Looking for “scientific” social science The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics in Bateson's itinerary

Looking for “scientific” social science The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics in Bateson's... Purpose – The paper studies the participation of Gregory Bateson at the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, that would prove to be a real turning point in his intellectual itinerary. Design/methodology/approach – It bases itself on more or less known documents and on the newer studies on early cybernetics, focussing in particular on the earliest Macy meetings. Findings – Being still an anthropologist, Bateson insisted on the importance and lack of theory in social sciences. Arriving at the first Macy meeting, he hoped that the new researches conducted by Norbert Wiener with others would have helped him to clarify the concept of circular causality that he believed to be a very central theoretical notion in social sciences. Indeed, Wiener was strongly sceptical about the inclusion of social sciences in the new cybernetic programs. Nevertheless, Bateson could learn about negative and positive feedback, about how negative feedback was able to explain finality in a non‐metaphysical way, and discovered the specificity of phenomena concerning information. In addition, he became acquainted with Russell's theory of logical types, which resonated in his mind with his ideas about deutero‐learning. Very quickly, his reasoning about circular processes in society began to include also problems of communication and self‐referentiality. Originality/value – It wants to explain one of the most important moments in Bateson's scientific evolution, emphasizing theoretical problems in social sciences demanding still now a stable clarification. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Kybernetes Emerald Publishing

Looking for “scientific” social science The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics in Bateson's itinerary

Kybernetes, Volume 36 (7/8): 10 – Aug 14, 2007

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2007 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
0368-492X
DOI
10.1108/03684920710777522
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – The paper studies the participation of Gregory Bateson at the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, that would prove to be a real turning point in his intellectual itinerary. Design/methodology/approach – It bases itself on more or less known documents and on the newer studies on early cybernetics, focussing in particular on the earliest Macy meetings. Findings – Being still an anthropologist, Bateson insisted on the importance and lack of theory in social sciences. Arriving at the first Macy meeting, he hoped that the new researches conducted by Norbert Wiener with others would have helped him to clarify the concept of circular causality that he believed to be a very central theoretical notion in social sciences. Indeed, Wiener was strongly sceptical about the inclusion of social sciences in the new cybernetic programs. Nevertheless, Bateson could learn about negative and positive feedback, about how negative feedback was able to explain finality in a non‐metaphysical way, and discovered the specificity of phenomena concerning information. In addition, he became acquainted with Russell's theory of logical types, which resonated in his mind with his ideas about deutero‐learning. Very quickly, his reasoning about circular processes in society began to include also problems of communication and self‐referentiality. Originality/value – It wants to explain one of the most important moments in Bateson's scientific evolution, emphasizing theoretical problems in social sciences demanding still now a stable clarification.

Journal

KybernetesEmerald Publishing

Published: Aug 14, 2007

Keywords: Cybernetics; Social processes

References

  • Norbert Wiener and the social sciences
    Geyer, F.; Van Der Zowen, J.
  • Gregory Bateson and the mathematicians: from interdisciplinary interaction to societal functions
    Heims, S.J.
  • Cybernetics: Circular Causal, and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems

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