Science, Cybernetics and Knowing


  • Weld Carter


To discuss science, I choose to focus attention on the doings of its practitioners. Many choose to focus on the root scio, translated as ‘I know’, but that choice of a first-person form ignores an essential social aspect of the practice of science, namely the custom that failure to disconfirm by one’s peers plays a major role in deciding what we will accept as ‘scientific’. To address the topic of cybernetics, I paraphrase Wiener to speak of the art and science of designing purposeful, goal-directed––self-steering–– systems. He also considered the field to extend to such learning phenomena as gestalt-formation. Though we sometimes speak of a teacher or mentor as imparting ‘knowledge’, I lodge here an objection to the arrogance of that terminology. Anyone’s claim to ‘know’ any asserted ‘fact’ carries with it––states directly, rather than implies––a degree of god-like certainty that, I maintain, should arouse profound doubt and suspicion in the wise or prudent reader or listener. In the present paper, I shall address each of these areas in more detail.



How to Cite

Carter, W. (2006). Science, Cybernetics and Knowing. Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2006, Sonoma, CA, USA. Retrieved from



Systems Philosophy & Ethics