly there can be no intermediate descent or the approach will be abandoned. Both conditions are not likely in the case of economic life. A changing environment prevents one to compare some course of action to the predefined conception of success. These elements frustrate a trial and error process, because that is a survival and death situation, not a personal optimization approach. ‘Success is discovered by the economic system through a blanketing shotgun process, not by the individual through a converging search’ [Alchian 1950 p 219]. DPB: just-so, nomad/monad, individuation. Variation is achieved because imitations are imperfect. ‘All the preceding arguments leave the individual economic participant with imitative, venturesome, innovative, trial-and-error adaptive behavior. Most conventional economic tools and concepts are still useful, although in a vastly different framework – one which is closely akin to the theory of biological evolution. The economic counterparts of genetic heredity, mutations, and natural selection are imitation, innovation, and positive profits’ [p 220].

6 Conclusions and summary

First some behavior (organization) must be submitted to the economic system (mutation) and then tried for its viability (natural selection). These appear to be interrelated: if the probability for viability is higher then the probability for action being taken is higher also, but that is not necessarily so, because there is no for ‘inner directed urge towards perfection’. What counts is not the plans for perfect action but trial of promising action, because from there success is selected. That proven success there can lead to ensuing action. The economist can know effects of changes in the environment on the economic participant, even if he doesn’t know how the participant takes his decisions, by inferring the requirements of the environment. In other words: which organization is adopted by the conditions of that environment.

PS: exaptation (the original term pre-adaptation was replaced because it seemed to suppose intentionality) is the assigning a new function to an existing trait. For instance the feathers of a bird initially served a purpose for insulation and only later supported flight.

Simon – The Architecture of Complexity

Simon, H.A. . The Architecture of Complexity . Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol 106, No 6, pp. 467 – 482 . 1962

Development of a general systems theory to find out which abstracting properties from all of them can apply to all kinds of systems. Do diverse systems have anything non-trivial in common? This is addressed by ideas under the umbrella of cybernetics (if not a theory than at least an interesting point of view). The goal is to cast some light on the ways complexity exhibits itself wherever it is found in nature. The rough description of a complex system used here is: a system made up of many parts which interact in a non-simple way. In such systems the whole may be more than the parts in a pragmatic sense: ‘In the face of complexity, an in-principle reductionist may at the same time be a pragmatic holist’ [Simon 1962 p 468]. How complexity frequently takes the form of hierarchy is discussed in four sections: 1) frequency of the occurrence of hierarchy in complex systems 2) hierarchic systems evolve more quickly than non-hierachic systems 3) dynamic properties of complex systems and they can be decomposed into subsystems 4) relation between complex systems and their descriptions.

>HIERARCHIC SYSTEMS

A hierarchic system is a system that is composed of other interrelated hierarchic systems. DPB: a hierarchic system integrates other hierarchic systems until some lower, elementary level of subsystems is arrived at. What that level is, is somewhat arbitrary and how it can be done is a subject of this article. Hierarchy is often referred to the structure where systems are subordinated by a relation of authority to the system they belong to. This means the existence of a boss and subordinate subsystems. Each system has a boss who is subordinated to the boss of the system. This is a formal approach to hierarchy. ‘I shall use hierarchy in the broader sense introduced in the previous paragraphs, to refer to all complex systems analyzable into successive sets of subsystems, and speak of ‘formal hierarchy’ when I want to refer to the more specialized concept’ [Simon 1962 p 468].

>>Social Systems

One kind of hierarchy in social sciences is the formal organization of businesses &c. Another is families, tribes, clans, &c.

> >Biological and physical systems

Cell-up Cell>tissue>organ>system. Cell-down: Cell>nucleus>mitochondria>membrane>microsomes.

Elementary particles, Planetary systems

A gas is seen as a random distribution of complex systems, namely particles.

Hierarchy refers to a system with a moderate number of subsystems with their subsystems (a diamond is a flat hierarchy with many subsystems, and atypical). The number of subsystems subordinated to the system is the span of that system. If the span of a (sub) system is wide it is flat at that location. A diamond has a wide span / is flat at the crystal level, but not at the molecular level. Biological and physical systems differ from social systems in that the first are described in spatial terms and the second by defining who interacts with whom. This can be reconciled by defining hierarchy by intensity of interactions.

>>Symbolic systems: Books>Chapters>Paragraphs>Alinea>Words>Letters, &c.

>THE EVOLUTION OF COMPLEX SYSTEMS

Watch maker 1: One system. When assemblage is interrupted the entire watch falls apart. Watch maker 2: Subsystems of 10 subsystems each. When assemblage is interrupted the subsystem at hand falls apart. This one is more likely to survive.

>>Biological evolution

The time required for the evolution of a complex form from simple elements depends critically on the numbers and distribution of potential intermediate stable forms’ [Simon 1962 p 471]. Comments: a) no teleology is suggested and the structure can come from random processes. When complex forms once existent become stable they give direction. But this is survival of the fittest, namely survival of the stable b) not all large systems appear hierarchical c) the evolution of complex systems from simple elements implies nothing concerning the change of entropy: free energy can be taken up or generated by the evolutionary process

>>Problem solving as natural selection

Problem solving requires selective trial-and-error. .. In problem solving, a partial result that represents recognizable progress toward the goal plays the role of a stable sub-assembly’ [Simon 1962 p 472]. Human problem solving involves only trial-and-error and selectivity. The selectivity derives from heuristics to suggest which paths to try first.

>> The sources of selectivity

When we examine the sources from which the problem-solving system, or the evolving system, as the case may be, derives its selectivity, we discover that selectivity can always be equated with some kind of feedback of information from the environment’ [Simon 1962 p 473]. DPB: the approach to modeling evolution is the same as that to modeling problem solving. There are two paths of selection in problem solving: a) various paths are tried out, the results are noted and this information is used for further search and b) using previous experience: doing the same paths that lead to an earlier solution. In this way trial-and-error is reduced or eliminated. The closest analogue of this in organic evolution is reproduction.

>>On empires and empire building

When an empire breaks up, it doesn’t tend to fall apart into its smallest elements but into the next scale of subsystems.

>>Conclusion: the evolutionary explanation of hierarchy

Systems will evolve from stable intermediate forms faster than from basic elements to form hierarchies, the subsystems based on the intermediate forms. Hierarchies have the time to evolve.

>NEARLY DECOMPOSABLE SYSTEMS

A distinction can be made between the interactions within subsystems and between them. Their intensity and their frequency is different to orders of magnitude. Employees within the formal organization of a department have more and more intensive contacts than employees of different departments. The decomposable case can be used as a limit over a wide range. In the nearly decomposable case the interactions between the subsystems are weak but not negligible. From the latter case these can be proposed: a) the short run behavior of the subsystem is independent of that of the other subsystems and b) in the long run the behavior of a subsystem depends on the behavior of the others in the aggregate. This is illustrated with an insulated house within which there are somewhat insulated rooms within which there are hardly insulated cubicles. A change of the temperature in the rooms, induces a rapid change of the temperature between the cubicles, but a slow change of temperature between the rooms. If a complex system can be described with a nearly decomposable matrix then the system has the properties a) and b) above.

>>Near decomposability of social systems

Most of the communication channels in formal organizations are between employees and a very limited number of other employees. The departmental boundaries are assumed to assume the same role as the walls in the thermal insulation example.

>>Physico-Chemical examples

The theory of the thermodynamics of irreversible processes, for example, requires the assumption of macroscopic disequilibrium and microscopic equilibrium, exactly the situation described in our heat-exchange example’ [p 476]. DPB: how does this work?

>>Some observations on hierarchic span

Suppose that the elements of a system have properties for stronger bonds and for weaker bonds and that the stronger bonds exhaust through the bonding. Subsystems form through the strong bonds until they are exhausted. Then the subsystems will be linked by the weaker second-order bonds into larger systems. In social systems the number of interactions is limited by the serial character of human communication (one at the time) and limitation on the time consumption involved in a role and hence of the number of roles one can handle (one can have a group of friends consisting of a dozen but not hundreds).

>>Summary: Hierarchies tend to be near-decomposable.

>THE DESCRIPTION OF COMPLEXITY

People draw complex objects in a hierarchical way. The information about the object is arranged hierarchically in memory, like a topical outline. DPB: re active association. When information is presented in this way the relations between a subpart and another subpart can be presented and between subsubparts within each. Information about reations between subsubparts of different subparts is lost.

>>Near decomposability and comprehensibility

By representing parts hierarchically little information is lost (re b, aggregate effect above). Many complex systems have a near-decomposable, hierarchical structure. That enables us to see them. If complex systems exist that are not so structured then they are unobserved and not understood. ‘I shall not try to settle which is chicken and which is egg: whether we are able to understand the world because it is hierarchic, or whether it appears hierarchic because those aspects which are not elude our understanding and observation’ [Simon p 478]. DPB: the processes that brought forth our powers of perception and the processes in nature are fundamentally the same.

