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.

Feyerabend

Feyerabend, Paul . Against method (oospr London Verso), Tegen De Methode. Lemniscaat 2008 . ISBN 1993978-90-477-0031-9

Contra-inductie: hypothesen introduceren en uit te werken die niet stroken met goed bewezen thorriem en of met goed vastgestelde feiten.

Toename van theorieën: anything goes.

‘De creatie van één ding en de creatie van, plus het volledige inzicht in, een juist idee van het ding zijn heel vaak onderdelen van één en hetzelfde ondeelbare proces en kunnen niet worden gescheten zover het proces tot stilstand te brengen’ (p 55).

‘.. dat talen en de reactiepatronen die ze inhouden niet louter instrumenten zijn om gebeurtenissen (feiten, toestanden) te beschrijven, maar dat ze gebeurtenissen (feiten, toestanden) eveneens vormgeven, dat hun ‘grammatica’ en kosmologie omdat, een allesomvattende visie op de wereld, op de samenleving, op de situatie van de mens, die het denken, het gedrag en de waarneming beïnvloedt’ (p 179). ‘Volgens Whorf komt de kosmologie van een taal deels tot uitdrukking door het openlijke gebruik van worden, maar ze berust ook op classificaties die geen openlijk kenteken hebben (..) maar die werken (..) door een onzichtbare ‘centrale uitwisseling’ van aaneengeschakelde verbindingen, zó dat ze de andere woorden die de klasse kenmerken, bepalen’ (p 179). Whorf . Language, Thought and Reality . Cambridge, mass. 1956 . P121.

Omdat na de paradigmaverschuiving nieuwe maatstaven bij oude worden gevoegd, is er geen gemeenschappelijke maat meer en kan er geen logische dwingende reden gegeven worden om te kiezen tussen twee theorieën. Dit is het principe van de incommensurabiliteitsthese. En object of theorie kan beoordeeld worden vanuit verschillende classificatie systemen; die, ten overvloede, beide aansluiten bij de voorhanden stimuli. Een voorbeeld hiervan in de sfeer van perceptie is (iedere afbeelding met perspectief in feite, bijvoorbeeld blokje met kruisje / piramide vanaf de basis of vanaf de apex gezien?). ‘In al deze voorbeelden hangt het waargenomen beeld af van ‘mentale doodposities’ die naar willekeur kunnen worden veranderd (..). Mentale disposities kunnen echter verstarren door ziekte, ten gevolge van een opvoeding binnen een bepaalde cultuur, of vanwege fysiologische determinanten die we niet onder controle hebben. (Niet elke verandering van taal gaat gepaard met perceptuele veranderingen.) Onze houding tegenover andere rassen of tegenover mensen met een andere culturele achtergrond hangt vaak af van’verstarde’ disposities van de tweede soort: omdat we hebben geleerd gezichten op een gekke manier te ‘lezen’ velen we geijkte oordelen en komen we op een dwaalspoor.’ (p 182).

En nagels is de perceptie afbeelding van een object in het brein van iemand. En pseudonabeeld is een afbeelding van een object in het brein van iemand (zonder dat die persoon het object percipieert, bijvoorbeeld door te zien. De familie van concepten rondom een pseudonabeeld en de familie van concepten rondom een materieel object zijn incommensurabel: ‘.. deze families kunnen niet gelijktijdig worden gebruikt en er kunnen noch logische, noch perceptuele verbanden tussen hen eisen gelegd.’ (p 183). De vraag is of een volwassene opgescheept is met een stabiel perceptuele wereld en een daarmee gepaard gaand stabiel conceptueel systeem, dat hij op vele manieren kan wijzigen maar waarvan de hoofdlijnen voor altijd vastliggen. Of is het realistischer te veronderstellen dat veranderingen die incommensurabiliteit met zich meebrengen mogelijk zijn en aangemoedigd moeten worden om een hoger kennis niveau te kunnen bereiken.

Er zijn geen ‘neutrale’ objecten die in ongeacht welke stijl dan ook kunnen worden weergegeven en die de nabijheid van die stijl aan de werkelijkheid afmeten. In andere woorden: iedere afbeelding van een object is door de wol van een bepaalde stijl geverfd; geen enkel object ontkomt daaraan. De toepassing van deze gedachte op talen ligt voor de hand. ‘Daarom zouden we eigenlijk niet moeten zoeken naar de psychische oorzaak van een ‘stijl’, maar eerder moeten proberen de elementen ervan te ontdekken, de functie ervan te analyseren, haar te vergelijken met andere uitingen van dezelfde cultuur ) literaire stijl, zinsconstructie, grammatica, ideologie) om zo tot een schets te komen van het daaraan ten grondslag liggende wereldbeeld, inclusief een verklaring van de wijze waarop dit wereldbeeld de waarneming, het denken en de argumentatie beïnvloedt, en van de grenzen die het aan het ronddwalen van de verbeeldingskracht oplegt.’ (p 185). Een paratactische weergave betekent dat een afbeelding uit componenten wordt samengesteld, en zich sequentieel laat begrijpen. Het ‘leest’ als bijvoorbeeld: kind (rustig), Leeuw (woest), Leeuw eet kind. Er is geen organisatie tussen de componenten, dus de gelaatsuitdrukking van het kind verandert niet. De afgebeelde personen drukken geen natuurlijk besef uit van hun situatie. Dat is wel zo in het geval van een hypotactische beschrijving. Mensen in de oudheid zouden zich ook marionetten kunnen voelen die alleen afhankelijk zijn van externe invloeden. Zo’n realistische interpretatie van stijlen strookt met de stelling van Whorf dat talen, behalve instrumenten om gebeurtenissen te beschrijven, ergens gebeurtenissen vormgeven. Er bestaat dan een linguïstische grens aan wat er in een bepaalde taal kan worden gezegd, en die grens valt samen met de grenzen van het ding zelf. Hij zou verder reiken omdat niet-linguïstische representaties zijn inbegrepen. De realistische interpretatie is aannemelijk maar niet vanzelfsprekend, omdat de kunstenaar een ‘draai’ kan hebben gegeven. ‘De argumentatie (die nooit afdoend kan zijn) bestaat uit het wijzen op karakteristieke kenmerken in ver uitengelegen gebieden. Als de typerende eigenschappen van een specifieke stijl in de schilderkunst ook worden aangetroffen in de beeldhouwkunst en in de grammatica van de talen uit die tijd (en hier vooral in verborgen classificaties die niet eenvoudig te traceren zijn), als kan worden aangetoond dat die talen zowel door kunstenaars als door gewone mensen worden gesproken, als er in de talen filosofische principes zijn geformuleerd die verklaren dat de typerende eigenschappen kenmerken van de wereld zijn en niet slechts kunstmatig toegebrachte kenmerken, en er geen poging wordt gedaan de oorsprong van die principes te verklaren, als de mens en de natuur die kenmerken niet alleen in de schilderkunst bronnen, maar ook in de dichtkunst, in veel voorkomende spreekwoorden en in de gangbare rechtspraak, als de gedachte dat de kenmerken onderdelen zijn van de normale waarneming niet wordt tegengesproken door iets wat we uit de fysiologie of de waarnemingspsychologie weten en als latere denkers de typerende eigenschappen aanvallen als ‘dwalingen’ die voortkomen uit onwetendheid over de’ware weg’ , dan mogen we aannemen dat we niet slechts te maken hebben met technische mislukkingen en specifieke doeleinden, maar met een coherente levenswijze, en mogen we verwachten dat mensen die op deze manier leven de wereld op dezelfde manier zagen als wij nu hun afbeeldingen zien’ (p 190). NB: Hoofdstuk 16 beschrijft een procedure om een meme(plex) te destilleren uit culturele expressies. Hierboven de samenvatting. Deze mensen leven inderdaad in een wereld zoals die door hun kunstenaars wordt afgebeeld.

‘Aldus opgevatte kennis wordt niet verworven door inzicht te krijgen in een essentie achter de boodschappen van zintuigen, maar door 1) de waarnemer in de juiste positie te plaatsen ten opzichte van het object (het proces, de verzameling), door hem op de passende plaats in te voegen in het complexe patroon dat de wereld vormt, en door 2) de elementen bij elkaar te voegen die onder deze omstandigheden worden opgemerkt.’ (p 196).

‘Net als ieder ander object is de mens en uitwisselingsplaats van invloeden en niet zozeer een unieke bron van actie, een ‘ik’ (het ‘Cogito’ van Descartes heeft geen aangrijpingspunt in deze wereld, en met zijn argumentatie kan zelfs geen begin worden gemaakt.)’ (p 197).

‘Er zijn te veel dingen, te veel gebeurtenissen, te veel situaties (Ilias, 2.488), en die kunnen slechts enkele van hen nabij zijn (Ilias, 2.485). Maar ook al kunnen mensen geen volledige kennis hebben, ze beschikken wel over een flinke hoeveelheid ervan. Hoe rijker hun ervaring, hoe groter het aantal van hun avonturen, van de dingen die ze gezien, gehoord en gelezen hebben, des te groter is hun kennis.’ (p 208).

‘En heel wereldbeeld, en heel universum van denken, spreken en waarnemen wordt ontbonden’ (p214). NB bij de overgang van kosmos A naar kosmos B (paradigma). ‘Gezien vanuit A (en eveneens vanuit het gezichtspunt van enkele latere ideologieën) zijn al deze denkers, dichters en kunstenaars malende krankzinnigen. .. We hebben een gezichtspunt (theorie, referentiekader, kosmos, wijze van re-presentatie) waarvan de elementen (concepten, ‘ feiten’, afbeeldingen) opgebouwd zijn volgens bepaalde constructie principes. De principes houden iets in als een soort afsluiting: er zijn dingen die niet kunnen worden gezegd of’ontdekt’, zonder de principes te overtreffen (en dat betekent niet heen tegenspreken). Zeg die dingen, doe de ontdekking, en de principes worden buiten werking gesteld. Neem nu die constituent principes die ten grondslag liggen aan elk element van de kosmos (van de theorie), elk feit (elk concept). Laten we zulke principes universele principesvan de theorie in kwestie noemen. Universele principes buiten werking stellen betekent alle feiten en alle concepten buiten werking stellen. Laten we tenslotte een ontdekking, of een uitspraak, of een houding incommensurabel met de kosmos (de theorie, het referentiekader) noemen als ze enkele van de universele principes ervan buiten werking stelt.’ ( p 215).

‘Hoe wordt de irrationaliteit van de overgangsperiode (van A naar B, dpb) overwonnen? Ze wordt overwonnen op de gebruikelijke manier (zie punt 8 hierboven), dat wil zeggen, door de vastbesloten productie van onzin, totdat het geproduceerde materiaal overvloedig genoeg is om aan de rebellen toe te staan nieuwe universele principes te onthullen en aan alle anderen die te erkennen. (..). Krankzinnigheid verandert in psychische gezondheid, mits ze rijk genoeg en ordelijk genoeg is om het als een fundament van een nieuw wereldbeeld te functioneren.’ (p 216-7).

‘Op basis van wat is gezegd, is het duidelijk dat er de inhoud van A en B niet kunnen vergelijken. (..). .. :B feiten presenteren betekent de principes buiten werking stellen die bij de constructie van A-feiten werden voorondersteld. Al wat we kunnen doen, is B-afbeeldingen van A-feiten in B tekenen, of B-uitspraken over A-feiten in B introduceren.’ (p 217).

Appendix 2

‘.. en dat lijkt te impliceren dat sterk verschillende talen niet alleen verschillende ideeën voor waar aannemen om dezelfde feiten te ordenen, maar dat ze ook verschillende feiten voor waar aannemen. Het ‘linguïstisch relativiteitsprincipe’ wijst zo te zien in dezelfde richting. Het zegt ‘dat, in informele termen, gebruikers van Bert uiteenlopende grammatica’s door hun grammatica’s worden gericht op verschillende soorten waarnemingen en verschillende evaluaties van uiterlijk soortgelijke waarnemings handelingen, en derhalve geen gelijkwaardige waarnemers zijn, maar bij enigzins verschillende wereldbeelden moeten uitkomen. (..) en dat kan betekenen dat waarnemers die van sterk verschillende taalkundig gebruik maken onder dezelfde materiële omstandigheden verschillende feiten voor waar zullen houden, ofwel dat ze soortgelijke feiten op verschillende manieren zullen ordenen.’ (p 219).

‘Incommensurabiliteit verdwijnt wanneer we concepten gebruiken zoals wetenschappers dat doen, op een open, ambigue en vaak contra-intuïtieve wijze. Incommensurabiliteit is een probleem voor filosofen, niet voor wetenschappers, ook al kunnen de laatst laatstgenoemden psychologisch de draad kwijtraken door ongewone dingen’ (p 221).

Wetenschap moet politiek zijn, het moet historisch onderbouwd zijn (maar op een niet-theoretische manier), en niet epistemologisch onderbouwd.

H17

‘Tot nu toe heb ik geprobeerd aan te tonen dat de rede, .., niet geschikt is voor de wetenschap en mogelijk niet heeft bijgedragen tot de ontwikkeling ervan. Zij moeten nu een keus maken. Ze kunnen de wetenschap behouden of ze kunnen de rede behouden; ze kunnen niet beide behouden’ (p 225).

‘De interacties en de resultaten daarvan hangen af van historische omstandigheden en variëren van geval tot geval. En machtige stam die een land binnenvalt, kan zijn weten opleggen en de inheemse tradities met geld veranderen, alleen maar om zelf te worden veranderd door de overblijfselen van de onderworpen cultuur’ (p 226) NB meer voorbeelden van wal en schip.

Naturalisme schiet tekort, omdat een tunnel ontstaat en alles uit het huidige wordt verklaard. Idealisme schiet tekort omdat de praktijk zich niet houdt aan de theoretische regels. Interactie schiet tekort omdat de twee werelden niet aansluiten, namelijk streng en ordelijk enerzijds en plooibaar en weerbarstig anderzijds. De aanvulling die nodig is is óf historisch onderzoek óf politieke actie. Hierover de volgende punten:

I tradities bestaan gewoon, goed noch slecht, II tradities krijgen pas al dan niet wenselijke eigenschappen in relatie met tot andere, III relativisme betreft tradities is verdedigbaar ergens redelijkheid en beschaafdheid IV iedere traditie heeft speciale middelen om volgelingen te werven, V Individuen of groepen die aan de interactie van tradities deelnemen kunnen een pragmatische filosofie aanvaarden bij de beoordeling van gebeurtenissen en structuren die zich aandienen VI Manieren om collectief een oordeel te vellen over een probleem zijn: geleide uitwisseling (alleen reacties binnen de kaders van een gedetailleerde traditie worden door deelnemers toegelaten) en open uitwisseling (de dit partijen gekozen aanpak ontwikkelt zich naar gelang het debat zich ontwikkelt) VII in een vrije samenleving hebben alle tradities gelijke rechten en toegang tot scholing en machtsposities VIII en vrije samenleving wordt niet opgelegd maar zal slechts ontstaan wanneer mensen en open uitwisseling aangaan en eventueel beschermende surfen indien al naar gelang van hun ontwikkeling IX debatten die de structuur van een vrije samenleving regelen zijn open en niet geleid X en vrije samenleving staat op een scheiding tussen wetenschap en samenleving.

H18

‘Volgens het idealisme is het rationeel (juist, in overeenstemming met de wil van de goden, – of welke andere bemoedigende worden er maar worden gebruikt om de inlanders een rad voor ogen te draaien) om bepaalde dingen te doen – wat er ook gebeurt. Het is rationeel (juist &c) om de vijanden van het geloof te vermoorden, ad-hoc hypothesen te vermijden, de beheren van het lichaam te verachten, tegenstrijdigheden uit te bannen, progressieve onderzoeksprogramma te ondersteunen enzovoort.’ (p 243).

Volgens het naturalisme is de rede volledig bepaald door onderzoek. Te handhaven is de gedachte dat onderzoek de rede kan veranderen.

Naturalisme en idealisme in combinatie: ‘.. een leidraad die deel uitmaakt van de geleide activiteit en die daardoor wordt veranderd.’ (p 245). Dus het probleem is niet de interactie van een praktijk met iets anders wat van buitenaf komt, maar de ontwikkeling van één traditie onder de invloed van andere‘ (p 245). Onderzoek dat zich niet aan de te onderzoeken maatstaven houdt. De natuur is kwalitatief en kwantitatief oneindig: er is behoefte aan het principe van het toenemen van inhoud. Theorieën die een overvloedige inhoud hebben in vergelijking met wat er al is zijn te verkiezen boven theorieën die dat niet hebben.

‘Anderzijds handhaven wij de les dat de geldigheid, het nut en de adequaatheid van populaire maatstaven slechts kunnen worden getoetst door onderzoek dat zich niet aan die maatstaven houdt‘ (p 247).

Experimenten van ( Salvador Luria en Delbrück 1943) op de bron van adaptatie van de weerstand van bacteriën tegen het binnendringen van bacteriofagen hebben de theorie van Lamarck weerlegd.

H19

‘Nu zijn methoden die niet uit gewoonte, zonder een gedachte te wissen aan de redenen daarvan, worden gebruikt, vaak gekoppeld aan metafysische overtuigingen’ ( p 255). NB metafysica is de wijsgerige leer die niet de realiteit onderzoekt zoals we die ervaren door middel van onze uiterlijke zintuigen (zoals de fysica), maar datgene wat boven de materie uitgaat, de totaliteit van al het gegevene.

‘Religie (..) zal lange tijd als een vitale kracht in de samenleving blijven bestaan. … Kan de religie niet worden vernietigd door de mensen die haar wellicht verwerpen. De spirituele zwakheid van het wetenschappelijke naturalisme is te wijten aan het feit dat het niet zo’n primaire bron van kracht kent.’ (EO Wilson In Human Nature . Cambridge Massachusetts . 1972 . p. 192 ev in Feyerabend p 260).

Ze (de toneelschrijvers, dpb) moeten in geen geval proberen ‘moreel gezag’ uit te oefenen. Moreel gezag, ten goede of ten kwade, verandert mensen in slaven, een slavernij, zelfs slavernij in dienst van het Goede of van God in eigen persoon, is de ellendige toestand die er bestaat.’ ( p 266).

H20

‘De kunsten, zoals ik hen tegenwoordig zie, vormen geen domein dat van het abstracte denken is gescheiden, maar vullen het aan een hebben er behoefte aan hun mogelijkheden volledig te realiseren.’ ( p 2

Hannah Arendt

Verantwoordelijkheid en Oordeel . Vertaald van Responsibility and Judgment . 2003 . Shocken books . NY . ISBN 90-5637-573-3

Uit Persoonlijke verantwoordelijkheid onder een dictatuur.

Gehoorzaamheid bestaat niet voor volwassenen. Wat er gebeurt is met jouw instemming.

Enkele problemen uit de moraal filosofie

Kant: den Begriff der Tugend würde klein Mensch haben wenn er lauter unter Spitzbuben wäre.

De dief gelooft ook in rechtsbescherming.

Misschien zouden we beter af zijn als we onszelf zouden toestaan ons tot de literatuur te wenden, tot Shakespear of Melville of Dostojevski, waar we de grote schurken aantreffen. Ook zijn zijn wellicht niet in staat ons iets specifieke te vertellen over de aard van het kwaad, maar ze gaan het in ieder geval niet uit de weg.

Verantwoordelijkheid versus schuld als staatsburger en afwezigheid daarvan als statenloze burger. Als je de voordelen geniet dan ook verantwoordelijk voor de nadelen maar niet schuldig eraan.

Collectieve schuld stopt als je niet langer lid bent van de groep. Niemand kan zonder groep. Je ruilt één groep inclusief verantwoordelijkheden in voor een andere.

De vraag is niet of een burger goed is maar of zijn gedrag goed is voor de wereld waarin hij woont.

Vanwege hun goddelijke herkomst zijn de regels van het christendom absoluut. De sancties toekomstige beloningen en straffen.

Socrates zegt: beter kwaad ondergaan dan kwaad aandoen. Het politieke antwoord is dat kwaad de wereld uit moet een dat kwaad geen plaats mag hebben in de wereld.

De ‘ziel’ in religieuze taal is de ‘zelf’ in seculiere taal.

Het morele argument in de vorm van een Socratische stelling om niet ‘mee te lopen’: als ik doe wat van me wordt gevraagd (als de prijs voor deelname), hetzij uit louter conformisme hetzij omdat het de enige kans is op uiteindelijk succesvol verzet, dan zou ik niet langer met mezelf kunnen leven; mijn leven zou voor mij niet meer de moeite waard zijn. Daarom onderga ik nu veel liever kwaad, een betaal zelfs liever de prijs van de doodstraf als ik tot deelname wordt gedwongen, dan dat ik kwaad die een voortaan met een boosdoener moet samenleven. Bijvoorbeeld een moord. Het is subjectief door zijn afhankelijkheid van de bereidheid om te lijden. Het geldt alleen voor mensen die expliciet met zichzelf leven, die kortom een geweten hebben. De enige seculiere activiteit die daar bij aansluit is denken als een stilzwijgende dialoog tussen mij en mijzelf. Dan kan verbeelding worden ingezet om elke handeling die wordt gevraagd te representeren. Geen enkele individuele moraal cq gedragsnormen kan ons ontheffen van collectieve verantwoordelijkheid. Want verantwoordelijkheid nemen voor dingen waar we geen schuld aan hebben is de prijs die er betalen voor het feit dat we met anderen samen leven en dat het vermogen tot handelen alleen kan worden verwerkelijkt in een vorm van menselijke gemeenschappelijkheid.

Denken en Morele Overwegingen

Het kwaad kan ontstaan uit een onvermogen om te denken. ‘ Clichés, stereotiepe frasen, zich houden aan conventionele een geijkte vormen van expressie en gedrag hebben de maatschappelijk erkende functie ons te beschermen tegen de realiteit, tegen het beroep op onze weloverwogen aandacht die alle gebeurtenissen en feiten krachtens hun bestaan opwekken. Als we voortdurend aan die oproep beantwoordden, zouden we uitgeput raken;..’ (pp 162-3). Is ons vermogen te oordelen over goed en kwaad, mooi en lelijk, dus afhankelijk van ons vermogen te denken? Valt een onvermogen om te denken samen met de afwezigheid van een geweten? Zou denken de mensen kunnen conditioneren tegen kwaad doen?

Kant heeft denken (intellect) van kennen (rede) gescheiden. Nu kan kennis (ie religie) de rede niet meer in de weg staan, maar slechts de rede zichzelf. Als dat onderscheid verband houdt met het onderscheid goed-kwaad dan moet van één ieder worden geëist dat hij denkt. Dus volgens Kant is de rede, filosofie nodig om het kwaad tegen te gaan.

