Aesthetics and Ethics

Aesthetics and Ethics

  • Aesthetics and Ethics are interdependent on each other
  • Steps to an Ecology of mind

Why do good? Why be moral?

  • Do good because its a good value for a virtuous person
  • Do good out of compassion and love for others
  • Do good because it is good for one’s self
  • Do good because world outside is none other than yourself. (Vedantic Perspective)

Aesthetics

  • of Design
  • of Arts
  • of Performance Arts
  • of Rituals
  • of Traditions
  • of Narrative Arts
  • of Culture
  • of Architecture
  • of Actions
  • of Thoughts
  • of Senses
  • of Emotions
  • of Values
  • of Experience

Key Terms

  • Virtues
  • Values
  • Aesthetics
  • Arts
  • Morals
  • Ethics
  • Good ness
  • Art and Morals
  • Aesthetics and Ethics
  • Beauty and Goodness
  • Ist person and 2nd Person
  • Integral Theory
  • Ken Wilber
  • Self, Culture, Nature
  • I, We, It/Its
  • Immanual Kant
  • Wittgenstein
  • Sameness and Otherness
  • Difference
  • Boundaries and Networks
  • Hierarchy and Networks
  • Plato and Aristotle
  • Action Learning
  • Reflexive Action
  • Social Ethics
  • Communities of Goodness
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Inter-objectivity
  • Inter-subjectivity
  • Subject and Object
  • Phenomenology and Hermenutics
  • Virtue Ethics
  • Development and Relations
  • Internal vs External
  • Individual vs Collective
  • Culture, Society, and Ethics
  • Narrative Arts
  • Intentions and Actions
  • Sewa and Service
  • Altruism
  • Philosophy of Arts
  • Aesthetics of living culture
  • Traditions, Rituals, and Culture
  • Classical Education
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Dance, Music and Performance Arts
  • Universals
  • Transcendentals
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Nondual Vedanta (Advait Vedanta)
  • Steps to an Ecology of Mind
  • Value Theory
  • Virtue Theory
  • Art Criticism
  • Taste, Style, Manners
  • Relational
  • Aesthetics and Relatedness
  • Consciousness
  • Nondual Awareness
  • Interconnectedness

Ethics as Aesthetics: Foucault’S Critique of Moralization of Ethics

This study found a new idea of ethics to bridge the gap between morality and aesthetics. This new idea is called aesthetics morality. This study concluded as follows: 1) ethics as morality is in the form of teleology, deontology and virtue ethics; 2) ethics is a synthesis of aesthetics and morality; and 3) ethics is aesthetics in the form of care of the self. 

Ethics as Style:
Wittgenstein’s Aesthetic Ethics and Ethical Aesthetics

An inquiry into Wittgenstein’s ethics and aesthetics has to start with the following questions: Can an aesthetics and/or ethics be extracted from his philosophical texts at all? If yes, what kind of aesthetics and/or ethics does Wittgenstein offer beyond his well-known aphoristic comments on the subject? Finally, how can we understand the meaning of his claim that ‘‘ethics and aesthetics are one’’? This article responds to the above questions by presenting an account of Wittgenstein’s ethical aesthetics and aesthetic ethics, elucidating both through the prism of his notion of style as ‘‘general necessity seen sub specie eterni.’’ It explains how logical necessity implodes within the limits of propositional language to open onto the realm of style, within which ethical necessity is to be understood in terms of aesthetic life-form and aesthetic expression is to be understood in terms of ethical enactment.

Es ist klar, daß sich die Ethik nicht aussprechen läßt. Die Ethik ist transzendental.
(Ethik und Ästhetik sind Eins.)

[It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed. Ethics is transcendental.
(Ethics and aesthetics are one.)]
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection

This book brings together a number of new essays in an area of growing concern, namely the intersection or overlap of aesthetics and ethics. Recent developments aside, for the past thirty years or so in Anglo-American philosophy, aesthetics and ethics have been pursued in relative isolation, with aesthetics being generally regarded as the poorer, if flashier, cousin. The attention aestheticians have recently given to moral aspects of art and art criticism, and that ethicists have recently paid to aesthetic aspects of moral life and moral evaluation, give hope of ending this rather artificial isolation, though without necessarily forcing us to accede in Wittgenstein’s gnomic dictum that “ethics and aesthetics are one.”

The intersection of aesthetics and ethics can be understood to comprise three spheres of inquiry. The first is that of problems or presuppositions common to aesthetics and ethics, the two traditional branches of value theory. The second is that of ethical issues in aesthetics, or in the practice of art. And the third sphere is that of aesthetic issues in ethics, theoretical and applied.

As it turns out, the concerns of the present collection do not span the full intersection of aesthetics and ethics as just explained. For reasons of both unity and manageability, the decision was made to foreground aesthetics in the present venture. The result is that the essays fall under the first and second, but not the third ways of understanding the intersection of the two fields.

2 – Three versions of objectivity: aesthetic, moral, and scientific

How does the objective validity of aesthetic judgments compare with the objective validity of moral judgments and scientific beliefs? There are two traditional answers. According to one, aesthetic and moral appraisals both utterly lack the cognitive authority of scientific inquiry, since neither kind of appraiser has access to a fact independent of her own judgments and neither is in a position to claim that all who are adequately qualified would share her judgment. For example, emotivists deprive both aesthetic and moral judgments of both kinds of objectivity. According to the other tradition, well-formed aesthetic and moral judgments have the same cognitive authority as wellformed scientific beliefs, because in all three realms the judgment maker is often in a position to assert a truth independent of her judgments, in a claim to which all adequately qualified inquirers would assent. For example, Kant puts the three realms on a par in both ways.

Each of these traditions has distinctive liabilities, which jointly suggest the need to explore a third alternative. The debunking tradition, depriving both aesthetic and moral judgments of all the authority of science, is hard to reconcile with the pervasive aspirations to truth and interests in impersonal argument of apparently rational people engaged in moral and aesthetic judgment. On the other hand, the claims to universality in the elevating tradition often seem wishful thinking.

Elsewhere, I have defended a view of morality and science that rejects the association in both traditions of rational access to appraiser-independent truth with epistemic universality.

5 – Art, narrative, and moral understanding

With much art, we are naturally inclined to speak of it in moral terms. Especially when considering things like novels, short stories, epic poems, plays, and movies, we seem to fall effortlessly into talking about them in terms of ethical significance – in terms of whether or which characters are virtuous or vicious, and about whether the work itself is moral or immoral, and perhaps whether it is sexist or racist. Undoubtedly, poststructuralists will choke on my use of the phrase “naturally inclined,” just because they do not believe that humans are naturally inclined toward anything. But that general premise is as needlessly strong a presupposition as it is patently false. And, furthermore, I hope to show that my talk of natural inclinations is hardly misplaced here, for we are prone to respond to the types of works in question in the language of moral assessment exactly because of the kinds of things they are.

Moreover, we do not merely make moral assessments of artworks as a whole and characters in particular; it is also the case that these moral assessments are variable. That is, we find some artworks to be morally good, while some others are not; some are exemplary, while some others are vicious and perhaps even pernicious; and finally other works may not appear to call for either moral approbation or opprobrium. So, though we very frequently do advance moral assessments of artworks, it is important to stress that we have a gamut of possible evaluative judgments at our disposal: from the morally good to the bad to the ugly, to the morally indifferent and the irrelvant.