>>Simple descriptions of complex systems

There is no conservation law that prescribes that the description of a complex system should be as complex as the system itself. Example of how such a system can be described economically, or, in other words, how it can be reduced. This is only possible if there are redundancies in the system. If it is completely unredundant then the system is its own simplest (most economical) description and it cannot be reduced. DPB: this notion of reduction is exactly the opposite of the notion used by Ashby. He uses reduction to indicate the opposite of organization. That which is not organized can be reduced (away) until organization remains. This is the mathematical definition of reduction. Here it is the opposite: whatever is redundant leaves room, or in other words can be reduced to, a rule. Three forms of redundancy are: a) hierarchic system is often assembled from a few kinds of different subsystems in various arrangements. DPB: this is a form of repetition of the components used. b) ‘Hierarchic systems are often nearly decomposable. Hence only aggregative properties of their parts enter into the description of the interaction of those parts. Not the lower level properties of the composing elements of the parts play a part in the interactions of the components at the higher levels. A generalization of the notion of near composability might be called the ‘empty world hypothesis’: most things are only weakly connected with most other things’ [Simon 478]. DPB: This means that some properties of the subcomponents of a complex hierarchical system, which are themselves built of subcomponents, enable interaction with other subcomponents, and form the complex hierarchical system that they are a subcomponent of. But those enabling properties of the subcomponents are properties of, or based on properties of the subcomponents of the subcomponents that form the complex hierarchical system. ‘The children are not allowed to participate in the discussion between the family elders’. Given that emptiness can be described by the absence of a description it can be described economically. DPB: how is this a form of repetition? The aggregative properties of the subcomponents of the system repeat, and they are based on repeating or comparable properties of the sub-sbcomponents. c) Redundancy can originate in a constant relation between the state of a system and a later state of it. DPB: this is a form of repetition of the behavior of the system. It can be a literal repetition or the lingering of a system like a kind of an after image of the previous state. In any case the current state can be compared with the previous one and with the next state also. Cognition is the application of its powers to compare, identification of redundancy, so as to perform a (re)cognition of recurrence of coherence, namely pattern. On a devised continuum of cognition ‘a suspicion’ is on the one extreme, where a pattern merely reminds of something such that it cannot be predicted for what it ‘is’ or whether it will occur with any certainty. ‘Knowing’ is at the other extreme, where the pattern is known and its occurrence can be predicted with a high level of certainty.

>>State description and process description

State -: a circle is an object of which all points are equidistant from one point. Process -: hold one arm of the compass in place, rotate the other arm until is is back at the initial point. ‘These two modes of experience are the warp and weft of our experience. .. The former characterize the world as sensed; they provide the criteria for identifying objects, often by modeling the objects themselves. The latter characterize the world as acted upon; they provide the means for producing or generating objects having the desired characteristics. The distinction between the world as sensed and the world as acted upon defines the basic condition for the survival of adaptive organisms. The organism must develop correlations between goals in the sensed world and actions in the world of process. When they are made conscious and verbalized, these correlations correspond to what we usually call means-end analysis. Given a desired state of affairs and an existing state of affairs, the task of an adaptive organism is to find the difference between these two states, and then to find the correlating process that will erase the difference. Thus, problem solving requires continual translation between the state and process descriptions of the same complex reality’ [Simon 1962 p 479]. DPB: this is my equalizing of differences. It refers to adaptive organisms that is autopoietic systems. The translation between state and the process are then the same as the recurring consequence of structure and operations: the description of what it is and the description of what it does, &c. Refer to this in the main theory. ‘We pose a problem by giving the state description of the solution. The task is to discover a sequence of processes that will produce the goal state from an initial state. Translation from the process description to the state description enables us to recognize when we have succeeded’ [Simon 1962 p 479]. DPB: can this be coupled to challenge propagation?

>> Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny

If genetic material is seen as a program, it: a) is self-reproducing, b) developed by Darwinian evolution. A human develops gills and then use them for other purposes. Instruct a 20th century workman to build a car by what he knows: start with a cart, remove the singletree then build a motor onto it, then a transmission. &c. DPB: this does not necessarily apply to the memetic instructionset of a firm. Or is it, sometimes routines are in place that stem from previous versions of work instructions that are no longer in place: ‘The generalization that in evolving systems whose descriptions are stored in a process language, we might expect ontogeny partially to recapitulate phylogeny has applications outside the realm of biology. It can be applied as readily, for example, to the transmission of knowledge in the educational process. In most subjects, particularly in the rapidly advancing sciences, the progress from elementary to advanced courses is to a considerable extent a progress through the conceptual history of the science itself. Fortunately, the recapitulation is seldom literal – any more than it is in the biological case. .. But curriculum revisions that rid us of the accumulations of the past are infrequent and painful’ [Simon 1962 p 481]. DPB: this is an important thought concerning the execution, namely the enactment of memes ad how the are restricted by the actual state of affairs, when the firm is operational.

Ashby Principles of the self-organizing system

Ashby WR . Principles of the Self-Organizing System . Principles of Self-Organization: Transactions of the University of Illinois Symposium, H. Von Foerster and G.W. Zopf, jr editors . Pergamon Press London UK pp. 255-278 . 1962

What is organization?

The hard core of the concept (of organization DPB) is, in my opinion, that of ‘conditionality’. As soon as the relation between two entities A and B becomes conditional on C’s value or state then a necessary component of ‘organization’ is present. Thus the theory of organization is partly co-extensive with the theory of functions of more than one variable’ [Ashby 1962 p 256, emphasis of the author]. DPB: this is my example of the chess board FIND CHESS and, apparently, how the pieces are organized by the conditions of the others. Refer to this text there. The converse of ‘conditional on’ is ‘not conditional on’: the converse of ‘organization’ is separability or reducibility. See below.In a mathematical sense this means that some parts of a function of many variables do not depend on some other parts of it. In a mechanical sense it means that some components of a machine work independent of other components of that machine. DPB: the outcome of the function or the machine depend on the workings of the reducible variables in a simple way. The converse of conditionality is reducibility. DPB: conditionality implies organization. Reducibility implies a lack of organization. This is the opposite of what I thought because whatever is organized is repetitive, a pattern, and it can be reduced away, because it can be summarized in a rule.

In computability theory and computational complexity theory, a reduction is an algorithm for transforming one problem into another problem. A reduction from one problem to another may be used to show that the second problem is at least as difficult as the first. Intuitively, problem A is reducible to problem B if an algorithm for solving problem B efficiently (if it existed) could also be used as a subroutine to solve problem A efficiently. When this is true, solving A cannot be harder than solving B. “Harder” means having a higher estimate of the required computational resources in a given context (e.g., higher time complexity, greater memory requirement, expensive need for extra hardware processor cores for a parallel solution compared to a single-threaded solution, etc.). We write A ≤m B, usually with a subscript on the ≤ to indicate the type of reduction being used (m : mapping reduction, p : polynomial reduction). First, we find ourselves trying to solve a problem that is similar to a problem we’ve already solved. In these cases, often a quick way of solving the new problem is to transform each instance of the new problem into instances of the old problem, solve these using our existing solution, and then use these to obtain our final solution. This is perhaps the most obvious use of reductions. Second: suppose we have a problem that we’ve proven is hard to solve, and we have a similar new problem. We might suspect that it is also hard to solve. We argue by contradiction: suppose the new problem is easy to solve. Then, if we can show that every instance of the old problem can be solved easily by transforming it into instances of the new problem and solving those, we have a contradiction. This establishes that the new problem is also hard. In mathematics, a topological space is called separable if it contains a countable, dense subset [Wikipedia].

The treatment of ‘conditionality’ (whether by functions of many variables, by correlation analysis, by uncertainty analysis, or by other ways) makes us realize that the essential idea is that there is first a product space – that of the possibilities – within which some sub-set of points indicates the actualities. This way of looking at ‘conditionality’ makes us realize that it is related to that of ‘communication’; and it is, of course, quite plausible that we should define parts as being ‘organized’ when ‘communication’ (in some generalized sense) occurs between them. (Again the natural converse is that of independence, which represents non-communication.)’ [Ashby 1962 p 257 emphasis of the author]. DPB: the fist sentence bears a relation to the virtual-actual-real. The second sentence can be read as the existence of some sort of a relation between the organized parts. And hence a kind of communication takes place between them. When there is no communication, then A and B can be wherever on the chess board, and there is no constraint between them, and hence no organization: ‘This the presence of ‘organization’ between variables is equivalent to the existence of a constraint in the product-space of the possibilities. I stress this point, because while, in the past, biologists have tended to think of organization as something extra, something added to the elementary variables, the modern theory, based on the logic of communication, regards organization as a restriction or constraint [Ashby p 257 emphasis of the author]

DPB: This is much like the chess example: Organization comes from the elements, and it is not imposed from somewhere else. The product space of a system is its Idea. ‘Whence comes this product space? Its chief peculiarity is that it contains more than actually exists in the real physical world, for it is the latter that gives us the actual, constrained subset’ [Ashby p 257]. DPB: I have explained this in terms of individuation: the virtual+actual makes the real. Refer to this quote above at the chess game section!

