Ethics and SecondOrder Cybernetics Heinz on oerster  Ladies and Gentlemen am touched by the generosity of the or ganizers of this conference who not only in vited me to come to your glorious city of
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Ethics and SecondOrder Cybernetics Heinz on oerster Ladies and Gentlemen am touched by the generosity of the or ganizers of this conference who not only in vited me to come to your glorious city of

And am impressed by the ingenuity of the or ganizers who suggested to me the title of my presentation The anted me to address myself to Ethics and SecondOrder Cybernetics be honest ould ha ne er dared to propose such an outrageous title ut must say

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Ethics and SecondOrder Cybernetics Heinz on oerster Ladies and Gentlemen am touched by the generosity of the or ganizers of this conference who not only in vited me to come to your glorious city of




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Presentation on theme: "Ethics and SecondOrder Cybernetics Heinz on oerster Ladies and Gentlemen am touched by the generosity of the or ganizers of this conference who not only in vited me to come to your glorious city of"— Presentation transcript:


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Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics Heinz on oerster 1991 Ladies and Gentlemen: am touched by the generosity of the or ganizers of this conference who not only in vited me to come to your glorious city of aris, ut also ga me the honor of opening the Plenary sessions with my presentation. And am impressed by the ingenuity of the or ganizers who suggested to me the title of my presentation. The anted me to address myself to Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics. be honest, ould ha ne er dared to propose such an outrageous title, ut must say that am delighted that this title as

chosen for me. Before left California for aris, others ask ed me full of en vy what am going to do in aris, what will talk about? When answered I shall talk about Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics almost all of them look ed at me in be wilderment and ask ed, What is second-order ybernetics? as if there were no questions about ethics. am relie ed when people ask me about second-order ybernetics and not about ethics, because it is much easier to talk about second-order ybernetics than it is to talk about ethics. In act it is impossible to talk about ethics. But let me xplain that later and

let me no say fe ords about ybernetics, and of course, the ybernetics of ybernetics, or second-order ybernetics. As you all kno ybernetics arises when ef fectors (say motor an engine, our muscles, etc.) are connected to sensory or gan which in turn acts with its signals upon the ef fectors. It is this circular or ganization which sets ybernetic systems apart from others that are not so or ganized. Here is Norbert iener who re-introduced the term Cybernetics into scientific discourse. He observ ed, The beha vior of such systems may be interpreted as directed to ard the attainment of

goal. That is, it looks as if these systems pursued purpose! That sounds ery bizarre indeed! But let me gi you other paraphrases of what ybernetics is all about by in oking the spirit of omen and men who rightly could be considered the mamas and papas of ybernetic thought and action. First there is Mar garet Mead, whose name am sure is amiliar to all of you. In an address to the American Society of Cybernetics she remark ed: As an anthropologist, ha been interested in the ef fects that the theories of Cybernetics ha within our society am not referring to computers or to the electronic re

olution as whole, or to the end of dependence on script for kno wledge, or to the ay that dress has succeeded the mimeographing machine as form of communication among the dissenting young. Let me repeat that, am not referring to the ay that dr ess has succeeded the mimeographing machine as form of communication among the dissenting young. And she then continues: specifically ant to consider the significance of the set of cross-disciplinary ideas which we first called feed-back and then called teleological mechanisms and then called it c ybernetics, form of cross-

disciplinary thought which made it possible for members of man disciplines to communicate with each other easily in language which all could understand.
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And here is the oice of her third husband, the epistemologist, anthropologist, ybernetician, and as some say the papa of amily therap Gre gory Bateson, Cybernetics is branch of mathematics dealing with problems of control, recursi eness and information. And here is the or ganizational philosopher and managerial wizard Staf ford Beer Cybernetics is the science of ef fecti or ganization. And finally here the poetic

reflection of Mister Cybernetics, as we fondly call him, the Cybernetician yberneti- cian; Gordon ask, Cybernetics is the science of defensible metaphors. It seems that ybernetics is man dif ferent things to man dif ferent people. But this is because of the richness of its conceptual base; and belie that this is ery good, otherwise ybernetics ould become some what boring ercise. Ho we er all of those perspecti es arise from one central theme; that of circularity When, perhaps half century ago, the fecundity of this concept as seen, it as sheer euphoria to philosophize, epistemologize,

and theorize about its unifying po wer and its consequences and ramification on arious fields. While this as going on, something strange olv ed among the philosophers, the epistemologists and, the theoreticians. The be gan to see themselv es more and more as being included in lar ger circularity; maybe within the circularity of their amily; or that of their society and culture; or en being included in circularity of cosmic proportions! What appears to us today as being most natural to see and think, as then not only dif ficult to see, ut asn en allo wed to be thought. Why?

