The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name
Seven Days with Second-Order Cybernetics
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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A Foreword by the Series Editor
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Heinz von Foerster is one of the most consequential cybernetic thinkers in the history of the field. He was born in 1911 in Vienna, Austria, into a progressive bourgeois family of architects, designers, artists, and activists. Hailing from a partially Jewish background, he weathered the Nazi era ...
An Author’s Forewords
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When it came to writing a book, I was corrupted very early on by two doctrines from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. These are the first and the last sentences of his Tractatus. The first is a quotation from Ferdinand Kürnberger, which Wittgenstein put in as a motto for the whole work: ...
Forewords with Two Editors
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Finding suitable introductions proves to be quite difficult, if only because incomparably more first sentences present themselves than can possibly be set down. As a rule, books only have the option of one first sentence, one single first paragraph. ...
Foretaste of an Author with Two Editors
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We would like to approach your ideas and opinions step by step, moving from the fundamental questions of physics on the first day to the specific heuristics that characterise your style of thinking on the sixth and final day of conversation. On the seventh day, we will all have earned an unqualified rest. ...
Notes on the Translation
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What, then, do translators do? For readers in English, this trialog now has two additional participants, although these two are trying their best to be discrete, almost transparent. Try though we might, however, this is an impossible task: ...
Preface to the American Edition
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Heinz von Foerster invoked the metaphor of a fairy who through her magic powers accomplished a series of nearly impossible results, all of them contributing to the German edition of this book in the year 1997. Nevertheless, the most remarkable product of our faithful book fairy was the English translation of the German original. ...
List of Abbreviations
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First Day: Building Blocks, Observers, Emergence, Trivial Machines
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In various places in your works, we find principles or aphorisms concerning beginnings. The following, for example, is an important proposition: The world or the environment contains no information. The world is as it is.1 That means that observation or the observer is inseparably part of every beginning. ...
Second Day: Innovation, Life, Order, Thermodynamics
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Water: it was created quite literally before everything else. More generally, however, following the beginning of heaven and earth, today will revolve around their continuation. Yesterday we finished with images of an invitingly recursive universe— with the metaphor of the casino. ...
Third Day: Movement, Species, Recursion, Selectivity
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I’ve already pointed this out several times: The whole problematic lies in the language. If we understood the problematic of language, then we would have the possibility of dealing with the problem, “There is a living being,” “There is a galaxy,” and so forth, in a manner that projects this problem onto language, the sayable. ...
Fourth Day: Cognition, Perception, Memory, Symbols
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In our fourth conversation, new possibilities should arise for us, of distinctions, possibilities of orientation, of remembering— and of forgetting. So far we have been operating with something that we could call an “MS system.” In our game box we found recursively coupled motor-sensory systems, MS systems. ...
Fifth Day: Communicating, Talking, Thinking, Falling
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For me, the first thing is that language distinguishes itself from a general idea of communication. Communication happens as soon as any creature waves some body part about so that another creature interprets this waving about, puts it into a definite relation with something and acts accordingly— for example, by getting “hopping mad.” ...
Sixth Day: Experiences, Heuristics, Plans, Futures
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As far as I can remember, we’re now dedicating ourselves to the mythologies, strategies, technologies, jokes, and so forth, that this Foerster uses to sell his curious intellectual soap bubbles. Is that right? ...
Seventh Day: Rest, Rest, Rest, Rest
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Epilogue in Heaven
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On the way back from San Francisco to New York we’re sitting—“tired and happy” would be a fitting phrase—in a flying and, for the next hours, hopefully, totally trivial machine. In our hand luggage we are carrying, in the form of sixteen cassette tapes, the extracts from one week of Hissing, Grunting, and Rattling Sounds From Rattlesnake Hill, ...
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013