The real world gives the subset of what is; the product space represents the uncertainty of the observer’ [Ashby 1962 p 258]. DPB: this is relevant too, because it related to the virtual: everything it could be in the focus of the observer, its space of possibilities. The space changes when the observer changes and two observers can have different spaces: ‘The ‘constraint’ is thus a relation between observer and thing; the properties of any particular constraint will depend in both the real thing and on the observer. It follows that a substantial part of the theory of organization will be concerned with properties that are not intrinsic to the thing but are relational between observer and thing’ [Ashby p 258]. Re: OBSERVER SUBJECT / OBJECT

Whole and Parts

In regards the concept of ‘organization’ it is assumed that there is a whole that is composed of parts: a) fx= x1 + x2+..+ xn means that there are n parts in this system. b) S1, S2, .. means that there are states of a system S without mention of its parts if any. The point is that a system can show dynamics without reference to parts, and that does therefore not refer to the concept of organization: the concepts are independent. This emphasizes the idea that organization is in the eye of the observer: ‘..I will state the proposition that: given a whole with arbitrarily given behavior, a great variety of arbitrary ‘parts’ can be seen in it; for all that is necessary, when the arbitrary part is proposed, is that we assume the given part to be coupled to another suitably related part, so that the two together form a whole isomorphic with the whole that was given’ [Ashby 1962 p 259]. DPB: isomorphic means invertible mathematical mapping. Does this mean that A and B are the structure that forms C which is the whole under a set of relations between A and B? ‘Thus, subject only to certain requirements (e.g. that equilibria map into equilibria) any dynamic system can be made to display a variety of arbitrarily assigned ‘parts’, simply by a change in the observer’s view point’ [Ashby 1962 p 260 amphasis of the author]. DPB: dit is een belangrijke opmerking die past bij het Deleuze / Luhmann verhaal over de observer. Also the pattern ‘versus’ coherence section. Re OBSERVER

Machines in general

The question is whether general systems theory deals with mathematical systems, in which case they need only be internally consistent) or with physical systems also, in which case they are tied to what the real world offers. Machines need not be material and reference to energy is irrelevant. ‘A ‘machine’ is that which behaves in a machine-like way, namely, that its internal state, and the state of its surroundings, defines uniquely the next state it will go to’ [Ashby 1962 p 261]. This definition was originally proposed in [Ashby W.R. . The Physical origin of adaptation by trial and error . G. Gen. Psychol., 32, pp. 13-25 . 1945]. DPB: this is much applicable to FIND INDIVIDUATION. See how to incorporate it there as a quote. I is the set of input state, S is the set of internal states, f is a mapping IxS into S. The ‘organization’ of a machine is f: change f and the organization changes. ‘In other words, the possible organizations between the parts can be set into one-one correspondence with the set of possible mapings of IxS into S. ‘Thus ‘organization’ and ‘mapping’ are two ways of looking at the same thing – the organization being noticed by the observer of the actual system, and the mapping being recorded by the person who represents the behavior in mathematical or other symbolism’ [Ashby p 262]. DPB: I referred to the organization as per Ashby observed as a pattern, which is the result of a coherence of the system in focus, Ashby says the actual system. Re COHERENCE PATTERN

‘Good’ organization

Whether an ‘organization’ is good depends on its usefulness. Biological systems have often come to be useful (DPB: preserving something, rendering it irreversible) under the pressure of natural selection. Engineered systems are often not useful: a) most organizations are bad ones b) the good ones have to be sought for c) what is meant with ‘good’ must be clearly defined, explicitly if necessary, in every case. What is meant with a ‘good’ organization of a brain? In the case of organisms this is the case if it supports its survival. In general: an organization can be considered ‘good’ if it keeps the values of a set of (essential) variables within their particular limits. These are mechanisms for homeostasis: the organization is ‘good’ if it makes the system stable around an equilibrium. The essence of the idea is that a number of variables so interacts as to achieve some given ‘focal condition’. But:’ .. what I want to say here – there is no such thing as ‘good organization’ in any absolute sense. Always it is relative; and an organization that is good in one context or under one criterion may be bad under another’ [Ashby 1962 p 263 emphasis of the author]. DPB: the OUTBOARD ENGINE is good to produce exhaust fumes and to consume toxic fossil materials and not good at driving boats. Every faculty of a brain is conditional because it can be handicapped in at least one environment by precisely that faculty: ’.. whatever that faculty or organization achieves, let that be not in the focal conditions’ [p 264 emphasis of the author]. There is no faculty (property, organization) of the brain that cannot be (become) undesirable, even harmful under certain circumstances. ‘Is it not good that a brain should have memory? Not at all, I reply – only when the environment is of a type in which the future often copies the past; should he future often be the inverse of the past, memory is actually disadvantageous. .. Is it not good that a brain should have its parts in rich functional connection? I say NO – not in general; only when the environment is itself richly connected. When the environment’s parts are not richly connected (when it is highly reducible in other words), adaptation will go faster if the brain is also highly reducible, i.e. if its connectivity is small (Ashby 1960, d)’ [Ashby 1962 pp. 264-5]. DPB: this is relevant for the holes that Vid can observe where others are. re VID Ashby refers to Sommerhof: a set of disturbances must be given as well as a focal condition. The disturbances threaten to drive the outcome outside of the focal condition. The ‘good’ organization is the relation between the set of disturbances and the goal (the focal condition): change the circumstances and the outcome will not lead to the goal and be evaluated ‘bad’.

Self-Organizing Systems

Two meanings of the concept: a) Changing from parts separated to parts joined (‘Changing from unorganized to organized’), and this concept can also be covered with the concept of self-connecting b) ‘Changing from a ‘bad’ organization to a ‘good’ one’ [Ashby 1962 p 267]. DPB: do I address this somewhere in regards the self-organization I guess I talk only about the first meaning? The last one refers to the case where the organization changes itself from showing bad behavior to showing good behavior. ‘..no machine can be self-organizing in this sense’ [Ashby 1962 p 267]. f: I x S = S. f is defined as a set of couples such that si leads to sj by the internal drive of the system. To allow f to be a function of the state is to make nonsense of the whole concept. DPB: but this is exactly what individuation does! ‘Were f in the machines to be some function of the state S, we would have to redefine our machine’ [Ashby 1962 p 268]. DPB: the function does not depend on the set S, because then all of the states, past and present could be occurring simultaneously, hence the reference to the new machine. But, given the concept of individuation, it should depend on the present in S? ‘We start with the set S of states, and assume that f changes, to g say. So we really have a variable, a(t) say, a function of time that had at first the value f and later the value g. This change, as we have just seen, cannot be ascribed to any cause in the set S; so it must have come from some outside agent, acting on the system S as input. If the system is to be in some sense ‘self-organizing’, the ‘self’ must be enlarged to include this variable a, and, to keep the whole bounded, the cause of a’s change must be in S (or a). Thus the appearance of of being ‘self-organizing’ can be given only by the machine S being coupled to another machine (of one part)..’ [p 269]. DPB: Big surpise. How to deal with this? Through individuation, and I feel the use of time t as an independent is confusing. So what happens is that that a is in the milieu. Therefore a is not in S. Therefore the Monad can only exist in the Nomad &c. Re INDIVIDUATION, MILIEU

The spontaneous generation of organization

.. every isolate determinate dynamic system obeying unchanging laws will develop ‘organisms’ that are adapted to their ‘environments. The argument is simple enough in principle. We start with the fact that systems in general go to equilibrium. Now most of a system’s states are non-equilibrial (if we exclude the extreme case of the systems in neutral equilibrium). So in going from any state to one of the equilibria, the system is going from a larger number of states to a smaller. In this way it is performing a selection, in the purely objective sense that it rejects some states, by leaving them, and retains some other state, by sticking to it. Thus, as every determinate system goes to equilibrium, so does it select. ## tot zo ver? We have heard ad nauseam the dictum that a machine cannot select; the truth is just the opposite: every machine, as it goes to equilibrium, performs the corresponding act of selecting##. Now, equilibrium in simple systems is usually trivial and uninteresting … when the system is more complex, the and dynamic, equilibrium, and the stability around it, can be much more interesting. .. What makes the change, from trivial to interesting, is simply the scale of the events. ‘Going to equilibrium’ is trivial in the simple pendulum, for the equilibrium is no more than a single point. But when the system is more complex; when, say, a country’s economy goes back from wartime to normal methods then the stable region is vast, and much more interesting activity can occur within it’ [Ashby 1962 pp. 270-1]. DPB: this is useful in regards the selective mechanisms of individuation re machines.

