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Heinz von Foerster 100
Organizing Institutions:
Heinz von Foerster Gesellschaft / Wien
ASC – American Society for Cybernetics
WISDOM – Wiener Institut für
  sozialwissenschaftliche Dokumentation und Methodik

Institut für Zeitgeschichte | Universität Wien
AINS – Austrian Institute for Nonlinear Studies
Pille Bunnell

Chiaroscuro: Living the Ephemerality of Distinctions and Domains

When Heinz von Foerster said that “Truth is the invention of a liar” he opened a view to the circumstances that lead to the generation of any distinction; namely distinctions always arise as a grasping of a recurrent configuration in our living, but only when such a configuration is relevant to how we coordinate what we do. When Humberto Maturana pointed out that “every distinction reveals some regularity and obscures others” and that “a domain in which that distinction is valid arises with the distinction” he opened the view that domains are inherently linked to distinctions. Thus also the distinction of light and dark implicit in chiaroscuro calls up a domain in which that particular distinction is valid, while historically there have been other domains in which chiaroscuro has had validity.

In this presentation I intend to further explore the matter of domains and distinctions by claiming that there is no inherent limitation to either, even as some distinctions and domains develop a historical and social inertia or binding. I contend that in our daily lives we navigate through multiple implicit domains as they arise and dissipate. I will show in what sense domains and distinctions are ephemeral in the living even as some distinctions, including various distinctions of domain, are incorporated and conserved, for some time, as language and culture evolve. In conclusion I claim that if we believe in any distinction and its domain of validity in too rigid a manner, or formalize that which should not be formalized, we reduce our ability to act ethically. Thus I add a corollary to Heinz’ ethical imperative to always act in order to increase choices.

PS This presentation will include a rich visual backdrop of images and animations relevant to the topic.