This paper undertakes a theoretical investigation of the “learning” aspect of science as opposed to the “knowledge” aspect. The practical background of the paper is in agricultural systems research – an area of science that can be characterised as “systemic” because it is involved in the development of its own subject area, agriculture. And the practical purpose of the theoretical investigation is to contribute to a more adequate understanding of science in such areas, which can form a basis for developing and evaluating systemic research methods, and for determining appropriate criteria of scientific quality. Two main perspectives on science as a learning process are explored: research as the learning process of a cognitive system, and science as a social, communicational system. A simple model of a cognitive system is suggested, which integrates both semiotic and cybernetic aspects, as well as a model of self-reflective learning in research, which entails moving from an inside “actor” stance to an outside “observer” stance, and back. This leads to a view of scientific knowledge as inherently contextual and to the suggestion of reflexive objectivity and relevance as two related key criteria of good science.
This paper is a discussion of the sustainability of a concept of “world” compatible with the “operative constructivism” and the operative conception of observation of systems theory of according to Niklas Luhmann. The paper scrutinizes the concepts of observation of H. von Foerster, H. Maturana, G. Günther and N. Luhmann, providing the general framework of “operative constructivism.” Particularly, the paper will focus on N. Luhmann’s understanding of the role of observation in the constitution of the self-reference of the social systems of the modern society. The case of the “systems of art” will be briefly inspected. What place shall we concede to the idea of an “objective” world, according to the systems theory? Are systems “objective”? According to N. Luhmann, for the description of systems only operations are “objective.” However, an operation is not an entity, which means that we need to depict a new kind of “objects,” very different from the ’thing-objectivity” of the ancient metaphysics and different from the Cartesian concept of “res.” What does objectivity mean according to systems theory? This question was at stake in the formulation of N. Luhmann’s Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft: Society is “weder Subjekt noch Objekt.” This paper attempts to address this formula. Relevance: The paper deals with the epistemological explanation of second-order observations in social systems according to Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory. It clarifies the world vision of the constructivism movement.
The classical formulation of the object of ethics refers to a knowledge of the rules of the adaptation of the human species to their natural environments, to normative expectations supposed in the others and to the biographical evolution of the self. Accordingly, a doctrine of the duties was edified on three pillars, embracing a reference to the duties towards nature, towards the others and towards oneself. Notwithstanding the fact that human action obeys to a variety of factors including bio-physiological conditions and the dimensions of the social environment, ancient and modern metaphysical models of ethics favored the commendatory discourse about the predicates “right” and “wrong,” concurring to ultimate goals. The ethical discussions consisted chiefly in the investigation of the adequacy of the subordinate goals to the final ends of the human action or in the treatment of the metaphysical questions related to free will or determinism, the opposition of the intentionality of the voluntary conduct of man to the mechanical or quasi-mechanical responses of the inferior organisms or machines. From a “second order” approach to the ethical action and imperatives, I propose with this book a critical analysis of the metaphysical and the Kantian ethics. Relevance: In “Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics” (1992) Heinz von Foerster referred the importance of the application of his notion of “second-order cybernetics” to ethics and moral reasoning. Initially, second-order cybernetics intended an epistemological discussion of recursive operations in non-trivial machines, which were able to include in their evolving states their own self-awareness in observations. The application of his views to ethics entails new challenges. After H. von Foerster essay, what I mean with “second-order ethics is an attempt to identify the advantages of the adoption of his proposal, some consequences in the therapeutically field and lines for new developments.
This paper analyzes Humberto Maturana’s understanding abour the objectivity of scientific knowledge through a critical dialogue with other contemporary epistemological constructivist theories. The two subjects discussed are the relations between knowledge-reality and knowledge-society, which are the most common senses that guide the philosophical discussion about objectivity. This paper also includes a systematization of the main theses of Matuana’s biology of cognition, and a brief evaluation of the role of the notion of “autopoiesis” for the understanding of objectivity.
Four of the papers in this issue belong with a set, still in progress, of papers devoted to the implications of the work of Humberto Maturana. Imoto reviews the philosophical nature of Maturana’s work and concludes that Maturana has provided a renewed view of objectivity based on our human biology of cognition. Russell and Ison, as well as Bilson consider the implications of assuming a constitutive ontology in two different domains of praxis, namely in stakeholder involved research, and in addressing the vexed issue of power in social service programs, respectively. Bond addresses the concerns of a runaway technology, and offers a reconciliation between technology and art, suggesting an escape from the demands of technology through generating and participating in networks of conversations as works of art, in what I see as an aesthetic composition of a world to live forth.
One of the fundamental notions offered by Humberto Maturana is that of the ontology of observing, in which the notion of (objectivity), or objectivity-in-parentheses is presented. This, in my view is not a singular notion, rather it is a matrix of coherent ideas that he often presents in a figure (Fig. 1) that he himself considers the equivalent, in the domain of his work, to the well known equation E=MC2 in the domain of Einstein’s work. In the sense that both are abbreviations that represent a collection of abstract concepts that are not fully understood by many who refer to them, this is indeed the case.