‘Want het is het belangrijkste kenmerk van het denken is dat het alle doen ontbreekt, alle gewone activiteiten, ongeacht welke. .. Handelen en leven in de meest algemene zin van inter homines esse, ‘onder mijn medemensen vertoeven’ – het Latijnse equivalent voor ‘in leven zijn’ – voorkomt beslist dat we gaan nadenken’ (p 165). Het object van denken is altijd een re-presentatie, iets dat niet feitelijk maar slechts in de geest aanwezig is en dankzij de verbeeldingskracht ”present’ kan stellen in de vorm van een beeld’ (p 165). Denken gaat over verschijningsvormen: ‘.. ; zolang we met hem samenzijn denken we niet aan hem-al kunnen we wel indrukken verzamelen die later voedsel voor ons denken kunnen worden; ..’ (p 166).

Betreft een begrip dat een wolk aan verschijningsvormen vertegenwoordigt: ‘Het huis in en op zichzelf, een ‘auto kath’auto’, dat huis dat ons het woord laat gebruiken voor al deze specifieke en zeer uiteenlopende gebouwen, wordt nooit gezien, noch door de ogen van het lichaam noch door die van de geest; ieder denkbeeldig huis, hoe abstract ook, dat een minimum aan kenmerken heeft om het herkenbaar te maken, is al een specifiek huis’ (p 171).

‘Het woord ‘huis’ is zoiets als een bevroren gedachte die het denken als het ware moet ontdooien als het de oorspronkelijke betekenis ervan wil ontdekken’ (p 171).

Het ligt in zijn (de wind baan het denken) aard om uit te wissen, als het ware te ontdooien, wat de taal, het medium van het denken, tot gedachten heeft bevroren – de woorden (concepten, zinnen, definities, leerstellingen) waarvan Plato de ‘zwakheid’ en onbuigzaamheid zo schitterend aan de kaak stelt in de Zevende Brief. De bevroren gedachten zijn zo handzaam dat ze slapend kunnen worden toegepast. Als je begint te denken verandert alles in wanorde. Het gevolg is dat denken en destructieve activiteit is ‘.. voor gevestigde criteria, waarden, maatstaven voor goed en kwaad, kortom op die gewoonten en regels die we in moraal en ethiek behandelen’ (p 173). Op die manier kan denken en einde maken aan de orde en tot ‘goddeloos gedrag’ leiden. Denken is voor alle credos gevaarlijk; niet denken lijkt aanbevelenswaardig maar door ze te beschermen tegen de gevolgen van denken houden ze vast aan bestaande gedragsregels. Als ze daar niet over denken beoordelen ze nooit de inhoud ervan en zijn die gemakkelijk af te schaffen al zijn ze werkbaar door iemand die een alternatief biedt.

Wrange vruchten

‘.. en het oog van de reclamemakers* is steeds minder gericht op de behoeften van de consument en steeds meer op de behoefte van de koopwaar om in steeds grotere hoeveelheden te worden geconsumeerd’ (p 241). *the term “Madison Avenue” refers specifically to the agencies, and methodology of advertising.

Vooruitgang: ‘Op weg zijn is het doel’, maar niet omdat dit ‘op weg zijn’ een eigen schoonheid of betekenis bezat. Juist niet meer op weg zijn, stoppen met verspillen, stoppen met steeds meer een steeds sneller consumeren, op een bepaald moment zeggen dat het genoeg is, zou de onmiddellijke ondergang betekenen. Deze vooruitgang, die vergezeld gaat van het onophoudelijke tumult van reclamebureaus, heeft zich voortgezet ten koste van de wereld waarin we leven, ..’.

‘De verschrikkelijke waarheid die uit het verhaal dat in deze (Pentagon dpb) Papers wordt verteld kan worden geconcludeerd, is dat het enige duurzame doel het imago zelf geworden was, ..’ (p 242).

Design for a Brain

Ashby, W.R. . Design for a Brain – The origin of adaptive behaviour . John Wiley & Sons (second edition revisited) . 1960

Preface

This is a model for the adaptive behavior of the nervous system. The basis is the fact that the nervous system is adaptive and the hypothesis that it is mechanistic. It is attempted identify the properties the nervous system must have if it is both adaptive and mechanistic. To that end a logic of mechanism is required. Only what can be expressed in mathematical form is accepted so as to protect the rigor of expression. A coherent whole is developed from the concepts of organization, behavior, change of behavior, part, whole, dynamic system, co-ordination, &c.

Chapter 1, The Problem

1/1 The brain resembles a machine. The living organism behaves in a purposeful and adaptive way. The aim is to show that a system can be both mechanistic and adaptive. With the developed methosd it is possible to make a machine’s behavior adaptive.

Behaviour, Reflex and Learned

1 /2 Reflex behavior is genetically determined and not altered by individual experience. Learned behavior is not genetically determined and it is modified by an individual experience.

1/3 Reflex behavior is not in the scope of this research: each reflex is produced by some neural physico-chemical reflex to produce some behavior; this is complex but no difficulty of principle is involved.

1 /4 We are concerned with the second type, learned behavior; man produces many examples of this kind of behavior. The nervous system in people and animals is capable to develop behavior that is not genetically determined nor specified by a gene pattern in detail.

1/5 The principal concern here is with learning that changes behavior for the better; the exact meaning of ‘better’ will be discussed later on, but it relates to the bettering of the individual’s chances of survival. The problem in preliminary form: what are the cerebral changes occurring during the learning process? / Why does the behavior generally change for the better? / What type of mechanistic process can show the same advancement of behavior?

1/6 A perceived change can result in a response or change many times bigger through the spreading of the effect. The nerve cells can rouse mechanical power through their control of the muscles. The nerve cells have potentiality for action. The question how it changes for the better isn’t answered by the increase of activity; in real-life examples there is no relation between the change in energy prior to and after learning. The same counts for the level of activity: the correlation between more activity and an improvement of the situation can be negative.

The Relation of Part to Part

Normality at the level of components’ behavior bears no relation with normality at the level of the behavior of the organism, because the two forms of normality have no definite relationship.

1/8 Neural activities are composed of excitations, inhibitions and other physiological processes the correctness of which is not determined by the process itself but by its relations with other processes. ‘These considerations reveal the main peculiarity of the problem. When the nervous system learns, its behaviour changes for the better. When we consider its various parts, however, we find that the value of one part’s behaviour cannot be judged until the behaviour of the other parts is known; and the values of their behaviours cannot be known until the first part’s behaviour is known. All the valuations are thus conditional, each depending on the others. Thus there is no criterion for ‘better’ tha can be given absolutely, i.e. unconditionally. But a neuron must do something. How then do the activities of the neurons become co-ordinated so that the behaviour of the whole becomes better, even though no absolute criterion exists to guide the individual neuron?’ (p 7). NB: this is descriptive of the behavior of a wide variety of complex systems and how local and global behavior relate. Also it is descriptive of the control that the global behavior has as a context, an ambience, an environment over the local actors.

The genetic control of cerebral function

1/9 The development of adaptive behavior is genetic in the sense that the extent of the adaptive capabilities varies per species.

Restrictions on the concepts to be used

1/10 In this book the brain is treated as an organ that has been developed in evolution as a specialized means of survival.

1/11 Living matter is assumed similar to other matter. The only reason admitted for the behavior of some component is its own state and the condition of its immediate surroundings led by the usual laws of nature.

1/12 The ‘operational method’ will be followed and no concept will be used unless it can be shown to exist in objective form in non-living systems.

1/13 No teleological explanation for behavior will be used. The assumption is that a machine or an animal behaves in some way because its nature and its circumstances at some point allow it no other behavior.

1/14 Each component, of the observed system and the system’s environment alike, is assumed to function determinedly; this means it functions in one way, namely the way it is directed by its particular surrounding components. Strong proof exists that memory, as part of the nervous system, behaves determinately (ex. Skinner p 10). But this is part of the question and the statement that components are, will be tested.

1/15 The consequence of answering the research question is that, directly or by implication, will enable the specification of an artificial system to be made that will be able to develop adaptation in its behavior such as the living brain.​​​ Thus is the requirement to the quality of the answer to the research question: that a brain can be built based upon the specifications developed. NB: This is a very ambitious criteria: can’t this be a requirement for the development of a firm also?

1/16 The concept of consciousness is not included in the argumentation in this book, because it is not necessary to explain the subject of study of this book, learning. Example: to turn left with a bicycle one steers right first. Every bike rider has learned it and practices it, but not consciously so. This is not an argument against the existence of consciousness, but an argument against its use here: ‘This knowledge of personal awareness, therefore, is prior to all other forms of knowledge. If consciousness is the most fundamental fact of all, why is it not used int his book? The answer, in my opinion, is that Science deals, and can deal, only with what one man can demonstrate to another. .. And until such a method, or its equivalent, is found, the facts of consciousness cannot be used in scientific method’ (pp. 11-12).

1/17 State some well-known practical problem as a type-problem so that general problems may refer to it. NB: what could the equivalent of this question be concerning a firm? The summary of the research is: assumptions: the organism is mechanistic, the organism is composed of parts, the behavior of the whole is the outcome of the compounded actions of the parts, organisms change their behavior by learning and that they change it so that the latter behavior is better adapted to the environment than the earlier: ‘Our problem is, first, to identify the nature of the change which shows as learning, and, secondly, to find why such changes should tend to cause better adaptation for the whole organism’ (p 12).

Chapter 2. Dynamic Systems

2/1 It is important to define properties of dynamical systems because there is ample room for ambiguity and confusion. A first assumption is that with regards to the brain we are dealing with a dynamical system, something that changes with time; it will be referred to as the ‘machine’ and no restriction is applied to it.

2/2 The objective of this chapter is to construct a method for the study of this machine; the principal axioms as per 1/10 -15 are:

(1) it is precisely defines and in operational form (2) it must be applicable to all material machines, animate and inanimate (3) its procedure for obtaining information from the machinne must be objective (demonstrable to other observers) (4) it must obtain all information from the machine and no other source is permitted. ‘The method proposed here must have the peculiarity that it is applicable to all; it must, so to speak, specialise in generality’ (p 14). NB: some such condition s relevant to firm theory also, because there is no limitation to the number of staff, the turnover or the product range and it cannot be limited to some stage in the firm’s ontogeny; it must apply to every conceivable firm.

Variable and system

2/3 In this book we are concerned with the relations between parts and the focus will be on the behavior of the individual parts. To do that he focuses on any number of variables; a variable is defined as a measurable quantity which at every instant has a definite numerical value (if it can be represented by a pointer on a dial, even if the reading is 0 and the entity is absent): ‘Eddington’s statement on the subject is explicit: ‘The whole subject matter of exact science consists of pointer readings and similar indications. Whatever quantity we say we are ‘observing’, the actual procedure nearly always ends in reading the position of some kind of indicator on a graduated scale or its equivalent’’ (p 15).

2/4 Every real machine embodies an infinite number of variables, the lion’s share of which must be ignored; those considered by the observer are the system. If a new set of variables is drawn up, then a new system is considered.

2/5 As a consequence, first an observer must be given. The system is defined as the set of variables that the observer selects from the set available on the machine. The system therefore is different from the machine. On the list of variables, system is kept separated from time and time is not included in the variables of the system.

2/6 The state of a system at a given time is the set of numerical values of its variables at that instant. Two states are equal if and only if all of the pairs of numerical values of their variables are equal.

The operational method

2/7 In the book only the case is considered where the observer can control every variable and so that he has access to every state of the system. The postulate implies that any variable can be forced to follow some prescribed course. If a variable of the system cannot be set to the desired value, then the observer waits for it to occur (e.g. astronomical and meteorological systems). The observer also has control over the variables that are not a part of the system but that have an effect on it. This is assumed to arrive at a basis model; complications to not have full control over every variable can be added later.

2/8 The primary operation means that the observer enforces a particular state of the system by selecting the variables of the system; and he selects the variables of the environment, sets their values; and he allows a unit of time to elapse. He observes the state that the system goes to as it moves under the drive of its own dynamic nature; he observes a transition from a particular state under particular circumstances. The experimenter observes how one variable changes over time while another is kept constant or caused to change in some prescribed way.

2/9 This objective approach is required as the source of the knowledge must not be the previous experience of the observer, because it is not wholly reliable. The unexpected must be allowed to happen: ‘and the only way to be certain of the relation between parts in a new machine is to test the relation directly’ (p 19). The transition by this method is an objective and demonstrable fact.

2/10 The power of the method is that the experimenter can repeat it with variations and relate the ddifferent responses to the variations; after an operations te next may be varied a) include new or omit old variables, b) change of the initial state, and c) change of the surrounding states. These variations may be applied to yield second-order (and more) relations between responses and different levels. All our concepts will be expressed in terms of this method.

Phase-space and field

2/11 A line of behavior is specified by a succession of states and the time-intervals between them.

2/12 and 2/13 Representations of a system can be graphical, tabular (the most factual, suggesting nothing else), phase space (time is eliminated from the graph; a maximum representation of 3 variables is possible in a graph).

2/14 ‘A system’s field is the phase-space containing all the lines of behaviour found by releasing the system from all possible initial states in a particular set of surrounding conditions’ (P 23). The concept of a field defines all the characteristic behaviors of a system under constant conditions ‘frozen into one unchanging entity that can be thought of as a unit. Such entities can readily be compared and contrasted, and so we can readily compare behaviour with behaviour, on a basis that is as complete and rigorous as we care to make it’ (p 24). NB: what happens to a firm if some initial characteristic value of a variable is varied and it is ‘released’ into a static environment. The variable would have to pertain to the memeplex at the basis of the firm.

The Natural System

2/15 If a system is to be studied with profit its variables must have some naturalness of association: 1) if an active and relevant variable is left unobserved then the system becomes capricious; if the state is known and the external conditions then the transition is known; if the pairs C (external condition, input) and S (state, transition) invariably lead to the same transition given some C and / or some S then the system is a machine with input. A special case is a state-determined system where all the events in one field (all the system’s behaviors in some constant C) occur in one set of conditions, e.g. a pendulum: at no point of the field of a state-determined system do the lines of behavior cross.

2/16 What does a natural association of the variables mean? A definition must have these properties: 1) it must have the form of a test, separating all systems in two classes 2) its application must be objective 3) it must agree with common sense in typical and undisputed cases. Because of 3) no verbal definition is possible but a working hypothesis that must be used. A basis hypothesis in scientific research is that given a set of variables a larger set can be found that a) includes these variables and b) is state-determined. This is implicit in many scientific research and never mentioned explicitly. NB: ‘The assumption is known to be false at the atomic level. We, however, will seldom discuss events at this level; and as the assumption has proved substantially true over great ranges of macroscopic science, we shall use it extensively’ (p 28).

Strategy for the complex system

2/17 Theories are of various types: Newton is simple, precise and exactly true. ‘Darwin’s theory, on the other hand, is not so simple, is of quite low accuracy numerically, and is true only in a partial sense – that the simple arguments usually used to apply it in practice (..) are gross simplifications of the complex of events that will actually occur. The theory attempted in this book is of the latter type. The real facts of the brain are so complex and varied that no theory can hope to achieve the simplicity and precision of Newton’s; what then must it do? I suggest that it must try to be exact in certain selected cases, these cases being selected because there we can be exact… This scientific strategy is by no means as inferior as it may sound; in fact it is used widely in many scoences of good repute’ (p 29). NB: this is the level of the firm theory attempted also and so this can prove to be useful as a quote.

Chapter 3. The Organism as Machine.

3/1 In accordance with S. 1/11 it is assumed that living organism in its nature and processes is not different form other matter. The truth of this assumption will not be discussed. The chapter will deal with the technique of applying this assumptions to the complexities of biological systems.

The specification of behaviour

3/2 Is the behavior of a system capable of being specified by variables, given that their representation can be by dial readings (S. 2/3)? In principle the measurement of bodily functions can be represented by variables, though their measurement is with technical difficulty in practice.

3/3 But can not only ‘straightforward’ physico-chemical, but ALL biological events be represented by readings on dials? To that end it every associated variable is presumed present, but as long as it is unused to represent a system’ s behavior, its value remains 0. Now this method of description can be used in a wide range of phenomena. If there is no relation between the measurements then they can be cardinal instead of ordinal, provided that it is used systematically throughout the system and over time.

3 /4 The behavior of the organism must be measured and so subjective elements (what it thinks or feels) are ruled out and if the complexity increases then more than one variable can be applied to describe the system.

3/5 –

3/6 the nervous system in a physiological experiment can be assumed to be state-determined.

3/7 the animal in an experiment concerning conditioned reflexes can assumed to be state-determined.

3/8 ‘Given an organism, its environment is defined as those variables whose changes affect the organism, and those variables that are changed by the organisms behaviour. It is thus defined in a purely functional, not a material, sense’ (p 36) NB: the variables are internal to the system or internal to the environment. Their interface is the behavior of the organism and the environment respectively as isolated systems. The functionality implies that the boundary between environment and organism is functional also (and not material). The environment is a) representable by dials, b) objective, c) explorable by primary operations and d) state-determined.

Organism and environment

3/9 The free-living organism and its environment, taken together as one system can be represented with sufficient accuracy by a set of variables that forms a state-determined system. The organism and its environment can be treated by identical methods because the same assumptions are made about them.

3/10 ex.

3/11 The organism affects the environment and vice versa; the system has feed-back. Systems without feed-back are a special class of systems with feed-back.

3/12 If organism and environment are observed as one then the dividing line between them becomes conceptual if the view is not material but functional. If this flexibility of division is allowed then no bounds can be put to its application. In this sense, the cortex can have to deal with different environments within the body (eating without biting its tongue, playing without exhausting itself, talking without getting out of breath). The system now means not only the nervous system, but the organism-cum-its-environment; if the system has a property it belongs to the whole; detailed study is required to identify the contributions of the components. NB: this is relevant to identify the system that is a firm: following this description it is the components that identify a firm per se plus the environment (or environments) that it is associated with. It is relevant because it is assumed in my book that the firm is a resultant of the beliefs that are widely held in society and that for via patterns in the behavior of the people associated with the firm, a firm. ‘In some cases the dynamic nature of the interaction between organism and environment can be made intuitively more obvious by using the device, common in physics, of regarding the animal as the centre of reference. In locomotion the animal would then be thought of as pulling the world past itself’ (p 41). NB: this is an interesting way of experimenting wth the idea of how a firm would behave, ‘pulling the world past itself’.

Essential variables

3/14 The biologist must see the brain as a means of survival. As per 2/10 survival must be translated into the standard form here to say what it means in standard operations: the essential variables of a system are those that may change over the course of time and then show mere small deviations, other variables show large deviations initially that at some later stage become even larger until eventually the machine changes into something else. The first are the essential variables; they indicate whether an organism is or isn’t alive. NB: this relates to my question: ‘What is the invariant in the life time of the the firm?’ Translated to this theory: ‘What variables change with large variations and keeps changing at later stages of its life time?

3/15 The essential variables do not indicate lethality in the same way or with the same urgency. Survival can now be defined: ‘We can now define survival objectively and in terms of a field: it occurs when a line of behaviour takes no essential variable outside given limits’ (p 43). NB: How does this definition of survival relate to the viability condition as an extension of the autopoiesis theory?

Chapter 4. Stability.

4/1 Cube, sphere and cone resting on a horizontal surface are in stable, neutral and unstable equilibrium; stable equilibrium is used a lot here.

4/2 Stability is an aspect of a material body. We do not study physical bodies but entities abstracted from them; to that end we must define them as results of primary operations (S. 2/10):

4/3 The state of stability does not belong to a body but to a field.

4/4 Given a field then a state of equilibrium from which the representative point does not move. A transition from a stable point is to itself only. This is a point in phase-space and it does not mean that the object is not moving.

4/5 and 4/6 –

4/7 If a system is stable, then, after some displacement, it is possible to define a bound to the next movement of the representative point in phase-space. If it is unstable then this is not possible or it depends on something outside of the system.

4/8 ‘Given the field of a state-determined system and a region in the field, the region is stable if the lines of behaviour from all points in the region stay within the region. ’ (p 48) ‘A field will be said to be stable if the whole region it fills is stable; the system that provided the field can then be called stable’ (p 49).

4/9 –

4/10 If a line of behavior re-enters itself, the system undergoes a recurrent cycle. If the cycle is contained in a region and the lines lead into the cycle then the cycle is stable.

4/11 –

The diagram of immediate effects

4/12 and 4/13 the arrow between the representations of variables represents a relation between them (not a material connection between them). The chain of cause and effect is re-entrant. The diagram can be derived wholly from the results of primary operations. By reversing the arrows between the variables, the immediate effects between variables can be tested.

Feedback

4/14 The nature of the feedback usually have an effect of the stability of the system or its instability (runaway, vicious circle).

4/15 ‘But here it is sufficient to note two facts: a system which possesses feedback is usually actively stable or actively unstable; and whether it is stable or unstable depends on the quantitative details of he particular arrangement’( p 54). NB:

4/16 Stable systems have the property that if they are displaced from their equilibrium, then the subsequent response is such that the system is brought back to its equilibrium: ‘A variety of disturbances will therefore evoke a variety of matched reactions’ (p 54). This is specific for the behavior of a pendulum but not for the behavior of living organisms. This can be referred to as ‘goal seeking’. A stable system is not necessarily a rigid system and restricted only in the sense that it does not show the unrestricted divergences of instability. NB: this is relevant where it concerns the way in which a state in an evolutionary process restricts to possible configurations of the next state.

Stability and the whole

4/18 A system’s stability is a property of the entire system and can be contributed to no part of it. The stability belongs to the combination and it cannot be related to the parts considered separately. Examples are given of operations (combination with another system, separation from another system) on systems such as to render them stable or unstable.

4/19 ‘The fact that the stability of the system is a property of the system as a whole is related to the fact that the presence of stability always implies some co-ordination of the actions between the parts. .. as the number of variables increase so usually do the effects of variable on variable have to be co-ordinated with more and more care if stability is to be achieved’ (p 57).

Chapter 5. Adaptation as stability.

5/1 and 5/2 The definition must be precise and it must be given in terms that can be reduced to primary operations.

Homeostasis

5/3 ‘I propose the definition that a form of behaviour is adaptive if it maintains the essential variables (S. 3/14) within physiological limits’ (p 58). NB: to fully justify it involves an impossibly large task. It must however be sufficiently discussed to show how fundamental it is and how wide its applicability. First an outline of the concept of homeostasis as per Cannon: 1) each mechanism is ‘adapted’ to its end, 2) its end is the maintenance of the values of some essential variables within physiological limits and 3) almost all behavior of an animal’s vegetative system is due to such mechanisms. When an essential variable is driven outside its normal limits by an external disturbance then another process is started by the same external change activating a mechanism that opposes the disturbance. The essential variable is maintained in narrower limits than if the effects of the disturbance remained unopposed. ‘The narrowing is objective manifestation of the mechanism’s adaptation’ (p 61).