Problems at the Intersection of Aesthetics and Ethics

The Intersection of Aesthetics and Ethics

Ever since the publication of Kant’s Critique of Judgment, the concept of taste has been severed from its moral sense and reduced to a merely aesthetic one.1 Since then two trends have predominated in moral philosophy. The first is a rationalist view of ethics, which proposes the need to subsume particular actions under universal laws. Deontological and utilitarian theories both have this paradigm in common. The second is the refraction of this position, which marginalizes any discussion of moral feeling as a psychological question of emotivism or subjectivism.2 This trend of positivism dismisses feelings as mere emotive states, questions of psychology, subjective, and therefore not binding.

In order to recapture the aesthetic dimensions of moral experience, one needs a view of aesthetics that is not limited to reflections on the beautiful and sublime in nature or art and that is not reducible to an allegiance to taste and manners; and one needs a continuity principle that enables reflection on morality to be true to experience. Two process philosophers, Alfred North Whitehead and John Dewey, present a metaphysics of experience which enriches ethics by illustrating the aesthetic dimensions of moral experience. Where the traditions outlined above view reason as the pivotal faculty in navigating the moral landscape, process philosophy emphasizes the aesthetic categories of feeling and imagination as operative in moral experience.

Those skeptical of “aestheticizing morality” often invoke the show-stopping reference to the Nazi Regime, one which consciously and politically recruited aesthetic ideals toward the crystallization of immorality.3 This is the Reductio ad Hitlerum to which the title refers. Fascism and Nazism in particular habituated a marriage between politics and aesthetics, and took up the goal of making politics a triumphant and beautiful spectacle.4 Art, music, and aesthetic symbols were recruited as instruments toward fulfilling this goal.5 Nazi Germany held “countless historical pageants, Volk festivals, military parades, propaganda films, art exhibitions and [erected] grandiose buildings”6 in order to exemplify “the fascist desire to invent mythic imperial pasts and futures,”7 while stirring the passions of the people for its war efforts. The Nazis denounced any allegiance to liberal political texts such as the Versailles Treaty “in favor of decisive political action based on fatal aesthetic criteria — beautiful vs. ugly, healthy vs. degenerate, German vs. Jew.”8 It is warranted to invoke this as the problem for those who “aestheticize” morality. The Nazi problematic, illustrated by an analysis of two films surrounding the immorality of the Nazi Regime, James Ivory’s The Remains of the Day (1993) and István Szabó’s Taking Sides (2001) illuminates the limitations and failures of the tendency to “aestheticize” morality. These films help show the nuances that reside at this tense intersection between aesthetics and ethics. However, tension between aesthetics and ethics, as depicted by the two films, dissolves once one’s understanding of aesthetics ceases to be reductive and narrow.

The aesthetic dimensions of moral experience in the philosophies of Alfred North Whitehead and John Dewey provide a basis for defining the continuity between ethics and aesthetics. For Whitehead, an aesthetic vision which builds on insights of his descriptive metaphysics enables us to see moral experience as aesthetic. For Dewey, the imagination works on the possibilities at hand in order to resolve morally problematic situations, and the grist for the imagination’s mill is experiential, perceptual, and aesthetic, not merely rational or conceptual. Thus, the broad use of aesthetics advocated herein enables us to draw moral distinctions in the face of Nazi atrocities instead of blindly serving the ideal of artistic creation. Nor does it reduce aesthetics to a fetish for manners. Rather, as including imagination, perception, taste, and emotion, an aesthetic orientation to ethics can encompass the limits posed by these films, and it can morally condemn the Nazi Regime and avoid the Hitler-reductio.

A.N. Whitehead at the Intersection

A sketch of Whitehead’s metaphysics is necessary in order to show how the foundations for moral action may be subsumed under the category of aesthetic experience. According to Whitehead’s systematic metaphysics, the world is a process of becoming. It is ultimately composed of self-creating “actual occasions.”9 The act of self-creation is the “concrescence” of an actual entity, “the final real things of which the world is made up.”10 Thus an “entity” describes an occasion or event in the mode of concrescense, the act of an occasion having prehended its environment. Events create themselves by virtue of their interdependence. The mode of relation each entity has toward others and toward its possibilities in general is “feeling.” “Prehensions” are the feelings which each entity has of its environment, which includes the entire universe, as each entity pulsates and vibrates throughout the cosmos in its process of self-creation.11 Since Whitehead holds that relations are more fundamental than substance, these prehensions constitute the actual entity. Where in traditional metaphysics, substance is primary and the relations among substances are described as secondary attributes, in Whitehead’s description entities are internally related, constituted by their relations. In this process metaphysics, relations are not secondary but primary in that they constitute the entities. When an actual entity prehends its environment, the entity constitutes itself and makes itself what it is.12Each entity serves as the subject of its own becoming and the “superject” of others, imparting itself to other entities in their becoming.13 Actual entities, in process metaphysics, are events, occasions in time, and always situated in a complex, interdependent environment of other entities. Thus, Whitehead’s speculative metaphysics is relational, not atomistic.

This speculative picture of reality lends itself to reflections on moral experience, including an account of Whitehead’s theory of value. In Process and Reality, Whitehead’s theory of value uses strong aesthetic language. He describes intensity of experience as “strength of beauty”: the degree of feeling in an occasion’s prehension of its environment. 14 Further, as John Cobb notes, “The chief ingredients [to beautiful experience] are emotional.”15 The actual entity prehends its environment, feeling its aesthetic surrounding in a chiefly emotional comportment. Because the locus of value is the intensity and harmony of an experience and the emotional sphere contributes chiefly to beautiful experience, emotion need not be corralled by reason, but channeled toward the achievement of beauty. Further, Whitehead shows that philosophers who treat feelings as merely private are mistakenly taking a phase of concrescence to be the whole of experience. For Whitehead, “there is no element in the universe capable of pure privacy.”16 The impossibility of pure privacy undermines the conceptual option of positivists and others who atomize and privatize feeling in order to dismiss its role in moral experiences as subjectivism or emotivism, both of which result in relativism.

Moral experience and aesthetic experience work dialectically: “The function of morality is to promote beauty in experience,”17 but emotions inform morality by adding to the value of experience. Sensation and emotion are not passively received, private reifications; instead, they seamlessly compose the environment we inhabit. Cobb contends that “the purely aesthetic impulse and the moral one exist in a tension” and that “the good aimed at for others is an aesthetic good — the strength of beauty of their experience.”18

Whitehead writes:

In our own relatively high grade human existence, this doctrine of feelings and their subject is best illustrated by our notion of moral responsibility. The subject is responsible for being what it is in virtue of its feelings. It is also derivatively responsible for the consequences of its existence because they flow from its feelings.19

That our existence flows from our feelings reveals the foundation of moral action on aesthetic, αἰσθηματικός, “sensuous” experience. When Whitehead contends that our moral actions flow from our feelings, he places a primacy upon our emotional comportment. The main contribution we make to others is our spirit or attitude.20This spirit is a comportment and temperament, an angle of vision. If our vision is broad and seeks to contribute to the strength of beauty of others’ experience, it is continuous with moral experience. Moral vision is attitudinal and acting according to calculation, deliberation, and reason, while poor in spirit, is not moral action. Whitehead posits a theory of value where our goal is to realize a strength of beauty in our immediate occasions of action. Taking a calculating attitude towards future consequences endangers this goal.21 It is misleading to think that one can calculate rationally toward that best action.22 Rather, such moral rationalism can justify activity that we feel is inhumane, evil, ugly, unjust, and wrong. It can sever means from ends and justify that which our sentiments would impeach.

