Comparing the Epistemologies Governing the First and Second Order Cybernetic Approaches

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Comparing the Epistemologies Governing the First and Second Order Cybernetic Approaches

Critically compare the epistemologies governing the first-and second-order cybernetic approaches in terms of the following:

1. How is reality seen by each specific approach?

2. What does the diagnostic systems of each specific approach look like?

3. How does each specific approach deal with therapy?

4. What are the specific skills required by each approach?

5. How is the role and function of the therapist in each specific approach?

6. What would research look like from the point of view of each specific approach?

7. What critical ethical concerns could be raised
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“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that’s why he never understands anything.” (A. A. Milne, The house at Pooh Corner)

Introducing “epistobabble”[2]

General Systems Theory or cybernetics as it was known in Europe, can be divided into two cybernetic models: simple cybernetics or first-order cybernetics and cybernetics of cybernetics or second-order cybernetics.

There is no definitive breakdown of terms in the literature, which has caused some confusion and inconsistencies, as might ordinarily be the case with the emergence of a new paradigm. This “new (cybernetic) epistemology” has, however, “a common foundation in the writings of Gregory Bateson” (Searight & Openlander, 1987, p.52).

Gregory Bateson introduced the interdisciplinary concept of cybernetics to the social sciences and applied it to the realm of systematic family therapy (Becvar & Becvar, 2000). Bateson described cybernetics as “the circular mechanism through which systems regulated themselves by feeding back information to the system” (Vorster, 2003, p.52). He found cybernetics to be an appropriate metaphor to make sense of his lifelong concern with epistemology. Applied to the theory of human communication, Bateson said that: “if you want to understand some phenomenon or appearance, you must consider that phenomenon within the context of all completed circuits which are relevant to it” (1971, p.244).

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