Sociocybernetic Reflections on the Human Condition

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Bernard SCOTT, International Center for Sociocybernetic Studies, Germany
Sociocybernetics is concerned with applying concepts from the system sciences to the social sciences. Talcott Parsons was perhaps the first well-known social theorist who incorporated concepts from cybernetics and systems theory in his work. These concepts remained central in his thinking up to the time of his final meditations on ‘the human condition’. By this term, I believe Parsons meant a general and profound concern with understanding what it is to be human. In this paper, I reflect on what concepts taken from sociocybernetics can contribute to our understanding of the human condition in the context of the current and emerging global world, with its major issues of ecological crisis, conflict and its consequences, global economic instability and insecurity, and exploitation and inequality. In contemporary sociology, Parsons is but one example out of many theorists who have used concepts from sociocybernetics in their work. Others include Niklas Luhmann, Walter Buckley, Gordon Pask, Felix Geyer and Bernd Hornung. In answering the question what can sociocybernetics tell us about the human condition, I draw from several of these sources. In particular, I take from Talcott Parsons the analytic concepts of biological, psychological, cultural and social systems and from Gordon Pask’s conversation and interaction of actors theories the concept of evolving psychosocial unities and his analytic distinction between the conversational cognitive systems that constitute psychosocial unities and the biological and technological systems that embody them.