Because it ould violate the basic principle of scientific discourse which demands the separation of the observ er from the observ ed. It is the principle of objecti vity The properties of the observ er shall not enter the description of his observ ations. present this principle here, in its most brutal form, to demonstrate its non-sensicality If the properties of the observ er (namely to observ and describe) are eliminated, there is nothing left; no observ ation, no description. Ho we er there as justification for adhering to this principle, and this justification as fear;

fear that paradox es ould arise when the observ ers were allo wed to enter the uni erse of their observ ations. And you kno the threat of paradox es. steal their ay into theory is lik ha ving the clo en-hoofed foot of the de vil stuck in the door of orthodoxy Clearly when yberneticians were thinking of partnership in the circularity of observing and communicating, the were entering into forbidden land. In the general case of circular closure, implies B; implies C; and (Oh, horror!) implies A! Or in the refle xi case, implies B, and (Oh, shock!) implies A! And no the de vil clo en-hoof in

its purest form, the form of self-reference; implies (Outrage!) ould lik to in vite you no to join me in land where it is not forbidden; rather where one is encouraged to speak about oneself. What else can one do an yw ay? This turn from looking at things out there to looking at looking itself, arose think, from significant adv ances in neurophysiology and neuropsychiatry It appeared that one could no dare to ask the question of ho the brain orks. One could dare to write theory of the brain. It may be ar gued that er the centuries since Aristotle, physicians and philosophers again and

again de eloped theories of the brain. So, what ne of today yberneticians? What is ne is the profound insight that brain is required to write theory of brain. From this follo ws that theory of the brain, that has an aspirations for completeness, has to account for the writing of this theory And en more ascinating, the writer of this theory has to account for her or himself. ranslated into the domain of ybernetics; the ybernetician, by entering his wn domain, has to account for his or her wn acti vity Cybernetics then becomes ybernetics of ybernetics, or second-or der cybernetics Ladies and

Gentlemen, this perception represents fundamental change, not only in the ay we conduct science, ut also ho we percei teaching, learning, the therapeutic process, or ganizational management, and so on and so forth; and ould say of ho we percei relationships in our daily life. One may see this fundamental epistemological change if one first considers oneself to be an independent observ er who atches the orld go by; as opposed to person who considers oneself to be participant actor in the drama of mutual interaction of the gi and tak in the circularity of human relations.
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In the case of the first xample, as result of my independence, can tell others ho to think and act, Thou shalt Thou shalt not This is the origin of moral codes. In the case of the second xample, because of my interdependence, can only tell myself ho to think and act, I shall I shall not This is the origin of ethics. This as the easy part of my presentation. No comes the dif ficult part. am supposed to talk about ethics. Ho to go about this? Where to be gin? In my search for be ginning came across the lo ely poem by Yv eline Re and Bernard Prieur that embellishes the first

page of our program. Let me read to you the first fe lines: V ous ez dit Ethique? ej le murmur samplifie en rumeur Soudain les roses ne montrent plus des epines. Sans doute le sujet est-il br ulant. Il est aussi dactualit e. Let me be gin with epineswith the thornsand hope, rose will emer ge. The thorns be gin with are Ludwig ittgenstein reflections upon ethics in his ractatus Logico-Philosophicus. If were to pro vide title for this tractatus, ould call it ractatus Ethico-Philosophicus. Ho we er am not going to defend this choice, rather tell you what prompts me to refer

to ittgenstein reflections in order to present my wn. Im referring to point Number in his ractatus where he discusses the general form of propositions. Near the end of this discussion he turns to the problem of alues in the orld and their xpression in propositions. In his amous point Number 6.421 he comes to conclusion which will read to you in the original German, Es ist Klar dass sich Ethik nicht aussprechen laesst. wish kne French translation. only kno tw English translations which are both incorrect. Therefore, will present my translation into English, with my con viction that the

simultaneous translators will do superb job of presenting ittgenstein point in French. Here is my English ersion of 6.421, It is clear that ethics cannot be articulated. No you understand why earlier said, My be ginning will be thorns. Here is an International Congress on Ethics, and the first speak er says something to the ef fect that it is impossible to speak about ethics! But please be patient for moment. quoted ittgenstein thesis in isolation. Therefore it is not yet clear what he anted to say ortunately the ne xt point 6.422, which will read in moment, pro vides lar ger conte xt

for 6.421. prepare for what you are about to/hear you should remember that ittgenstein as iennese. So am I. Therefore there is kind of under ground understanding which sense you arisians will share with us iennese. Let me try to xplain. Here no is point 6.422 in the English translation by Pears and McGuinness; When an ethical la of the form Thou shalt is laid do wn, one first thought is, And what if do not do it? When first read this, my thought as that not erybody will share ittgenstein vie think that this reflects his cultural background. Let me continue with ittgenstein,