5/5 These mechanisms of 5/4 act mostly through the body but some of them act through the environment also. The extremes of homeostatic mechanisms are: those that work within the body alone and mechanisms that work largely through the environment.

Generalised homeostasis

5/6 The same criterion of homeostasis for adaptation can be used to judge the behavior of the free-living animal in its learned reactions. The cat regulates her distance to an open fire so as to optimize body heat while refraining from direct contact with the fire: ‘Such behavior is ‘adapted’: it preserves the life of the animal by keeping the essential variables within limits. The same thesis can be applied to a great deal, if not all, of the normal human adult’s behaviour. .. Many of the other conveniences of civilisation could, with little difficulty, be shown to be similarly variation-limiting. .. The thesis that ‘adaptation’ means the maintenance of essential variables within physiological limits is thus seen to hold not only over the simpler activities of primitive animals but over the more complex activities of the ‘higher’ organisms’ (pp. 62-3). NB: I find this remark about the limiting of variation very important because it seems to me to be very close to some generalized driving force of all organization to reduce the amount of variation (or rather uncertainty) that the organism has to deal with in its environment. Check the relation of this thesis with the thesis of Wagensberg concerning the reduction of uncertainties in the environment of an organism and also the thesis of Jagers te Opperhuis (?) about the utility of diversity with the consequence that to increase universal utility, order must increase or decrease. For order to increase or decrease, the level of organization must increase or decrease. If order increases for increased organization, order decreases also.

5/7 The first stage of the process of learning occurs when the animal ‘learns’ and it changes from an animal without to an animal with the mechanism, the second stage is when the developed mechanism changes from inactive to active.

5/8 ‘We can now recognize that ‘adaptive’ behaviour is equivalent to the behaviour of a stable system, the region of the stability being the region of the phase-space in which all the essential variables lie within their normal limits’ (p 64). Also quoted Starling, Cannon, Pavlov and McDougall.

Survival

5/9 and 5/10 The constancy of essential variables is crucial to adaptive behavior and the activity (change) of the other variables is important only to the extent that it contributes to this end.

Stability and co-ordination

5/11 Up to this point, the relation between stability and adaptation were discussed; now it is argued that co-ordination has an important connection with stability. Co-ordination means the combination of the behavior of several components such that the resulting movement of the whole is as appropriate.

5/12 Of stable systems we have so far only discussed the property of keeping variables in limits; other properties are: 1) the lines of behavior may not directly return to their stable state (but only after moving away from it first) and 2) an organism reacts to a variable with which it is not directly in contact; co-ordination will first occur between part and part and then between part and environment and reciprocally between environment and part and then between part and part: ‘Here we should notice that the co-ordination of the behaviour of one part with that of another part not in direct contact with it is simply an elementary property of the stable system’ (p 70). NB: this is the mechanism of coupled dancing landscapes: the transmission of information through components of the system to others and interactions with the environment.

5/14 The problem can be stated as: ‘A determinate machine changes from a form that produces chaotic, unadapted behaviour to a form in which the parts are so co-ordinated that the whole is stable, acting to maintain its essential variables within certain limits..’ (p 70).

Chapter 6. Parameters.

6/1 A system is formed by selecting some variables out of all variables; forming it, variables are divided into two classes: within the system and without. Their relation to the system is different.

6/2 Given a system, a parameter is a variable not included in it, a variable is within the system. The closeness of relation between a parameter and a system varies from no effect to a large effect.

Parameter and field

6/3 A change in the value of an effective parameter changes the field. A system can show as many fields as the total number of combinations of values of its parameters.

6/4 A change in a variable leads to a change of state; this is a change that IS behavior. A change in a parameter leads to a change of field; this is a change of behavior.

Stimuli

6/5 Many stimuli can be represented as a change of value of a parameter; the effect of a sharp parameter change is that the field briefly changes whereby the point is carried away from its initial position. When the parameter is returned to its original value, the original field is restored and the representative point is away from its initial position, on another line of behavior and as it returns to its initial position (or another equilibrium point if multiple exist), and it responds. This is called an impulsive.

Joining dynamic systems

6/6 Joining occurs whenever one system has an effect on another, such as communication, forcing, and signaling. To join systems A and B such that A affects B, some parameters of B must become a function of the variables of A. If a joining is made in two directions, then feedback is set up between the two systems.

Parameter and stability

6/7 ‘Because a change of parameter-value changes the field, and because a system’s stability depends on its field, a change of parameter-value will in general change a system’s stability in some way’ (p 77). A change in a parameter substitutes the field; this leads to any change in behavior: stable or unstable, cyclic, single or multiple states of equilibrium. ‘..in a state-determined system, a change of stability can only be due to change of value of a parameter, and a change of value of a parameter causes a change in stability’ (p 78).

Equilibria of part and whole

6/8 If system A with variables u and v is joined with system B with variables x, y and z and the joint of A and B (with variables u, v, x, y, z) is in equilibrium, then the transition is from that state to itself. Given the constancy of its parameters x, y and z, the values of the variables of A are unchanged and conversely, given the constancy of the parameters u and v of B, its variables x, y and z remain constant also. A and B are both in a state of equilibrium as is their whole: ‘So, the whole’s being at a state of equilibrium implies that each part must be at a state of equilibrium, in the conditions provided (at its parameters) by the other parts’ (p 79). Conversely, if, given the values of their reciprocal parameters (the conditions given them by the other parts), A is in equilibrium and B is in equilibrium, then their whole is in equilibrium also.

6/9 If a single part of a whole is not in equilibrium, then it will again change, changing the conditions (the parameters) of the other parts and in turn start them moving again. Any part of the system can prevent the whole to enter a state of equilibrium, it has the power of veto over the states of equilibrium of the whole.

6/10 ‘..each part acts selectively towards the set of possible equilibria of the whole’ (p 79). NB: A smallest common denominator of all variables of the whole (the variables of all parts) detemines whether there can be some specific state such as an equilibrium.

Chapter 7. The Ultrastable System.

7/1 How does the kitten change from not having a mechanism to show no adaptive behavior to having one that does show adaptive behavior?

The implications of adaptation

7/2 In accordance with S. 3/11 and S. 4/14 (if the organism and the environment mutually affect each other’s stability, the system has feedback) the kitten and environment are to be considered as interacting. System and environment interact (have feedback) if they influence each other’s stability. R is a system that belongs to the organism and that acts when the organism reacts to a signal; the arrows between R and the environment and between R and the organism represent the motor and sensory channels. A change of parameters (represented by S) affect the behavior of the kitten; the change in S do not (directly) affect the environment; the number of distinct values of parameters S must be at least as great as the number of distinct behaviors of the kitten.

7/3 If the environment and R or both affect the essential variables of the organism, then its survival is at risk; the more interesting case being the external threat.

7/4 ‘To be adapted, the organism, guided by information from the environment, must control its essential variables, forcing them to go within the proper limits, by so manipulating the environment (through its motor control of it) that the environment then acts on them appropriately’ (p 82). R in this sense can be thought of as an organism trying to control the output of the environment, a black box the contents of which is unknown to it. The procedure to know the contents of a black box is to feed it input and to register the output; to do things to it and act in accordance with the way they affected the environment; the kitten can know the situation by proceeding by trial and error. This test procedure is a necessity in the case of a black bow, because it is the only way can the reuired information be obtained. From the viewpoint of success trial and error is a second rate method, but from the viewpoint of gaining information it ranks higher.

7/5 The essential variables are to have an effect on which behavior the kitten must produce for them to remain inside their limits; a channel must exist from the essential variables to the parameters S. The organism now has a motor output to influence the environment and two feedback loops: sensory input and a carrier of information whether the values of the essential variables are within their limits and it acts on parameters S: the first feedback plays a part within each reaction, the second determines which reaction will occur.

7/6 1) with essential parameters within their limits the overt behavior of R is such as follows from a parameter set is S1 and 2) with the essential parameters outside of their limits, the overt behavior of R is such as follows from a parameter set S2. The overt behavior changed such that S2 is not equal to S1: the different values at the essential variables led to different values of S; a change of essential variables has led to a change of parameters.

7/7 If a trial is unsuccessful then change behavior. If and only if an outcome is successful then retain the way of behavior.

7/8 This is necessary: ‘That is to say, any system that has essential variables with given limits, and that adapts by the process of testing various behaviours by how each affects ultimately the essential variables, must have a second feedback formally identical (isomorphic) with that described here’ (p 85).

The implications of double feedback

7/9 In what material form will the above mechanism necessarily show adaptive behavior?

7/10 –

7/11 The whole consists of two parts coupled: 1) R plus the Environment, and 2) the essential variables and S. The whole can only be in equilibrium if the parts are. S is in equilibrium if the essential variables are. The whole can have such states of equilibrium as allow states of equilibrium in both S and in the essential variables; S is at equilibrium only if the essential variables are within the given limits; if the whole is at some state and it goes to an equilibrium along a corresponding line of behavior, then the equilibrium is always an adapted one. This is a sufficient condition and together with S. 7/8, the necessary condition it is the solution to the original question.

7/12 Assume for sake of clarity that the variables in the environment and in R vary continuously and those in S vary discreetly.

Step-functions

7/13 – 7/18

7/19 Systems tend to show changes of a step-function form if their variables are driven far from some usual value. The nervous system may not be different in that respect.

Systems containing step-mechanisms

7/20 Can a machine be determinate and capable of spontaneous change?

7/21 A system with continuous variables A and B and step variable S can be said to be state-determined in one field. But the system of main variables A and B can be said to have as many kinds of behavior as the step-variable(s), in this case S, has (combinations of) values: ‘And if the the step-mechanisms are not accessible to observation, the change of the main variables from one form of behaviour to another will seem to be spontaneous, for no change or state in the main variables can be assigned as its cause’ (p 95).

7/22 and 7/23 By changing the value of the step function, the system transitions into different fields; each new field can have a new state of stable equilibrium as well as critical states. Once the system has entered a region where it is attracted to such a stable state, it will remain there. If the organism is displaced moderately from this region it will return to it, demonstrating instances of adaptation.

7/24 This field will therefore persist indefinitely. The trial and error exercise has proven bloody and exasperating, but it was successful for finding a stable solution in phase-space. This trial and error is efficient if the result is also used many times to increase performance.

7/25 ‘It should be noticed that the second feedback makes, for its success, no demands either on the construction of he reacting part R or on the successive values that are taken by S. Another way of saying this is to say that the mechanism is in no way put out of order if R is initially constructed at random or if the successive values at S occur at random. (The meaning of constructed at random’ is given in S. 13/1)’(p 97)

The ultrastable system (definition)

7/26 ‘Two systems of continuous variables (that we called ‘environment’ and ‘reacting part’) interact, so that a primary feedback (through complex sensory and motor channels) exists between them. Another feedback, working intermittently and at a much slower order of speed, goes from the environment to certain continuous variables which in their turn affect some step-mechanisms, the effect being that the step-mechanisms change value when and only when these variables pass outside given limits. The step-mechanisms affect the reacting part; by acting as parameters to it they determine how it shall react to the environment’ (p 98)

7/27 –

Chapter 8. The Homeostat.

8/1 The homeostat is a physical instance of an ultrastable system.

8/2 and 8/3 –

8/4 and 8/5 Diagram of immediate effects a) 12, b) 1→2→3→1. NB: how can an interaction as per Knorr Cetina be represented in a diagram of immediate effects? ‘The nervous system provides many illustrations of such as series of events: first the established reaction, then an alteration made in the environment by the experimenter, and finally a reorganisation within the nervous system, compensating for the experimental alteration. The Homeostat can thus show, in elementary form, this power of self-reorganisation’ (p107).

8/6 and 8/7 If the configuration of the main variables of an ultrastable system is such that their field is unstable, then the system will change the field such that the system becomes stable.

Training

8/8 The process of training in relation to ultrastability. All training involves punishment and or reward. In the required form punishment means (S. 7/19 and 9/7) that a sensory organ was stimulated causing a step-change causing the system to enter a different field. The operations following a reward are assumed to be similar than following a punishment (but they are more complex). The trainer a) plans the experiment deciding on the rules that should be obeyed and b) the trainer plays a part in the experiment and obeys the established rules: this part of the ‘training’ situation implies that the ‘trainer’ or some similar device is an integral part of the trained system. Consider this system Trainer Animal to be ultrastable; the step-mechanisms are assumed to be confined to the animal.

8/9 To say that the trainer has punished the animal is equivalent to saying that the system has a set of parameter values that make it unstable. ‘In general, then, we may identify the behavior of the animal in ‘training’ with that of an ultrastable system adapting to another system of fixed characteristics’ (p 115).

8/10 If it has to adapt to two alternating environments an ultrastable system will be selective for fields that adapt to both environments (the field that is terminal for one environment will be lost at the next change).

8/11 What will happen if the ultrastable system is given an unusual environment, namely an environment where some of the parameter values are unusual. The ultrastable system will always produce a set of step-mechanism values, which will in conjunction with the parameter settings, produce stability. If the parameters have unusual values, then so will the step-mechanisms lead to compensating values that are unusual in the same vein.

Some apparent faults

8/12 this model cannot match the richness of adaptations of higher animals in reality.

8/13 if the critical surfaces are not disposed in proper relation to the limits of the essential variables then the system may seek an inappropriate goal or may fail to take action.

8/14 this model cannot deal with sudden discontinuity.

8/15 sufficient time must elapse between the trials so the system has enough time to get away from the region of the previous, critical state.

8/16 Systems may encounter easy environments with few independent variables; in difficult environments the encounter many interlinked variables.

Chapter 9. Ultrastability in the Organism.

9/1 Some further considerations concerning the relation between the organism and the theoretical construct more specifically as per Figure 7/5/1.

9/2 When one real machine is examined by the observer with a variety of technical methods, it can give rise to a variety of systems and of diagrams of immediate effects; sometimes two methods give rise to the same diagram (of IE): When this happens we are delighted, for we have found a simplicity; but we mustn’t expect this to happen always’ (p 122). Physical systems of which the design in some way resembles Figure 7/5/1 are not the only pattern; ‘for there are also systems whose parts or variables have no particular position in space relative to one another, but are related dynamically in some quite different way. Such occurs when a mixture of substrates, enzymes, and other substances occur in a flask, and in which the variables are concentrations. The the ‘system’ is a set of concentrations, and the diagram of immediate effects shows how the concentrations affect one another. Such as diagram, of course, shows nothing that can be seen in the distribution of matter in space; it is purely functional. Nothing that has been said so far excludes the possibility that the anatomical-looking Figure 7/5/1 may not be of the latter type. We must proceed warily’ (p 123). NB; this points at auto-catalytic systems: apparently they can be ultrastable systems; however Maturana and Varela rule them out as AP systems; this is a conseuence of their lack of topological structure. Auto-catalysis can be ultrastable but it can not be autopoietic; this means that auto-catalytic systems can be adaptive at some point for a finite period, but they cannot be adaptive for an infinite period.

9/3 –

Step-mechanisms in the organism

9/4 What to look for? For instance not: where to look, because that implies they are located somewhere – anatomically or in another way not applicable to the variable.

9/5 – 9/7 –

A molecular basis for memory?

9/8 – 9/9 –

Are step-mechanisms necessary?

9/10 Does evidence exist that the process of adaptation implies the existence of step-functions?

9/11 The way a system is observed, for instance the time lapse (micro-seconds, years) of the observation of a system is important for the categorization of the system as a step-function.

9/12 The behavior of a step-function is simple compared to the behavior of a full-function (continuous?); not every real object can be made to show such simple behavior; to say that something can show step-function-type behavior is unconditionally true; if a three dimensional system can be shown to show behavior in a field on two two-dimensional planes then this is special, because not all systems show this characteristic.

9/13 The nervous system often shows some persistence in its behavior: make a trial, persist for some time, make another trial, persist again &c. The shown behavior is less than fully complex by a full-function; every trial represents a field, each field persists for some time and so the behavior can be said to be discreet. Full functions could not represent this discrete character (from trial to trial) and so that they may be s represented is meaningful restriction on their nature. ‘If we now couple this deduction with what has been called Dancoff’s principle – that systems made efficient by natural selection will not use variety or channel capacity much in excess of the minimum – then we can deduce that when organisms regularly use the method of trials there is .. evidence that their trials will be controlled by material entities having (relative to the rest of the system) not much more than the minimum variety. There is therefore strong presumptive evidence that the significant variables in S (of Figure 7/5/1) are step-functions, and that the material entities embodying them are of such a nature as will easily show such functional forms’ (p 130). NB: can this be said of firms also? Is Dancoff’s principle also relevant for social systems, namely for all evolving systems with selection?

Levels of feedback

9/14 Are the two channels of feedback of Figure 7/5/1 relevant in reality? a) an impulsive disturbance to the main variables of the system (fire flares up) and the adaptive system reacts (kitten moves away a bit), and b) a parameter to the whole system changes (from a value it had during many impulsive perturbations). ‘The impulse made the system demonstrate its stability, the change at the parameter made the system demonstrate (if possible) its ultrastability. Whereas the system demonstrates, after the impulse, its power of returning to the state of equilibrium, it demonstrates, after the change of parameter-value, its power of returning the field (of its main variables) to a stable form’ (p 131). The latter are of a step-functional form. ‘When the disturbances that threaten the organisms have, over many generations, had the bi-modal form just described, we may expect to find that the organism will, under natural selection, have developed a form fairly close to the ultrastable, in that it will have developed two readily distinguishable feedbacks’ (p 131).

The control of aim

9/16 The systems discussed so far sought constant goals through the development of a variety of fields. If he critical states’ distribution in the main variables’ phase-space is altered then the ultrastable system will be altered in the goal it seeks; the ultrastable system will always develop a field of which the representative point is kept within the region of the critical states.

9/17 Starting at Figure 7/5/1: 1) the environment is given arbitrarily 2) the channel by which the environment affects the essential variables is given arbitrarily 3) the essential variables and their limits are determined genetically (species’ characteristics) 4) the reacting part R has three inputs: a) sensory input from the environment (quasi-continuous change) b) the values of its parameters in S (genetic, change between trial and trial) and c) parameters developed during embryonic development (changes once in a lifetime) and 5) the relation between the essential variables and the variables in S, namely that the essential variables force the variables in S to change if their values are threatened to go outside their limits; and not to change otherwise (changes ad-hoc and this can only be based on genetic sources).

9/18 ‘For ultrastability to have been developed by natural selection, it is necessary and sufficient that there should exist a sequence of forms, from he simplest to the most complex, such that each form has better survival-value than that before it’ (p 135). NB: this implies a ratchet.

9/20 ‘To some extent, the generality of the ultrastable system, the degree to which it does not specify details, is correct. Adaptation can be shown by systems far wider in extent than the mammalian ad the cerebral, .. . Thus the generality, or if you will, the vagueness, of the ultrastable system is, from that point of view, as it should be’ (p 137) NB: how wide, can it include the workings of social systems?

Chapter 10. The Recurrent Situation.

10/1 So far the basis; now complications can be added to better model living systems. It seems that living systems when adapting follow a path that is not so far from the path involving the least energy, time and risk.

10/2 Let’s return to first principles. Success or adaptation to an organism means that, in spite of the world showing its worst side, the organism lives to reproduce at least once. What the world did to the organism can be regarded as a Grand Disturbance and the response of the organism as the Grand Response to eventually lead to the Grand Outcome, success or failure to reproduce. The partial disturbances (the whole of which forms the GD) and the partial responses (the whole of which forms the GR) can be interrelated to any degree, zero to complete. In the latter case, the GO is a function of all the partial responses forming a very complex relation between GO and GR. This is rare in reality, because the GD of the real world contains a lot of constraint: ‘Thus the organism commonly faces a world that repeats itself, that is consistent to some degree in obeying laws, that is not wholly chaotic. The greater the degree of constraint, the more can the adapting organism specialise against the particular forms of environment that do occur. As it specialises so will its efficiency against the particular form of environment increase.’ (p 139). NB: this is reminiscent of Oudemans’ increasing restrictions or limitations on the following configurations, it reminds of Wolfram, namely with regards to the units of computation that will be equal as well as the powers of perception of people that are of the same order of complexity as the processes they are trying to perceive and analyze (and that themselves are produced by). A few lines previous: ‘Were it common, a brain would be useless (I. To C. 13/5). In fact, brains have been developed because the terrestrial environment usually confronts the organism with a GD that has a major degree of constraint within its component parts, of which the organism can take advantage’ (p 139). This attributes a natural role to the brain: to ferret out the regularities in the environment of the organism. How is the analogy brain : organization with firm : organization?

10/3 –

The recurrent situation

10/4 Consider the case in which disturbances are sometimes repetitive; in those cases if a response is adaptive on the disturbance’s first appearance, it is also repetitive on later appearances. This is not automatic, because in some cases a disturbance’s appearance depends on the number of times it has appeared before. In this chapter disturbances are studied that are independent of where it appears in the sequence of previous appearances; the only condition is that if a response is adaptive to the first appearance it also is on later occasions. The advantage is that exploratory trial and error is required only at the first appearance and not at the later appearances. If an organism can adapt to multiple (different kinds of) disturbances, then these can be considered multiple environments; an extension of the environments it can adapt to, means an increase of its chances of survival: this organism can accumulate adaptations.

10/5 The alternative is that the system does not jump to conclusions; in a pré-bait kind of situation it would perform better than the rat. But if the environment is constrained in its possible behaviors, then the system is at a disadvantage.

10/6 and 10/7 –

The accumulator of adaptations

10/8 Step mechanisms can be thought of as information about the way that the essential variables of an ultrastable system have behaved in the past. They must be split into classes and they cannot belong to the same set, because on the occurrence of some new event, the stored information will be overwritten; separate stores must exist for different kinds of occurrences.

10/9 et it be given that the organism adapts to P1 initially in a process of trial and error and if P1 occurs a second time it adapts at once. The same counts for P2; from this is follows that te step-mechanisms must be divided into non-overlapping sets, that the reactions to P1 and P2 are due to their particular set. The presentation of the problem value of P) must determine which set is brought to bear, while the remainder is left inactive.

10/10 The subsets of S need not be efficiently organized and can be random processes. A mechanism for a gating mechanism (the selection of appropriate subset for the problem at hand) is presented in 16/13. The basic requirements are easily met. Even thought eh arrangement may not be as tidy as the abstract design here.