Whitehead’s speculative metaphysics, by using humanistic and aesthetic language, includes a description of moral experience. Occasions of activity become harmonious with their environment by acting in the service of beauty. Actions emanate from feelings, and right action is not the function of rational deliberation, but of whole-part relations, of fitting the variety of detail and contrast under the unity of an aesthetic concrescence. Whitehead’s is a seductive account of reality, but nowhere in it do we find something like evil. Those skeptical of such an aesthetic description of moral experience may ask, “Where is the Holocaust in this picture?” Thus, below a recourse to two films about Nazism, aesthetics, and morality enables the skeptic to reexamine the continuity between ethics and aesthetics and consider a broader, less reductive, understanding of aesthetics itself. Before addressing this question, another account of how process philosophy maintains continuity between ethics and aesthetics is in order.

John Dewey at the Intersection

In order to outline Dewey’s description of the aesthetic dimensions of moral experience, a cursory illustration of the continuity at work in his metaphysics of experience and theory of inquiry is in order. Dewey described the generic traits of human experience as both precarious and stable.23 Indeterminate situations produce the conditions of instability.24 Subjecting a precarious situation to inquiry constitutes it as problematic, enabling an agent to identify possible means of resolving the situations within the constituent features of the uniquely given situation. Our employment of imaginative intelligence directs our activity in an effort to resolve the situation by rearranging the conditions of indeterminacy toward settlement and unification.25

In a manner similar to Whitehead, Dewey refers to the creative integration of the entire complex situation with the term “value.”26 One constituent in the activity of unifying the problematic situation is the end-in-view, which functions as a specific action coordinating all other factors involved in the institution and resolution of the problem. The value is the integration and unification of the situation. When the end-in-view functions successfully toward the integration of the situation, the resultant unification is a “consummatory phase of experience.”27 Dewey wrote, “Values are naturalistically interpreted as intrinsic qualities of events in their consummatory reference.”28 Their naturalistic interpretation renders the experience of value and the process of valuation continuous with other natural processes. That is, the ends-in-view, whether or not these are moral ideals, do not exist antecedent to inquiry into the complex, historical, and uniquely given situation, as the rationalists would have it. The general traits of moral experience are found within aesthetic experience — dispelling the need dichotomize experience into the cognitive and the emotional — because values are qualities of events.

The ability to examine the aesthetic dimensions of moral experience depends on the way Dewey defines an aesthetically unified and integrated experience as consummatory. The consummation refers to the experience of the unification of meaning of all of the phases of a complex experience.29 Thus, the aesthetic experience gives a holistic meaning to the precariousness of its parts. The value of an experience, including moral value, refers, as in Whitehead’s description, to whole-part relations and the unification of various elements therein.

Art is the skill of giving each phase its meaning in light of the whole. Art unifies each function of the experience, giving reflection, action, desire, and imagination an integrated relation both to each other and to the possibility of meaningful resolution.30 Thus, Dewey refuses to parcel out a separate faculty at work in isolation in any meaningful experience, whether that is reason in cognition or emotion in sympathetic attention to a friend. The consummatory experience is one in which we employ imaginative intelligence in appropriating aesthetic, felt elements of experience above and beyond their immediacy and one in which the instability of their immediacy is seen imaginatively as a possibility toward its meaningful integration.31

Thus, artful conduct includes moral conduct, but in a way that both avoids the need to import ideals transcendent to our experience and gives moral ideals their reality in the meaning that ensues in the consequences of their enactment. The features of artful conduct inherent in moral behavior concern the ability to see possibilities in the elements of precariousness, “to see the actual in light of the possible.”32 Where the rationalist searches for a universal concept to justify a given, isolated action whose justification could be known but not felt, the moral imagination enables the agent to envision in her environment the constituent possibilities in order to reconstruct the situation.

Both Whitehead and Dewey treat moral experience as continuous with the aesthetic experience of intensity, meaning, unification, and harmony found in the consummatory phase of experience, or in Whitehead’s terms, in concrescence. Both treat vision and imagination, not calculative rationality, as operative in navigating morally problematic situations. The general trend running through these process philosophies that maintains continuity between ethics and aesthetics concerns whole-part relations. The individual in morally charged situations must harmonize her particular conduct to the whole of her environment broadly construed. She must imaginatively find the proper fit of her conduct with her greater cultural context. If she succeeds, she harmonizes her experience and the part coheres with the whole. Value, harmony, and stability ensue. Whitehead and Dewey describe our moral experience at a sufficient level of abstraction, one which could include the hosting of a dinner party or the conducting of an orchestra. Each part must cohere with the whole — harmony is the motivating ideal.

Much like Whitehead, Dewey gives us a processive account of reality which seems to cohere with personal experience; however, Dewey’s description of the pattern of inquiry has been accused of being so broad and vague that the Nazi resolution of the Jewish problem could be described according to it..33 The Germans under Hitler constituted their situation during the Great Depression as problematic. Their economy was in shambles, and their national pride was wounded. They found within their situation the constitutive elements, marginally-German, supposed conspirators and enemies of all sorts, to employ in resolving their situation. They achieved a sort of integration of their experience and a distorted sort of harmony in armament and invasion to reincorporate native Germans outside of their truncated borders. They consciously recruited aesthetic ideals and played on the national emotions of soil and blood. Thus, according to the Hitler-reductio, to condemn morally their actions with the language of Dewey or Whitehead is no easy task. The reductio causes moral philosophers to long for universality in any of its rationalist iterations.

The British Problem at the Intersection: The Remains of the Day

The philosophical depiction of aesthetic experience, of which moral dimensions compose a part, is problematic if individuals acting under aesthetic norms, guided by manners and in service of harmonizing part-whole relations, engage in outright immorality or shy away from moral duty in the face of evil. This is the “British” problem because to highlight it, we must attend to the British characters in The Remains of the Day. While much has been written on the film (and the Ishiguro novel upon which it is based), about the role of class and the symbolic nature of British imperial politics, the film also serves as an excellent test case for the continuity between aesthetics and ethics.34 The setting of The Remains of the Day, the aristocratic estate of Darlington Hall in rural England, announces an aesthetic emphasis on beauty and order which persists throughout the film. Most of the action in the film occurs in the pre-war 1930s, but the film flashes forward to the post-war 1950s to show “present” character interactions. The central characters are an emotionally-repressed butler, Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), his superior and owner of the estate in the 1930s, Lord Darlington (James Fox), and his fellow caretaker of the estate, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson). The problematic relationship between aesthetic orientation and morality comes into view by focusing on Lord Darlington’s demeanor throughout the events of the 1930s, and Mr. Stevens’s comportment to the politically and morally problematic events that unfold at Darlington Hall.