Research into learners’ ideas about science suggests that students often have alternative conceptions about important science concepts. Because of this dissatisfaction, constructivism has been adopted as a theoretical framework by many teachers and researchers, and it has had a curricular influence in many countries. Constructivism is much more than an educational doctrine and we are aware that a ‘science war’ about the possibility of objectivity is in progress. ‘Constructivism’ cannot necessary be a package deal: it must be possible to accept educational suggestions deemed useful without buying all the epistemology or the metaphysical implications. The claim that cognitive agents understand the world by constructing mental representations of it can be a shared suggestion for changing science instruction. Many teachers are much more concerned in finding productive teaching methods than about philosophical questions as if knowledge must be considered an objective representation of the real world or not. We have to ponder if some ideas from the constructivist theory of instruction can help instructors to become better teachers. The pragmatic suggestions that come from the constructivist theory of instruction developed by von Glasersfeld, the leading proponent of radical constructivism, could be a good start in this search.
The attempts to clarify (purify) the conceptual foundations of family therapy by means of “epistemology” have bred excitement, boredom, irritation and confu¬sion. In the belief that at least the confusion can be alleviated, the present paper is offered as a study guide and something of a Rosetta Stone for translating the work of Gregory Bateson and Humberto R. Maturana. The paper demonstrates that Maturana’s work is highly compatible with that of Bateson. In addition, several major points of contrast are argued: (1) Maturana’s concept of structure determinism is an explicit ontological claim which directly implies an episte¬mology, whereas Bateson delineated an epistemology, but never clearly developed a corresponding ontology; (2) structure determinism is a more general concept than Bateson’s concept of “mind” (i.e., cybernetic epistemology); (3) structure determinism deletes the remnants of objectivity from Bateson’s theory (i.e., “the difference that makes a difference”); and (4) Maturana’s concept of instructive interaction is a more general, nonsystemic version of what Bateson meant when he used the term “epistemological error.” Finally, it is claimed that the emphasis on epistemology has distracted proponents and detractors alike from the essential message of Bateson and Maturana: social systems and all human endeavor must be understood in light of our existence as biological entities that are coupled to a medium. The biological ontology implicit in Bateson’s writings and explicitly delineated in Maturana’s may (at long last) provide a sound foundation for the social and behavioral sciences.
The aim of this article is to present to the reader the theoretical construction of Jean-Louis Le Moigne. It starts with a discussion of the background that is relevant for this construction, which is: a few words about Le Moigne himself, some influences on his thinking and an overview of the theoretical framework together with some domains of application. The following exposition of Le Moigne’s Systemics (LMS) is articulated in three groups: the what, the why and the how of knowing. The what presents the two basic hypotheses of LMS’ epistemological version, called Projective Constructivist Epistemology. These are: the phenomenological and the teleological hypotheses. The three dominating properties of the first hypothesis, that is the irreversibility, the recursivity and the dialectics of knowing, are presented as well. The why question presents the criterion for validation, which is projective (or cognitive) feasibility, to be contrasted with the positivist’s aspiration for objective truth. This presents LMS’ solution to the dilemma between objectivity and relativism. Projective feasibility is possible due to the so-called social contract and the autonomy of science as a domain of thought, both are discussed. The third question, the how, presents a set of cognitive instruments for knowledge constitution. These may be articulated in three sub-categories: modelling rationality, systemic modelling and inforgetic theory. Under the label of modelling rationality the following topics are discussed: formalism, procedural rationality, conjunctive or self-referential system of logic and the discussion of the method for conduct of good reason. Secondly, systemic modelling discusses: complexity, modelling, the canonic model of a General System, LMS’ modelling instrument called Systemography, the canonic model of a General Process, the canonic model of Information Processing System, LMS’ instrument for articulation of complex systems called Teleological Complexification of Functional Levels, a general and a priori identification of pertinent levels of complexification of a complex system’s organisation as manifested in the canonic model called Decision-Information-Organisation System, and finally the paradigm of an active organisation: Eco-Auto-Re-Organisation with its canonic model of organisation, the latter is a conflictful conjunction of three recursive functions: to produce and self-produce, to relate and self-relate, to maintain and self-maintain. Thirdly, inforgetic theory refers to the conceptual relation between information and organisation. It includes: the canonic model of information: Signified-Sign-Signification, the first principle of inforgetics: the principle of self-organisation, and the second principle of inforgetics: the principle of intelligent action. Finally, the article gives a brief summing up of the significance of Le Moigne’s contribution.
The author uses physiological, psychological and clinical examples to place the aesthetic problem of architecture within an ethical context. Drawing on a clinical report and an experiment in perception, he argues that perception consists largely of invention on the part of the perceiver. He disputes the possibility of an objective reality, linking the popular belief in objectivity to a desire to avoid responsibility. He outlines the opposition between objectivity and ethics and, likewise, between “monologic” and “dialogic.” His discussion of the distinction between denotation and connotation leads to conclusions concerning the role of ethics in architecture.