It is clear ho we er that ethics has nothing to do with punishment and re ard in the usual sense of the terms. Ne ertheless, there must indeed be some kind of ethical re ard and punishment, ut the must reside in the action itself. The must reside in the action itself! ou may remember we came across such self-referential notions earlier with the xample, implies A and its recursi relati es of second-order ybernetics. Can we tak hint from these comments for ho to go about reflecting about ethics, and at the same time adhere to ittgenstein criterion? think we can. myself try to adhere to

the follo wing rule; to master the use of my language so that ethics is implicit in an discourse may ha e. (e.g., in science, philosophy epistemology therap etc.) What do mean by that? By that mean to let language and action ride on an under ground ri er of ethics, and to mak sure that one is not thro wn of f. This insures that ethics does not become xplicit and that language does not de generate into moralizations. Ho can one accomplish this? Ho can one hide ethics from all yes and still let her determine language and action? ortunately ethics has tw sisters who allo her to remain unseen. The

create for us visible frame ork; tangible tissue within which and upon which we may wea the goblins of our life. And who are these tw sisters? One is Metaphysics, the other is Dialogics.
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My job no is to talk about these tw ladies, and ho the manage to allo ethics to become manifest without becoming xplicit. Metaph ysics Let me first talk about Metaphysics. In order to let you see at once the delightful ambiguity that surrounds her let me quote from superb article, The Nature of Metaphysics by the British scholar .H. alsh. He be gins his article with the follo wing

sentence, Almost erything in metaphysics is contro ersial, and it is therefore not surprising that there is little agreement among those who call themselv es metaphysicians about what precisely it is the are attempting. oday when in ok Metaphysics, do not seek agreement with an ybody else about her nature. This is because ant to say precisely what it is when we become metaphysicians, whether or not we call ourselv es metaphysicians. say that we become metaphysician an time we decide upon in principle undecidable questions. or instance, here is decidable question, Is the number 3,396,714 di

visible by 2? It will tak you less than tw seconds to decide that indeed this number is di visible by tw o. The interesting thing here is that it will tak you xactly the same short time to decide if the number has not 7, ut 7000 or million digits. could of course in ent questions that are slightly more dif ficult; for instance, Is 3,396,714 di visible by three?, or en more dif ficult ones. But there are also problems that are xtraordinarily dif ficult to decide, some of them ha ving been posed more than 200 years ago and remain unanswered. Think of Fermat Last Theorem to

which the most brilliant heads ha put their brilliant minds and ha not yet come up with an answer Or think of Goldbach Conjecture which sounds so simple that it seems proof cannot be too ar ay All en numbers can be composed as the sum of tw primes. or xample, 12 is the sum of the tw prime numbers and 7; or 20 17 3; or 24 13 11, and so on and so forth. So ar no countere xample to Goldbach conjecture has been found. And en if all further tests ould not refute Goldbach, it still ould remain conjecture until sequence of mathematical steps is found that decides in or of his good sense of numbers.

There is justification for not gi ving up and for continuing the search for finding sequence of steps that ould pro Goldbach. It is that the problem is posed in frame ork of logico-mathematical relations which guarantees that one can climb from an node of this comple crystal of connections to an other node. One of the most remarkable xamples of such crystal of thought is Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whithead monumental Principia Mathematica which the wrote er 10 year period between 1900 and 1910. This ol- ume ma gnum opus of more than 1500 pages as to establish once and for

all conceptual machinery for fla wless deductions. conceptual machinery that ould contain no ambiguities, no contradictions and no undecidables. Ne ertheless, in 1931, urt odel, then 25 years of age, published an article whose significance goes ar be yond the circle of logicians and mathematicians. The title of this article will gi you no in English, On formally undecidable propositions in the Principia Mathematica and related systems. What odel does in his paper is to demonstrate that logical systems, en those so carefully constructed by Russell and Whitehead, are not immune to

undecidables sneaking in. Ho we er we do not need to go to Russell and Whitehead, odel, or an other giants to learn about in principle undecidable questions. can easily find them all around. or instance, the question about the origin of the uni erse is one of those in principle undecidable questions. Nobody as there to atch it. Moreo er this is apparent by the man dif ferent answers that are gi en to this question. Some say it as single act of creation some or 5,000 years ago. Others say there as ne er be ginning and that there will ne er be an end; because the uni erse is system in

perpetual equilibrium. Then there are those who claim that approximately 10 or 20 billion years ago the uni erse came into being with Big Bang whose remnants one is able to hear er lar ge radio antennas. But am most inclined to trust Chuang Tse report, because he is the oldest and as therefore the closest to the ent. He says:
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Hea en does nothing, this nothing-doing is dignity; Earth does nothing, this nothing-doing is rest; From the union of these tw nothing-doings arise all action And all things are brought forth. could go on and on with other xamples, because ha not yet

told you what the Burmese, the Australians, the Eskimos, the Bushmen, the Ibos, etc., ould tell you about their origins. In other ords, tell me ho the uni erse came about, and will tell you who you are. hope that ha made the distinction between decidable and, in principle, undecidable questions suf ficiently clear so that may present the follo wing proposition which call the metaphysical postulate: Only those questions that are in principle undecidable, we can decide. Why? Simply because the decidable questions are already decided by the choice of the frame ork in which the are ask ed,

and by the choice of the rules used to connect what we label the question with what we tak for an answer In some cases it may go ast, in others it may tak long, long time. But ultimately we arri after long sequence of compelling logical steps at an irrefutable answer; definite yes, or definite no. But we are under no compulsion, not en under that of logic, when we decide on in principle undecidable questions. There is no xternal necessity that forces us to answer such questions one ay or another are free! The compliment to necessity is not chance, it is choice! can hoose who we