Lord Darlington had a friend in Germany against whom he fought in the First World War, with whom he intended to sit down and have a drink after the war. But this never happened, as the German friend, ruined by the inflation that ensued in the post-Versailles Weimar Republic, took his own life. Lord Darlington exclaims to Mr. Stevens, “The Versailles Treaty made a liar out of me.” Darlington laments that the conditions of the treaty, (debt reparations, guilt clause) were too harsh: “Not how you treat a defeated foe,” as Darlington puts it. With this as his proximate motivation, Lord Darlington uses his influence to broker the policy of appeasementtoward Nazi Germany. It appears that Lord Darlington puts manners before moral duty. He hosts the delegates from Germany, France, and the United States at his home, and they dine dressed in black tie, served by the army of under-butlers commanded by Mr. Stevens.

One is tempted to view Lord Darlington’s behavior as kind, if not for other telling incidents. He temporarily agrees to employ two Jewish refugees at his estate, and it is made clear to the viewer that he understands the dangers they faced in Germany and that his home is serving as a sanctuary. However, after reading the work of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Lord Darlington orders that two German, Jewish maids should be discharged, as he considers their employment inappropriate for his German guests. Mr. Stevens carries out the order without reflection, while Miss Kenton threatens to resign in protest, but fails to follow through out of self-admitted weakness.35 Thus, Darlington knew of the Nazi policies in Germany, understood the potential plight of the maids, but fired them anyway in service of behavior “appropriate” for his German guests.

Darlington’s elevation of manners above duty reappears as he cannot even tell his godson (Hugh Grant), whose father has died and who is soon to be married, about the birds and the bees. He asks Mr. Stevens, his butler, to do it for him. Darlington seems unwilling to confront the issue of sexuality as it offends his Victorian manners and sensibilities. Thus, manners, while they can be seen as the outward display of inner character, here get in the way of the more difficult, unmannerly, and inappropriate conduct commanded in the face of negotiation with the Germans, the employment of the Jewish maids, and the acceptance of surrogate fatherly duties.

Mr. Stevens’s motivations are more opaque to the audience. He is so univocally driven to serve and fulfill his duty to Lord Darlington, that he almost fails to portray any moral subjectivity.36 But as the head butler, his service is also for the aesthetic ideals of orderliness and cleanliness. The prospect of a dustpan being left on the landing frightens him, such that he rushes to retrieve it before his employer notices his shortcoming. Mr. Stevens’s single-minded focus is best displayed when his own father, also an employee, is dying. Stevens attends to the dinner of the foreign delegates without pain or pause, while his own father lies on his death bed. His relationship with Miss Kenton, central to the development of his character, reveals his coldness, emotional repression, and narrowly driven service toward aesthetic ends. Miss Kenton first extends kindness to Mr. Stevens by putting flowers in his office, but he asks that they be removed so as not to distract him. She falls in love with Mr. Stevens and ends up in tears when she tries to break through his emotional wall and communicate her love to him. But he ignores her and asks to be excused to attend to his duties. Before her eventual departure and engagement to another man, she insults Stevens out of manifest distress that he has never expressed any emotional interest in her, but he still remains unmoved. After his reunion with her in the 1950s, Stevens departs for Darlington Hall in a deluge of rain. Kenton cries, but Stevens, still fails to demonstrate any feeling and only raises his hat out of politeness. While Stevens’s class-based subordination could explain his failure to fulfill his duty to his father, his coldness to Miss Kenton illustrates that he was a cold rationalist in service of aesthetics — thinly defined aesthetics.

Reflecting on Mr. Stevens’s relationship to Miss Kenton reveals two sides of the problem at the intersection of aesthetics and ethics. First, because he serves only the aesthetic ideals of order, beauty, and cleanliness, he does a disservice to the human and intersubjective dimensions of moral experience. He is polite but inattentive and stoic in the face of obvious human suffering, from the firing of the Jewish maids, to the death of his father, to the jilted and regretful Miss Kenton. Does this pose a problem for the continuity between aesthetics and ethics? Stevens serves beauty at the cost of moral duty but also interpersonal sympathy. Since an emotional angle of vision is the necessary condition for attending to moral circumstances, his aesthetic orientation is too narrow. While he has an aesthetic ideal as his motive, he has a rational methodology to achieve it. He acts in each situation as if subsuming his particular action under the universal conceptual criteria of serving beauty and order. He does not allow his actions to flow from his feelings as Whitehead would prescribe. His contribution to others is his spirit, but this is a cold, deliberate, and rational spirit. Thus, with Mr. Stevens as a test case, a conception of aesthetic experience needs to be broad enough to include emotional comportment. Failing to do so through operating in service of a narrow ideal of beauty reveals an impoverished sense of aesthetics which results in immorality.

American Congressman, Mr. Lewis (Christopher Reeve) of The Remains of the Dayserves as a pivot to the American problem at the intersection of aesthetics and ethics discussed at length below. Laughed at as nouveau riche by the British delegates, Lewis attends the conference with the intent of resisting the policy of appeasement. Because he fails to recruit the French delegate, Dupont d’Ivry (Michael Lonsdale), to his side (D’Ivry is busy attending to his sore feet), Mr. Lewis resorts to making an impolite toast at the black tie dinner. He argues in favor of the Realpolitik of professionals, rather than that of “honorable amateurs,” which is his epithet for the noblemen in his company and the Lord who is his host. In his toast “to the professionals” he embodies the moral high ground against the Nazis and the unmannerly and barefooted behavior of a stereotypical American on aristocratic soil; thus he hammers in the wedge that separates manners from morals. Apparently, Americans stand up for right against wrong even at the expense of politeness and pretty conduct. Lewis is a representative character for those skeptical of continuity between aesthetics and ethics. He knows that aesthetic ideals, when reducible to the appreciation of good taste and mannerly behavior, can dull moral distinctions. Yet he fails to unify the precariousness of his situation in a manner which Whitehead or Dewey describe.

The American Problem at the Intersection: Taking Sides

Taking Sides tells the story of Dr. Wilhelm Furtwängler, (Stellan Skarsgård), one of the most respected German conductors of the 20th century, who chose to remain in Germany during the Nazi regime. After Germany’s defeat, he fell victim to a ruthless investigation by the Allies. The major in charge of the investigation is a stereotypically uncultured American, Major Steven Arnold (Harvey Keitel), who works in the insurance business. Arnold tries to uncover how complicit Furtwängler was. Furtwängler was appointed to the Privy Council, he was Hitler’s favorite conductor, and Goebbels and Goering honored him. However, he never joined the Nazi party, he helped numerous Jews escape, and several witnesses testify that he tried to protect Jewish musicians under his direction.

The audience is left to judge Furtwängler morally. On the one hand, Arnold has the moral high ground. The Nazis perpetrated the Holocaust, and the Allied victory ended it. Justice awaits the guilty. But Major Arnold is no Congressman Lewis, who has the outward appearance of a British Peer but falls short of their mannerly conduct only by degree. Arnold is a bullying interrogator, somewhere between the caricature of an ugly American and a down-to-earth pragmatist who thinks musical genius is no excuse for collusion with Nazism, and he is willing to employ an overbearing rudeness to expose this. For Arnold, the question is all about strength of will, and he deems Furtwängler weak. However, Arnold seems to misunderstand most of Furtwängler’s replies to his questions, and at times, his interrogation seems like self-righteous taunting and badgering. The viewer is left wondering whether the distressed conductor or the clinched-fist interrogator is acting more like a Nazi.