Competition

So the answer to the question:How can we generate intelligence synthetically? Is as follows. Take a dynamic systems whose laws are unchanging and single-valued, and whose size is so large that after it has gone to an equilibrium that involves only a small fraction of its total states, this small fraction is still large enough to allow room for a good deal of change and behavior. Let it go on for a long enough time to get to such an equilibrium. Then examine the equilibrium in detail. You will find that the states or forms now in being are peculiarly able to survive against the disturbances induced by the laws. Split the equilibrium in two, call one part ‘organism’ and the other part ‘environment’: you will find that this ‘organism’ is peculiarly able to survive the disturbances from this ‘environment’. The degree of adaptation and complexity that this organism can develop is bounded only by the size of the whole dynamic system and by the time over which it is allowed to progress towards equilibrium. Thus, as I said, every isolated determinate system dynamic system will develop organisms that are adapted to their environments. .. In this sense, then, every machine can be thought of as ‘self-organizing’, for it will develop , to such a degree as its size and complexity allow, some functional structure homologous with an ‘adapted organism’ [Ashby 1962 p 272]. DPB: I know this argument and I’ve quoted it before, I seem to remember in Design for a Brain or else the article about Requisite Variety. FIND NOMAD MONAD The point seems to be that the environment serves as the a, but is is not an extension of the machine in the sense that it belongs to it, because it belongs to its environment and is by definition not a part of it. ‘To itself, its own organization will always, by definition, be good. .. But these criteria come after the organization for survival; having seen what survives we then see what is ‘good’ for that form. What emerges depends simply on what are the system’s laws and from what state it started; there is no implication that the organization developed will be ‘good’ in any absolute sense, or according to the criterion of any outside body such as ourselves’ [p 273]. DPB: this is the point of Wolfram that the outcome is only defined by the rules and the initial conditions.

Chemical Organization Theory and Autopoiesis

E-mail communication of Francis Heylighen on 29 May 2018:

Inspired by the notion of autopoiesis (“self-production”) that Maturana and Varela developed as a definition of life, I wanted to generalize the underlying idea of cyclic processes to other ill-understood phenomena, such as mind, consciousness, social systems and ecosystems. The difference between these phenomena and the living organisms analysed by Maturana and Varela is that the former don’t have a clear boundary or closure that gives them a stable identity. Yet, they still exhibit this mechanism of “self-production” in which the components of the system are transformed into other components in such a way that the main components are eventually reconstituted.

This mechanism is neatly formalized in COT’s notion of “self-maintenance” of a network of reactions. I am not going to repeat this here but refer to my paper cited below. Instead, I’ll give a very simple example of such a circular, self-reproducing process:

A -> B,

B -> C,

C -> A

The components A, B, C are here continuously broken down but then reconstituted, so that the system rebuilds itself, and thus maintains an invariant identity within a flux of endless change.

A slightly more complex example:

A + X -> B + U

B + Y -> C + V

C + Z -> A + W

Here A, B, and C need the resources (inputs, or “food”) X, Y and Z to be reconstituted, while producing the waste products U, V, and W. This is more typical of an actual organism that needs inputs and outputs while still being “operationally” closed in its network of processes.

In more complex processes, several components are being simultaneously consumed and produced, but so that the overall mixture of components remains relatively invariant. In this case, the concentration of the components can vary the one relative to the other, so that the system never really returns to the same state, only to a state that is qualitatively equivalent (having the same components but in different amounts).

One more generalization is to allow the state of the system to also vary qualitatively: some components may (temporarily) disappear, while others are newly added. In this case, we  no longer have strict autopoiesis or [closure + self-maintenance], i.e. the criterion for being an “organization” in COT. However, we still have a form of continuity of the organization based on the circulation or recycling of the components.

An illustration would be the circulation of traffic in a city. Most vehicles move to different destinations within the city, but eventually come back to destinations they have visited before. However, occasionally vehicles leave the city that may or may not come back, while new vehicles enter the city that may or may not stay within. Thus, the distribution of individual vehicles in the city changes quantitatively and qualitatively while remaining relatively continuous, as most vehicle-position pairs are “recycled” or reconstituted eventually. This is what I call circulation.

Most generally, what circulates are not physical things but what I have earlier called challenges. Challenges are phenomena or situations that incite some action. This action transforms the situation into a different situation. Alternative names for such phenomena could be stimuli (phenomena that stimulate an action or process), activations (phenomena that are are active, i.e. ready to incite action) or selections (phenomena singled out as being important, valuable or meaningful enough to deserve further processing). The term “selections” is the one used by Luhmann in his autopoietic model of social systems as circulating communications.

I have previously analysed distributed intelligence (and more generally any process of self-organization or evolution) as the propagation of challenges: one challenge produces one or more other challenges,  which in turn produce further challenges, and so on. Circulation is a special form of propagation in which the initial challenges are recurrently reactivated, i.e. where the propagation path is circular, coming back to its origins.

This to me seems a better model of society than Luhmann’s autopoietic social systems. The reason is that proper autopoiesis does not really allow the system to evolve, as it needs to exactly rebuild all its components, without producing any new ones. With circulating challenges, the main structure of society is continuously rebuilt, thus ensuring the continuity of its organization, however while allowing gradual changes in which old challenges (distinctions, norms, values…) dissipate and new ones are introduced.

Another application of circulating challenges are ecosystems. Different species and their products (such as CO2, water, organic material, minerals, etc.) are constantly recycled, as the one is consumed in order to produce the other, but most are eventually reconstituted. Yet, not everything is reproduced: some species may become extinct, while new species invade the ecosystem. Thus the ecosystem undergoes constant evolution, while being relatively stable and resilient against perturbations.

Perhaps the most interesting application of this concept of circulation is consciousness. The “hard problem” of consciousness asks why information processing in the brain does not just function automatically or unconsciously, the way we automatically pull back our hand from a hot surface, before we even have become conscious of the pain of burning. The “global workspace” theory of consciousness says that various subconscious stimuli enter the global workspace in the brain (a crossroad of neural connections in the prefrontal cortext), but that only a few are sufficiently amplified to win the competition for workspace domination. The winners are characterized by much stronger activation and their ability to be “broadcasted” to all brain modules (instead of remaining restricted to specialized modules functioning subconsciously). These brain modules can then each add their own specific interpretation to the “conscious” thought.

In my interpretation, reaching the level of activation necessary to “flood” the global workspace means that activation does not just propagate from neuron to neuron, but starts to circulate so that a large array of neurons in the workspace are constantly reactivated. This circulation keeps the signal alive long enough for the different specialized brain modules to process it, and add their own inferences to it. Normally, activation cannot stay in place, because of neuronal fatigue: an excited neuron must pass on its “action potential” to connected neurons, it cannot maintain activation. To maintain an activation pattern (representing a challenge) long enough so that it can be examined and processed by disparate modules that pattern must be stabilized by circulation.

But circulation, as noted, does not imply invariance or permanence, merely a relative stability or continuity that undergoes transformations by incoming stimuli or on-going processing. This seems to be the essence of consciousness: on the one hand, the content of our consciousness is constantly changing (the “stream of consciousness”), on the other hand that content must endure sufficiently long for specialized brain processes to consider and process it, putting part of it in episodic memory, evaluating part of it in terms of its importance, deciding to turn part of it into action, or dismissing or vetoing part of it as inappropriate.

This relative stability enables reflection, i.e. considering different options implied by the conscious content, and deciding which ones to follow up, and which ones to ignore. This ability to choose is the essence of “free will“. Subconscious processes, on the other hand, just flow automatically and linearly from beginning to end, so that there is no occasion to interrupt the flow and decide to go somewhere else. It is because the flow circulates and returns that the occasion is created to interrupt it after some aspects of that flow have been processed and found to be misdirected.

To make this idea of repetition with changes more concrete, I wish to present a kind of “delayed echo” technique used in music. One of the best implementation is Frippertronics, invented by avant-garde rock guitarist Robert Fripp (of King Crimson): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frippertronics

The basic implementation consist of an analogue magnetic tape on which the sounds produced by a musician are recorded. However, after having passed the recording head of the tape recorder, the tape continues moving until it is read by another head that reads and plays the recorded sound. Thus, the sound recorded at time t is played back at time t + T, where the interval T depends on the distance between the recording and playback heads. But while the recorded sound in played back, the recording head continues recording all the sound, played by either the musician(s) or the playback head, on the same tape. Thus, the sound propagates from musician to recording head, from where is is transported by tape to the playback head, from where it is propagated in the form of a sound wave back to the recording head, thus forming a feedback loop.

