Observer or self‐observer in second‐order cybernetics?

Pere Julià (Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats, Spanish Council for Scientific Research/CSIC, Palma de Mallorca, Spain)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Publication date: 1 July 2000


The distinction between “observed” and “observing” systems that legitimizes the rise of second‐order cybernetics also raises a number of methodological and epistemological issues. These can be generically classified into two broad groups: first, adherence to the model approach and its overemphasis on cognition, at the expense of conation and other factors responsible for the initiation of action; second, an inadequate appraisal of the nature of language and its role within the sum total of human behavior. The overall result is the perennial confusion between the behavior of the expert and that of the subjects under investigation. Underlying both of these, in the final reckoning, is the hypostatical nature of the linguistic and logical constructs employed. The ambiguity surrounding “observing systems” begins to dissipate when we realize that second‐order cybernetics is not so much about an “observer” as about a “self‐observer”. The study of self‐referentiality is not only about language; it is about other forms of behavior as well.



Julià, P. (2000), "Observer or self‐observer in second‐order cybernetics?", Kybernetes, Vol. 29 No. 5/6, pp. 770-786.




Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

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