In one telling exchange, Furtwängler claims that art has mystical powers, which nurture man’s spiritual needs. He confesses to being extremely naïve. While having maintained the absolute separation of art and politics, he devoted his life to music because he thought through music he could do something practical: to maintain liberty, humanity, and justice. Arnold replies with sarcastic disdain, “Gee, that’s a thing of beauty. […] But you used the word “naïve.” Are you saying you were wrong in maintaining the separation of art and politics?”37 Furtwängler replies that he believed art and politics should be separated, but that they were not kept separate by the Nazis, and he learned this at his own cost. Furtwängler is in an obvious bind here. He cannot hold the following propositions together without internal contradiction: (1) Art has mystical power which nurture’s man’s spiritual needs; (2) Art and politics should be kept separate; (3) Art can maintain liberty, justice and humanity; (4) Art was not kept separate from politics during Nazi rule in Germany, and this was a bad thing. If art nurtures man’s spiritual needs, but art must be kept separate from politics, are man’s spiritual needs distinct from questions of community and well-functioning societies? Put otherwise, can music perform its practical function of maintaining justice, while being separate from politics? It would not seem so.

In what follows this interrogation, Arnold accuses Furtwängler of weakness, of selling out to the Nazis for ordinary petty reasons of fear, jealousy of other conductors, and selfishness. Arnold’s two subordinates are offended by his demeanor and his denigration of a national artistic genius and hero. His assistant eventually refuses to participate. She claims that Arnold is embodying the demeanor of the S.S., which she witnessed firsthand. But Arnold shows her a film of corpses being bulldozed into mass graves, and he tells her that Furtwängler’s friends did this, and by virtue of the fact that Furtwängler actually helped some Jews escape, he knew what they were doing.

The moment of supposed revelation for the viewers of the film comes by way of archival footage, in which Furtwängler is shown shaking hands with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels after a concert. Furtwängler’s face reveals the complexity of emotions at work — placidness, fear, and contempt. Furtwängler wipes his hand on his leg, revealing his disdain for his patron, but remains reserved and inoffensive. At once the viewer feels he is redeemed, because his true feelings for Goebbels and the Nazi project are revealed, but Furtwängler’s weakness is evident, as Arnold would have pointed out. Ultimately Furtwängler served the harmonious sensibility of artistic creation. Indeed, throughout the film the German admiration of him is severe, especially when contrasted to Arnold’s unimpressed frankness with him. The German temperament and faithfulness to aesthetic appreciation is manifest in a scene where the German audience stands in the rain, listening to Furtwängler conduct a symphony. To leave would offend, and service to the aesthetic ideals cannot give way to pragmatic considerations — how “American” that would be! One imagines Arnold thinking “what insensible dolt stands in the rain to listen to music?” Perhaps Congressman Lewis’s willingness to offend at the black tie dinner can be seen as a middle ground between Arnold’s bullying and Furtwängler’s and Darlington’s inverted values. However, this might only translate conduct into class, hiding the one true moral question beneath another layer of social convention. Arnold would insist that knowing where your salad fork belongs may not prevent you from colluding with murderers.

The Continuity between Ethics and Aesthetics

For both Whitehead and Dewey there are no universal moral situations. Our occasions of experience are always contextual and specific, never occurring in vacuous actuality. But this calls for a more general approach to descriptive ethics, not a more particularized prescription of universal moral laws. Both philosophers begin with a description of the general traits of experience and each uses highly aesthetic language. Each treats imagination and vision, not rationality, as operative in navigating morally problematic situations. Whitehead, by making feeling a metaphysical category, gives emotion a primary role; Dewey, in collapsing the gap between scientific, practical, and moral inquiries, gives imaginative intelligence primacy.

Neither of our two films presents the ideal character, with an emotional comportment and an intensity of experience able to serve as the causally efficacious and morally demanding superject in its environment. Nor do they offer a character of superior imaginative intelligence who finds and applies the elements of her problematic situation as means toward the valuable integration of meaning. This is not a surprise. England appeased the Nazis; the Holocaust occurred and so did the very limited prosecution of the guilty by the Allies afterwards. Furthermore, ugly, but welcomed, Americans plodded onto European soil either on the model of Major Arnold, at worst, or on that of Congressman Lewis at best. (He eventually buys Darlington Hall and retains Mr. Stevens as his butler, but he installs a ping-pong table there, of all aesthetic affronts). Does the “American” problem recur in summer retreats to European museums and cafes? Americans plod, loud and entitled, over the artistic feats of the Continent, and their European hosts translate aesthetic missteps into moral offense.

Where did each character fall short, and what did their shortcomings reveal about the intersection of aesthetics and ethics? Lord Darlington employed his servants to erect a mannerly and orderly veneer between him and that which is ugly. However, he can be viewed as a tragic figure because his mild manners and sensitivity to common cultural (and aesthetic in the narrow sense) values with the Germans were used against him. He ended in disgrace as the news of his involvement in the appeasement was publicized by the press. But his heightened sense of manners disabled him from confronting the soil of moral problems as he did not want to get dirty — (that’s what the servants are for). The head butler, Stevens, was not the emotionally comported or spontaneously active character tacitly advocated for by Whiteheadian ethics, but the coldly rational and deliberative agent serving a narrow aesthetic end. Miss Kenton and Furtwängler demonstrated a weakness of will in the face of wrong-doing, and for that they are condemned, not by an aesthetic measure, but by a pragmatic one. Their beliefs were their propensities to act, and their inability to act revealed a weak belief in their moral ideals.38 But the American characters are not morally pure. As the victors, the

tools they had at their disposal to resolve their situations were ready at hand, and they too were constituted by their prehensions of their environment. Denigrating an artistic genius does not show the service of a moral ideal, but only the privileged position of Major Arnold of judging Furtwängler’s weakness from outside his context.

These films do illustrate the tension at work at the intersection of aesthetics and ethics. While both films depict the limitations and failures of the tendency to “aestheticize” morality, they do not prove the need to import a falsely universal moral ideal antecedent to the experience of a particular problematic situation in order to judge right from wrong. Insofar as the tools needed to make these judgments are had in experience, they have been, accurately described by figures like Whitehead and Dewey, in aesthetic language. The Reductio ad Hitlerum only succeeds if the meaning of aesthetics is deflated and reduced to something much narrower than either Whitehead or Dewey intended, such as reflection on artistic creation. The broad use of aesthetics advocated here does not fail to draw moral distinctions in the face of Nazi atrocities while blindly serving the ideal of artistic beauty or mere manners. Rather, as including imagination and emotion, an aesthetic orientation to ethics encompasses the problems posed by the characters’ shortcomings, even if their moral shortcomings run parallel to their heightened aesthetic and misguided sensibilities.