wish to become when we have decided on an in principle undecidable question That is the good ne ws, as American journalists ould say no comes the bad ne ws. ith this freedom of choice we are no responsible for the choice we mak e. or some, this freedom of choice is gift from hea en. or others such responsibility is an unbearable urden. Ho can one escape it? Ho can one oid it? Ho can one pass it on to somebody else? ith much ingenuity and imagination, mechanisms ha been contri ed by which one could bypass this wesome urden. Through hierarchies, entire institutions ha been uilt where it is

impossible to localize responsibility Ev eryone in such system can say I as told to do X. On the political stage, we hear more and more the phrase of Pontius Pilate, I ha no choice ut X. In other ords, Don hold me responsible for X. Blame someone else. This phrase apparently replaces, Among the man choices had, decided on X. mentioned objecti vity before, and mention it here again as popular de vice for oiding responsibility As you may remember objecti vity requires that the properties of the observ er be left out of an descriptions of his observ ations. ith the essence of observing

(namely the processes of cognition) ha ving been remo ed, the observ er is reduced to cop ying machine with the notion of responsibility successfully juggled ay Objecti vity Pontius Pilate, hierarchies, and other de vices are all deri ations of choice between pair of in principle undecidable questions which are, Am apart fr om the uni erse? Meaning whene er look Im looking as if through peephole upon an unfolding uni erse; or Am part of the uni erse? Meaning whene er act Im changing myself and the uni erse as well. Whene er reflect on these tw alternati es, Im surprised by the depth

of the abyss that separates the tw funda- mentally dif ferent orlds that can be created by such choice. That is to see myself as citizen of an independent uni erse, whose re gulations, rules and customs may entually disco er; or to see myself as participant in conspirac whose customs, rules, and re gulations we are no in enting. Whene er speak to those who ha made their decision to be either disco ers or in entors, Im impressed by the act that neither of them realizes that the ha er made that decision. Moreo er when challenged to justify their position, conceptual frame ork is constructed

which itself turns out to be the result of decision upon an in principle undecidable question. It seems as though Im telling you detecti story while eeping quiet about who is the good guy and who is the bad guy; or who is sane and who is insane; or who is right and who is wrong. Since these are in principle undecidable questions, it is for each of us to decide, and then tak responsibility for There is murderer submit that it is
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unkno able whether he is or as insane. The only thing we know is what say what you say or what the xpert says he is. And what say what you say and

what the xpert says about his sanity or insanity is my is your and is the xpert responsibility Again, the point here is not the question Who right and who wrong? This is an in principle undecidable question. The point here freedom; freedom of choice. It is Jos Orte ga Gasset point: Man does not ha nature, ut history Man is nothing ut drama. His life is something that has to be chosen, made up as he goes along. And human consists in that choice and in ention. Each human being is the no elist of himself, and though he may choose between being an original writer and plagiarist, he cannot escape

choosing. He is condemned to be free. ou may ha become suspicious of me qualifying all questions as being in principle undecidable questions. This is by no means the case. as once ask ed ho the inhabitants of such dif ferent orlds as sk etched before, (the inhabitants of the orld the disco er and the inhabitants of orld the in ent) can er li together Answering that is not problem. The disco ers will most lik ely become astronomers, physicists and engineers; the in entors amily therapists, poets, and biologists. And li ving together on be problem either as long as the disco erers disco er in

entors, and the in entors in ent disco erers. Should dif ficulties de elop, fortunately we ha this full house of amily therapists who may help to bring sanity to the human amily ha dear friend who gre up in Marak esh. The house of his amily stood on the street that di vides the Je wish and the Arabic quarters. As bo he played with all the others, listened to what the thought and said, and learned of their fundamentally dif ferent vie ws. When ask ed him once who as right he said, The are both right. But this cannot be, ar gued from an Aristotelian platform, Only one of them can ha the

truth! The problem is not truth, he answered, The problem is trust. understood. The problem is understanding. The problem is understanding understanding! The problem is making decisions upon in principle undecidable questions. At that point Metaphysics appeared and ask ed her younger sister Ethics, What ould you recommend bring back to my prote ges, the metaphysicians, re gardless of whether or not the refer to themselv es as such? Ethics answered, T ell them the should al ays try to act so as to increase the number of choices. es, increase the number of choices! Dialogics No ould lik to

turn to Ethics sister Dialogics. What are the means at her disposal to insure that Ethics can manifest herself without becoming xplicit? ou may already ha guessed that it is, of course, language. am not referring here in the sense of the noises produced by pushing air past our ocal cords; or language in the sense of grammar syntax, semantics, semiotics; nor the machinery of phrases, erb phrases, noun phrases, deep structure, etc. When refer here to language, refer to language the dance. Similar to when we say It tak es tw to ango, am saying, It tak es tw to language. When it comes to the

