Beyond design: Cybernetics, biological computers and hylozoism

Synthese 168 (3):469 - 491 (2009)
Abstract
The history of British cybernetics offers us a different form of science and engineering, one that does not seek to dominate nature through knowledge. I want to say that one can distinguish two different paradigms in the history of science and technology: the one that Heidegger despised, which we could call the Modern paradigm, and another, cybernetic, nonModern, paradigm that he might have approved of. This essay focusses on work in the 1950s and early 1960s by two of Britain’s leading cyberneticians, Stafford Beer and Gordon Pask, in the field of what one can call biological computing. My object is to get as clear as I can on what Beer and Pask were up to. At the end, I will discuss Beer’s hylozoist ontology of matter, mind and spirit. This material is not easy to get the hang of—but that is what one should expect from an unfamiliar paradigm.
Keywords Cybernetics  Computing  Biological computing  Design  Stafford Beer  Gordon Pask  Martin Heidegger  Hylozoism
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