If T is short, the effect is like an echo, where the initial sound is repeated a number of times until it fades away (under the assumption that the playback is slightly less loud than the original sound). For a longer T, the repeated sound may not be immediately recognized as a copy of what was recorded before given that many other sounds have been produced in the meantime. What makes the technique interesting is that while the recorded sounds are repeated, the musician each time adds another layer of sound to the layers already on the recording. This allows the musician to build up a complex, multilayered, “symphonic” sound, where s/he is being accompanied by her/his previous performance. The resulting music is repetitive, but not strictly so, since each newly added sound creates a new element, and these elements accumulate so that they can steer the composition in a wholly different direction.

This “tape loop” can be seen as a simplified (linear or one-dimensional) version of what I called circulation, where the looping or recycling maintains a continuity, while the gradual fading of earlier recordings and the addition of new sounds creates an endlessly evolving “stream” of sound. My hypothesis is that consciousness corresponds to a similar circulation of neural activation, with the different brain modules playing the role of the musicians that add new input to the circulating signal. A differences is probably that the removal of outdated input does not just happen by slow “fading” but by active inhibition, given that the workspace can only sustain a certain amount of circulating activation, so that strong new input tends to suppress weaker existing signals. This and the complexity of circulating in several directions of a network may explain why conscious content appears much more dynamic than repetitive music.

Chemical Organization Theory as a Modeling Tool

Heylighen, F., Beigi, S. and Veloz, T. . Chemical Organization Theory as a modeling framework for self-organization, autopoiesis and resilience . Paper to be submitted based on working paper 2015-01.

Introduction

Complex systems consist of many interacting elements that self-organize: coherent patterns of organization or form emerge from their interactions. There is a need of theoretical understanding of self-organization and adaptation: our mathematical and conceptual tools are limited for the description of emergence and interaction. The reductionist approach analyzes a system into its constituent static parts and their variable properties; the state of the system is determined by the values of these variable properties and processes are transitions between states; the different possible states determine an a priori predefined state-space; only after introducing all these static elements and setting up a set of conditions for the state-space can we study the evolution of the system in that state-space. This approach makes it difficult to understand a system property such as emergent behavior. Process metaphysics and action ontology assume that reality is not constituted from things but from processes or actions; the difficulty is to represent these processes in a precise, simple, and concrete way. This paper aims to formalize these processes as reaction networks of chemical organization theory; here the reactions are the fundamental elements, the processes are primary; states take the second place as the changing of the ingredients as the processes go on; the molecules are not static objects but raw materials that are produced and consumed by the reactions. COT is a process ontology; it can describe processes in any sphere and hence in scientific discipline; ‘.. method to define and construct organizations, i.e. self-sustaining networks of interactions within a larger network of potential interactions. .. suited to describe self-organization, autopoiesis, individuation, sustainability, resilience, and the emergence of complex, adaptive systems out of simpler components’ [p 2]. DPB: this reminds me of the landscape of Jobs; all the relevant aspects are there. It is hoped that this approach helps to answer the question: How does a system self-organize; how are complex wholes constructed out of simpler elements?

Reaction Networks

A reaction network consists of resources and reactions. The resources are distinguishable phenomena in some shared space, a reaction vessel, called the medium. The reactions are elementary processes that create or destroy resources. RN = <R,M>, where RM is a reaction network, R is a reaction, M is a resource: M = {a,b,c,…} and R is a subset of P(M) x P(M), where P is the power set (set of all subsets) of M and each reaction transforms a subset Input of M into a subset Output of M; the resources in I are the reactants and the resources in O are the products; I and O are multisets meaning that resources can occur more than once. R:x1+x2+x3+..→y1+y2+… The + in the left term means a conjunction of necessary resources x: if all are simultaneously present in I(r) then the reaction takes place and produces the products y.

Reaction Networks vs. Traditional Networks

The system <M,R> forms a network because the resources in M are linked by the reactions in R transforming one resource into another. What is specific for COT is that a reaction represents the transform from a multiplicity of resources into another multiplicity of them: a set I transforms to a set O. DPB: this reminds me of category theory. My principal question at this point is whether the problem of where organization is produced is not relocated: first the question was how to tweak static object into self-organization, now it is which molecules in which quantities and combination to conjuncture to get them to produce other resources and showing patterns at it. In RN theory the transform of resources can occur through a disjunction or a conjunction: the disjunction is represented by the juxtaposed reaction formulae, the conjunction by the + within a reaction formula.

Reaction Networks and Propositional Logic

Conjunction: AND: &; Disjunction: OR: new reaction line; Implication: FOLLOWS: →; Negation: NOT: -. For instance: a&b&c&..x. But the resources at the I side are not destroyed by the process then formally a&b&..→a&b&x&… Logic is static because no propositions are destroyed: new implications can be found, but nothing new is created. Negation can be thought of as the production of the absence of a resource: a+bc+ d = ac+ d – b. I and O can be empty and a resource can be created from nothing (affirmation, a) or a resource can create nothing (elimination, aor →-a). Another example is aa and hence a+(-a) = a-aand a-a: the idea is that a particle and its anti-particle annihilate one another, but they can be created together from nothing.

Competition and cooperation

The concept of negative resources allow the expression of conflict, contradiction or inhibition: a→-b what is the same as a+b0 (empty set): the more of a produced, the less of b is present: the causal relation is negative. The relation “a inhibits b” holds if: : a is required to consume but not produce b. The opposite “a promotes b” means that a is required to produce but not to consume b. When the inhibiting and promoting relations are symmetrical, a and b inhibit (a and b competitors) or promote (a and b cooperators) each other, but they do not need to be. Inhibition is a negative causality and promotion is a positive influence. If only positive influences or an even number of negative influences are included in a cycle then negative feedback occurs. When the number of negative influences is uneven then a positive feedback occurs. Negative feedback leads to stabilization or oscillation, positive feedback leads to exponential growth. In a social network a particular message can be promoted, suppressed or inhibited by another. Interaction sin the network occur through their shared resources.

Organizations

In COT and organization is defined as a self-sustaining reaction system: produced and consumed resources are the same: ‘This means that although the system is intrinsically dynamic or process-based, constantly creating or destroying its own components, the complete set of its components (resources) remains invariant, because what disappears in one reaction is recreated by another on, while no qualitatively new components are added’ [p 8]. DPB: I find this an appealing idea. But I find it also hard to think of the basic components that would make up a particular memeplex, even using the connotations. What in other words would the resources have to be and what the reactions to construct a memeplex from them? If the resource is an idea then one idea leads to another, which matches my theory. But this method would have to cater for reinforcement: and the idea itself does not much change, it does get reinforced as it is repeated. And in addition how would the connotation be attached to them: or must it be seen as an ‘envelope’ that contains the address &c, and that ‘arms’ the connoted idea (meme) to react (compare) with others such that the ranking order in the mind of the person is established? And such that stable network of memes is established such that they form a memeplex. The property of organization above, is central to the theory of autopoiesis, but, as stated in the text, without the boundary of a living system. But I don’t agree with this: the RC church has a very strong boundary that separates it from everything that is not the RC church. And so the RN model should cater for more complexity than only the forming of molecules (‘prior to the first cell’). The organization of a subRN <M’,R> of a larger RN <M,R> is defined by these characteristics: 1. closure: when I(r) is a part of M’ then O(r) is a part of M’ for all resources 2. semi-self-maintenance: no existing resource is removed, each resource consumed by some reaction is produced again by some other reaction working on the same starting set and 3. self-maintenance: each consumed resource x element of M’ is produced by some reaction in <M’,R> in at least the same amount as the amount consumed (this is a difficult one, because a ledger is required over the existence of the system to account for the quantities of each resource). ‘We are now able to define the crucial concept of organization: a subset of resources and reactions <M’,R> is an organization when it is closed and self-maintaining. This basically means that while the reactions in R are processing the resources in set M’, they leave the set M’ invariant: no resources are added (closure) and no resources are removed (Self-maintenance)’( emphasis of the author) [p 9]. The difference with other models is that the basic assumption is that everything changes, but this concept of organization means that stability can arise while everything changes continually, in fact this is the definition of autopoiesis.

Some examples

If a resource appears in both the I and the O then it is a catalyst.

Extending the model

A quantitative shortcoming, a possible extension, is the absence of relative proportions and of the relative speeds of the reactions. To extend quantitatively the model can be detailed to encompass all the processes that make up some particular ecology of reactions.