10/11 In many cases a specific sequence exists between various situations. The design of Figure 10/9/1 caters for this naturally, as P1 is followed by P2 &c (first do not touch the teapot, then don’t wipe the jam, don tip over the milk jar, then reach for the cookie). Only certain fragmented situations allow this kind of environment; if it is then a mechanism such as presented above improves the organism’s adaptive capabilities. How the entire regulatory device of an organism develops depends on the situations of the environment presented to it.

10/13 The mechanisms of adaptation are not due to star dust or excellent cerebral design; adaptivity can be a ‘dumb’ process which can occur in a non- neurophysiological environment such asa a computer.

Chapter 11. The Fully Joined System.

11/1 A basis version of the ultrastable system can work; not consider some complications. the first of which is a large number of components.

Adaptation time

11/2 Suppose the Homeostat is made up with 1,000 units (instead of 4) and suppose that all but 100 are shorted out, the order of magnitude of essential variables in a living organism. Because they are essential, they must all remain in their limits; suppose that the step-mechanisms give a 50% chance to each variable to stay within limits and an independent 50% chance to move outside the limits. How many trials are necessary on the average before adaptation? At this rate the probability is (½)¹⁰⁰ ; at 1 pr second this implies that it will take approximately 1022 years to arrive at a situation where all are within limits; this in fact means very close to never; and yet the human brain can do this in a reasonable period of time, does it use the ultrastable mechanism? ‘It can hardly be that the brain does not use the basic process of ultrastability, for the arguments of S. 7/8 show that any system made of parts that obey the ordinary laws of cause and effect must use this method’ (p149).

11/3 and 11/4 similar outcomes as 11/2

11/5 The processes are so time consuming because partial successes go to waste with regards to the establishment of the Grand Success. Consider a case where it isn’t: N events, independent chance of success of p, A covering fraction p of the circumference of each wheel and B the remainder, 1 spin takes 1 second: case 1) all N wheels are spun and when all N are A it stops (this requires (1/p)N spins, (1/2)1000 if N=1,000, p=2), case 2) the first wheel is spun until it is A, then the second wheel is spun until it is A and so on until all are A (this requires N/p spins, 1,000/p if N is 1,000, p=2) and case 3) of all the wheels initially spun, the ones that are A remain, the remaining contingent is spun again and the ones that are B are spun again &c (this requires 1/p spins, if N=1,000, p=2). Case 1 requires 10293 year, case 2 requires 8 minutes and case 3 mere seconds.

11/6 Case 2 and case 3 can use partial successes to built the Grand Success where case 1 cannot. ‘The examples show us the great, the very great, reduction in time taken that occurs when the final Success can be reached by stages, in which partial successes can be conserved and accumulated’ (p 152).

11/7 If the cases are applied to the selecting of a number registration on cars ending 1, then 2 then 3 up to and including 9, then using the method of case 1 this requires 10 billion cars to pass by, using case 2, 50 suffice.

11/8 ‘A compound event that is impossible if the components have to occur simultaneously may be readily achievable if they can occur in sequence or independently’ (p 153).

11/9 The difference between the Homeostat and a living organism is exactly that the organism does not engage in trials until all comes right at once, but instead while making trials, achieves and retains (accumulates) successes as it goes, until the Grand Success is possible. A combination lock is an example where human organism and Homeostat fail alike.

Cumulative adaptation

11/10 The organism has many essential variables; the organism manages to reach adaptation fairly quickly; what can be deduced from this? ‘It has thus been shown that, for adaptations to accumulate, there must not be channels from some step-mechanisms (e.g. S3) to some variables (e.g. M12), nor from some variables (e.g. M3) to others (e.g. M12). Thus, for the accumulation of adaptations to be possible the system must not be fully joined. .. This is the point. If the method of ultrastability is to succeed within a reasonably short time, then the partial successes must be retained. For this to be possible it is necessary that certain parts should not communicate to, or have an effect on, certain other parts’ (p 155). NB: this is a very important argument for the way the system retains information in this case so as to get work done in a reasonable time-frame. But why should it be required that it does this in a reasonable time-frame? Brains have developed for there are regularities in the environment that it can anticipate; had there been no regularities ata ll then there would not have been a need for a brain. Now that there is a brain, all it needs to do is to anticipate the event before it occurs; if it does not do so then it is useless after all and the world would appear to be just as random as it does without any regularity. I reckon that this is what Wolfram refers to if he suggests that the processes that developed people’s brains are the same processes that occur in nature.

11/11 Because we worked with systems that were assumed to be richly connected there could not be a discussion about integration or mechanisms that work in separate parts: ‘The reacting parts and the environments that we have discussed have so far been integrated in the extreme’ (p 156). NB: this is where the channels M sit. This Statement seems to bear a relation with the (Wagensberg) interface that the system has with the environment.

11/12 The Homeostat is too well integrated, too much cross-joined, and as an ultrastable system takes too long to adapt: to what level should it be cross-joined? The separation into parts and the union into a whole are extremes on the scale of connectedness; in the above sense adaptation requires independence of unrelated activities as well as integration of related activities. NB: this refers to an example of a driver keeping a car on the road while clutching and changing gears.

11/13 ‘They do this by developing partial, fluctuating and temporal independencies within the whole, so that the whole becomes an assembly of subsystems within which communication is rich and between which it is more restricted’ (p 157).

Chapter 12. Temporary Independence.

12/1 Physical separation or connection is useless as a criterion of independence.

12/2 No relation necessarily exists between the direction of control and the direction of the flow of matter or energy if the situation is such that all the system’s parts are freely supplied with energy.

Independence

12/3 X and Y are variable sin a system. Set X and observe the value of Y. Reset X and reset Y. Set X to a value different from the first trial. Observe Y. If the value of Y is now the same as it was the first time then Y is independent of X. Dependent means ‘not independent’; the concept needs 2 transitions.

12/4 If Y is independent of X regardless every possible value of the other variables, then Y is unconditionally independent of X. Y is independent of X in every field of the system. However, this is possible without conditions only if the system is suitably simple, else additional information must be provided.

12/5 Because independence varies one system can give a wide variety of diagrams of immediate effects.

12/6 If X is independent of Y and Y is not independent of X then X dominates Y.

12/7 Of every variable of an entire system A is independent of every variable in system B then system A is independent of system B. A may in addition dominate B and a mutual dependence can exist.

12/9 The definition makes independence dependent on one time, step, click, or infinitesimal time if continuous. If Z depends on Y and Y depends on X, then if X changes then Y changes and, one step later Z changes. So Z depends on X delayed. The diagram of ultimate effects shows the dependencies if time is allowed for all the effects to work around the system.

The effects of constancy

12/10 If component C depends on component B and component B depends on component A and A, B and C all contain various variables, then to make A and B independent requires that the variables in B are null-functions, implying separation at B by a wall of constancies. This also implies that this is not necessarily the case at every field: A and C can be sometimes joined and sometimes independent.

12/11 –

12/12 The diagram of ultimate effect can take a different shape if one or more of the variables in the system are constant; this includes the reversal of dominancy between variables.

12/13 –

The effects of local stabilities

12/14 For a system to have temporary independencies it must have variables that are temporarily constant. Any subsystem that is constant is in a state of equilibrium. If its surrounding parameters are constant then the subsystem has a state of equilibrium in the corresponding field; if it stays constant if the parameters change, then that is an equilibrium state in all the fields occurring. Constancy in a subsystem implies it is in an equilibrium state; constancy in the presence of small disturbances implies stability. Constancy, equilibrium and stability are closely related.

12/15 These kind of systems are common, see S. 15/2; two types worth noting are: 1) with a probability p some randomly selected state of a system is equilibrial and 2) all states are stable if some parametric value is below a threshold and few or none are if it exceeds that value. The latter can easily generate varying connections between variables by readily giving constancy.

12/16 Consider ABC, then if B is equilibrial for all values from A and C, then A and C are independent. If however, B is equilibrial for some and not for other values from A and / or from C, then A and C will sometimes be and sometimes not be dependent: ‘Thus we have achieved the first aim of this chapter: to make rigorously clear, and demonstrable by primary operations, what is meant by ‘temporary functional connexions’, when the control comes from factors within the system, and not imposed arbitrarily from outside’ (p 169). NB: this statement is relevant with regards to autopoietic systems: the control lies within the system. The difference is that adaptive systems are adaptive to their environment at once and not necessarily in an evolutionary process a/p autopoiese.

12/17 ‘The same ideas can be extended to cover any system as large and richly connected as we please’ (p 169). Constancies, in other words, can cut a system to pieces.

12/18 –

Chapter 13. The System with Local Stabilities.

13/1 Rigor and precision are possible examining the kinds of systems that show the above behavior; it is required to define a set with certain properties and the statements must be precise and concern the properties of the set: we are now not talking about individual systems but about a set of systems. NB: how is this relevant to the definition of individual firms or of a set of firms with some specific properties? The discussed systems are random in the sense that they are generic with typical properties such as to arrive at a precise deduction about the defined set of systems.

13/2 A polystable system is any system whose parts have many equilibria and that has been formed by taking parts at random and joining them at random.

13/3 –

13/4 In a state-determined system, if a sub-system has been constant and it starts to show change, then it can be deduced that a change must have occurred in one or more of its parameters. If a sub-system that is a part of a state-determined system, it is stable, and its parameters (variables of other subsystems) are constant, then it is trapped in equilibrium; only an external source can allow it to change.

Progression to equilibrium

13/5 –

13/6 let i be the number of components in a system that is in equilibrium and let n be the number of components. If i=n then every component is in equilibrium and the whole is also. If i<n and n-i components are not in equilibrium and they will assume a new value at each step and a new state of the whole appears.

13/7 In a particular system its behavior is determinate if the system and its initial state is given. In a set of systems this is not the case, except at the two extremes, namely richly connected and hardly connected.

13/8 How will i behave if every component is connected to all others, meaning n(n-1) arrows in the diagram of immediate effects? If p is independent and unequal 1 and n is large then the probability that the whole is in equilibrium is small and i will be approximately np. The line of behavior starts a random walk and the systems meets and equilibrium in case i by chance becomes n. The time to get there is of geological (astronomical) timescales.

13/9 A special case is when i is close to n: at the next step, its value will average away from n and so the number of elements in equilibrium decreases. Such a system will fall back to an average state; it is typically unable to retain partial or local successes.

13/10 Consider a system will large n, independent p and the elements not much connected. This resembles the situation where p is very close to 1: many elements remain in equilibrium for long periods of time; they are constant and leave large areas in the system isolated, in effect this means they are not much connected. Consider a case where none of the n variables is connected with any of the others: this is a system only in the nominal sense; once in equilibrium an element stays in equilibrium because it cannot be disturbed. So all elements that contribute to i (set of elements in equilibrium) at an earlier state, must contribute to i at a later state; and as a consequence the value of i cannot fall with time (or clicks). This type of system goes to its final state of equilibrium progressively in the sense of Case 3 of S. 11/5 and the time the system takes is not excessively long.

13/11 The more interesting kind is the systems that near the limit of disconnection, where i has the tendency to move to n: ‘This is the sort of system that, after the experimenter has seen i repeatedly return to n after displacement, is apt to make him feel that i is ‘trying’ to get to n’ (p 177).

13/12 –

13/13 Connection is an important determinant for the way in which a system goes to equilibrium; when the connection is rich then the behavior tends to become complex, the time to reach n is long and if some high i is reached then it cannot retain the excess over the average. When the connection is poor (either by few joints or by many constancies), the line of behavior is short and the time lapse for the whole to arrive at equilibrium is short. When a state is met where a large number of variables are stable, the excess of the average is retained for a time; local equilibria are accumulated and equilibrium for the whole is progressed.

Dispersion

13/14 This is the phenomenon that, given arbitrary sections of the behavior of a system, the variables that are active in a previous section are different from the active variables in a later section; the sections can come from the same line or from different lines. The essential feature is that even if the sections differ in one or few variables, namely their dependency, the changes that result may distribute the activations to different sets of variables, namely to different places in the system: ‘Thus the important phenomenon of different patterns (or values) at one place leading to activations in different places in the system demands no special mechanism: any polystable system tends to show it’ (p 179).

13/15 If the two places are to have minimal overlap then the parts should have almost all their states equilibrial; then the number active will be few: if the fraction is r, then the fraction of the overlap is r². If the proportion of the equilibrial states is nearly 1, then r is correspondingly small. ‘Thus the polystable system may respond, to two different input states, with two responses on two sets of variables that may have only small overlap’ (p 179).

13/16 Dispersion is used widely in the sense organs and in the nervous system. NB: it is possible to translate this to the workings of organizations.

13/17 ‘The fact that neuronic processes frequently show threshold, and the fact that this property implies that the functioning elements will often be constant (S. 12/15) suggest that dispersion is bound to occur, by S. 12/16’ (p 180).

Localisation in the polystable system

13/18 How will the set of active variables be distributed over the whole set? The answer to whether activity is restricted to a certain variables only is ‘yes’; the answer to whether the variables occur in no simply describable way is ‘no’: the variables can be determined from local circumstances but the outcome on a global scale is random.

13/19 ‘The set of variables activated at one moment will usually differ from the set a later moment; and the activity will spread and wander with as little apparent orderliness as the drops of rain that run, joining and separating, down a window-pane. But though the wanderings seem disorderly, the whole is reproducible and state-determined; so that if the same reaction is started again later, the same initial stimuli will meet the same local details, will develop into the same patterns, which will interact with the later stimuli as they did before, and the behavior will consequently proceed as it did before’ (p 182). This describes the dichotomy between local behavior and global behavior and how a pattern must occur and how it can be repeated because of its deterministic character. It is stable in the face of the removal of material: ‘For in a large polystable system the whole reaction will be based on activations that are both numerous and widely scattered. And, whole any exact statement would have to be carefully qualified, we can see that, just as England’s paper industry is not to be stopped by the devastation of any single county, so a reaction based on numerous and widely scattered elements will tend to have more immunity to localised injury than one whose elements are few and compact’ (pp. 182-3).

13/20 –

Chapter 14. Repetitive Stimuli and Habituation.

14/1 Two reasons: 1) Exercise in discussing polystable systems in terms that are both general and precise and 2) the behavior of a system in equilibrium is often perceived as ‘boring’ in the sense of a run down clock. However, when a complex system nears an equilibrium this involves complex (and interesting) relations between the states of the various parts of the observed system. This chapter shows how a system running to equilibrium under a complex and repetitive input produces interesting behavior.

14/2 Definition: when there are many states of equilibrium in a field and every line of behavior terminates at some state of equilibrium, the lines of behavior collect into sets, such that the lines in each set terminate into one common point or cycle of termination; the field can be divided into regions such that one region contains one and only one state or cycle of equilibrium to which each line of behavior in the region eventually comes; this region is called a confluent (this is a basin of attraction DPB). Important properties of the confluent are: a) a line cannot leave it if arepresentative point is released within it, and b) it will go to the equilibrium or cycle, where it remains sso long as the parametric conditions remain unchanged: ‘The division of the whole field into confluents is not peculiar to machines of special type, but is common to all systems that are state-determined and that have more than one state of equilibrium or cycle’ (p 185).

Habituation

14/3 Impulsive parametric changes can bring the system into a new confluent, given sufficient delay between the applications for the line of behavior to find the equilibrium. There it can again be brought to another and another, or it can be trapped inside the confluent; some confluents can hold the line inside while others can’t: the process is selective.

14/4 –

14/5 The polystable system is selective, because at some point the line will be transported to a confluent where the stimulus cannot shift it from. ‘And, if there is a metric and continuity over the phase space, this distance that the stimulus S finally moves the point will be less than the average distance, for short arrows are favoured. Thus the amounts of change caused by the successive applications of S change from average to less than average. .. What we should notice is that the outcome of the process is not symmetric. When we think of a randomly assembled system of random parts we are apt to deduce that its response to repetitive stimulation will be equally likely to decrease or to increase. The argument shows that this is not so: there is a fundamental tendency for the response to get smaller. .. If the responses have any action back on their own causes, then large responses tend to cause a large change in what made them large; but the small only act to small degree on the factors that made them small. Thus factors making for smallness have a fundamentally better chance of surviving than those that make for largeness. Hence the tendency to smallness’ (p 187).

14/6 –

14/7 ‘The argument of this chapter suggests that it is to be expected to some degree in all polystable systems when they are subjected to a repetitive stimulus or disturbance’ (p 189).

Minor disturbances

14/8 If the arrow S does not represent a single response but a distribution of responses, inside and outside of the confluent. The answer is roughly the same. The confluent who’s arrows go far is left by the representative point and the ones who’s arrows remain in its own confluent act as a trap. Thus the polystable system selects the equilibria that are immune to the actions of small irregular disturbances (and will be destroyed by large field shifts).

14/9 –

14/10 Bizarre fields are selectively destroyed when the system is subjected to small, occasional, and random disturbances. ‘Since such disturbances are inseparable from practical existence, the process of ‘roughing it’ tends to cause their replacement by fields that look like C of Figure 14/9/1 and act simply to keep the representative point well away from the critical states’ (p 191). NB: this resembles Wolfram’s remark that selection smooths out the edges and polishes existing order to a workable and simpler design.

Chapter 15. Adaptation in Iterated and Serial Systems.

15/1 Let us resume the task of considering how a large and complex system can adapt to a large and complex environment without taking almost an infinite time to do it. The facts are as follows: 1) the ordinary terrestrial environment has a distribution of properties very different from what was assumed earlier (S. 11/2), 2) against the actual distribution of terrestrial environments, the process of ultrastability can give adaptation in a reasonably short time, 3) when environment gets more complex then the time of adaptation of an ultrastable system goes up, not only theoretically but in real living systems, and 4) when the environment is excessively complex and closely-knit, the theoretical ultrastable system and the living system fail alike.

15/2 An ordinary terrestrial environment has these features: 1) many of the variables are constant over considerable amounts of time such that they behave as part-functions, 2) most variables of the environment have an immediate effect on only a few of the totality of variables; this operates as a system of part-functions. ‘A total environment, or universe, that contains many part-functions, will show dispersion, in that the set of variables active at one moment will often be different from the set active at another. The pattern of activity within the environment will therefore tend, as in S. 13/18, to be fluctuating and conditional rather than invariant’ (p 195). NB: what are (examples of) these constants and temporary or quasi relations between variables and variables and variables and parameters? In my mind’s eye it is visualized as blocks of temporarily invariant situation where interaction between the e.g. an animal and the environment occurs. How does this view on interacting relate to the view of Knorr-Cetina, namely the establishment of a third body? As an interaction with an environment takes place, now this set is active, now that set. If some set is active for a long time and others sets are inactive and inconspicuous, then the observer may call the first part the environment. And if later the activity changes to another set, he may call that also a (second) environment.

15/3 Previews to cases: 1) a whole of which the connections between the parts is zero 2) subsystems are connected in a chain 3) subsystems are connected unrestrictedly in direction so that feedback can occur and 4) chapter 16: systems with non-rich connections in all directions; these kinds of systems can be thought of as constructed from sub-systems that are internally richly connected with feedback loops between them that are much poorer.

Adaptation in iterated systems

15/4 Consider from a field of interactions between elements one configuration where some feedback loops are closed; the entire system contains a number of subsystems; functionally this represents an organism dealing with its environment by several independent reactions. The whole is said to consist of iterated systems. If i is the number of subsystems in equilibrium then i will not fall but can only rise as a consequence of S. 13/10.

15/5 Whether the feedbacks are first-order or second-order is irrelevant; if the system has essential variables and step-mechanisms it will go to equilibrium and the system’s adaptation will develop cumulatively and progressively. The process of trial and error takes place in the different subsystems independently of the developments in the others.

15/6 The time it takes for the iterated set to become adapted is of the order T3; this means of the order of one of its subsystems.

15/7 If the components are not connected then each can adapt independently (parameters are constant) and the time of the whole to equilibrium is of the order T3. If two components are connected then one cannot reach equilibrium until the other has; the time to reach equilibrium is of the order 2 x T3 if the step-mechanisms of the component systems are connected and of the order T1 (almost indefinite) if the systems’ reaction parts are connected: a joining from the reacting part of A to that of B can have the effect of postponing the whole’s adaptation almost indefinitely.

Serial adaptation

15/8 As per S. 15/3 the second stage of connectedness occurs when parts of the environment are joined as a chain: ‘Thus we are considering the case of the organism that faces an environment whose parts are so related that the environment can be adapted to only by a process that respects its natural articulation’ (p 200).

15/9 As an illustration: the environment allows only that an organism learns to walk before learning how to run; additional examples: falcons, chimpanzees, children.

15/10 Part A, the avoiding system: objects are noticed by the organism via skin and eyes; objects are handled via muscles. Part B, the feeding system: the blood glucose level is communicated to the brain; the brain instructs the muscles to get food; the muscles get food. As a consequence of a process of dispersion A and B may share variables (brain, muscle). A and B interact. Assume that no step-changes in A occur while adaptation of B occurs; the adaptation is now in Part B alone, interacting with ‘an environment’ A. Whatever the particularities of the conditions of the domain of A, B will be forced to adapt within the scope defined by them. NB: this is relevant to the case of a firm: everything but the firm’s memeplex is external to it; the memeplex interacts with those things such as to adapt to them; these include elements traditionally considered internal to the firm such as employees. PS: if viewed anatomically, the (sets of) variables are grouped differently from a functional view: anatomically, two variables are external to the system, functionally, all of the variables are part of the whole system and organized into an adapting part (B) to which A is the environment. Now, given that adaptations in A only occur in between step-changes in B, collisions between A and B will not occur.

15/11 In a sequence of nested sub-systems, every sub-system will be affected (and will adapt to) every disturbance in every (sub-) system in the chain it is dominated by as well as every reaction to those disturbances. If the channel capacity of the connections is high then so much disturbance is transmitted to the sub-systems that their adaptation is postponed indefinitely. If the capacity is low then the adaptation is so rapid that C, though affected by B, may be unaffected by disturbances in A and so on. In this way, if the connections get weaker then the adaptation tends to be more sequential, first A thenn B and so on, and limiting to the iterated set. If sequential the behavior tends to Case 2 (turn each wheel until A, then turn the next wheel &c.) and the time will be of the order T2. ‘Thus adaptation, even with a large organism facing a large environment, may be achievable in a moderate time if the the environment consists of sub-systems in a chain, with only channels of small capacity between them’ (p 204).

Chapter 16. Adaptation in the Multistable System.

16/1 Consider sub-systems of the environment that are connected unrestrictedly in direction so that feedback occurs between them. The type may vary according to the amount of communication between sub-system and sub-system, of special interest are: 1) it is near maximum and 2) the amount is small.