dance of language, you the amily therapists are of course the masters, while can only speak as an amateur Since amateur, comes from amour you ll kno at once that lo to dance this dance. In act, what little kno of this dance learned from you. My first lesson came when as in vited to sit in an observ ation room and observ through, the one ay mirror therapeutic session in progress with amily of four or moment my colleagues had to lea e, and as by myself. as curious as to what ould see when couldn hear what as said, so turned of the sound. recommend that you perform this xperiment

yourself. Perhaps you will be as ascinated as as. What sa then, the silent pantomime, the parting and closing of lips, the body mo ements, the bo who only once stopped biting his nails what sa then were the dance steps of language, the dance steps alone, without the disturbing ef fects of the music. Later heard from the therapist that this session as ery successful indeed. thought, what
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magic must sit in the noises these people produced by pushing air past their ocal cords and by parting and closing their lips. Therap y! What magic indeed! And to think that the only medicine

at your disposal are the dance steps of language and its accompan ying music. Language! What magic indeed! It is left to the nai to belie that magic can be xplained. Magic cannot be xplained. Magic can only be practiced, as you all well kno Reflecting on the magic of language is similar to reflecting upon theory of the brain. As much as one needs brain to reflect upon theory of the brain, one needs the magic of language to reflect upon the magic of language. It is the magic of those notions that the need themselv es to come into being. The ar of second-or der It is also

the ay language protects itself against xplanation by al ays speaking about itself There is ord for language, namely language. There is ord for ord, namely w ord. If you don kno what ord means, you can look it up in dictionary did that. found it to be an utterance. ask ed myself, What is an utterance? look ed it up in the dictionary The dictionary said that it means to xpress through ords. So here we are back where we started. Circularity; implies A. But this is not the only ay language protects itself against xplanation. In order to confuse her xplorer she al ays runs on tw dif ferent

tracks. If you chase language up one track, she jumps to the other If you follo her there, she is back on the first. What are these tw tracks? One track is the track of appearance. It runs through land that appears stretched out before us; the land we are looking at as though through peephole. The other track is the track of function. It runs through the land that is as much part of us as we are part of it; the land that functions lik an xtension of our body When language is on the track of appearance it is monologue. There are noises produced by pushing air past ocal cords. There are

the ords, the grammar the syntax, the well formed sentences. Along with these noises goes the denotati pointing. Point to table, mak the noise table; point to chair mak the noise chair Sometimes it does not ork. Mar garet Mead quickly learned the colloquial language of man tribes by pointing to things and aiting for the appropriate noises. She told me that once she came to particular tribe, pointed to dif ferent things, ut al ays got the same noises, chumulu. primiti language she thought, only one ord! Later she learned that chumulu means pointing with finger When language switches

to the track of function it is dialogic. There are, of course, these noises; some of them may sound lik table, others lik chair But there need not be an tables or chairs because nobody is pointing at tables or chairs. These noises are in vitations to the other to mak some dance steps together The noises table and chair bring to resonance those strings in the mind of the other which, when brought to vibration, ould produce noises lik table and chair Language in its function is connotati e. In its appearance, language is descripti e. When you tell your story you tell it as it as; the

magnificent ship, the ocean, the big sk and the flirt you had that made the whole trip delight. But for whom do you tell it? That the wrong question. The right question is; with whom are you going to dance your story so that your partner will float with you er the decks of your ship, will smell the salt of the ocean, will let the soul xpand er the sk y? And there will be flash of jealousy when you come to the point of your flirt. In its function, language is constructi because nobody kno ws the source of your story Nobody kno ws, nor er will kno ho it as, because

as it as is gone fore er ou remember Ren Descartes as he as sitting in his study not only doubting that the as sitting in his study ut also doubting his xistence. He ask ed himself, Am I, or am not? Am I, or am not? He answered this rhetorical question with the solipsistic monologue, Je pense, donc je suis or in the amous Latin ersion, Cogito er go sum. As Descartes kne ery well, this is language in its appearance, otherwise he ould not ha quickly published his insight for the benefit of others in his Discourse de la ethode. Since he understood the function of language as well, in

all airness he should ha xclaimed, Je pense, donc nous sommes, Cogito er go sumus or I think, therefore we are. In its appearance, the language speak is my language. It mak es me are of myself. This is the root of conscious- ness In its function, my language reaches out for the other This is the root of conscience And this is where Ethics
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in visibly manifests itself through dialogue. Permit me to read to you what Martin Buber says in the last fe lines of his book Das Pr oblem des Mensc hen Contemplate the human with the human, and you will see the dynamic duality the

essence together Here is the gi ving and the recei ving, here is the aggressi and the defensi po wer here the quality of searching and of responding, al ays both in one, mutually complementing in alternating action, demonstrating together what it is; human. No you can turn to the single one and you can recognize him as human for his potential of relating. may come closer to answering the question, What is human? when we come to understand him as the being in whose dialogic, in his mutually present tw o-getherness, the encounter of the one with the other is realized and recognized at all

times. Since cannot add an ything to Buber ords, this is all can say about ethics, and about second-order ybernetics. Thank you ery much. Yv eline Rey: Inter view with Heinz on oerster Yv eline: The first time heard your name mentioned, it as accompanied by the term c ybernetician. Ho does one become ybernetician? Why this choice at the be ginning? What were the influential steps throughout the course of your life? Heinz: es. Ho does one become ybernetician? Or perhaps you ant me to tell you ho became yber netician. ou may remember the point made in my address; that we all are