Self-organization

If we apply the rules for closure and maintenance we can know how organization emerges. If a reaction is added, a source for some resource is added which interrupts closure, or a sink is added which interrupts the self-maintenance. In general a starting set of resources will not be closed; their reactions will lead to new resources and so on; but the production of new ones will stop if no new resources are possible given the resources in the system; at that point closure is reached: ‘Thus, closure can be seen as an attractor of the dynamics defined by resource addition: it is the end point of the evolution, where further evolution stops’ [p 12]. In regards to self-maintenance, starting at the closed set, some of the resources will be consumed but not produced in sufficient amounts to replace the used amounts; these will disappear from the set; this does not affect closure because loss of resources cannot add new resources; resources now start to disappear one by one from the set; this process stops when the remaining resources only depend on the remaining ones (and not the disappeared ones): ‘Thus, self-maintenance too can be seen as an attractor of the dynamics defined by resource removal. The combination of resource addition ending in closure followed by resource removal ending in self-maintenance produces an invariant set of resources and reactions. This unchanging reaction network is by definition an organization’ [p 12]. Every dynamic system will end up in a attractor, namely a stationary regime that the system cannot leave: ‘In the attractor regime the different components of the system have mutually adapted, in the sense that the one no longer threatens to extinguish the other they have co-evolved to a “symbiotic”state, where they either peacefully live next to each other, or actively help one another to be produced, thus sustaining their overall interaction’ [p 12]. DPB: from the push and pull of these different attractors emerges (or is selected) an attractor that manages the behavior of the system.

Sustainability and resilience

An organization in the above sense is by definition self-maintaining and therefore sustainable. Many organizations grow because they produce more resources than they consume (e.g. positive feedback of resources: overproduced). Sustainability means the ability of an organization to grow without outside interference. Resilience means the ability to maintain the essential organization in the face of outside disturbances; a disturbance can be represented by the injection or the removal of a resource that reacts with others in the system. Processes of control are: buffering, negative feedback, feedforward (neutralizing the disturbance before it has taken effect). The larger the variety of controls the systems sports, the more disturbances it can handle, an implementation of Asby’s law of requisite variety. Arbitrary networks of reactions will self-organize to produce sustainable organizations, because an organization is an attractor of their dynamics. DPB: this attractor issue and bearing in mind the difficulties with change management, this reminds me of the text about the limited room an attracted system takes up in state-space (containment) explains why a system once it is ‘attracted’ it will not change to another state without an effort of galactic proportions. ‘However, evolutionary reasoning shows that resilient outcomes are more likely in the long run than fragile ones. First, any evolutionary process starts from some arbitrary point in the state space of the system, while eventually reaching some attractor region within that space. Attractors are surrounded by basins, from which all states lead into the attractor (Heylighen, 2001). The larger the basin of an attractor, the larger the probability that the starting point is in that basin. Therefore, the system is more likely to end up in an attractor with a large basin than in one with a small basin. The larger the basin, the smaller the probability that a disturbance pushing the system out of its attractor would also push it out of the basin, and therefore the more resilient the organization corresponding to the attractor. Large basins normally represent stable systems characterized by negative feedback, since the deviation from the attractor is automatically counteracted by the descent back into the attractor. .. However, these unstable attractors will normally not survive long, as nearly any perturbation will push the system out of that attractor’s basin into the basin of a different attractor. . This very general, abstract reasoning makes it plausible that systems that are regularly perturbed will eventually settle down in a stable, resilient organization’ [p 15].

Metasystem transitions and topological structures

A metasystem transition = a major evolutionary transition = the emergence of a higher order organization from lower order organizations. COT can be understood in this way if an organization S (itself a system of elements, albeit organized) behaves like a resource of the catalyst type: invariant under reactions but it has an input of resources it consumes I(S) and an output of resources it produces O(S), resulting in this higher order reaction: I(S) + S S + O(S), assume that I(S) = {a,b} and O(S) = {c,d,e}, then this can be rewritten as a+b+S S+c+d+e. S itself constitutes of organized elements and it behaves like a black box processing some input to an output. If S is resilient it can even respond to changes in its input with a changed output. Now the design space of meta-systems can be widened to include catalyst resources of the type S, organizations that are self-maintaining and closed.

Concrete applications

It is possible to mix different kinds of resources; this enables the modeling of complex environments; this is likely to make the ensuing systems’ organizations more stable. ‘Like all living systems, the goal or intention of an organizatrion is to maintain and grow. To achieve this, it needs to produce the right actions for the right conditions (e.g. produce the right resource to neutralize a particular disturbance). This means that it implicitly contains a series of “condition-action rules” that play the role of the organization’s “knowledge”on how to act in its environment. The capability of selecting the right (sequence of) action(s) to solve a given problem constitutes the organization’s “intelligence”. To do this, it needs to perceive what is going on in its environment, i.e. to sense particular conditions (the presence or absence of certain resources) that are relevant to its goals. Thus, an organization can be seen as a rudimentary “intelligence” or “mind”’ [p 20]. DPB: I find this interesting because of the explanation of how such a model would work: the resources are the rules that the organization needs to sort out and to put in place at the right occasion.

Stigmergy as a universal Coordination Mechanism (II)

Heylighen, F. . Stigmergy as a universal coordination mechanism II: Varieties and Evolution . Cognitive Systems Research (Elsevier) 38 . pp. 50-59. 2016

Abstract

One application is cognition, which can be viewed as an interiorization of the individual stigmergy that helps an agent to a complex project by registering the state of the work in the trace, thus providing an external memory’[p 50]. DPB: I understand this as: according to this hypothesis, stigmergy exists prior to cognition; this means that natural but non-living processes use stigmergy on an external medium; once they are alive they are (in addition) capable of internalizing stigmergy, namely by internalizing the medium. The process of internalization of individual stigmergy is the same as (the development of?) cognition. This is another way of saying that the scope of a system changes so as to encompass the (previously external) medium on which the stigmergy takes place. The self-organization is now internalized. Cognition is now internalized. How does this view on the concept of cognition relate to the concept of individuation as a view on cognition?

1. Introduction

To bring some order to these phenomena, the present paper will develop a classification scheme for the different varieties of stigmergy. We will do this by defining fundamental dimensions or aspects, i.e. independent parameters along which stigmergic systems can vary. The fact that these aspects are continuous (“more or less”) rather than dichotomous (“present or absent”) may serve to remind us that the domain of stigmergic mechanisms is essentially connected: however different its instances may appear, it is not a collection of distinct classes, but a space of continuous variations on a single theme – the stimulation of actions by their prior results’ [p 50]. DPB: this reminds me of the landscape of Jobs: at the connection of the memes and the minds, there is a trace of the meme left on the brain and a trace of the brain is added to the meme, leaving the meme and the brain damaged. This means that from the viewpoint of the brain the memeplex is the medium and from the viewpoint of the meme the brain is the medium. The latter is more obvious to see: traces can be left in individuals’ brains. The former implies that changes are imposed on the memeplex; but the memeplex is represented by the expression of ideas in the real and in the mind; the real is an external medium, accessible through first order observations; the expression of the memeplex existing in the mind is an external medium, because it exists in other persons’ minds and in versions of the Self, both accessible through second-order observations. Back to the landscape: it is there anyhow, the difference in states is how the Jobs are connected and as a consequence how they are bounded and how they individuate.

2. Individual vs. collective stigmergy

Ants do not require a memory, because the present stage of the work is directly discernible by the same ant, and also by a different ant. Because they have no memory, the work can be continued by the same ant, but by another just as well.

3. Sematectonic vs. marker-based stigmergy

Sematectonic means that the results of the work itself are the traces that signify the input for the next ant and the next state (Wilson Sociobiology, 1975). Marker-based means that the stigmergic stimulation occurs through traces in the shape of markers such as pheromones left by other individuals (ants, termites!) before them, and not by traces of the work itself indicating a particular stage (Parunak, H.V.D., A survey of environments and mechanisms for human-human stigmergy, In Environments for multi-agent systems II (Weyns, Parunak, Michel (Eds.), 2006). Marker signals represent symbols, while sematectonic signals the concrete thing. But this is not straightforward: the territory boundary indicated with urine markers are an indication of the fact that there is an animal claiming this territory, while the urine contains additional information specific for that animal. To spread urine evenly around the claimed area and to interpret the information contained by it is useful for both the defender and the visitor in order to manage a potential conflict. And hence to reduce the uncertainties from the environment for both. The point is that the urine represents both information about the object and about the context.