The richly joined environment

16/2 In this case, the division into subsystems ceases to have a basis.

16/3 Examples of large richly connected systems are rare, as the terrestrial environment is highly subdivided: combination lock, mathematical examples where the behavior of every sub-system depends on the behavior of all others.

16/3 ‘Thus the first answer to the question: how does the ultrastable system, or the brain, adapt to a richly joined environment: is – it doesn’t’ (p 207).

The poorly joined environment

16/5 This was shown in S. 15/2 to be the case in most terrestrial environments: sub-systems affect each other only occasionally, weakly, or via other systems. If the degree of interaction varies, at the lower end is the iterative system of S. 15/4, at the upper end is the richly connected systems of S. 16/2.

16/6 What is now assumed: 1) the environment consists of large numbers of sub-systems that have large numbers of states of equilibrium as per S. 15/2, 2) whether because of few connections or because equilibria are common, the interactions are weak, 3) the organism coupled to this environment will adapt by the method of ultrastability and 4) the organism’s reacting part is itself divided into sub-systems between which there is no direct connection: each sub-system is supposed to have its own essential variables and second order feedback.

16/7 ‘In other words, within a multistable system, subsystem adapts to subsystem in exactly the same way as animal adapts to environment. Trial and error will appear to be used; and, when the process is completed, the activities of the two parts will show co-ordination to the common end of maintaining the essential variables of the double system within their proper limits. Exactly the same principle governs the interactions between three subsystems. If the three are in continuous interaction, they form a single ultrastable system which will have the usual properties’ (p 210). NB: this appears to explain how social behavior of people gets to be correlated.

16/8 –

16/9 What modifications are required to allow that in a multistable system the number and distribution of the sub-systems active changes at each moment? Adaptation of the whole will occur, whether dispersion occurs or not. Dispersion destroys the individuality of the sub-systems. If the adaptation of the multistable system is tested by displacing its representative point then the system’s sub-systems will be found to react in a way co-ordinated to some common end. ‘But though co-ordinated in this way, there will, in general, be no simple relation between the actions of subsystem on subsystem: knowing which subsystems were activated on one line of behaviour, and how they interacted, gives no certainty about which will be activated on some other line of behaviour, or how they will interact’ (p 213). In other words: what is sub-system A and what is B can change from moment to moment.

16/10 NB: the structure changes from moment to moment, the content and the process interchange. And in addition, no anatomical or histological existence may exist of these functionalities.

16/11 What is the time required of these kinds of multistable systems to adapt? This largely depends on the richness of connection of the systems.

Summary If the actual richness is not high then the time required to reach adaptation is reasonable in practical terms.

Retroactive inhibition

16/12 Figure 7/5/1 breaks up into a multistable systems like Figure 16/6/1. Questions: 1) can a multistable system take advantage of a recurring situation? As a reminder: polystable systems have dispersion; the number of active variables they have in common is limited; a different line of behavior results in changes in their respective sets, which may or may not overlap. In the case of a multistable system, the outcomes that would be the same given two different disturbances sufficiently separated, is P1 x P2. ‘Thus the multistable system, without further ad-hoc modification, will tend to take advantage of the recurrent situation’ (p 216).

16/13 If the disturbances vary widely then the multistable system tends to direct the activations to widely different sets of step-mechanisms providing a functional equivalent of the gating mechanism of S. 10/9.

16/14 If two disturbances are nearly equal, then the overlap of the activated sets is larger; chances increase that the effects of the last disturbance destroys the effects of the first one. New learning destroys old learning: retroactive inhibition. In a multistable system the more the newer stimuli resemble the old, the more will the new upset the old. This is matched by a similar tendency in the nervous system.

16/15 Adaptability or the power to accumulate adaptations means that later adaptations shall not be destructive to earlier ones; this is the opposite of retroactive inhibition meaning that later adaptations shall be destructive to earlier ones. A brain model should show both. The homeostat shows retroactive inhibition maximally, iterated systems with a gating-mechanism shows adaptive behavior maximally and the multistable system of some intermediate degree of connection can show both. The latter will resemble the living organism.

Chapter 17. Ancillary Regulations.

17/1 Some objections (other than processing time) to the thesis that the brain is to a large extent multistable are discussed.

Communication within the brain

17/2 Why are in the multistable system and its Figure no connections between the parts of the brain, namely in the lower part, the organism; why are the connections in the environment?

17/3 Dispose of the idea that the more communication within the brain, the better. Three ways in which a function can be successful only if certain pairs of variables are not allowed to communicate or only to a certain degree: (1) in S. 8/15 it was shown that the essential variables must change the step-mechanism such that there is sufficient time between (discrete) trials; in that way the essential variables change slower than the rate of the main variables; if the essential variables change too fast there is not enough time to communicate the appropriateness of the values around the system and the environment as they are implementing their trial; changing too fast means acting before communication has arrived: ‘And if it takes ten years to observe adequately the effect of a profound re-organisation of a Civil Service, then such re-organisations ought not to occur more frequently than at eleven-year intervals. The amount of communication from essential variables to step-functions can thus become harmful if excessive’ (p 219), (2) When presented with a recurrent situation A and then with Band again with A, a system can act on A appropriately. It was shown in S. 10/8 that while adapting to B the step-mechanisms concerned with the adaptation to A must not be affected with what happens at the essential variables; allowing such communication would be harmful, and (3) It was shown in S. 16/11 that a system’s adaptation depends on its approximation of the iterated form; every addition of channels of communication takes it further away from that state and increases the time to adaptation: ‘Thus in adaptive systems, there are occasions when an increase in thee amount of communication can be harmful’ (p 219).

17/4 Another objection to the lack of connection between part and part is that coordination between part and part is required; this communication is not necessary: First, if the parts in the environment are not connected then no coordination (no communication) between parts of the organism is necessary because the changes in essential variables come (and can be responded to) independently. Second, if the parts in the environment are connected then the actions between the parts of the organism must be coordinated, because the state of all the essential variables must be kept within limits, each in relation to the others’ actions. To achieve this coordination however, communication does not necessarily take place between the organism’s parts, but can take place via the environment.

17/5 Two reasons for communication to exist between part of the organism are: 1) disturbances can come from the environment as well as from other parts; if they come from other parts it is useful if the communication is direct such that it arrives early,

17/6 and 2) the fewer the joins, the smaller the range of behaviors available to the organism (and conversely the larger, the wider the repertoire). In summary: some connections between the parts of the organism are realistically there.

17/7 With increasing connections between the (reacting) parts of the organism, the time to adapt also increases. The richness of connection between the parts of the brain has advantages and disadvantages and so the brain has to develop to reach some kind of optimum; the optimum is not a goal in itself, but is a condition for proper functioning between given limits: ‘Thus, for the organism to adapt with some efficiency against the terrestrial environment, it is necessary that the degree of connexion between the reacting parts lie between certain limits’ (p 224).

Ancillary regulations

17/8 The phrase ‘between certain levels’ above is not a circular argument, because two types (levels, orders) of adaptation are involved; in S. 3/14 it was assumed that certain essential variables, say E, remain within limits. In Chapter 11 the time for achieving equilibrium, say F, was added as an essential variable; time is different from other kinds of essential variables, but it must keep within limits also. The effect of F exceeding its limits on the behavior of a very essential (but not so essential that the organism dies from it) variable EE is that the system must now start to look for other essential variables than EE to change such that the system survives; the difference with an additional change in EE beyond some F is that the step-changes of EE do not suffice and, follwing the method of ultrastability, the step-mechanism of another E (one that remained unchanged while EE changed) is required; an example: the cat has tried every possible combination of levers to get out of the box and must now revert to mewing. Changes in E bring answers, F ‘helps’ only in the sense of forcing a change of set of essential variables hence step-mechanism. As a consequence the conclusion that certain parameters will have to be brought within certain limits does not imply a circular reference.

17/9 real systems are much more complicated than this thesis poses. The reaction part R can contain a multistable system and moreover, it can contain sub-systems of the same form and with its own sub-essential variables and sub-adaptations.

17/10 A mechanism to represent the human brain must find one that adapts really efficient. In S. 17/7 it was argued that this implies adjustment of the degree of intra-cerebral connectivity in the brain to within certain limits. Other parammeters that must be kept within limits also are: (1) duration of trial: this was hinted at in S. 8/15 but not how it is automatic, (2) the essential variables should via the step-mechanisms ‘hunt at bad’ and ‘stick with good´, but it is unclear how this relation works, (3) in S. 10/8 a gating-mechanism was introduced but it is unclear how the organism should get it, and (4) in S. 13/11 the importance was shown of the parameter: richness of equilibria among the states of the parts, but it is unclear how this parameter can be adjusted within limits. Another is discussed in the next paragraph.

Distribution of feedback

17/11 If in Figure 16/6/1 a disturbance is delivered by the environment of some part, it will affect the essential variables, through the corresponding step-mechanism, on to the reacting part and affect THE SAME environment that caused the disturbance initially. This indeed favors efficiency but it need not be so designed: the second-order feedback loops can be connected to another part. The system could not retain adaptations from the past and achieve an equilibrium in any efficient way in practical terms.

17/12 Following the above at least five ancillary regulations must be in place to achieve addaptation with reasonable efficiency and speed: how are they to be achieved?

17/13 The law of requisite variety states that if a certain quantity of disturbance is prevented by a regulator, then the regulator must be capable of exerting at least that quantity of selection. ‘The provision of the ancillary regulations thus demands that a process of selection, of appropriate intensity, exists. The biologist, of course, can answer the question at once; for the work of the last century and especially of the last thirty years has demonstrated beyond dispute that natural, Darwinian, selection, is responsible for all the selections shown so abundantly in the biological world. Ultimately, therefore, these ancillary regulations are to be attributed to natural selection’ (p 229 – 30).

17/14 The purpose of the next section is to show: ‘.. how the ancillary regulations must be developed in brains other than the living’ (p 230). A second purpose is to show that adaptation is the inevitable outcome of the process of causal relations starting at a general point.

Chapter 18. Amplifying Adaptation.

Selection the state-determined system

18/1 Selection is performed by every isolated state-determined system (also I. to C., S. 13/19): ‘In such a system, as two lines of behaviour can become one, but one line cannot become two, so the number of states that it can be in can only decrease’ (p 231). NB: this must connect with utility of diversity (how?) and also with Wolfram’s hunch that selection smooths existing patterns. Selection means that the system tends to achieve some equilibrium; in simple systems this seems trivial, such as a clock running towards its run-down state. The more complex the system gets, the more interesting this property becomes, ‘.. to show: (1) a high intensity of selection by running to equilibrium and (2) that the selected set of states, though only a small fraction of the whole (set of states), is still large enough in itself to give room for a wide range of dynamic activities’ (p 231). ‘Thus, selection for complex equilibria, within which the observer can trace the phenomenon of adaptation, must not be regarded as an exceptional and remarkable event: it is the rule. The cchief reason why we have failed to see this fact in the past is that our terrestrial world is grossly bi-modal in its forms: either the forms in it are extremely simple, like the run-down clock, so that we dismiss them contemptuously, or they are extremely complex, so that we think of them as being quite different, and say that they have Life’ (p 231-2).

18/2 These above are extremes of the same scale. Survival of Odds over Evens (and 0 over all alike) example.

18/3 The common denominator is that whenever a single-valued operator (the ‘law’ of the system) is performed repeatedly on a set of states, then the system tends to the states that are not affected by the operation or to a lesser degree: ‘In other words, every single-valued operation tends to select forms that are peculiarly able to resist its change-inducing action. In simple systems this fact is almost truistic, in complex systems anything but.’ (p 233). Think of the states of preference as a consequence of evolution on the earth: ’The development of life on earth must thus not be seen as something remarkable. On the contrary, it was inevitable’ (p 233). Consider the enormous amount of selection performed by this process, which in fact is the same as the processes we see around us everyday; the greater space available allows more forms to test and the greater period of time allows a greater level of intricate co-ordination. Under evolutionary processes forms in conjunction with their environments have developed powers to resist to the change-inducing actions of the world around them: ‘They are resistant, .. , in the dynamic and much more interesting way of forming intricate dynamic systems around themselves (their so-called ‘bodies’, with extensions such as nests and tools) so that the whole is homeostatic and self-preserving by active defenses’ (p 233). NB: can firms be seen as part of the defenses of people?

18/4 If an organisms deals with disturbances that are not adaptable, because they change over the long run (too fast for its gene-pattern) but remain the same during the generation, then it is advantageous to have the outline of the adaptive mechanism controlled by the gene-pattern and the details by the details within that generation: ‘This is the learning mechanism. Its peculiarity is that the gene-pattern delegates parts of its control over the organism to the environment. Thus, it does not specify how a kitten shall catch a mouse, but provides a learning mechanism and a tendency to play, so that it is the mouse which teaches the kitten the finer points of how to catch mice’ (p 234). NB: the environment of people changes faster than their gene-pattern can accommodate. Genes allow the environment including the firm to take some control over people?

18/5 The law of requisite variety must be applied to ancillary regulations, how the relevant parameters are brought to their appropriate values as follows: 1) some are injected by the genes and the organism is born with the correct values or 2) other ancillary regulations can be adjusted by the gene-pattern at one remove: the gene-pattern establishes a mechanism, a regulator that would then proceed at its own initiative to bring parameters to their appropriate values. However systems can seldom be arranged into distinct levels.

Amplifying adaptation

18/6 How much regulation does the gene-pattern achieve, considering the law of requisite variety? Under direct regulation some mechanism ensures that an essential variable is maintained within limits; under indirect regulation, a regulating mechanism of a parameter affecting the essential variable ensures that the parameter stays within limits which keeps the essential variable within limits. There is no relation between the amount of regulation to keep the essential variable within limits and the amount of regulation to keep the parameter within limits; as a consequence the amount of regulation to keep the parameter within limits can be small but the amount to keep the essential variable within limits can be large. Under direct regulation the amount is limited by what can be supplied by the law of requisite variety, under indirect regulation more regulation may be shown by the essential variable than is supplied to the parameter. Indirect regulation can amplify the amount of regulation.

18/7 ‘Living organisms came across this possibility aeons ago, for the gene-pattern is a channel of communication from parent to offspring..’ (p 236). NB: the meme-pattern is also a channel of communication from ‘parent’ to ‘offspring’ in a cultural sense. The gene-pattern leads to the growing in organisms of a brain that is partly adapted by details in the gene-pattern as well as by details in the environment: ‘The environment acts as the dictionary’ (p 236-7). Thus the information that comes to an organism via its gene-pattern is supplemented by the information supplied by the environment: ‘.. so the total adaptation possible, after learning, can exceed the quantity transmitted directly through the gene-pattern’ (p 237).

Summary

All state-determined dynamic systems are selective; from whatever initial state they go towards states of equilibrium; considering the change-inducing laws of the system, these states are exceptionally resistant: ‘Specially resistant are those forms whose occurrence leads, by whatever method, to the occurrence of further replicates of the same form – the so-called ‘reproducing’ forms’ (p 238). Local equilibria take the shape of sub-systems that are exceptionally resistant to local disturbances; the parts of such a stable local equilibrium are co-ordinated in their defence against disturbances. If the class of disturbance changes from generation to generation then the organism can be more resistant if it is born with a mechanism that the environment will make it act in a regulatory way against the particular environment – the learning organisms.

Autopoiesis

Humberto R. Maturana, Francisco J. Varela . The Realization of the Living (Originally: De maquinas y seres vivos 1972) . ISBN 90-277-1015-5 . 1980 . D. Reidel Publishing Company . Dordrecht: Holland / Boston: USA / London: England

Foreword

A theoretical biology which is topological where the topology is self-referential from the point-of-view of the system itself and has no outside, ‘.. Leibnizian for our day’ (p v). Cognition is defined as a biological phenomenon and as the very nature of biological systems. Hence: ‘Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition’ (p vi).

Essay 1: Biology of Cognition

1) What is the organization of the living? AND 2) What takes place In the phenomenon of perception? Ad 1) No valid definition is available that accounts for all systems: we can recognize them when we encounter them but we cannot say what they are. What is the invariant feature around which selection operates? NB that this is similar to my question concerning the invariant in business change! Look at systems not as open systems, exchanging energy and information with their environment, but closed. In addition a language is needed to describe autonomy as a feature of the system specified by the description. As a consequence notions of purpose, intent, use and function must be rejected. The definition of these systems as unities through their self-reference is their autonomy. Living systems are defined as unities through the circularity of the production of their components. Ad 2) With this theory the activity of the nervous system can be treated as the activity of the system itself and not of its environment. The external world only has a triggering role in the release of the internally determined activity. Moreover the working of the nervous system can only be understood by closing it off: perception is not the grasping of but the specification of an external reality. This can be connected with the Wagensberg model, but some modifcations are required to clean it from thermodynamical arguments. The question changes from: ‘How does the organism obtain information about its environment’ to ‘How does it happen that the organism has the structure that permits it to operate adequately in the medium in which it exists?’ (p xvi).

It was in these circumstances that one day, while talking to a friend (José Bulnes) about an essay of this on Don Quixote de la Mancha, in which he analyzed Don Quixote’s dilemma of whether to follow the path of arms (praxis, action) or the path of letters (poiesis, creation, production), and his eventual choice of the path of praxis deferring any attempts at poiesis, I understood for the first time the power of the word ‘poiesis’ and invented the word that we needed: autopoiesis. This was a word without a history, a word that could directly mean what takes place in the dynamics of the autonomy proper to living systems’ (p xvii)

In a sense it has been my way to a transcendental experience: to the discovery that matter, metaphorically speaking, is the creation of the spirit (the mode of existence of the observer in a domain of discourse) and that the spirit is the creation of the matter that it creates’(p xviii). I would refer to this as the meeting of content and process: beliefs lead to decisions which in turn lead to behavior which lead to a new context which, given beliefs, lead to new action and perhaps to a change of the belief also.

Unity, Organization and Structure

Unity. An observer performs the cognitive operation of distinguishing an entity from its background. They are distinguished for the separability of the respective properties endowed them through this cognitive operation. If this operation is performed recursively by the observer then the components of the entity can be distinguished and the entity is defined by the properties of its components. The observer can also observe the entity as a single unity and distinguish it in the domain of its properties as a unity and not in the domain of the properties of its components. If an autopoietic system is treated as a composite unity, it exists in the space defined by its components, but if it is treated as a simple unity then it is defined in the domain of the distinctive properties of the unity.

Organization and Structure. The relations between the components of a composite unity that define it as a particular kind of a unity constitute its organization. Only those properties are considered and only to the extent that they participate in the constitution of the unity they integrate. The actual components and their actual relations, concretely realizing a system as a member of a class of systems in which it categorizes because of its organization, constitutes its structure. Any given organization may be realized by many different structures and different subsets of components and their relations in a given structure may be abstracted by an observer as organizations defining different classes of composite unities. The organization specifies the class identity of a system and must remain invariant for the class identity to remain invariant; if its organization changes then its identity changes and the unity becomes a unity of a different kind. Conversely because an organization can be realized in systems with different structures, the identity of a system can stay invariant while its structure changes within limits determined by its organization.

Structural coupling. Unity and medium as independent systems operate in each interaction by triggering in each other a structural change, and select in each other a structural change. If the organization in a composite system remains invariant while it undergoes structural changes induced by its medium, then its adaptation is conserved. The structural change in the unity follows the structural change in the medium through a process of structured coupling. Else the outcome of the unity is disintegration. If the unity is structurally plastic, then its conservation of adaptation results in a history of structural couplings to the medium that selects its path of structural change. The configuration of constitutive relations that remain invariant in the adapted composite unity determines the possible perturbations that the unity can admit; it is a reference for the selection of the path of structural changes that take place in it in its history of interactions.

Epistemology. If a composite unity is specified as a simple system then the phenomenological domain is specified by the properties of the simple unity. Because that differs from the domain of the properties of the components phenomenal reduction is not possible. The relations between the components of a composite system interact through a system of contiguity. Necessarily relations such as control and regulation are not of contiguity, but referential relations specified by the observer using their meta-domain by using their view of the whole. The observer creates a meta-domain of descriptions that allows them to speak as if a unity existed as a separate entity that they can characterize by specifying the operations that must be performed to distinguish it. Having characterized it as a distinguishable entity, in that meta-domain can he only cognize the entity in terms of that meta-domain.

Society and Ethics

(1) ‘It is apparent that natural social systems as systems constituted by living systems require these for their actual realization. What is not apparent, however, is the extent to which the coupling of living systems in the integration of a social system entails the realization of their autopoiesis’ (p xxiv). Why is the use of the term ‘autopoiesis’ in the sentence above with regards to the organization of the social system avoided? ‘If, however, the autopoiesis of the components of a natural social system were not involved in its constitution because the relations that define a system as social do not entail them, then the autopoiesis of the components (and hence their autonomy and individuality) would be intrinsically dispensable’ (p xxiv). This means that if autopoiesis of the components of a social system is not involved in the constitution of a social system, then the autopoiesis of the components is not required. Hence the autonomy and individuality of the components would be ‘intrinsically dispensable’. This seems to be a hint at the status of people making up a social group. It does not take into account the existence of memes as components of a memeplex that forms the social fabric of a group.

(2) ‘Accordingly, I propose that a collection of autopoietic systems that, through the realization of their autopoiesis, interact with each other constituting and integrating a system that operates as the (or as a) medium in which they realize their autopoiesis, is indistinguishable from a natural social system. Or, in other words, I propose that the relations stated above characterize the organization of a social system as a system, and that all the phenomena proper to social systems arise from this organization’(p xxv) This must serve as the connection of the autopoiesis theory with the theory of memetics. The autopoietic systems are the belief systems of the components of the social system, namely individual people. Their autopoiesis is realized through the existence of the autopoiesis of the autopoietic social system. The component autopoietic systems and the social autopoietic systems both are realized through the other’s autopoiesis. Implications of this proposition are: (i) ‘The realization of the of the autopoiesis of the components of a social system is constitutive to the realization of the social system itself’ (p xxv) (ii) ‘A collection of living systems integrating a composite unity through relations that do not involve their autopoiesis is not a social system, and the phenomena proper to its operation as such a composite unity are not social phenomena’ (p xxv). (iii) ‘Therefore, the domain of social phenomena, defined as the domain of the interactions and the relations that an observer sees taking place between the compnents of a society, results from the autopoietic operation of the components of the components of the society while they realize it in the interplay of their properties’ (p xxv) (iv) ‘In a society, at any instance of observation, the structures of the components determine the properties of the components, the properties of the components realize the structure of the society, and the structure of the society operates as a selector of the structure of its components by being a medium in which they realize their ontogeny’ (p xxv) NB: this is the notion of the connection between process and content in a social system (v) ‘An autopoietic system participates in the constitution of a social system only to the extent that it participates in it, that is, only as it realizes the relations proper to a component of the social system’(p xxv)

(3) ‘A society defines the domain in which it is realized as a unity’(p xxv) Such a domain constitutes at least an operationally independent medium that operates as: a) a selector of the path of structural change that the society follows in its individual history, and b) ‘if stable, a historical stabilizer of the structures that realize the selected invariant relations that define the society as a particular social system’ (p xxvi).