  1. Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, (London: Continuum, 2006), 31. Nöel Carroll makes the further claim that because of Kant’s aesthetic theory and its interpretation, twentieth century philosophers have neglected the ethical criticism of art. (Noël Carroll, “Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research,” Ethics, Vol. 110, No. 2 (January 2000), pp 350). ↩︎
  2. Thomas Alexander, “John Dewey and the Moral Imagination: Beyond Putnam and Rorty toward a Postmodern Ethics,” Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society, Vol. XXIX, No. 3, (Summer 1993), 373. ↩︎
  3. For a complex examination of this problematic, see George Kateb, “Aestheticism and Morality: Their Cooperation and Hostility,” Political Theory, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 5-37. ↩︎
  4. See Noël Carroll, “Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research,” Ethics, Vol. 110, No. 2 (January 2000), pp. 350-387. Carroll highlights the problematic relationship between ethics and art criticism by examining the immorality and aesthetic value of The Triumph of the Will, among other artifacts. ↩︎
  5. Boaz Neumann, “The National Socialist Politics of Life,” New German Critique, No. 85, Special Issue on Intellectuals (Winter, 2002), p 120. ↩︎
  6. Paul Betts, “The New Fascination with Fascism: The Case of Nazi Modernism,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Oct., 2002), 546. ↩︎
  7. Betts, “The New Fascination with Fascism,” 547. ↩︎
  8. Betts, “The New Fascination with Fascism,” 547. ↩︎
  9. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, (London: The Free Press, 1978), 18. ↩︎
  10. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 18, 22. ↩︎
  11. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 19. ↩︎
  12. Harold B. Dunkel, “Creativity and Education,” Educational Theory, Volume XI, Number 4, (1961), 209. ↩︎
  13. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 29. ↩︎
  14. John B. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value,” religion-online.org Accessed 2/27/2015. ↩︎
  15. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  16. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 212. ↩︎
  17. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  18. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  19. Process and Reality, 222. ↩︎
  20. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  21. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  22. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  23. Dewey, Later Works Vol. 1, Ed. Boydston, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1990) 42-45. ↩︎
  24. Dewey, Logic The Theory of InquiryLW 12: 110. ↩︎
  25. Dewey, LW 12: 121. ↩︎
  26. James Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, (New York: Humanities Press, 1972), 132. ↩︎
  27. Dewey, LW 10: 143. ↩︎
  28. Dewey, LW 1: 9. ↩︎
  29. Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 150. ↩︎
  30. Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 151. ↩︎
  31. Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 152. ↩︎
  32. Alexander, “John Dewey and the Moral Imagination,” 384. ↩︎
  33. Richard Posner*, Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy*, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 45. Posner claims that pragmatism, via Darwinism, has nurtured philosophies including Nazism. ↩︎
  34. See, for example, Meera Tamaya, “Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day: The Empire Strikes Back,” Modern Language Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2 (spring, 1992), pp. 45-56. Tanaya focuses on the relationship between Darlington and Stevens as one of colonizer and colonized, subject and object. ↩︎
  35. See Geoffrey G. Field, Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981). ↩︎
  36. See McCombe, “The End of (Anthony) Eden: Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day” and Midcentury Anglo-American Tensions,” 78. ↩︎
  37. See Page R. Laws, “Taking Sides by Ronald Harwood; India Ink by Tom Stoppard,” (review), Theatre Journal, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 107-108. Laws makes note of the fact that the Nazis used art in the service of politics. ↩︎
  38. Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers (1958-1966), Vol. 5, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, eds., (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), 400. ↩︎

References: 

Alexander, Thomas. “John Dewey and the Moral Imagination: Beyond Putnam and Rorty toward a Postmodern Ethics.” Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society. Vol. XXIX. No. 3. (Summer 1993).

Betts, Paul. “The New Fascination with Fascism: The Case of Nazi Modernism.” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 37. No. 4. (Oct., 2002).

Carroll, Noël. “Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research.” Ethics. Vol. 110, No. 2 (January 2000), pp. 350-387.

Cobb, John B. Jr. “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” www.religion-online.org.

Dewey, John. Later Works Vol. 1, Ed. Boydston, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1990.

Dewey, John. Later Works Vol. 10. Ed. Boydston, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1990.

Dewey, John. Later Works Vol. 12. Ed. Boydston. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1990.

Dunkel, Harold B. “Creativity and Education,” Educational Theory. Vol. XI. No. 4. (1961).

Field, Geoffrey G. Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981.

Gadamer, Hans Georg. Truth and Method. London: Continuum, 2006.

Gouinlock, James. John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value. New York: Humanities Press, 1972.

Ivory, James. The Remains of the Day. Merchant Ivory Film, 1993.

Kateb, George. “Aestheticism and Morality: Their Cooperation and Hostility.” Political Theory. Vol. 28. No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 5-37.

Neumann, Boaz. “The National Socialist Politics of Life.” New German Critique. No. 85. Special Issue on Intellectuals (Winter, 2002), pp. 107-130.

Peirce, Charles Sanders, (1958-1966) Collected papers. Vols. 1- 6, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, eds., (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press).

Posner, Richard. Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Szabó, István. Taking Sides. Paladin Production S.A., 2001.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality. London: The Free Press, 1978.About the Author: 

Seth Vannatta earned his PhD in philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Morgan State University, where he won the university award for research and scholarship in 2012. He studies the history of philosophy and American philosophy and is interested in philosophy’s relationship to other dimensions of culture including law, politics, education, and sport. He is the author of Conservationsim and Pragmatism in Law, Politics, and Ethics(Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and editor and contributor to Chuck Klosterman and Philosophy: The Real and the Cereal (Open Court, 2012). He has published articles in The Pluralist, Contemporary Pragmatism, The European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, Education and Culture, and others.

Notes on Ecological Aesthetics and Ethics

By David George Haskell

A sense of beauty is a rigorous, perhaps even objective, foundation for environmental ethics. Our human aesthetic judgment integrates many strands of experience: intellect, emotion, bodily senses, and all we know from our interactions with others, both human and non-human others. From this integration, we understand the good.

Of course, an aesthetic sense is subject to the whims of desire, passing fads, and superficial impressions. So a well-grounded ethic depends for its rigor on a mature sense of aesthetics. By “mature,” I mean a sense of aesthetics that emerges from many years of lived relationship with a place and its community of life, both human and non-human. Such experience allows us to “unself” our judgment into the wider experience of the community. Our aesthetic and then our ethic will thus emerge not just from the limited confines of our own self, but from the knowledge that lives within the networks from which communities are made.

Once we—collectively—have an integrated sense of aesthetics, we can begin to discern what is beautiful and what is broken about a place, and, from there, I believe we can begin to form an objective—or near-objective—foundation for ethical discernment. Answers emerge from the community of life itself, filtered through human experience and consciousness.

What do I mean by that? Years of experience in a particular place will open us to the lives of other people and other species in that place, so our sense of aesthetics will incorporate their realities. Once we have that, we have a ground for moving forward and making ethical decisions that are actually deeply rooted in the physical, biological realities of a place, rather than coming only from abstractions of a seminar room or dogmas in a philosophy born in another ecosystem.

Aesthetics is often presented as something that’s very subjective, divorced from the reality of the world. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. A sense of ecologic aesthetics comes from a very gritty, sensually rich experience that has its tendrils in the realities of a place.