metaphysicians, whether we call ourselv es such, whene er we decide upon in principle undecidable questions. answer your question, could also say we are all yberneticians (whether or not we call ourselv es such) whene er we justify our actions without using the ords because of or cause de ut with the phrase in English in order to which in French is much more Aristotelian, fin de Yv eline: Why Aristotelian? Heinz: In his Metaphysics Aristotle distinguished four dif ferent kinds of causes or as ould say four dif ferent xcuses; tw of which ha temporal character causa ef ficientis

and causa finalis. Physicists lo the former where causes in the past determine the ef fects in the present: Because she did turn the switch, the lights go on no Psychologists prefer the latter: In or der to ha the lights on, she turns the switch no Causes in the future, to ha the room lit, determine actions in the present, turn the switch no Yv eline: ery interesting, ut where does ybernetics come in? Heinz: Physicists xplore the connection between the positions of the switch, making or breaking contact, and the electrical processes that heat the wires in the lamp to temperatures that

are high enough to radiate electro- magnetical es in the visible spectrum, etc., etc. Cyberneticians xplore the connection between the little girl wish to enter lit as opposed to dark room, as well as the senso-motoric processes and the emer ging ye-hand correlation that bring her hand along an unpredictable path, ut with predictable outcome, closer and closer to the switch which she then turns in the right direction, etc. If one were to atch this girl, one might be tempted to say as did Norbert iener . her beha vior may be interpreted as directed to the attainment of goal. In the early

ybernetic literature you will find again and again reference to the notion of goal, purpose, end, etc. Since the Greek ord for end is telos, our pre-c yberneticians used teleology for identifying their acti vity Yv eline: But, Heinz, you said before that we are all yberneticians, whether or not we call ourselv es such, ut when go to turn on light switch am not e xploring the senso-motoric connections. et cetera. just go and turn on the switch. Where is the ybernetician?
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Heinz: (Laughing) This is one more reason why lo omen! ou look through all the scientific

erbal haze and go straight to the essential points. No Hmm What can say? think can xtricate myself from this dilemma by in enting ne cate gory of ybernetics: Zero-order Cybernetics. suggest we ha case of zero-order ybernetics when acti vity becomes structured; when beha vior emer ges, ut one doesn reflect upon the why and the ho w of this beha vior One just acts. This is when ybernetics is implicit. Yv eline: see. But what is no First-order ybernetics? Heinz: This is when one reflects upon one beha vior upon the ho w and the why Then ybernetics becomes x- plicit, and one de

elops notions lik feedback, amount of information, circularity recursion, control homeostasis, dynamic stability dynamic instability or chaos, fix ed points, attractors, equi-finality purpose, goal, etc., etc. In other ords, one arri es at the whole conceptual machinery of early yber netics, first-order ybernetics; or as ould say the ybernetics of observ ed systems. Yv eline: Let me come back to my first question. Ho did you come upon ybernetics? Heinz: ery simple. Cybernetics came upon me; because my English ocab ulary as at most 25 ords. Yv eline: This

mak es no sense, dear Heinz. ou ll ha to xplain that bit better Heinz: Okay Then we ha to go back to time when you, dear Yv eline, were not yet born. ha to go back to the year 1948, when parts of Austria were still occupied by Russian troops, and the orld as slo wly reco ering from the ounds of the ar In No ember of that year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Norbert iener published book entitled Cybernetics with the subtitle Communication and Control in the Animal and the Machine. Also that No ember Heinz on oerster in ienna, Austria, published book entitled Das Ged ac htnis [The memory] with the

subtitle Eine quantenphysikalis he Unter suc hung [An in estigation in quantum physics]. am originally physicist, and what tried to do in this in estigation as to connect obser ations in xperimental psychology and neurophysiology with the physics of the lar ge (biological) molecules. think that didn do bad job of it. No ha to switch to another track. My wife dearest friend, Ilse, had escaped from German when Hitler came into po wer By 1948 she as well established in Ne ork and she in vited me to come to the United States in the hope that could establish beachhead in order to mak it easier for

the rest of my amily to follo In February of 1949 crossed ery stormy Atlantic on the Queen Mary Since don get seasick, (most of the other passengers were) al ays had aiters serving me in an empty dining room. fe days after my arri al in Ne ork, one of America leading neuropsychiatrist, arren McCulloch (who, by an amazing combination of miraculous circumstances, had gotten hold of my book) in vited me to present my theory of memory at meeting in Ne ork that as to tak place fe days later He also recommended that find book entitled Cybernetics in order to prepare myself bit for this

meeting. did that, and with the little English at my disposal at that time, tried hard to understand some of its basic points. Some what ill prepared in concepts and language, came to this meeting whose title as more or less an enigma as well: Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems. my surprise, it as small meeting of about 20 participants, ut to my en greater surprise, this as an assembly of the cr eme de la cr eme of American scientists. There as, of course, arren McCulloch who as chairman of the conference, and whose orks in olumes ha recently been