4. Transient vs. persistent traces

We have conceptualized the medium as the passive component of the stigmergic system, which undergoes shaping by the actions, but does not participate in the activity itself’ (emphasis of the author) [p 52]. But a medium is bound to dissipate and decay, unless the information is actively maintained and reconstructed; without ongoing updates it will become obsolete, especially as the situation changes. No sharp distinction can be made between transient and persistent traces, they are the extremes of a continuum. A persistent trace does not require the simultaneous presence of the agent, while a purely transient trace does require their simultaneous presence. Synchronous stigmergy means to broadcast some signal, releasing information not directed at any one in particular. ‘A human example would be the self-organization of traffic, where drivers continuously react to the traffic conditions they perceive’ [p 53]. DPB: the gist of this example is that the behavior of the drivers is the signal: it is synchronous, not directed at anyone in particular, and it is sematectonic, because it represents the state of the system.

5. Quantitative vs. qualitative stigmergy

Quantitative stigmergy means that stronger conditions imply more forceful action to follow, or, in practical terms: the stronger conditions imply a higher probability of action. Qualitative stigmergy refers to conditions and actions that differ in kind rather than in degree: thís trace leads to thát action. There is no clear distinction of these two categories.

6. Extending the mind

Traditionally, cognition has been viewed as the processing of information inside the brain. More recent approaches, however, not that both the information and the processing often reside in the outside world (Clark, 1998; Dror & Harnad, 2008; Hollan, Hutchins & Kirsh 2000) – or what we have called the medium. .. Thus the human mind extends into the environment (Clark & Chalmers, 1998), “outsourcing” some of its functions to external support systems. .. In fact, our mental capabilities can be seen as an interiorization of what were initially stigmergic interactions with the environment’ (emphasis of the author) [p 54]. DPB: beetje brakke quote. This reminds me of the idea that a brain would not have been required if the environment was purely random. Just because it is not, and hence patterns can be cognized, it is relevant to avail of the instrument for just that: a brain embodying a set of condition-action rules to generate an action from the state of the environment sensed by it. Stigmergic activity lacks a memory: its state represents its memory as it reflects its every experience. But now the system is dependent on the contingencies of the part of the environment that is the medium: in order to detach itself from the uncertainties of the environment it internalizes memory and information processing.

7. The evolution of cooperation

In a stigmergic situation the defector does not weaken the cooperator: the cost of a trace is sunk.

Stigmergy as a Universal Coordination Mechanism (I)

Heylighen, F. . Stigmergy as a universal coordination mechanism I: Definition and components . Cognitive Systems Research (Elsevier) 38 . pp. 4-13. 2016

1. Past, present and future of the “stigmergy” concept

The concept is introduced by Pierre-Paul Grassé 1959 to describe a coordination mechanism used by insects: the work of one leaves traces in the environment that stimulates subsequent work by that insect or by others: ‘This mediation via the environment ensures that tasks are executed in the right order, without any need for planning, control, or direct interaction between agents’ [p 4]. DPB: how can execution in the right order be assured: it is not sure in what order the other agents will encounter the traces and hence in what order they will be motivated to act? From the examples in the text it appears that the stage in which work is left by the previous worker is input for the decision rules of a later worker; this implies that the stage of the work can be recognized. This is not the same as the agents assessing the stage of the work in the sense of attributing a meaning to it, or as in distinguishing this earlier stage from that later stage, because in that case the agent would have to have an idea of the finalized work and to what extent it would have to be complete in relation to the finalized work. Another example is pheromone trails left by insects and that are followed by others. These ideas can in some cases explain self-organization in social systems aka swarm intelligence (Deneubourg 1977). Conceptually a next step is computer supported collaboration between human agents, in particular via the www; another example is the establishing of a price on a market: a price emerges from the myriad of interactions between people that then serves as a reference for their decisions thereafter. DPB: anchoring means that once one has become used to some mark, it serves as a frame of reference thereafter, priming means that once a reference price was given, this serves as a frame of reference thereafter; are these stigmergic effects of a Luhmannian communication on the human mind; is spoken human language an example also, because it damages the direct environment and it only lasts as a damage in the minds of the people involved in the conversation; is written language an example in a kind of slow and long lasting way: once written its damaging effects remain forever; in that way, language (spoken or written can be deframed and reframed and be assigned a new meaning). Understood in this sense stigmergy is ubiquitous and it can clarify many things: ‘Stigmergy in the most general sense does not require either markers or quantities. Another, even more common misunderstanding is that stigmergy only concerns groups or swarms consisting of many agents. As we will show, stigmergy is just as important for understanding the behavior of a single individual’ [p 5]. The notion that an unintentional trace in a passive medium is far removed from the notion of a direct influence of the behavior of one agent on the behavior of another agent.

2 From etymology to definition

Stigmergy is derived from the Greek stigma which means mark or puncture and ergon which means work, the product of work or action: as a joint concept it was originally as a goad or prod or spur (prikkel): ‘Thus (Grassé, 1959) defined stigmergy as ‘the stimulation of workers by the very performances they have achieved (from the original English abstract)’ [p 6]. More recently it was understood as follows: ‘if we understand stigma as “mark” or “sign”and ergon as “action”, then stigmergy is “the notion that an agent’s actions leave signs in the environment, signs that it and other agents sense and that determine their subsequent actions”’ [p 6]. DPB: the understanding of Grassé is that stigmergy means motivation by the work (of others) and the understanding of Parunak is motivation by marks left by the work. Suppose an uttered word already leaves a mark on the mind of some people in a network that is the environment of someone, then the difference between the two is that in the notion of Grassé one has to be present and in the notion of Parunak one does not. DPB: the expression of a meme leads to other expressions of it. ; ‘Stigmergy is an indirect, mediated mechanism of coordination between actions, in which the trace of an action left on a medium stimulates the performance of a subsequent action’ [p 6]. Also the picture is interesting:

In the medium: a mark: which stimulates >>

In the agent: an action: which produces >> [p 6].

DPB: this is my Logistical Model exactly! Using memes it is: an expression of a meme produces a mark in a medium and a perception of that mark stimulates an action in an agent. But what I find missing here is the effect of a meme in the internal, the mark that is left within the agent. That is a difference; let’s see how the stigmergy is defined later on, and whether it includes the mind of the agent when it is included in a social system.

3. Basic components of stigmergy

Action is defined as a causal process that produces a change in the world (real). Agent is defined as a goal-directed autonomous system: this concept is not necessary because actions of a single unspecified agent can be coordinated by stigmergy (but it is useful if more than one agent is involved with different kinds of actions: stigmergy is the coordinator of actions that are merely events or (agentless) processes. This can be represented by a condition-action rule: the condition specifies the state of the world inducing the action, and the action specifies the subsequent transformation of that state. This can also be written as: a+b+c+.. >> x+y+.., where the + indicaes the conjunction of the conditions and of the actions. Chemical Organization Theory (Dittrich & Winter, 2008) show how collections of these simple reactions tend to become coordinated by acting on a shared medium (reaction vessel), where they produce an evolving trace expressed by the concentrations of the different ‘molecules’ (a,b,..). This coordinated pattern of activity defines an organization: a self-sustaining, dynamic network of interacting ‘molecules’. The relation is causal but not deterministic: the probability that an action takes place increases if the conditions are met (P (action I condition) > P (action). DPB: the medium is the whole of the environment that can contain (be damaged to show) data in the sense of a signal whether fast or slow to disappear and widely or narrowly distributed, e.g. a tombstone (in the real) or a change in the state of the mind of one’s interlocutor caused by the irritation of one’s words (in the virtual of Simondon). In the latter case the minds of the interlocutors are a part of the environment of the person: ‘The medium is that part of the world that undergoes changes through the actions and whose states are sensed as conditions for further actions’ [p 7]. The medium is an aspect of the environment: ‘First, .. , the environment is not in general perceivable an controllable. Second, the environment normally denotes everything outside the system or agent under consideration. However, stigmergy can also make use of an internal medium’ (emphasis by the author) [p 7]. DPB: waarvan acte! As a consequence aspects of the agent system are controllable by elements in the environment and hence they belong to the medium. The environment is that part of the world with which an agent interacts; phenomena perceivable and controllable are different for each agent and hence every agent has a different environment; ‘When we consider stigmergic coordination between different agents, we need to define the medium as that part of the world that is controllable and perceivable by all of them’ [p 7]. DPB: this reminds of the discourse / population idea, where a multitude of people included by a communication (the discourse) is defined as a population. This is different because in the discourse people are included that find themselves to be attracted as a result of their life experience and because of the selections of the communication. The medium is a broader and wider concept because it is determined by what people can perceive and control, but that does not necessarily attract them because of their life experience so far. The role of the medium is to allow interaction between different actions to take place, and thus, indirectly, between different agents; this mediating function is the true power of stigmergy. A final component of a stigmergic system is a trace or a mark; it is the result of an action and as such it contains information about the action that produced it: ’We might see the trace as a message, deposited in a medium, through which the pattern of activity communicates with itself, while maintaining a continuously updated “memory” of its achievements. From the point of view of an individual agent, on the other hand, the trace is a challenge: a situation that incites action, in order to remedy a perceived problem or shortcoming, or to exploit an opportunity for advancement (Heylighen, 2012)’ (emphasis by the author) [p 8]. DPB: I think in the Logistical Model the medium is the mind of the person as well as the communication: both are simultaneously and differently damaged through their mutual irritations.