(4) ‘To the extent that human being are autopoietic systems, all their activities as social organisms must satisfy their autopoiesis’ (p xxvii) ‘In man as a social being, therefore, all actions, however individual as expressions of preferences or rejections, constitutively affect the lives of other human beings and, hence, have ethical significance’ (p xxvi)

(5) ‘What determines the constitution of a social system are the recurrent interactions of the same autopoietic systems. In other words, any biological stabilization of the structures of the interacting organisms that results in the recurrence of their interactions, may generate a social system’ (p xxvi). Gene >> Meme. Also Kevin and Gavin.

(6) ‘A social system is essentially a conservative system. This is so because it is generated through the interactions of structure-determined autopoietic systems and operates as a medium that selects the path of ontogenic structural change of its components, which, thus, become structurally coupled to it. In our case, we as social beings generate, through our structure-determined properties, our societies as the cultural media that select our individual paths of ontogenic change in a manner that leads each one of us to the structure that makes us generate the particular societies to which we belong. A society, therefore, operates as a homeostatic system that stabilizes the relations that define it as a social system of a particular kind’ (p xxvi- xxvii).

(7) The domain of states of a system as a composite unity is determined by the properties that realize its organization. It follows that a social change in a human society can only take place if the individual properties and hence conduct of its members change.

(8) ‘All that matters for the realization of a society is that the component autopoietic systems should satisfy certain relations regardless of the actual structures (internal processes) through which they realize them’ (p xxvii) Hypocrisy.

(9) ‘Interactions within a society are necessarily confirmatory of the relations that define it as a particular social system; if not, the organisms that interact do not interact as components of the society which they otherwise integrate. It is only through interactions operationally not defined within the society that a component organism can undergo interactions that lead to the selection, in its ontogeny, of a path of structural change not confirmatory of the society that it integrates. ..social creativity, as the generation of novel social relations, always entails interactions operationally outside the society.. Social creativity is necessarily anti-social in the social domain in which it takes place’ (p xxvii-xxviii)

(10) ‘In general any organism, and in particular any human being, can be simultaneously a member of many social systems, such as family, a club, an army, a political party, a religion or a nation, and can operate in one or another without necessarily being in internal contradiction. .. An observer always is potentially antisocial’ (p xxviii)

(11) ‘To grow as a member of society consists in becoming structurally coupled to it; to be structurally coupled to a society consists in having the structures that lead to the behavioral confirmation of the society’ (p xxviii)

(12) ‘We as human beings exist in a network of social systems and move from to another in ou daily activities. Yet, not all human beings caught in the mesh of relations generated in this network of social systems participate in it as social beings’ (p xxviii-xxix). This means that if the interaction of someone in this social system does not involve their autopoiesis, is being used by the system but not a member or it is social abuse.

(13) (14) (15)

Biology of Cognition

1. Introduction

Man knows and his capacity to know depends on his biological integrity; furthermore he knows that he knows’ (p 5). This statement also explains the requirement of the existence of human beings as biological organisms for the existence of memes. ‘As a psychological, and hence biological function cognition guides people’s handling of the universe and knowledge gives certainty to their acts; objective knowledge seems possible and through objective knowledge the universe appears systematic and predictable. Yet knowledge as an experience is something personal and private that cannot be transferred, and that which one believes to be transferable, objective knowledge, must always be created by the listener: the listener understands and objective knowledge appears to be transferred, only if he is prepared to understand’ (p 5) Thus cognition is a biological function; it is known through knowledge.

(a) If an organism is a unity, in what sense are its component properties its parts? Has some property arisen from the properties of its organization or from its mode of life?

(b) ‘Organisms are adapted to their environments, and it has appeared adequate to say of them that their organization represents the ‘environment’ in which they live, and that through evolution they have accumulated information about it, coded in their nervous system. Similarly it has been said that the sense organs gather information about the ‘environment’, and through learning this information is coded in the nervous system [Cf. Young, 1967]. Yet this general view begs the questions, ‘What does it mean to ‘gather information?’ and ‘What is coded in the genetic and nervous system?’ (p 6)

III Cognitive Function in General

The Observer

(1) ‘Anything said is said by an observer’ (p 8)

(2) The observer can observe an object and its environment simultaneously. This allows them to interact with both independently and have interactions that are outside of the domain of the observed entity.

(3) An attribute of the observer is that they can interact both with the observed entity and with its relations. Both are units of interaction (entities)

(4) To the observer an entity is an entity if they can describe it. They can describe it if at least one other entity exists so as to distinguish the observed entity from in its description; the ultimate reference is the observer themselves.

(5) The set of all interactions of an entity is its domain of interactions and the set of all possible interactions with the observer (relations) is its domain of relations; the latter lies within the cognitive domain of the observer. ‘An entity is an entity if it has a domain of interactions, and if this domain includes interactions with the observer who can specify for it a domain of relations’ (p 8)

(6) The observer can define himself as an entity by specifying his own domain of interactions.

(7) ‘The observer is a living system and an understanding of cognition as a biological phenomenon must account for (the existence of DPB) the observer and his role in it (the phenomenon DPB)’ (p 9)

The Living System

(1) ‘Living systems are units of interactions; they exist in an ambience. From a purely biological point of view they cannot be understood independently of that part of the ambience with which they interact: the niche; nor can the niche be defined independently of the living system that specifies it’ (p 9)

(2) ‘Living systems as they exist on earth today are characterized by .. a closed circular process that allows for evolutionary change in the way the circuitry is maintained, but not for the loss of the circuitry itself. .. This circular organization constitutes a homeostatic system whose function is t produce and maintain this very same circular organization by determining that the components that specify it be those whose synthesis or maintenance it secures’ (p 9)

(3) ‘It is the circularity of its organization that makes a living system a unit of interactions, and it is this circularity that it must maintain in order to remain a living system and to retain its identity through different interactions’ (p 9)

(4) ‘Due to the circular nature of its organization a living system has a self-referring domain of interactions (it is a self-referring system), and its condition of being a unit of interactions is maintained because its organization has functional significance only in relation to the maintenance of its circularity and defines its domain of interactions accordingly’ (p 10)

(5) ‘Living systems as units of interactions specified by their condition of being living systems cannot enter into interactions that are not specified by their organization. The circularity of their organization continuously brings them back to the same internal state (same with respect to the cyclic process). Each internal state requires that certain conditions (interactions with the environment) be satisfied in order to proceed to the next state’ (p 10). The circular organization implies the prediction that an interaction will take place again. If it does not then the system will disintegrate, if it does it will maintain its integrity (identity vis a vis the observer) and move on to the next prediction. In a continuously changing environment the system can only remain intact if the environment does not change in that which is predicted. The predictions implied in the organizations are not predictions of particular events but of classes of interactions; interactions the features of which allow the organization of the system and hence its identity to remain intact. This makes living system inferential systems and their domain of interactions a cognitive domain.

(6) A niche is defined by the classes of interactions into which a system can enter. The environment is defined as the classes of interactions into which an observer can enter; they treat it as a reference for their interactions with the system. The observer considers the niche of a system the set of interactions that they observe to lie in its part of the domain of interactions of the environment. For the observer a niche is a part of the environment, for the system it is the entire set of possible interactions. As such a niche cannot be ‘part’ of the environment which lies exclusively in the cognitive domain of the observer. ‘Niche and environment, then, intersect only to the extent that the observer (including instruments) and the system have comparable organizations, but even then there are always parts of the environment that lie beyond any possibility of the intersections with the domain of interactions of the organism, and there are parts of the domain of the niche that lie beyond any possibility of intersection with the domain of interactions of the observer. Thus for every living system its organization implies a prediction of a niche, and the niche thus predicted as a domain of classes of interactions constitutes its entire cognitive reality’ (pp. 10-11) This is relevant for the observation of the firms by people as observers and vice versa.

(7) ‘Every unit of interactions can participate in interactions relevant to other, more encompassing units of interactions. If in doing this a living system does not lose its identity, its niche may evolve to be contained by the larger unit of interactions and thus be subservient to it. If this larger unit of interactions is (or becomes) in turn also a self-referring system in which its components (themselves self-referring systems) are subservient to its maintenance as a unit of interactions, then it must itself be (or become) subservient to the maintenance of the circular organization of its components’ (p 11). This is possibly relevant concerning acquisition of firms by other firms (DPB): cells >> bees >> beehive; cells >> people >> firms >> larger firms &c.

Evolution

(1) Evolutionary change is an aspect of the circular organization that preserves the system’s basic circularity. ‘Reproduction and evolution are not essential for the living organization, but they have been essential for the historical transformation of the cognitive domains of the living systems on earth’ (p 11)

(2) For a change in a unity without losing its identity with respect ot the observer, it must suffer an internal change. If an internal change occurs without the identity of the unity changing then the domain of interactions must change.

(3) After reproduction the new unity has the same domain of interactions as the parent if it has the same organization.

(4) Predictions about the niche are inferences about classes of interactions. Particular interactions may be of the same class and not distinguishable for the system but they may be to the observer.

(5) Aspects of the organization that are subservient to the maintenance of the basic circularity but do not determine it change from generation to generation. The system maintains its organization and its identity through interactions. The basic circularity remains unchanged, the way it is maintained changes. ‘The evolution of the living systems is the evolution of the niches of the units of interactions defined by their self-referring circular organization, hence, the evolution of the cognitive domains’ (p 12)

The Cognitive Process

(1) ‘A cognitive system is a system whose organization defines a domain of interactions in which it can act with relevance to the maintenance of itself, and the process of cognition is the actual (inductive) acting of behaving in this domain. Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition’ (p13)

(2) ‘If a living system enters into a cognitive interaction, its internal state is changed in a manner relevant to its maintenance, and it enters into a new interaction without loss of its identity’ (p 13)

(3) The function of the nervous system is subservient to the necessary circularity of the living organization.

(4) The nervous system has expanded the domain of interactions and hence has transformed the unit of interactions and had subjected interacting to the process of evolution.

(5) This expansion of the cognitive domain (into the domain of ‘pure relations’) allows for non-physical interactions between systems such that the systems orient each other towards interactions within their respective domains. ‘Herein lies the basis for communication: the orienting behavior becomes a representation of the interactions toward which it orients, and a unit of interaction in its own terms. .. there are organisms that generate representations of their own interactions by specifying entities with which they interact as if these belonged to an independent domain, while as representations they only map their own interactions. .. a) We become observers through recursively generating representations of our interactions, and by interacting with several representations simultaneously we generate relations with the representations of which we can then interact.. b) We become self-conscious through self-observation; by making descriptions of ourselves (representations), and by interacting with our descriptions we can describe ourselves describing ourselves, in an endless recursive process’ (p 14)

Description

(1) A living system is an inductive system: what happened once will occur again. Its organization is conservative and repeats only that which works. The present state is always specified by the previous state that restricts the field of possible modulations by independent concomitances.

(2) For the observer any one of the system’s behaviors appears as an actualization of the niche, that is, as a first order description of the environment (denoted as Description); this is a description in terms of the behavior (interactions) of the observed system, not representations of environmental states. The relation between behavior and niches exists in the cognitive domain of the observer only.

(3) A living system can modify the behavior of another system by: a) interacting with it in a way that directs both toward each other such that the following behavior of the one depends strictly on the previous behavior of the other. In this case the two systems can be said to interact. b) By orienting the behavior of the other system to some part of its domain of interactions different from the present interaction but comparable to the orientation of the orienting system. This takes place if the domains of interactions of both systems are coincident; no interlocking chain of behavior takes place because the systems’ behavior is based on parallel but independent behavior. In this case the systems can be said to communicate; this is the basis for linguistic behavior. The first generates a Description of its niche that orients the second within its cognitive domain to an interaction, which ensues a conduct parallel but unrelated to the first. The orienting behavior to the observer is a second order behavior, denoted in italics as description (linguistic utterance DPB), that denotes whatever denotation they assign to it: ‘.. that which an orienting behavior connotes is a function of the cognitive domain of the orientee, not the orienter’ (p 28).

(4) In an orienting interaction the orienter’s behavior as a description generates activity in the orientee, which then, in turn makes a Description of its niche connoted by the orienting behavior of the first.

(5) ‘If an organism can generate a communicative description and then interact with its own state of activity that represents this description, generating another such description that orients towards this representation…, the process can in principle be carried on in a potentially infinite recursive manner, and the organism becomes an observer: it generates discourse as a domain of interactions with representations of communicative descriptions (orienting behaviors). Furthermore, if such an observer through orienting behavior can orient himself towards himself, and then generate communicative descriptions that orient him towards his description of his self-orientation, he can, by doing so recursively, describe himself describing himself .. endlessly. This discourse through communicative description originates the apparent paradox of self-description: self-consciousness, a new domain of interactions’ (p 28-9).

Thinking

(1) Thinking is the neuro-physiological process of interacting with some of its own internal states as if these were independent entities. From thinking behavior emerges in a deterministic manner. The difference with a reflex action is that the concerning the latter a signal can be traced back to the sensory system. In thinking the signal begins with a distinguishable state of activity of the nervous system itself (2) This process above is independent from language.

Natural Language

(1) ‘Linguistic behavior is orienting behavior; it orients the orientee within his cognitive domain to interactions that are independent of the nature of the orienting interactions themselves. .. Only if the domains of interactions of the two organisms are to some extent comparable, are such consensual orienting interactions possible and are the two organisms able to develop some conventional, but specific, system of communicative descriptions to orient each other to cooperative classes of interactions that are relevant for both’ (p 30). These are the interactions as per Knorr-Cetina.

(2) –

(3) ‘Behavior (function) depends on the anatomical organization (structure) of the living system, hence anatomy and conduct cannot legitimately be separated and the evolution of behavior is the evolution of anatomy and vice versa; anatomy provides the basis for behavior and hence for its variability; behavior provides the ground for the action of natural selection and hence for the historical anatomical transformations of the organism’ (p 31).

(4) ‘However, when it is recognized that language is connotative and not denotative, and that its function is to orient the orientee within his cognitive domain, without regard for the cognitive domain of the orienter, it becomes apparent that there is no transmission of information through language. It behooves the orientee, as a result of an independent internal operation upon his own state, to choose where to orient his cognitive domain; the choice is caused by the ‘message’, but the orientation thus produced is independent of what the ‘message’ represents for the orienter. In a strict sense then, there is no transfer of information from the speaker to his interlocutor; the listener creates information by reducing his uncertainty through his interactions in his cognitive domain. Consensus arises only through cooperative interactions in which the resulting behavior of each organism becomes subservient to the maintenance of both. .. The cooperative conduct that may develop between the interacting organisms from these communicative interactions is a secondary process independent of their operative effectiveness. If it appears to be acceptable to talk about transmission of information in ordinary parlance, this is so because the speaker tacitly assumes the listener to be identical with him and hence as having the same cognitive domain which he has (which never is the case), marveling when a ‘misunderstanding’ arises’ (p 32-3).

(5) –

(6) ‘If one considers linguistic interactions as orienting interactions it is apparent that it is not possible to separate, functionally, semantics and syntax, however separable they may seem in their description by the observer. This is true for two reasons: a) A sequence of communicative desriptions (words in our case) must be expected to cause in the orientee a sequence of successive orientations in his cognitive domain, each arising from the state left by the previous one… b) An entire series of communicative descriptions can itself be a communicative description; the whole sequence once completed may orient the listener from the perspective of the state to which the sequence itself has led him’ (p 33)

(7) ‘Linguistic behavior is an historical process of continuous orientation’ (p 34)

(8) –

(9) ‘Orienting behavior in an organism with a nervous system capable of interacting recursively with its own states expands its cognitive domain by enabling it to interact recursively with descriptions of its interactions. As a result: a) Natural language has emerged as a new domain of interactions in which the organism is modified by its descriptions of its interactions.. b) Natural language is necessarily generative because it results from the recursive application of the same operation (as a neurophysiological process) on the results of this application c) New sequences of orienting interactions (new sentences) within the consensual domain are necessarily understandable by the interlocutor (orient him), because each one of their components has definite orienting functions as a member of the consensual domain that it contributes to define’ (pp. 34- 5)

Memory and Learning

(1) ‘Learning as a process consist in the transformation through experience of the behavior of an organism in a manner that is directly or indirectly subservient to the maintenance of its basic circularity’ (p 35)

(2) ‘Learning occurs in such a manner that, for the observer, the learned behavior of the organism appears justified from the past, through the incorporation of a representation of the environment that acts, modifying its present behavior by recall; notwithstanding this, the system itself functions in the present, and for it learning occurs as an atemporal process of transformation. An organism cannot determine in advance when to change and when not to change during its flow of experience, nor can it determine in advance which is the optimal functional state that it must each; both the advantage of any particular behavior and the mode of behavior itself can only be determined a posteriori, as a result of the actual behaving of the organism subservient to the maintenance of its basic circularity’ (pp. 35-6)

(3 tm 7) –

(8) ‘Past, present and future and time in general belong to the cognitive domain of the observer’ (p 38)

The Observer

(1) The cognitive domain is the entire domain of interactions of the organism. It can be enlarged if new modes of interactions are generated or instruments are applied.

(2) –

(3) The observer generates a spoken description of his cognitive domain (which includes his interactions with and through instruments).

(4) ‘The observer can describe a system that gives rise to a system that can describe, hence, to an oberver. A spoken explanation is a paraphrase, a description of the synthesis of that which is to be explained; the observer explains the observer. A spoken explanation, however, lies in the domain of discourse. Only a full reproduction is a full explanation’ (p 39)

(5) ‘The domain of the discourse is a closed domain, and it is not possible to step outside of it through discourse. Because the domain of discourse is a closed domain it is possible to make the following ontological statement: the logic of the description is the logic of the describing (living) system (and his cognitive domain)’ (p 39) This bears a relation with the Wolfram statement that natural processes are the same as the processes that produced the human powers of perception and analysis.

(6) ‘This logic demands a substratum for the occurrence of the discourse. We cannot talk about this substratum in absolute terms, however, because we would have to describe it, and a description is a set of interactions into which the describer and the listener can enter, and their discourse about these interactions will be another set of descriptive interactions that will remain in the same domain. Thus, although this substratum is required for epistemological reasons, nothing can be said about it other than what is meant in the ontological statement above’(p 39)

(7) ‘We as observers live in a domain of discourse interacting with descriptions of our descriptions in a recursive manner, and thus continuously generate new elements of interaction. As living systems, however, we are closed systems modulated by interactions through which we define independent entities whose only reality lies in the interactions that specify them (their Description)’ (p 40)

(8) ‘For epistemological reasons we can say: there are properties which are manifold and remain constant through interactions. The invariance of properties through interactions provides a functional origin to entities or units of interactions; since entities are generated through the interactions that define them (properties), entities with different classes of properties generate independent domains of interactions: no reductionism is possible’ (p 40)

Post Scriptum

(i) ‘.. That is, man changes and lives in a changing frame of reference in a world continuously created and transformed by him. Successful interactions directly and indirectly subservient to the maintenance of his living organization constitute his only final source of reference for valid behavior within the domain of descriptions, and, hence, for truth; but, since living systems are self-referential systems, any final frame of reference is, necessarily, relative. Accordingly, no absolute system of values is possible and all truth and falsehood in the cultural domain are necessarily relative’ (p 57)

(ii) ‘Language does not transmit information and its functional role is the creation of a cooperative domain of interactions between speakers through the development of a common frame of reference, although each speaker acts exclusively within his cognitive domain where all ultimate truth is contingent to personal experience. Since a frame of reference is defined by the classes of choices which it specifies, linguistic behavior cannot be but rational, that is, determined by relations of necessity within the frame of reference within which it develops. Consequently, no one can ever be rationally convinced of a truth which he did not have already implicitly in his ultimate body of beliefs’ (p 57)

(iii) ‘Man is a rational animal that constructs his rational systems as all rational systems are constructed, that is, based on arbitrarily accepted truths (premises); being himself a relativistic self-referring deterministic system this cannot be otherwise. But if only a relative, arbitrarily chosen system of reference is possible, the unavoidable task of man as a self-conscious animal that can be an observer of its own cognitive processes is to explicitly choose a frame of reference for his system of values. .. ‘ (p 58)

Essay 2:

Autopoiesis – The Organization of the Living

Preface (Stafford Beer)

General: knowledge is categorized and so is our world view. Not wholes seen through different filters but parts derived through analysis and categorized.

The stuff of systems is relations between components. Relation is the essence of synthesis. During categorization the relations between the components are not included. Relations are discarded and alienated and distantiated from. ‘It is an Iron Maiden in whose secure embrace scholarship is trapped‘ (p64).

The world develops exponentially because it is a complex system. Knowledge is developed at a categorically at a linear pace and so in effect the understanding of the world is receding. This book is important in a general sense in that its meaning in a meta-systemic level and not at a interdisciplinary level. And so what appears is not classifiable under the old categories.

Particular: autopoietic systems are homeostats: the variable that keeps a critical system stable is the system’s own organization. Anything can change about the system but as such it survives.

Beer states that human societies are biological systems: ‘..any cohesive social institution is an autopoietic system – because it survives, because its method of survival answers the autopoietic criteria, and because it may well change its entire appearance and its apparent purpose in the process. As examples I list: firms and industries, schools and universities, clinics and hospitals, professional bodies, departments of state, and whole countries’ (p70).

If this view is valid, it has extremely important consequences. In the first place it means that every social institution (in several of which any one individual is embedded at the intersect) is embedded in a larger social institution, and so on recursively – and that all of them are autopoietic. This immediately explains why the process of change at any level of recursion (from the individual to the state) is not only difficult to accomplish but actually impossible – in the full sense of the intention: ‘I am going completely to change myself’. The reason is that the ‘I’, that self-contained autopoietic ‘it’, is a component of another autopoietic system’. These last statements also bear a relation to the experience with change management. It is related to the idea of a funnel resulting from the Western belief in the idea of progress (aka capitalism, aka free-market mechanism).

