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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
Heike Egner

Shared views across the big divide? Self-organization, emergence and time in the theories byNiklasLuhmann and Ilya Prigogine

Department of Geography and Regional Studies, Klagenfurt

Working in the scientific field of Geography, the big divide in sense making and reasoning, i.e. in approaches and methods, between natural sciences on the one side and social sciences and humanities on the other side is always present. This paper argues that the big divide might be crossed on a theoretical level by applying systems theory. It compares general ideas of two meta-theories stemming from a very different scientific context, but which both claim a universal scope for their approach: the theory of dissipative structures by the chemist Ilya Prigogine and the theory of social systems by the sociologist NiklasLuhmann.
The paper focuses on self-organization/self-reference and emergence and will show that – despite the assumption of differences – marked similarities can be found. However, both aspects are bound to time – a rather contrasting facet within Prigogine’s and Luhmann’s theories. Thus, the paper will suggest a compromising position in order to contribute to a crossing of the big divide.