published. There as Norbert iener himself, of whom lo ely biography by Masani appeared last year There as John on Neuman, the man who started the computer re olution. Then there were Gre gory Bateson and his wife Mar garet Mead, or should say Mar garet Mead and her husband Gre gory Bateson, who brought to anthropology wisdom, profundity and humor; both in dif ferent ays. These are ut fe whose names belie ould be amiliar to my European friends. don kno who in ented the notion of interdisciplinari ty ut this meeting as its manifestation. If you were to be gin with
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nthropology

in an alphabetical list of academic professions, and end with oology my guess ould be that almost ery one of these disciplines had representati present. as called upon relati ely early to present my story and wrestled aliantly with my 20 English ords to mak myself understood. The whole thing ould ha turned into catastrophe if it weren for the presence of Gerhard on Bonin, Heinrich Kl uv er and others who spok fluently German and who rescued me by translating some of my ar guments. That ening, the group had usiness meeting. Before it as er as in vited to come in. Heinz, be gan the

chairman, we listened to your molecular theory of memory and your theory agrees with man observ ations which other theories cannot account for What you had to say as ery interesting. Ho we er how you said it as abominable! Because we ant you to learn English ast, we ha decided to appoint you to be the editor of the transactions of this conference. as of course speechless. Ho could edit articles by such superb writers as iener Mead, Bateson, etc.? Ho could or ganize material of which I, at best, understood only half? But, thought Why not try?. So accepted the appointment. immediately

proposed that, Since the title of this conference is so long, it is hard to remember and for me, hard to pronounce; circular -causal-and -fe edb ac k-mec ha nis ms. propose to call this conference Cybernetics. Ev erybody look ed at Norbert iener who sat ne xt to me, and applauded in his honor and in acceptance of my proposal. Deeply touched by the recognition of his peers, tears came to his yes, and he left the room to hide his emotions. The sponsor of this, and four more conferences on this topic, as the Josiah Mac Jr oundation of Ne ork, who ask ed me to edit each of the olumes. Since all

of that took place in the remote past, aficionados of ybernetics refer to these books as the le gendary Mac meetings on ybernetics. Here ends, dear Yv eline, my story of ho ybernetics came upon me. Yv eline: Throughout the course of the conference, in the conference rooms as well as the corridors of the Cit de la illette, there as much discussion about first- order ybernetics and second-order ybernetics; mostly to put them opposite each other or instance, But you see my dear in my vie this is from first-order ybernetics. or I tell you, one really feels the dif ference;

this time we are in the second-order ybernetics. ould you attempt to clarify for the people here, what are the fundamental distinctions for first-order and second-order ybernetics? Which change in direction or observ ation signify second-order ybernetics? Or to paraphrase G. Spencer -Bro wn, whom you lik to cite, Design me resemblance! or Design me distinction! Heinz: Let me dra the distinction for you. ou follo wed me when mo ed from zero-order to first-order y- bernetics. What did do? let the underlying circularity of processes of emer gence, of manifestation, of

structurization, of or ganization, etc., become xplicit. By that mean that we no eflect about these circular processes which generate structure, order beha vior etc., in those things we observ e. No Yv eline, you can easily guess ho to mo from first-order to second-order ybernetics. Yv eline: think so. Let me try In second-order you reflect upon your reflections. Heinz: Of course! Yv eline: And no can go on to third-order ybernetics? Heinz: es, you could. But it ould not create an ything ne because by ascending into second-order as Aristotle ould say one has stepped

into the circle that closes upon itself. One has stepped into the domain of concepts that apply to themselv es. Do you mean to say that second-order ybernetics is ybernetics of ybernetics? Heinz: es, precisely! 
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Yv eline: Can you gi me other xamples? Heinz: es of course. or instance, compare typical first-order ybernetics concept such as purpose, (as being the equi alent of why) with second-order question, What is the purpose of purpose? (asking why the notion of purpose is used in the first place; i.e. ho does it influence discourse, xplanations, ar

gumenta- tions, etc.?) One nice feature of this notion is that it relie es one of the need to account for the ay things are done which are intended. Ev ery time tie my shoelaces, or you slip into your pumps, we do it dif ferently do it in thousands of unpredictable ariations, ut the outcome is predictable; my shoelaces are tied, your shoes are on your feet. On the other hand, it is quite impossible for physicist to in ent the La ws of Nature with which to compute our beha vior from the initial conditions of my united shoelaces or your pumps in your ardrobe; that is to compute the paths, the

trajectories and the mo ements that our bodies and our limbs are taking, which tie my laces or put shoes on your feet. The physicist causa ef ficientis is impotent. But the yberneticist causa finalis does it all. If the intentions are clear (independent of the initial conditions) the sensorimotor loops will adjust and readjust our mo ements until my laces are tied; your shoes are on your feet. Yv eline: Thank you. feel much better with my shoes on. see no the purpose of using the notion of purpose. One does not need to kno how to get there; one needs only to kno the ther This is

