In this article we advocate the methodological feedback loop in the study of the dynamical self at the crossroads of performance philosophy, (artistic) performance, and the philosophy of science. We point to the importance of the dynamics of methodology transfer between arts and sciences and the “interactive continuum” proposed by Newman & Benz in 1998. In the first part of this paper we give a comparative review of the research context relevant for our field of study, and we explain our research hubs in approaching the concept of “performance”. We suggest the possibility to define our filed of research in three equally legitimate ways: as philosophy-of-performance, philosophy-as-performance and performance-as-philosophy. In our recent work we are primarily interested in artistic performances that incorporate elements of artistic practice in the methodology of research output (Frayling 1993), as well as in the potentials of performative aspects of scientific praxis and methodology. However, the conceptual background relevant for this paper is in the field of process philosophy and its relation to science (Birkhard’s “interactivist model” 2009; Campbell’s “process-based model for an interactive ontology” 2009). We attribute particular importance to the notion of “autopoietic feedback” (Maturana and Varela 1974; Luhmann 1990). The second part addresses the issue of transcending identity in the representations of the self and the other; the relationship between Theory-Theory (TT) and Simulation Theory (ST), as well as some recent attempts at combining different theories of mind (e.g. Barlassina 2013). We also deal with the notion of “embodied praxis” (Gallagher and Meltzoff 1996); we mention some neuroscientific insights into the similar phenomena, and – commenting on the importance of the dialogue between neuroscientists and philosophers (Changeux and Ricour) – we give an example of an enactive approach to understanding acting (Zarrilli 2007). In the third part of this article, we critique the notion of “interpassivity” (Žižek 1997; Pfaller 2000). In the concluding part we mention the importance of exploring the concept of “expanded self” (Gallagher 2000; Jeannerod 2003; Kim and Johnson 2013). Being aware of the impossibility to reach final conclusions in the scientific approach to the dynamics of the self, instead of a formal conclusion, we offer a quote from Yeats’ poem “Balloons of Mind”.
Context: The thoroughly second-order cybernetic underpinnings of naturalist theatre have gone almost entirely unremarked in the literature of both theatre studies and cybernetics itself. As a result, rich opportunities for the two fields to draw mutual benefit and break new ground through both theoretical and empirical investigations of these underpinnings have, thus far, gone untapped. Problem: The field of cybernetics continues to remain academically marginalized for, among other things, its alleged lack of experimental rigor. At the same time, the field of theatre studies finds itself at an impasse between post-structuralist semioticians and embodied cognitivists regarding key onto-epistemological issues. A program of research framing and utilizing naturalist theatre as a second-order cybernetic/cybersemiotic laboratory holds much promise in addressing both matters and lending credence to Ross Ashby’s assertion that “the discovery that two fields are related leads to each branch helping in the development of the other.” Method: After establishing the nature of the onto-epistemological deadlock within theatre studies, this article examines the application of cybernetic heuristics within naturalistic theatre, leading to a second-order cybernetic analysis of its processes of production and reception and the outline of an experimental program for exploring these processes further. Results: Foundations for a model of naturalist theatre as a cybersemiotic laboratory grounded in a novel operationalization of Gordon Pask’s conversation theory. Implications: The proposed laboratory could result in the generation of quantitative and qualitative research pertaining to several dimensions of second-order cybernetics; particularly cybersemiotics, which, as a result, may end up better positioned to help dissolve onto-epistemological deadlocks between constructivists and realists of all stripes across the academy and beyond. Constructivist content: I argue that an analysis of naturalistic theatre’s processes of meaning-making filtered through the constructivist ontological agnosticism of second-order cybernetics offers a productive middle way forward for those on both sides of the social constructivist/embodied cognitive realist divide, within and beyond theatre studies. The article draws upon the works of Gregory Bateson, Søren Brier, Ranulph Glanville, Heinz von Foerster, and Niklas Luhmann.
Context: Despite the best efforts of postmodern, social constructivist scholars to discredit the notion that “realistic” works of theatre and film could contain genuine onto-epistemic goods, many lay observers (i.e., audiences) continue to describe individual performances and productions as more or less “truthful” than one another. Recently, some performance scholars have pushed back against the postmodern position and turned to contemporary cognitive science to undergird their insistence that the embodied nature of reception and perception does, in fact, allow audiences of such works to access “truths” within them. The literature of cybernetics (first- or second-order) has been almost entirely absent from the debate. Problem: While the hardcore scepticism of social constructivism may be unsatisfactory in fully accounting for the enduring power and appeal of dramatic art, a retreat to epistemic certainty in the name of cognitive science would be equally unwise. This article proposes the notion of “eigenbehavior” as a conceptual bridge that might facilitate the synthesis of the most useful insights from both perspectives and open up new avenues of study and research. Method: The article uses synthetic argumentation to propose a theory of eigenform within the context of theatrical performance. Results: Emerging from this argumentation is a conception of eigenform that is novel in its emphasis on the distinction between its bio-structured and socio-structured features. Implications: The insights in this article will be of value to scholars and practitioners of the dramatic arts and can be productively extended into cognate domains across the humanities. Constructivist content: The article draws on the works of constructivists such as von Glasersfeld, von Foerster, Maturana, Varela, and Luhmann and is grounded in such constructivist perspectives as cybersemiotics, theory of autopoiesis, and systems theory. Key Words: Social systems, semiotics, language, acting, culture, ethics.