BELANGRIJK regarding social systems: the authors claim: ‘Our purpose is to understand the organization of living systems in relation to their unitary character’. This formulation of the problem begs the question as to what is allowed to be a called a living system, as theey themselves admit. ‘Unless one knows which is the living organization, one cannot know which organization is living’. They quickly reach the concusion however (Subsection (b) of Section 2 of Chapter 1) that ‘autopiesis is necessary and sufficient to characterize the organization of living systems’. THEN they display some unease, quoting the popular belief: ‘… and no synthetic system is accepted as living.’(p71). This is an important connection with memetics: now it is possible to claim that social systems (that is to say the memetic systems that bring them about) are natural systems and so they are not synthetic by design. I have argued that because it evolves it must be alive so as to be able to define the subject of evolution via the concept of living systems.

AUTOPOIESIS – The Organization of the Living

Systeem causaliteit

Introduction

Common experience is that living systems are autonomous and they can reproduce. Conversely if something shows signs of autonomy then it is naively often deemed to be alive. Autonomy is exhibited by living systems through their self-asserting capacity to maintain their identity through the active compensation of deformations. The endeavor of the authors is to disclose the nature of the living organization. Their purpose is to understand the organization of living systems in relation to their unitary character. Their approach is mechanistic: no forces or principles will be adduced which are not found in the physical universe. Their interest is in processes and relations between processes realized through components, not in the properties of components (p75). It is assumed that an organization exists that is common to all living systems, regardless the nature of their components (p76). It is assumed that living systems are machines: a non-animistic view, relations are the pivot, not the components, dynamism is a feature of many machines also. The research question is: ‘What is the organization of living systems,, what kind of machines are they, and how is their phenomenology, including reproduction and evolution, determined by their unitary organization?’ (p76).

Chapter I – On Machines, Living and Otherwise

1. Machines

The properties of the components are irrelevant apart from those that participate in the interactions and transformations that constitute the system. The relevant properties determine those relations that determine the working of the machine which they integrate and constitute as a unity.

The organization of the machine is constituted by the relations that define it as a unity and determine the dynamics of the interactions and the transformations it may undergo as such a unity. The structure of the machine is constituted by the actual relations holding between the components integrating the machine in a given space. In this way a given machine can be realized by many different structures (p77).

‘Purpose’ is a means to explain more efficiently the workings of a machine: by using this concept, the imagination of the listener is invoked to reduce the task of explaining of the organization of a particular machine. It is not one of the constitutive properties of such a machine.

2. Living machines

a) Autopoietic machines

Machines can maintain some of their variables constant or within a limited range. This is expressed in the organization of the machine such that the process occurs within the boundaries of the machine which the very organization specifies. These machines are homeostatic and all feedback is internal to them. If there is a machine M with a feedback loop external to it such that a change in the output changes the input, then a M’ exists that includes the feedback loop in the organization that defines it. This is how autopoiesis is defined by the authors: ‘An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components that produces the components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in the space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network’ (p79). In this way the autopoietic machine generates and specifies its own organization through its operation as a system of production of its own components in their endless turnover under conditions of perturbations and compensation thereof.

The relations of production of components are given as processes; if these processes stop then the production stops. In an autopoietic system these relations must be regenerated by the components which they produce such that the system remain autopoietic.

Autopoietic organization means that processes interlace a network of processes of production of components which constitute the network as a unity as they realize it. Every time this organization is realized as a concrete system in a given space, the domain of deformations, which this system can withstand without loss of identity as it maintains its organization constant, is the domain of changes in which it exists as a unity (p80). Autopoietic machine:

(i) are autonomous because they subordinate all change to the maintenance of their own organization

(ii) have an individuality because they keep their organization as an invariant through its continuous production. This represents their identity which is independent of their interactions with an observer

(iii) are unities because of their autopoietic organizations and their operations specify their own boundaries in the processes of self-production

(iv) have no inputs or outputs because even though they can be perturbed by independent events and they can repeatedly undergo structural changes to compensate these. These changes are always subordinated to the maintenance of the autopoietic organization of the machine

The actual implementation of the organization in physical space depends on the properties of the physical materials that embody it. A machine will disintegrate if it is perturbed such that the organization would have to compensate outside of its domain of compensations. The actual way a machine is realized determines the particular perturbations it can suffer without disintegrating.

b. Living systems

In other words we claim that the notion of autopoiesis is necessary and sufficient to characterize the organization of living systems’ (p82).

Chapter II – Dispensability of Teleonomy

Teleology means to describe things by their apparent goal or purpose. Teleonomy means the quality of apparent purposefulness or goal-directedness in living organisms. Both are unnecessary for the understanding of the living organization.

1. Purposelessness

Ontogeny is generally considered as an integrated process toward an adult state following some internal project or program. At different stages certain structures are attained that allow it to perform certain functions. Phylogeny is viewed as the history of adaptive transformations via reproductive processes aimed at satisfying the project of the species with complete subordination of the individual to this end. Purpose or aim and function are not functions of any machine (allo or auto) but they belong to the domain of our actions, namely the domain of descriptions. When applied to some system independent from us, they reflect our considering the machine or system in some encompassing context. Define a set of circumstances that lead the machine to change following a certan path of variations in its output. The connection between these outputs and the corresponding inputs in the selected context is called the aim or purpose of the machine. This aim is necessarily in the domain of the observer. Function can be treated in the same way. Neither aim nor function of the machine constitute its organization and so they are not part of its operation. ‘Living systems, as physical autopoietic machines, are purposeless systems’ (p86).

2. Individuality

In fact, a living system is specified as an individual, as a unitary element of interactions, by its autopoietic organization which determines that any change in it should take place subordinated to its maintenance, and thus sets the boundary conditions that specify what pertains to it and what does not pertain to it in the concreteness of the realization’(p87). In its history as an autopoietic organization, change in a living system can only take place so the extent that it does not interfere with the system’s functioning as a unity; the autopoietic organization remains invariant. Ontogeny in this sense is an expression of the individuality of living systems and the way it is realized; it is a process of the becoming of a system that is fully autopoietic, at every point, the unity in its fullness and not a transit from an incomplete to a complete system. The notion of development (or even progress) is relevant from the perspective of the observer and belongs to their domain.

Chapter III – Embodiments of autopoiesis

The assertion that physical autopoietic systems are living systems requires the proof that all the phenomenology of a living system can be either reduced or subordinated to its autopoiesis .. This proof must consist in showing that autopoiesis constitutes or is necessary and sufficient for the occurrence of all biological phenomena..’(p88).

1. Descriptive and causal notions

The existence of an autopoietic system requires the existence of components with properties that determine their relations such that these realize its organization as a unity. The components are defined by their role in this organization; the domain of the relations of an autopoietic organization is closed. And in this way the autopoietic organization defines a ‘space’ in which it can be realized as a concrete system; the dimensions of this space are the relations of production of the components that realize it, namely Relations of:

(i) Constitution, that determine that the components produced constitute the topology in which the autopoiesis is realized

(ii) Specificity, that determine that the components produced be the specific ones defined by their participation in the autopoiesis

(iii) Order, that determine that the concatenation of the components in the relations of specification, constitution and order be the ones specified by the autopoiesis.

Notions that apply to all autopoietic systems are:

(i) energetic and thermodynamic considerations are not part of the design of autopoietic systems. They are however in vigor implicitly: if the components and their properties, including the relational ones, can be realized then the autopoietic system can be realized.

(ii) Specificity and Order are referential notions in the sense that they carry meaning only in the context of their part in the autopoietic organization of the system under review.

(iii) An autopoietic organization acquires topological unity via its embodiment in a concrete autopoietic system. ‘Furthermore, the space defined by an autopoietic system is self-contained and cannot be described by using dimensions that define another space. When we refer to our interactions with a concrete autopoietic system, however, we project this system upon the space of our manipulations and make a description of this projection… Our description, however, follows the ensuing change of the projection of the autopoietic system in the space of our description, not in the autopoietic space’ (p90)

(iv) Concepts such as coding and transmission of information do not refer to actual processes in an autopoietic system. They do not enter in the realization of the autopoietic system. And so the notion of specificity as described above does not imply coding, information or instructions, but it describes relations between components determined by and produced by the autopoietic organization. The notions of coding and regulation are cognitive and they represent interactions of the observer, not phenomena in the observed domain.

2. Molecular embodiments

(i) Production of constitutive relations; these relations determine the topology of the autopoietic organization including its physical boundaries: ‘There is no specification in the cell of what it is not’(p91)

(ii) Production of relations of specification; these relations determine the identity (properties) of the components of the autopoietic organization and as a consequence its physical factibility. There is no production in the autopoietic system (such as a cell) of relations of specification that do not pertain to it.

(iii) Production of relations of order

These relations determine the dynamics of the autopoietic organization by deteminning the concatenation of the production of relations of constitution, specification and order, and hence its actual realization. This occurs via the production of components that realize the production of relations the production of relations of constitution, specification and order.’There is no ordering through the autopoietic organization of the cell of processes that do not belong to it.’ (p92)

Compensation of deformation keeps the autopoietic system in the autopoietic space.’(p93)

3. Origin

The geometric properties of molecules determine their relations of constitution, namely the topology. Their chemical properties determine their possible interactions hence their relations of specificity. Taken together they determine the sequence and concatenation of the molecular interactions, namely their relations of order. An autopoietic system can exist if its relations of order, is produced and remains constant, concatenate the relations of constitution and specificity in such a way that the system remains autopoietic. Asa consequence, the question about the origin of an autopoietic system is the question about the conditions that must be satisfied for the establishment of an autopoietic space: ‘This problem (of origin DPB), then, is.. a general one of what relations .. any constitutive units should satisfy.’(p93). This leads to the following considerations:

(i) ‘An autopoietic system is defined as a unity by and through its autopoietic organization.’ (p93) ‘Without unity in some space an autopoietic system is not different from the background in which it is supposed to lie, and, hence, can only be a system in the space of our description where its unity is conceptually stipulated’ (p94)

(ii) ‘The establishment of an autopoietic system cannot be a gradual process; either a system is an autopoietic system or it is not’ (p94). ‘Accordingly there are not and there cannot be intermediate systems.’ (p94)

(iii) ‘Auto-catalytic processes do not constitute autopoietic systems because among other things, they do not determine their topology.’ (p94) A unity is defined by operations of distinction as provided by the autopoietic system; .. its origin is co-circumstantial with the establishment of this operation’(p94)

(iv) Two aspects concerning the origin of autopoietic systems: a) factibility and b) the possibility of their spontaneous occurrence. a) the establishment of a system depends on the availability of the components that constitute it and the proper concatenation of their interactions. If these occur then the system is realized. b) given factibility and given the existence of factual autopoietic system, natural conditions exist for the occurrence of autopoietic systems.

Chapter IV – Diversity of Autopoiesis

Reproduction requires the existence of a unity to be reproduced. This is necessarily secondary to the establishment of such a unity. Evolution requires reproduction and the possibility of change and it is necessarily secondary to the establishment of reproduction.

1. Subordination to the condition of unity

Unity is the distinguishability of a unity from a background, hence from other unities. It is the sole necessary condition for existence in a given domain. Its nature and the domain in which it exists are specified by the process of its distinction and determination. ‘Unity distinction is .. an operative notion referring to the process through which a unity becomes asserted or defined: the conditions which specify a unity determine its phenomenology. In living systems, these conditions are determined by their autopoietic organization. In fact, autopoiesis implies the subordination of all change in the autopoietic system to the maintenance of its autopoietic organization, and since this organization defines it as a unity, it implies total subordination of the phenomenology of the system to the maintenance of its unity’ (p97). Consequences of this subordination are:

(i) the establishment of a unity defines the domain of its phenomenology, but the structure of the unity determines the realization of the phenomenology in that domain.

(ii) if the new unity is autopoietic then its phenomenology depends on maintenance of the autopoiesis, which in turn may or may not depend on the autopoiesis of its components

(iii) The identity of an autopoietic unity is maintained while it is autopoietic: as long as it is a unity in physical space and it is a unity in autopoietic space, regardless of the extent to which it is otherwise transformed.

(iv) Only after the autopoietic unity as such is established can it reproduce as a biological phenomenon.

2. Plasticity of ontogeny

The ontogeny means the history of the structural transformation of a unity; in the case of an autopoietic system, it means the history of the maintenance of its identity through continuous autopoiesis in physical space. Comments:

(i) Different classes of autopoietic systems have different classes of ontogenies

(ii) Given that it does not have inputs or outputs, the organization of an autopoietic system determines which changes the system may undergo without loss of identity

(iii) The way the autopoiesis is realized during ontogeny may change, but it should take place without loss of identity meaning uninterrupted autopoiesis

(iv) The changes that an autopoietic system may undergo without a loss of identity are a consequence of deformations; the sequence of the compensating of the deformations is determined by the sequence of the deformations. Nota bene: ‘Although in an autopoietic system all changes are internally determined, for an observer its ontogeny reflects its history of interactions with an independent ambience.’(pp. 98-9)

(v) An observer may distinguish internally and externally generated perturbations even though these are intrinsically indistinguisshable to the autopoietic system itself.

(vi) Changes that an autopoietic system can undergo while maintaining identity can be: a) conservative change in which only the relations between the components change and b) innovative changes, in which the components themselves change. In the first case the system remains positioned on the same point in the autopoietic space, because its components are invariant. In the second case, the interaction leads to a change in the way the autopoiesis is realized and to a change in the position in the autopoietic space, because its components have changed.

3. Reproduction, a complication of the unity

Reproduction is operationally secondary to the establishment of the unity: it cannot be a defining feature of the organization of a unity such as a living system. Living systems are characterized by their autopoietic organization and as a consequence reproduction must be a complication of the autopoietic organization during autopoiesis. ‘.. and its origin must be viewed and understood as secondary to, and independent from the origin of the living organization… in order to understand reproduction and its consequences in autopoietic systems we must analyze the operational nature of this process in relation to autopoiesis’(p100)

(i) Replication – a system generates unities different from itself but in principle identical to each other. Copy – an object or phenomenon is mapped upon a different system so that an isomorphic object or phenomenon is realized in it. Self-reproduction – a system produces another system with a similar organization through a process that is coupled to the process of its own production. ‘It is apparent that only autopoietic systems can self-reproduce because they are realized through a process of self-production (autopoiesis)’ (p101).

(ii) Only in self-replication is the mechanism of reproduction internal (in principle identical) to the pattern reproduced.

(iii) In terrestrial living systems currently known autopoiesis and reproduction are directly coupled. In them reproduction is a moment in autopoiesis and the same mechanism that constitutes the one also constitutes the other, and consequentially: a) self-reproduction must take place during autopoiesis, b) the individuals produced are self-contained and no external self-reproduction is a form of autopoiesis; variation and constancy in each reproductive step are part of the reproductive mechanism but an expression of autopoiesis c) variation of the way autopoiesis is realized can only arise as a modification from a pre-existing autopoietic structure. As a consequence, to maintain autopoiesis constant, variation can only arise from perturbations that require further homeostatic complications d) Replication takes place independently from autopoiesis, copy takes place in heteropoiesis, self-reproduction is exclusive for autopoiesis and its origin is bound to it as a historically secondary phenomenon e) coding, message or information are not applicable to the phenomenon self-reproduction: ‘Thus, in self-reproduction there is no transmission of information between independent entities; the reproducing and the reproduced unities are topologically independent entities produced through a single process of autopoiesis in which all components have a constitutive participation’ (p102).

4. Evolution, a historical network

A state in a sequence of states arises as a modification of a previous state and not as an independent state. The notion of history may refer to the antecedents of a given phenomenon as a succession of events leading up to it or it may be used to characterize the phenomenon as a process.

(i) Evolution is the history of change in the realization of an invariant organization embodied in independent unities sequentially realized through reproductive steps while the structural realization of the unity at each step arises as a modification of the previous one which constitutes its sequential and historical antecedent.

(ii) Reproduction by replication or by copy of an unchanging model implies an uncoupling of the organization of the unities produced and their producing mechanism.

(iii) Ontogeny and evolution are completely different phenomena: in ontogeny the identity is never interrupted, while in evolution a succession of identities is generated through sequential reproduction. Only unities have ontogenies.

(iv) ‘Selection, as a process in a population of unities, is a process of differential realization in a context that specifies the unitary structures that can be realized’ (p105). This is illustrated by the genotypical space and phenotypical space, the first via variation ‘offering’ possibilities to the second as an experiment to select the ones for survival in that specific context a/p quote above.

(v) Evolution takes place as a history of change in the realization of an invariant organization embodied in the realization of successively generated unities. Reproduction must allow for change in the structure of the sequentially reproduced unities.

(vi) ‘Of the two possible mechanisms that can give rise to sequential reproduction, the only one which is accessible to autopoietic systems in the absence of an independent copying mechanism, is self-reproduction, because of the coincidence between the reproducing mechanisms and the reproducing unity. Sequential reproduction through copy takes place a present only in relation to the operation of living systems in their domain of interactions, particularly in cultural learning; cultural evolution takes place through sequential copy of a changing model in the process of social indoctrination, generation after generation’ (p106)

(vii) ‘A species is a population or a collection of populations of reproductively connected individuals which are thus the nodes in a historical network’(p106)

Strictly, a historical network is defined by each and every one of the individuals which constitute its nodes, but it is at any moment represented historically by the species as the collection of all the simultaneously existing nodes of the network; in fact, then, a species does not evolve because as a unity in the historical domain it only has a history of change. What evolves is a pattern of autopoietic realization embodied in many particular variations in a collection of transitory individuals that together define a reproductive historical network. Thus, the individuals, though transitory, are essential, not dispensable, because they constitute a necessary condition for the existence of the historical network which they define. The species is only an abstract entiry in the present, and although it represents a histoorical phenomenon it does not constitute a generative factor in the phenomenology of evolution, it is its result’(p107)

5. Second and third order autopoietic systems

If the conduct of two or more unities is such that is a domain where the conduct of one or more of them is a function of the conduct of the others then the unities are said to be coupled. Coupling arises as a result of mutual modifications undergone by the unities in the course of their ongoing interactions while their identities remain intact. If the identity of a unity is lost then a new unity may be generated as a result of it, but no coupling takes place.’.. coupling leads also to the generation of a new unity that may exist in a different domain from the domain in which the component-coupled unities retain their identity’ (p107)

The nature of the coupling is determined by their autopoietic organization:

(i) Autopoietic systems can interact without loss of identity as long as reciprocally inflicted perturbations lead to compensable disturbances in their structures. They can couple and constitute a new unity while their individual paths of autopoiesis become sources of the specification of each other’s ambience. To persist as a unity the disturbances must remain in the domain permitted by their organizations. As a result the coupling can become invariant while the coupled systems undergo structural changes as a consequence of it. In this way a composite system can develop in which the autopoiesis of the individual systems is subordinate to the ambience defined by the autopoiesis of all the other autopoietic components of the composite unity. Such a system will be defined as a unity by the coupling relations of its component autopoietic systems. A system whose autopoiesis entails the autopoiesis of the coupled unities which realize it, is an autopoietic system of a higher order.

(ii) ‘An autopoietic system can become a component of another system if some aspects of its path of autopoietic change can participate in the realization of this other system’ (p110)

(iii) ‘If the autopoiesis of the component unities of a composite autopoietic system conforms to allopoietic roles that through the production of relations of constitution, specification and order, define an autopoietic space, the new system becomes in its own right an autopoietic unity of the second order’ (p110) An example on earth is the multicellular pattern of organization.

Chapter 5 – Presence of Autopoiesis

1. Biological Implications

.., hence in a living system, loss of autopoiesis is disintegration as a unity and loss of identity, that is, death’ (p112).

(i) ‘The phenomenology of living systems, then, is the mechanical phenomenology of physical autopoietic machines’(p113)

(ii) ‘A biological explanation must be a reformulation of in terms of processes subordinated to autopoiesis, that is, a reformulation in the biological phenomenological domain’ (p114)

(iii)

(iv) ‘.. the biological phenomenological is not less and not more than the phenomenology of autopoietic systems in the physical space’ (p114)

2. Epistemological implications

(i) ‘As a result, the biological domain is fully defined and self-contained, no additional notions are necessary, and any adequate biological explanation has the same epistemological validity that any mechanistic explanation of any mechanistic phenomenon in the physical space has’(p116)

(ii) ‘.. an autopoietic system .. must be explained through autopoietic mechanical relations in the mechanical domain, the phenomena generated through interactions of the autopoietic unities must be explained in the domain of interactions of the autopoietic unities through the relations that define that domain’ (p117)

(iii) ‘The organization of the individual is autopoietic and upon this fact rests all its significance: it becomes defined through its existing, and its existing is autopoietic. Thus biology cannot be used anymore to justify the dispensability of the individuals for the benefit of the species, society or mankind under the pretense that its role is to perpetuate them. Biologically the individuals are not dispensable’ (p 118)

3. Cognitive Implications

The domain of all the interactions into which an autopoietic system can enter without loss of identity is its cognitive domain; this is the domain of all the descriptions it can possibly make. The particular mode of autopoiesis determines its cognitive domain hence the diversity of its behavior.

(i) knowledge (its conduct repertoire) is relative to the cognitive domain of the knower. If the way in which the autopoiesis is realized changes then the knowledge of the unity changes. In that sense knowledge is a reflection of the ontogeny of an organism, because it is a process of continual structural change without loss of autopoiesis and a continual specification of the behavioral capacity hence of its actual domain of interactions.

(ii) Autopoietic systems may interact with each other under conditions that result in behavioral coupling. Autopoietic conduct of A is the source of a deformation in B. The compensatory behavior in B is the source of a deformation in A, whose compensatory behavior for B is the source ..&c. These interactions occur in a chain while A and B interact independently based on their internal structure. Their behavior however is a source of compensable deformations to the other which can be described as meaningful in the context of the interactions in light of the coupled behavior. These are communicative interactions. This consensual domain of communicative interactions where behaviorally coupled organisms orient each other with modes of behavior based on their internal structure is the linguistic domain. Communicative and linguistic interactions are non-informative; organism A does not determine the conduct of organism B; that is determined by their proper organizations.

(iii) ‘An autopoietic system capable of interacting with its own states, and capable of developing with others a linguistic consensual domain, can treat its own linguistic states as a source of deformations and thus interact linguistically in a closed linguistic domain’ (p121). Properties of such systems are: a) An autopoietic system can treat some recursively generated states as objects of further interactions. This can give rise to a meta-domain of consensual distinctions appearing to the observer as a domain of interactions with representations of interactions. The system now operates as an observer. This can occur at any time and so the domain of these recursive interactions with its own states is in principle infinite, unless autopoiesis is lost b) A living system capable of being an observer can interact with descriptive states of itself in the sense of interactions with its own self-linguistic states. It is now an observer of itself as an observer, which can be repeated in an endless manner. The domain is called self-observation and consider self-conscious behavior is self-observing behavior, namely in the domain of self-observation. The observer as an observer remains in a descriptive domain as no description of absolute reality is possible. Some such description would require an interaction with the absolute by the autopoietic organization of the observer, not by an agent of it.