None of this can answer the ethical nihilist who poses the question, “So, what? Ethics are vaporous illusions carved into the human nervous system by evolution.” But if some ground for ethics does exist in this universe, then a sense of aesthetics can, I think, help us find this ground by a process that fully acknowledges and embraces our existence as evolved members of ecological communities. This is a fully biological foundation for ethics.

On a practical level, if we try to answer questions about how to live in particular places without first listening to the realities and particularities of the place itself, our answers are going to be unmoored and will have terrible consequences. Understanding how to live ethically in a place is an extraordinarily complicated, important, and difficult challenge. Moving forward with answers that are not based on deep engagement with a place and its inhabitants is a recipe for disaster. So action in the world demands, first, a practice of listening.

Religious and philosophical traditions have known this for many millennia: contemplation and action go together, just as the inhale and the exhale go together. Monastic communities are deeply contemplative, but also have engaged in action in the world—whether that action is caring for other people in hospitals, or agricultural action, or caring for the sick. This history evinces the truth that we need open, contemplative spaces within our lives, especially lives of action. I think there’s a hunger for that kind of open space. Without it, we feel a desperation and a feeling that we’re up against the wall without a good way forward. Contemplative practices create spaces for new ideas, new connections to emerge. That sounds like a rather goal-oriented way of putting it, but I do think that one of the fruits of contemplation is an increased ability to come up with new ideas or to see old ideas in a new light.

In the environmental community, there are some instances of people making decisions about the fate of ecosystems when the decision-makers have never experienced the ecosystem at stake. When NGOs, governments, or businesses have decision-making structures that are divorced from the lived experience of a place, then the outcomes will most likely not be good for that place or the people in them. We need to bring lived experience of ecosystems back into the decision-making process.

Call: Aesthetics and Ethics in the Digital Age – British Society of Aesthetics Conference

Published: AUGUST 20, 2020

Call for Abstracts

British Society of Aesthetics: Aesthetics and Ethics in the Digital Age
27th and 28th May 2021
Cambridge, UK
https://fass.open.ac.uk/research/conferences/AEDA

Submission deadline: 31st December 2020

Submissions are invited for the upcoming conference British Society of Aesthetics: Aesthetics and Ethics in the Digital Age. The conference will take place on 27th and 28th May 2021 in Cambridge, UK.

The aim of this conference is to explore some developments in recent practice that raise new and interesting questions for the philosophy of art. Artists, working independently in different parts of the world, are creating new forms of technological interfaces and experimenting with the biological, the nano and the digital. At the heart of all their works is a deep ethos of balancing the aesthetic and the ethical in how we relate with others and our environment, whether in the same physical space or as distributed bodies. The spheres of the arts, sciences, and (in particular) technology overlap both to explore and to attempt to change the way in which we live in the world. These artistic practices raise questions about the interaction between aesthetics and ethics that go beyond those familiar to us in discussions over the past decade or so.

Abstracts of up to 1000 words should be submitted as an email attachment to Satinder Gill (spg12@cam.ac.uk) and Derek Matravers (derek.matravers@open.ac.uk). Please include the talk title, author’s name, affiliation and contact details in the body of email; and please write “BSA Conference Submission” in the subject line.  Abstracts should outline a talk lasting 25 minutes, on a topic related to the topic of the conference. The deadline for submissions is the end of 31st December 2020.

There will be no registration fee for the conference. UK-based contributing speakers will be encouraged to apply for the BSA Travel Stipend to cover travel and accommodation costs. The conference will adhere to BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme.

The conference website is https://fass.open.ac.uk/research/conferences/AEDA. For more information, please email Satinder Gill or Derek Matravers (emails above).

This conference is generously supported by the British Society of Aesthetics.

https://materialworldblog.com/2015/03/aesthetics-and-ethics-an-enquiry-into-their-relationship/

The relationship between aesthetics and ethics has long been the topic of scholarly debates, from Kant’s (1928[1790]) insistence that the experience of beauty involved disinterested contemplation and, subsequently, the separation of aesthetics from ethics, or Wittgenstein’s (1961[1889]) enigmatic proposition that ‘ethics and aesthetics are one’, to the numerous enquiries into the ethical aspects of art and art criticism or the aesthetic aspects of moral life and moral evaluation (e.g. Bourdieu 1984, Foucault 1985, 1986, Eco 1986, Eagleton 1990, Guattari 1995, Korsmeyer 1998, Levinson 2001, Rancière 2006, Osborne and Tanner 2007).
How has anthropology related to these debates? Thompson (2006[1973)], Bateson (2006[1973)], or Boone (1986), for example, in the tradition of a holistic anthropology, have analysed local concepts of beauty and illustrated the ways in which these concepts articulated with religious and moral values. Gell (1998), to give another example, through his notion of the artwork as an index, which enables the observer to make causal inferences about the artist’s intentions, has theoretically paved the way for inquiries into the morality of intentions. Furthermore, how can anthropology contribute to these debates, especially in light of its increasing interest in ethics (e.g. Lambek 2010, Faubion 2011, Robbins 2013, Keane 2013, 1014, Fassin and Lézé 2014, Laidlaw 2014)?

Participants have been invited to address the relationship between aesthetics and ethics in anthropology and to consider the following questions:
i) do the definitions of aesthetics and ethics currently in use in anthropology help or hinder us in our reflections on their relationship?
ii) when are the questions of aesthetics and ethics similar?
iii) what kind of theoretical framework is appropriate for reflecting on this relationship? (e.g. value theory; then the questions might be: how does aesthetic value relate to the notion of value generally? how does ethical value relate to the notion of value generally? are these types of value incompatible?)
iv) what kind of ethnographic topic is appropriate for reflecting on this relationship? (only those where there is an explicit expectation that aesthetic principles are guided by ethical considerations, such as Qur’anic art and Islamic fashion?)
v) should a third term, that is, politics, be also taken into consideration in order to better understand the relationship between aesthetics and ethics?

https://philpapers.org/browse/aesthetics-and-ethics

About this topic 

SummaryBroadly construed, Aesthetics and Ethics concerns the relationship between art and morality. Here we ask: Can artworks provide moral knowledge? Can artworks corrupt and instruct morally?  More narrowly construed, the category concerns the relationship between aesthetic and moral value. The chief question is this: Do moral flaws with works of art constitute aesthetics flaws? In addition, we can ask if aesthetic value is morally significant. This last issue has important implications for environmental ethics.
Key worksThe most important collection on the topic is Levinson 1998. The majority of the work on the topic is in essay form, but there are a few influential books. Gaut 2007 is an important, recent monograph. 
IntroductionsAlthough a bit out of date, Carroll 2000 provides an excellent overview of the area.  Gaut 2001 is also an excellent introduction.

References

Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research.

Noël Carroll – 2000 – Ethics 110 (2):350-387.

Art and Ethics.

Berys Gaut – 2001 – In Berys Nigel Gaut & Dominic Lopes (eds.), 

The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics. Routledge. pp. 341–352.

Art, Emotion and Ethics.

Berys Gaut – 2007 – Oxford University Press.

Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection.

Jerrold Levinson (ed.) – 1998 – Cambridge University Press.