ery nice feature indeed! Is there bad feature too? Heinz: es there is. The ugly feature of the notions of purpose, goal, end, is that the can be used to justify the specific ays of getting there; The end justified the means. And as we kno no the means can be ery ugly indeed. The question should be, Do the means justify the end? Yv eline: If we ould remember to ask the question this ay the orld could be ery dif ferent place. But no Heinz, to use your language, tell me ho did second-order ybernetics come upon you? Heinz: Through oman, of course. It as Mar garet Mead. ou

remember the quote cited in my address? It came from speech she ga e, think in 1968. Since she rarely uses titles for her talks and almost ne er reads from script, sent her the transcript from recording asking for her corrections and title. There as no reply ur ged by tele gram; still no answer Finally tried to reach her by telephone at the Museum of Natural History In Ne ork where she as curator as told she as with the apuas, or the robrianders, or the Samoans, and could not be reached. So, had to edit her speech and in ent title. What struck me as her speaking about ybernetics in ybernetical

ay Thus chose for her the title, Cybernetics of Cybernetics. It appears to me today that the interest in the peculiar properties of concepts that apply to themselv es, (or en need themselv es to come into being) must then ha been floating in the air Francisco arela, the Chilean neurophilosopher referred to them as self-referential, the Swedish logico-mathematician Lars Lofgren as auto-logical. Yv eline: If were to ask you to gi me the shortest description of the distinction between first-order ybernetics and second-order ybernetics, what ould you say? Heinz: ould say

first-order ybernetics is the ybernetics of observ ed systems, while second-order ybernetics is the ybernetics of observing systems. Yv eline: ery short indeed! ould you lik to xpand on this? Heinz: Perhaps only briefly because my shortest description is nothing else ut paraphrase of the description made in my address, where juxtaposed the tw fundamentally dif ferent epistemological, en ethical, positions where one considers oneself: on the one hand, as an independent observ er who atches the orld go by; or on the other hand, as participant actor in the circularity of human

relations.
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When taking the latter position, (the position belie tak en by systemic amily therapists) one de elops no- tions lik closure, self-or ganization, self- reference, self, auto-poiesis, autonomy responsibility etc., etc. In other ords, one arri es at the whole conceptual machinery of contemporary ybernetics, the ybernetics of observing systems, and thus one comes ery close to the theme of your Congress: Ethics, Ideologies, Ne Methods. Yv eline: At the conclusion of your paper On Constructing Reality which as published in aul atzla wick book The In vented

Reality you ask, What are the consequences of all this in ethics and aesthetics? ou also wrote, The ethical imperati e: Act al ays so as to increase the number of choices. And, The aesthetical imperati e: If you desire to see, learn ho to act. Can you add something to the connections between ethics, aesthetics and change; which from my point of vie are the three basic coordinates in amily therap y? Heinz: lik your three coordinates, because all three ha second-order fla or And, of course, am delighted that tw of my imperati es correspond to tw of your coordinates. Ho we er feel some

uneasiness that your third coordinate change is not yet accompanied by an appropriate imperati e. Let me remedy this situation at once by in enting an imperati for you; the therapeutic imperati e: If you ant to be yourself, hang ! Is this paradoxical? Of course! What else ould you xpect from change? Yv eline: ou say with so much self assurance, P aradoxical, of course! Ho can you connect change with para- dox? Heinz: Easily! ou remember paradox? It yields one meaning when apprehended one ay and one meaning when apprehended the other What do you do when say I am liar do you belie me? If you

do, then must ha spok en the truth; ut if had spok en the truth, must ha lied, etc., etc. What is the problem here? ying? No, the problem is I, the shortest self-referential loop. When speaking about oneself, using I, magic is performed. One creates oneself by creating oneself. I is the operator who is the result of the operation. Yv eline: This is all magic to me. ere does change come in? Heinz: The paradoxical nature of change is much richer than the orthodox paradox of the liar which switches from true to f alse, and from f alse to true, and so on and so forth in dynamic stability

The unorthodox nature of change arises when you apprehend change an ay you wish to apprehend it, and it will yield something else, otherwise it ouldn be change. This is, belie e, its therapeutic force. Yv eline: But you said, If you ant to be yourself; change! Ho can you be yourself and change? Heinz: anted to appeal to ancient wisdom. It is 2600 years old and comes from the Ching Under the 58th symbol Fu, or The urning Point, it says, The ultimate frame for change is the unchanging. Yv eline: (Smiling) This con ersation with you, Heinz, has been jo yful and xciting day of learning. It

seems to ha mirrored the theme of our conference; ethics and amily therap It feels as though I disco ered ne freedom within precise and rigorous frame ork. This frame ork, clearly defined by the fundamental guidelines of therapeutic practice, encourages communication with another thereby creating ne space. Does this not broaden our possibilities by redra wing the line of the horizon? If rigor were combined with creati vity the ethics of choice could also be the ethics of change! At least that is the ery personal understanding which ha gained from our encounter no ha an xquisite dif fused

feeling of door which opens onto another door which opens onto another door which opens onto another door