4. Coordination

According to the Oxford Dictionary, coordination can be defined as the organization of the different elements of a complex body or activity so as to enable them to work together effectively’ (emphasis by the author) [p 8]. In the case of stigmergy the ‘elements’ are actions or agents; ‘effectively’ means that a goal is pursued; ‘working together’ means that the agents or actions are harmonious or synergetic ‘the one rather helping than hindering the other’ [p 8]. ‘Organization’ means a structure with a function, where ‘function’ is the achievement of the intended effect and ‘structure’ is the way agents or actions are connected such that they form a coherent whole. ‘This brings the focus on the connections that integrate the actions into a synergetic, goal-oriented whole’ (emphasis of the author) [p 8]. DPB: this reminds me of autopoietic systems: the properties of the elements of a systems determine the relations between them. The goal-orientation and the synergy (or harmony) of the elements (or rather of the body they form) is per definition dedicated to their autopoiesis.

5. The benefits of stigmergy

Stigmergic organization limits the gap between planning, instructions and reality; it is robust to contingency and shock; it is less prone to error of communication and errors of control than traditional forms of organization; it is less dependent on the number of agents or actions involved or the dependencies between them. The only requirement is that the agents have access to the medium and that they can recognize the conditions to start their actions. There is no need for: planning, memory, direct communication, mutual awareness, simultaneous presence, imposed sequence, imposed dividion of labor, commitment, centralized control.

6. Self-organization through negative feedback

Error-controlled regulation means that a deviation from the goal of an agent implies a change of behavior of the agent such that a compensatory action suppresses the effect of the deviation, the error. The agent must be capable to sense the error and to execute a compensatory action. In regards to the establishment of effective collective action, the only additional assumption is that the goals of the agents are not contradictory, but the goals are not necessary the same for it. ‘We may assume that agents have acquired their condition-action rules (and thus their implicit goals) through natural selection of instinctual behavior or differential reinforcement of learned behavior. This means that their condition-action rules are generally appropriate to the local environment, including the other agents with which they regularly interact’ [p 11]. DPB: the entire system maintains its autopoiesis and its parts maintain theirs; the entire systems develops (evolutionarily) in its environment of other systems and its parts develop in their environments of other parts; the parts develop autopoietically within the conditions of the autopoiesis of the entire system. Their ‘goals’ are their autopoiesis as it is trained to the requirements of their (local) context.

7. Self-organization through positive feedback

This is the amplification of movements towards an existing goal; they can be called diversions because they divert action from its ongoing course.

8. Conclusion

Virtually all evolved processes that require coordination between actions seem to rely at some level on stigmergy, in the sense that subsequent actions are stimulated by the trace left by previous actions in some observable and manipulable medium. The trace functions like a registry and map, indicating which actions have been performed and which still need to be performed. It is shared by all agents that have access to the medium, thus allowing them to coordinate their actions without need for agent-to agent communication. It even allows the coordination of “agentless” actions, as investigated e.g. by Chemical Organization Theory (Dittrich & Fenizio, 2007)’ [p 12]. DPB: I disagree with the ‘that require coordination’ phrase: what about a wandering discussion, where the medium involves the brains of the the other participants. This does not require coordination as such but it is coordinated.

Social Systems as Parasites

Seminar 1 December 2017, Francis Heylighen

Social Systems as Parasites

The power of a social system

1. In an experiment concerning punishment, people obey an instruction to administer others electric shocks. People tend to be obedient / “God rewards obedience” / “Whom should I obey first?” 2. When asked to point out which symbol is equal to another, people select the one they believe is equal, but when they are confronted with the choices of the other contestants, they tend to change their selection to what the others have chosen. Social systems in this way determine our worldview, namely the social construction of reality by specifying what is real.

Social systems suppress self-actualization

Social systems don’t ‘want’ you to think for yourself, but to replicate their information instead; social systems suppress non-conformist thought, namely they suppress differences in thought, and thereby they do not allow the development of unique (human) personalities: they suppress self-actualization. Examples of rules: 1. A Woman Should Be A Housewife >> If someone is a woman then, given that she shows conformist behavior, she will become a housewife and not a mathematician &c. Suppose Anna has a knack for math: If she complies then she becomes a housewife and she is likely to become frustrated; If she does not comply then she will become a mathematician (or engineer &c) and she is likely to become rebellious and suffer from doubts &c.2. To Be Gay is Unacceptable >> If someone is gay then, given that she shows conformist behavior, she will suppress gay behavior, but show a behavior considered normal instead; Suppose Anna is gay: If she complies she will be with a man and become frustrated; If she does not comply then she is likely to become rebellious, she will exhibit gay behavior, be with a woman, and suffer from doubts &c.

Social Systems Programming

People obey social rules unthinkingly and hence their self-actualization is limited (by them). This is the same as to say that social systems have a control over people. The emphasis on the lack of thinking is by the authors. The social system consists of rules that assists the thinking. And only thinking outside of those rules (thinking while not using those rules) would allow a workaround, or even a replacement of the rules, temporary or ongoing. This requires thinking without using pre-existing patterns or even thinking sans-image (new to the world).

Reinforcement Learning

1. Behaviorist: action >> reward (rat and shock) 2. socialization: good behavior and bad behavior (child and smile). This was a sparse remark: I guess the development of decision-action rules in children by socialization (smiling) is the same as the development of behavioral rules in rats by a behaviorist approach (shock).

Social systems as addictions

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter producing pleasure. A reward releases dopamine; Dopamine is addictive; Rewards are addictive. Social systems provide (ample) sources for rewards; Participating in social systems is a source of dopamine and hence it is addictive (generates addiction) and it maintains the addiction.

Narratives

Reinforcement need NOT be immediate NOR material (e.g. heaven / hell). Narratives can describe virtual penalties and rewards: myth, movies, stories, scriptures.

Conformist transmission

When more people transmit a particular rule then more people will transmit it. DPB: this reminds me of the changes in complex systems as a result of small injected change: many small changes and fewer large ones: the relation between the size of the shifts and their frequency is a power law.

Cognitive Dissonant

Entertaining mutually inconsistent beliefs is painful: the person believes it is bad to kill other people. As a soldier he now kills other people. This conflict can be resolved by replacing the picture of a person to be killed by the picture of vermin. The person thinks it is ok to kill vermin.

Co-opting emotions

Emotions are immediate strong motivators that bypass rational thought. Social systems use emotions to reinforce the motivation to obey their rules. 1. Fear: the anticipation of a particular outcome and the desire to avoid it 2. Guilt: fear of a retribution (wraak) and the desire to redeem (goedmaken); this can be exploited by the social system because there can be a deviation from its rules without a victim and it works on imaginary misdeeds: now people want to redeem vis-a-vis the social system 3. Shame: Perceived deficiency of the self because one is not fulfilling the norms of the social system: one feels weak, vulnerable and small and wishes to hide; the (perceived) negative judgments of others (their norms) are internalized. PS: Guilt refers to a wrong action implying a change of action; Shame refers to a wrong self and implies the wish for a change of (the perception of) self 4. Disgust: Revulsion of (sources of) pollution such as microbes, parasites &c. The Law of Contagion implies that anything associated with contagion is itself contagious.

Social System and disgust

The picture of a social system is that it is clean and pure and that it should not be breached. Ideas that do not conform to the rules of the social system (up to and including dogma and taboo) are like sources of pollution; these contagious ideas lead to reactions of violent repulsion by the ones included by the social system.

Vulnerability to these emotions

According to Maslow people who self-actualize are more resistant to these emotions of fear, shame, guilt and disgust.

DPB: 1. how do variations in the sensitivity to neurotransmitters affect the sensitivity to reinforcing? I would speculate that a higher sensitivity to dopamine leads to a more eager reaction to a positive experience, hence leading to a stronger reinforcement of the rule in the brain 2. how do higher or lower sensitivity to risk (the chance that some particular event occurs and the impact when it does) affect their abiding by the rules? I would speculate that sensitivity to risk depends on the power to cognize it and to act in accordance with it. A higher sensitivity to risk leads to attempting to follow (conformist) rules more precisely and more vigorously; conversely a lesser sensitivity to risk leaves space for interpretation of the rule, its condition or its enactment.