Living systems are an existential proof; they exist only to the extent that they can exist. The fantasy of our imagination cannot deny this. Living systems are concatenations of processes in a mechanistic domain; fantasies are concatenations of descriptions in a linguistic domain. In the first case, the concatenated unities are processes; in the second case, they are modes of linguistic behavior’ (p122)

Notities over Methode / Methodologie

Philosophy (φιλοσοφία, philosophia, “love of wisdom”) is the study of general and fundamental problems such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and the systematic presentation of big ideas. Philosophy is the general and fundamental study of almost any topic. Richard Feynman argues that the philosophy of a topic is irrelevant to the primary study of a topic, saying that “philosophy of science is as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.”

Philosophies of the particular sciences range from questions about the nature of time raised by Einstein’s general relativity, to the implications of economics for public policy. A central theme is whether one scientific discipline can be reduced to the terms of another. That is, can chemistry be reduced to physics, or can sociology be reduced to individual psychology? The general questions of philosophy of science also arise with greater specificity in some particular sciences. For instance, the question of the validity of scientific reasoning is seen in a different guise in the foundations of statistics. The question of what counts as science and what should be excluded arises as a life-or-death matter in the philosophy of medicine. Additionally, the philosophies of biology, of psychology, and of the social sciences explore whether the scientific studies of human nature can achieve objectivity or are inevitably shaped by values and by social relations.

Metaphysics replaces the unargued assumptions embodied in such a conception with a rational and organized body of beliefs about the world as a whole. Epistemology seeks by argument to make explicit the rules of correct belief formation. Everyone governs their conduct by directing it to desired or valued ends. Ethics, or moral philosophy, in its most inclusive sense, seeks to articulate, in rationally systematic form, the rules or principles involved.

Methodologie is de verantwoording van de gebruikte methode: die kan de vorm hebben van een debat, een beargumenteerd standpunt van een school, beschrijvend onderzoek naar een standpunt of debat, filosofische analyse.

Volgens welke procedure kunnen wij tot empirisch toetsbare economische theorieen komen en hoe kan een theorie worden getoetst? De hypothetisch deductieve methode schrijft een procedure voor.

Volgens het hypotetisch deductieve model van wetenschappelijk onderzoek wordt bij een toetsing dezelfde procedure gevolgd als bij de toepassing: in beide gevallen wordt volgens Jehle (par. 2.1.2) de theorie opgevat als een wetmatige uitspraak: ‘onder deze set van omstandigheden x doet zich verschijnsel y voor.’

HD-m: observatie >> inductie >> deductie >> toetsing >> evaluatie>> ga terug naar observatie.

Fasen van HD-m volgens Popper: P >> TT >> EE >> P* >> TT* etc (P probleemstelling, T tentative trial, E elimination of error, * volgende ronde, P* is de probeemstelling minus de geconstateerde foute oplossing (error). Economen hebben veel toetsing weggelaten en de cyclus niet volledig doorlopen.

Het doel van HD-m is kennis verwerven die in staat stelt te verklaren of te voorspellen. Hiervoor is het deductief-nomologisch model door Hempel-Oppenheim geformuleerd. De pijlers van dit model zijn: de ‘covering law these’ en de ‘symmetrie these’.

Covering law: een wetenschappelijke verklaring heeft de vorm van een syllogisme. Voor die randvoorwaarden of beginvoorwaarden geldt deze uitspraak altijd: covering.

Symmetrie: verklaren en voorspellen hebben dezelfde logische structuur. Het verschil in aanpak is dat de verklaring uitgaat van een verschijnsel terwijl de voorspelling erop vooruitloopt. Uitgaande van de bekende omstandigheden en kennende de wetten is een verschijnsel te verklaren. Voorspellen werkt andersom: een voorspelling die uitkomt wordt een verklaring. Elke verklaring is potentieel een voorspelling en omgekeerd [Hempel 1965, p 367]. De denkmethode is andersom: progressive of regressive deductie (par. 2.3.1.): op basis van verwachtingen over omstandigheden een voorspeling doen over een ontwikkeling, toetsen of die voorspelling uitkomt en dus het model valide is.

De logische (1 tm 3) en empirische (4) adequaatheidsvereisten voor wetenschappelijke verklaringen zijn [Hempel 1965, pp 247-9]:

1) logisch moeten de premissen relevant zijn voor het te verklaren of te voorspellen verschijnsel

2) de major premisse moet een wet zijn en ten minste 1 premisse moet geldingscondities bevatten

3) De explanans uitspraken moeten zo zijn geformuleerd dat zij empirisch toetsbaar zijn

4) Bij toepassing moet voldaan zijn aan de eis dat de de explanans uitspraak empirisch waar is.

Hypothese = gissing, vermoeden: hoe meer mogelijkheden worden uitgerangeerd des te informatiever de gissing.

Veronderstelling = aanname. Hulphypothese = aanvullende aanname.

Theorema = afgeleide stelling, slotconclusie. Een theorema kan een hypothese zijn.

Lemma = tussentijdse conclusie

Axioma = woord dat zelf niet meer deductief logisch kan worden bewezen

Afnemende graad van algemeenheid: fundamentele veronderstellingen > veronderstellingen over het verklaringsideaal > veldveronderstellingen > hulphypothesen

Verifieren van een hypothese: toetsingsprocedure die ten doel heeft vast te stellen of een bewering waar is, in overeenstemming met de feiten. Universele hypothese (voor alle x geldt) kan niet worden geverifieerd maar wel gefalsifieerd. Existentiele hypothese (er is tenminste 1 x waarvoor geldt) kan alleen worden geverifieerd (geen yeti vinden betekent niet dat niet bestaat). Singuliere hypothese (x is een y) kan worden geverifieerd en gefalsifieerd. Gecorroboreerd betekent: ondanks verschillende pogingen om een hypothese te weerleggen is dat vooralsnog niet gelukt.

Niet goed toetsbaar zijn: tautologie, definitie, normatieve uitspraken, vage uitspraken, hypothesen die wel in theorie maar om allerleid redenen niet in de praktijk toetsbaar zijn.

De combinatie van verifieren en falsifieren is reduceren ofwel herleiden. Het constateren van feiten kan niet alleen met falsificatie. Bij controle van een paspoort wordt eigenschap E n+1 gevonden. Die moet inductief aan de lijst van te controleren elementen voor de vaststelling van de echtheid van het paspoort worden toegevoegd. Een vleugje inductie is nodig om verder te komen.

Via de HD-m methode worden hypotheses getoetst en zo wordt vooruitgang geboekt. Is de kennisaanspraak controleerbaar, is hij terecht, en neemt onze kennis erdoor toe?

Logisch geldige argumentatievormen (Methode – Logica):

1 Modus Ponens: Deductie – Deductief: als p dan q, p, dus q

3 Modus Tollens: Reductie – Deductief: als p dan q, niet q, dus niet p

Logisch niet geldige argumentatievormen (Methode – Logica):

2 Als p dan q, niet p, dan niet q?

4 Drogreden, bevestiging van de consequent: Als p dan q, q, dan p?

Deze zijn logisch dus niet geldig maar kunnen nuttig zijn om een onderzoek op nieuw spoor te zetten 2 of in een bepaalde richting voort te zetten 4.

Nieuwere wetenschapsfilosofie

De epistemologische opdracht is uit te vinden of een hypothese geloofwaardig is of niet. Als p dan q, niet q, dus niet p: als we q betrouwbaarder vinden dan p dan keuren we p af. Wat tegen de hypothese pleit laten we zwaarder wegen dan wat er voor pleit. Omdat de empirie niet zo uitsluitend is als soms wordt aangenomen bestaat het toetsen vooral uit het toetsen van een hypothese aan een andere hypothese [Against Method . Feyerabend 1975]. Want wat wij een feit noemen hebben wij omarmd als vertrouwenwekkend. Maar een feit is niet meer dan een getekende checque: pas iets waard als iemand zijn vertrouwen eraan heeft gegeven.

Maar niet het hele belang van de methode is verloren: met de lancering van een nieuwe theorie krijgt ook het veld vorm en worden nieuwe toetsingsmethodes ontwikkeld. Als p en q dan r, niet r, dus niet (p en q). Waar zit dus de fout, in p of in q? Nooit wordt een hypothese volledig geisoleerd getoetst, vrijwel altijd zijn aanvullende hypotheses nodig, die dan ook worden meegetoetst.

Feiten zijn niet een resultaat van objectieve waarneming en beschrijving, maar van een constructie, een samenspel van analyse en synthese. Bovendien zijn er waarnemingsprotocols, definities en klassificaties. Feiten zijn dus theorie afhankelijk.

Wetenschappelijk observeren is een vorm van experimenteren: het is planmatig en protocollaire activiteit. De eisen eraan zijn: 1) het waarnemingssubject is inwisselbaar, 2) interpretatie en registratie moet gescheiden zijn (vooroordelen vermijden), 3) trefzekere kwalificatie van verschijnselen leidend tot kwantificering ervan.

Introspectie als naar binnen gerichte observatie methode: gezond- of boerenverstand.

Simulatie is proefondervindelijk onderzoek op een model. Het doel is te weten te komen wat er zal gebeuren als de echte condities overeenkomen met de modelcondities. Het gaat niet om de exacte herhaling (ivm de moord op de stand-in) maar om een nabootsing ervan. Simulatie is niet een toestand maar een toedracht. Simulatie als experimentele methode is een manier om via manipulatie van het model informatie te verkrijgen over de structuur of de werking van het systeem dat door dit model wordt gerepresenteerd. Modellen zijn schakels tussen onze wiskundige kennis en de wereld: ‘De wereld is de wereld, alleen onze modellen kunnen wiskundig zijn.’ [Harré, R. . An Introduction to the Logic of Sciences . London . 1960, p 95].

Een simulatie is geen kopie van de werkelijkheid maar komt ermee overeen in belangrijk geachte opzichten. Het fundamentele probleem is een schaalprobleem: hoe de gevonden resultaten kunnen worden ‘teruggeprojecteerd’ op de werkelijkheid.

Logische analyse is het verdelen van complexe uitspraken in kleinere om ze te verhelderen. Russell heeft dat verruimd tot een taalanalyse om samengestelde uitspraken tot elementaire uitspraken te ontleden om van elk de geldigheid te kunnen vaststellen.

De Axiomatisch-deductieve methode (AD-m) bestaat uit:

Stap 1) een theorie opvatten als een onsamenhangend geheel van uitspraken, een aggregaat. Door axiomatisering dit aggregaat omvormen tot een axiomatisch-deductief systeem door uitspraken te verdelen in axioma’s (woorden die zelf niet meer deductief logisch kunnen worden bewezen) en overige uitspraken waarvan bewezen moet worden dat ze ook uit de axioma’s kunnen worden afgeleid. Dit zijn de tussentijdse conclusies (lemma) en slotconclusies (theorema).

Stap 2) omzetting in een calculus: de beschrijvende termen zijn vervangen door symbolen en de regels voor het gebruik van de symbolen. Het axioma stelsel hoeft niet evident te zijn maar wel consistent, namelijk: geen logische tegenspraak, geen axioma voor het bewijzen van het theorema mag ontbreken (volledigheid), de redenering zelf moet uit logisch geldige argumenten bestaan (zindelijk). Als hieraan is voldaan dan is het AD-m systeem ‘logisch adequaat’.

Stap 3) de betekenis van een wiskundig theorema moet worden geinterpreteerd: de betekenis in economische zin moet worden begrepen.

Bij het uitvoeren van een onderzoek zijn deze keuzemomenten van belang:

Keuzemoment 1: het zien van een probleem. In de economie is het coordinatieprobleem bijv. al eeuwenlang het belangrijkst: hoe kunnen de plannen van individuen die op eigen voordeel uit zijn en die via vrijwillige ruil met elkaar in contact staan toch een overeenstemming bereiken?

Bij keuzemoment 1: Realisme (economische theorie is een afspiegeling van het proces zoals dat in feite toegaat) versus idealisme (voorstelling van het beste van alle werelden) versus constructivisme (de werkelijkheid wordt steeds opgebouwd uit kennisstructuren van het systeem, die wij opbouwen door open te staan voor ervaringsgegevens).

Keuzemoment 2: welke probleemstelling verdient de onderzoeksprioriteit? De kunst van het ontdekken (heuristiek) betekent dat de onderzoeker zich realiseert wat de oplossing bijdraagt en niet blind een bepaald onderzoeksgebied uitbouwt.

Bij Keuzemoment 2: Individualisme (economische verschijnselen moeten worden opgebouwd uit individuele keuzes, besissingen en gedrag gegeven de natuurlijke omstandigheden) versus holisme (individueel gedrag moet worden verklaard uit de omstandigheden en het geheel waarvan het individu deel uitmaakt (=holos), bijvoorbeeld alle instituties, stelsel, historische ontwikkelingen.

De laatste is onder te verdelen in sociaal functionalisme de individuele rol wordt bepaald door de functie in het geheel) en sociaal evolutionisme (sociale veranderingen volgen een vast patroon bijv. revolutie theorie van Marx, 5 fasen van Rostow etc).

Bij keuzemoment 2 Deze bovengenoemde tegenstelling in keuzes tussen vrije wilsbeschikking en de situatie hangt af van wat je wilt verklaren: het geheel uit de delen of de delen uit het geheel. Deze tegenstelling kan worden overbrugd met het begrip ‘situatie’ in methodologisch situationalisme [Knorr-Cetina, K. and Cicourel, A.V.. . The micro-sociological challenge of macro-sociology: towards a reconstruction of social theory and methodology . 1981 . Advances in social theory and methodology . Boston . Pp 1-47]. 1

Tot zover ‘weten waarom’.

Keuzemoment 3: welk wetenschapssysteem: de gangbare onderzoeksrichting of een andere volgen? De aantallen alternatieven zijn dan groot: als het geen eik is dan kan het van alles zijn.

Keuzemoment 4: zijn de vooronderstellingen aanvaardbaar? Dit is niet hetzelfde als de veronderstellingen, de aannames. Vooronderstellingen zijn de aannames over het kader van het onderzoek zelf. Dit is vooral causaliteit: traditioneel keten van gebeurtenissen die leidt naar de eerste beweger. Nieuwe causaliteit is een eigenschap die aan een model wordt toegevoegd en kan verschillende vormen hebben zoals statistisch of sequentieel.

Tot hier ‘weten dat’

Een model definieert een systeem, een hypothese is een voorlopige aanspraak, een theorie is een hypothese waarvan de onderzoeker de overtuiging heeft dat die geldig is. Volgens het standaardmodel moet een theorie empirisch bevestigd worden. Een algemene theorie (een economische kringloop) kan niet empirisch worden getoetst: eerst een specifiek model opstellen (de nederlandse economie in jaar x = een toegepast model).

Keuzemoment 5: is de gevolgde methodologie aanvaardbaar? Dit is weten hoe. Wetenschap streeft naar algemeen geldige kennis: universeel geldig (voor alles) en objectief (voor iedereen). Objectiviteit wordt methodisch tot stand gebracht.

Bij Keuzemoment 5: Monisme (1 methode superieur voor alle vakgebieden) versus pluralisme (meerdere methoden voor verschillende vakgebieden mogelijk).

Bijvoorbeeld

Positieve economie = realisme, individualisme en monisme.

Instrumentalisme (Friedman) = postieve economie minus realisme, theorie beoordelen op voorspellend succes. Pragmatisme maar niet blijvend, whatever works om de theorie te vinden, niet om een permanent lapmiddel te vinden van het pragmatisme.

Analytische school: de economische wetenschap is een manier van denken: Keynes: methode om door bemiddeling van modellen correcte conclusies te trekken over de gang van zaken in een bepaalde situatie; ze hebben betekenis in relatie tot een actief subject dat doeleinden heeft en beslissingen kan nemen (agency). Het gaat hier om het aanpassen van de omgeving aan de mens, kennen is beslissen: als x en y dan z, x en y, z. Doe x en y opdat z!

Oostenrijkse school: indidualisme, dualisme, wijsgerig idealisme (wetenschappelijk kennen prevaleert boven de ervaring).

Von Mises: radicaal subjectivisme (our own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of our experience: knowledge is merely subjective and that there is no external or objective truth), dualisme, praxeologie (handeling als causaliteit: handeling in verschillende condities, bij x condities y handeling).

Popper-Hayek programma [Boland, L.A. . 1982 . The foundations of Economic Method . London . p. 178]:

1) Mensen leren van hun ervaring: Poppers opvatting dat alle kennis feilbaar is en wetenschappelijke kennis weerlegbaar – Poppers opvatting dat actoren in hun hoofd niet iets kunnen doen dat logisch niet kan – Hayeks opvatting dat elke actor steeds rationeel handelt gegeven kennis van de situatie – Hayeks opvatting dat behalve veranderingen in de situatie ook leereffecten van de actor bepalend zijn voor zijn doen en laten.

2) Van gedragsverklaring naar handelingsverklaring: Popper probeert dualisme te overwinnen, namelijk een waarheid voor de natuur en iets anders voor de mens. De essentie van die brug is dat gedrag dat bijv. een amoebe vertoont iets anders is dan handelen dat een mens vertoont: het verschil is overleg. Dat kan niet met natuurwetten worden verklaard, omdat daar het overleg en de rationaliteit (precies het verschil tussen de beide wetenschappelijke benaderingen) niet in is inbegrepen.

Toegepaste economie is het aanwenden van kennis of methoden met een bepaald doel, zoals:

1) beschrijven hoe het echt gaat, 2) verklaren waarom het zo gaat, 3) begrijpen hoe het gaat vergeleken met een norm 4) veranderen of ingrijpen van hoe het nu gaat naar een gewenste gang van zaken. Bij 1) en 2) betreft het de specificatie van een concreet geval uit een algemene regel. 3) en 4) betreft het begrijpen van een feitelijke situatie als een bijzonder geval van een andere algemene regel.

Verklaren en voorspellen hebben dezelfde logische structuur (symmetrie these van Hempel). Een verklaring moet antwoord geven op de vraag: ‘waarom is dit het geval?’. Een succesvole verklaring bewijst waarom iets zich in de gegevens omstandigheden wel voor moet doen: een bijzonder geval van een algemene regel (of samenstel van regels = theorie). P1 Als (p en q) dan r, P2 (p en q), dus vandaar r. Volgens het deductief nomologisch model van verklaren moet P1 een algemene empirisch bewezen universele theorie zijn en moet P2 feitelijk waar zijn. Het DM-m model kan gebruikt worden met het doel om te verklaren, te voorspellen of te toetsen.

Er is een spanning tussen de veronderstelling van rationele agenten en de dagelijkse ervaring. Daarom stelt Friedman zich op het standpunt dat theorie geen empirische verklaring voor gedrag kan geven. Popper en Marschak stellen voor theorieen als maatlat of referentie te gebruiken om afwijkingen tussen modelgedrag en de wekelijkheid aan te wijzen.

Het voorspellend argument

P1 Als (hypothetische relatie H en geldingscondities A) dan (Implicatie I), hypothetische relatie H, geldingscondities A, Implicatie = voorspellende uitspraak I >>

P1 Als (H & (modelcondities M & conditie dat er geen verstoringen zijn C) dan I >>

P1 Als (H & M & C) dan I

P2 Welnu (M* & C*)

C Dus I*

* is de zwakke plekken, de major heeft de schuld afgeschoven.

Voorspellende uitspraak

Objectief (volgens waarnemingsprotocol), positief (het duidelijk wat is) en kwantitatief (richting van de verandering en de omvang van de verandering), onafhankelijk (de gegevens van de situatiebeschrijving (M* en C*) mogen niet gebruikt zijn voor het model (konijn in de hoed en dan er weer uit).

Voorspellingscondities

M* is een model van de werkelijkheid en voorwaarde C bepaalt dat naast de modelfactoren nog andere een rol kunnen spelen voor de voorspelling die buiten beschouwing zijn gelaten. Dit is de belangrijkste twijfel aan de symmetrie these van Hempel betreft voorspellingen in de toekomst, omdat niet zeker is dat er niets meer veranderen zal. Het heden is open, zodat niet alleen de voorspelling van de verklaring verandert maar ook de predictie van de retrodictie. Namelijk een syllogisme bevat een dubbele voorspelling namelijk de theorie in de major en de theorie over de toekomstige situatie in de minor. C* betekent dat alle relevante factoren in het model zijn opgenomen door d eonderzoeker en ook als ze veranderen geen invloed hebben op de voorspelling.

Voorspellingsparadoxen

Dit is het probleem van theorie absorptie [Morgenstern 1972]: als een voorspelling bekend wordt dan gaaan mensen daarop reageren en de voorspelling bevestigen (self fulfilling prophecy) of juist ontkennen (self-denying prophecy). De drogreden is de verwarring tussen kennisverwerving en kennistoepassing.

1Karin Knorr-Cetina works on epistemology and social constructionism. A knowledge object is a theoretical concept to describe the emergence of post-social relations in epistemic cultures. Knowledge objects are different from everyday things and are defined as unfolding structures that are non-identical with themselves (also Jyri Engeström). Social constructionism (also social construction of reality, also social concept) is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality. The theory centers on the notions that human beings rationalize their experience by creating models of the social world and share and reify these models through language. A social construct or construction concerns the meaning, notion, or connotation placed on an object or event by a society, and adopted by the inhabitants of that society with respect to how they view or deal with the object or event. In that respect, a social construct as an idea would be widely accepted as natural by the society, but may or may not represent a reality shared by those outside the society, and would be an “invention or artifice of that society.”

A major focus of social constructionism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the construction of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, known, and made into tradition by humans. “Social construction” may mean many things to many people. Ian Hacking argues that when something is said to be “socially constructed”, this is shorthand for at least the following two claims:

(0) In the present state of affairs, X is taken for granted; X appears to be inevitable.

(1) X need not have existed, or need not be as it is. X, or X as it is at present, is not determined by the nature of things; it is not inevitable.

Hacking adds that the following claims are also often, though not always, implied by the use of the phrase “social construction”:

(2) X is quite bad as it is.

(3) We would be much better off if X were done away with, or at least radically transformed.

Social constructionism is at the nurture end of the spectrum of the larger nature and nurture debate. Critics have argued that it generally ignores biological influences on behavior or culture, or suggest that they are unimportant to achieve an understanding of human behavior. The view of most psychologists and social scientists is that behavior is a complex outcome of both biological and cultural influences. Other disciplines, such as evolutionary psychology, behavior genetics, behavioral neuroscience, epigenetics, etc., take a nature–nurture interactionism approach to understand behavior or cultural phenomena.