AESTHETICS & ETHICS: OTHERNESS AND MORAL IMAGINATION FROM ARISTOTLE TO LEVINAS AND FROM UNCLE TOM’S CABIN TO HOUSE MADE OF DAWN

In recent years, American Studies have taken a turn toward the political. However, although poststructuralism and deconstruction have undermined numerous of the moral-philosophical dogmas of the Western metaphysical tradition, many of the political claims that the revisionist turn in American Studies has voiced still rest, if tacitly, on these moral and ethical assumptions. As the latter often collide with the theoretical axioms that inform these revisionist works, some resort to what one could call the “pathos of marginality” and rather vague concepts of “otherness.” Moreover, these political-ideological readings often completely blot out aesthetic aspects, as these are suspected to be carriers of implicit and hegemonic strategies of representation.

In the first part, this study analyzes what role “otherness” plays in the most influential moral-philosophical approaches to date – from Aristotle and the Neo-Aristotelians (Alasdair MacIntyre, Martha Nussbaum) via Kantianism and its deconstructors (Jean-François Lyotard, J. Hillis Miller) to the works of Paul Ricoeur and Emmanuel Levinas – and sheds light on its highly problematic status in Western notions of justice. Moreover, on the background of these analyses it examines the role that aesthetics plays not only for, but within these approaches, with a special focus on what task literature is accorded to dramatize the clash of sameness and otherness.

Starting from a revised notion of the sublime, the second part “applies” the different approaches to four American novels: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor, Richard Wright’s Native Son, and N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn, and examines how far the moral-philosophical systems carry to elucidate these texts. What becomes clear is that none of these works can be captured in their complexity by either one moral philosophy or one political agenda, in that every literary “exemplification” of such theory inevitably falls prey to the treacherous dynamics of the example – a dynamics that inhabits literature and haunts ethics, and that defies literature’s instrumentalization by either ethics or ideologies.

Keywords: American Studies, Aesthetics, Ethics, the Sublime, the Other, Otherness, Immanuel Kant, Jean-François Lyotard, J. Hillis Miller, Martha Nussbaum, Alasdair MacIntyre, Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Herman Melville, Billd Budd, Richard Wright, Native Son, N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn, Ecology.

Contents

List of Abbreviations for Reference Works

Introduction

American Studies Today

Enter (And Leave): The Aesthetic

Difficult Neighbors: Ethics and Aesthetics

The Novels

I. The Kantian Legacy of Deconstruction

1. Kant – for Example

2. The Ethics of Reading and the End of History

2.1. Ce dangereux exemple…

2.2. De Man’s Demands

2.3. …close the gap!

2.4. Giving the Li(f)e to Miller’s Lie

3. Toward a Politics of the Sublime: Jean-François Lyotard

3.1. The Idea of the “Idea”

3.2. Lyotard Just Gaming?

3.3. The Sacrificial Sublime

II. The Return of Aristotle: Alasdair MacIntyre and Martha Nussbaum

4. Going Back Home: MacIntyre and the Greek Polis

4.1. The Price of Historicization

4.2. The Polis Rebuilt

4.3. Virtual Ethics and Virtuous Reading

4.4. Ethics, Practice, and the Narrative Unity of a Human Life

5. A Mind too Refined to be Touched by an Idea: Martha Nussbaum’s Aristotelian Liberalism

5.1. Aristotle and the Virtues

5.2. The Tragic Muse as Éducation Sentimentale

5.3. The End of Tragedy and The Limits of Identification

III. Approaching the Other: Emmanuel Levinas and Paul Ricoeur

6. Oneself for the Other: Emmanuel Levinas

6.1. Facing The Other

6.2. Ethics, Politics, and Literature

6.3. The Other Sublime

7. Oneself as Another: Paul Ricoeur

7.1. Toward a Narrative Ethics

7.2. Narration and Alterity

7.3. A Tragic Encounter – Narrating the Other

IV. Toward an Ethics of Literature

8. Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

8.1. How to Turn a Thing Into a Man, or: Categorical Imperative vs. Golden Rule

8.2. Sentimentalism as Aesthetic and Ethical Strategy

8.3. The Economy of Religion and Politics

8.4. Face/Off

9. Herman Melville: Billy Budd, Sailor

9.1. Phronimos Goes To War

9.2. Literature, Responsibility, and Political Philosophy: Hannah Arendt and Paul Ricoeur

9.3. (Ef-)facing the Other – Melville’s Silences, Ethics, and War

9.4. Singular Madnesses, Maddening Singularities: Vere, Billy, and the “Hebrew Prophets”

10. Richard Wright: Native Son

10.1. Polis into Metropolis, or: How to Identify with a Rat

10.2. Whose Narrative Is It, Anyway?

10.3. The Racial Sublime

10.4.  Re(w)ri(gh)ting Native Son, Or: Who’s Afraid of Bigger Thomas?

11. N. Scott Momaday: House Made Of Dawn

11.1.  Polis into Pueblo, or: How to Identify with a Bear

11.2. “Evil Was”: Balance, Control, and the Ethics of Myth

11.3. To Kill or Not to Kill

11.4.  Excursus: Is there an other Other? Toward an Environmental Ethics

Conclusion

References

Index of Names

My Related Posts

Aesthetics and Ethics: At the Intersection

On Aesthetics

On Beauty

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful

On Classical Virtues

Indra’s Net: On Interconnectedness

Levels of Human Psychological Development in Integral Spiral Dynamics

Arts and Moral Philosophy

Human Rights and Human Development

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

The Social Significance of Drama and Narrative Arts

Key Sources of Reserach

AESTHETICS AND ETHICS: THE STATE OF THE ART

Jeffory Dean

https://aesthetics-online.org/page/DeanState

Aesthetics and ethics

Tanner, Michael

https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/aesthetics-and-ethics/v-1

Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection

https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/aesthetics-and-ethics/44B8E5696692AEEEF09A034CFDE57B8C

Problems at the Intersection of Aesthetics and Ethics

Seth Vannatta (Morgan State University)

https://responsejournal.net/issue/2016-08/article/problems-intersection-aesthetics-and-ethics

‘ETHICS AND AESTHETICS ARE ONE’

Diané Collinson

The British Journal of Aesthetics, Volume 25, Issue 3, SUMMER 1985, Pages 266–272, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjaesthetics/25.3.266Published: 01 March 1985

Aesthetics and Ethics in Gadamer, Levinas, and Romanticism: Problems of Phronesis and Techne

David P. Haney

PMLA Vol. 114, No. 1, Special Topic: Ethics and Literary Study (Jan., 1999), pp. 32-45 (14 pages) Published By: Modern Language Association 

The Marriage of Aesthetics and Ethics

Series: Critical Studies in German Idealism, Volume: 15

Editor: Stéphane Symons

https://brill.com/view/title/31979

Ethics as Aesthetics: Foucault’S Critique of Moralization of Ethics

October 2019

Project: Ethics as Aesthetics: Foucault’s Critique of Moralization of Ethics

Erwin Arellano Mallo

University of Southern Mindanao

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336242982_Ethics_as_Aesthetics_Foucault%27S_Critique_of_Moralization_of_Ethics

“One and the Same? Ethics, Aesthetics, and Truth.” 

Eaglestone, Robert.

Poetics Today 25, no. 4 (2004): 595-608. muse.jhu.edu/article/177238.

Notes on Ecological Aesthetics and Ethics

By David George Haskell

Aesthetics & Ethics: Otherness and Moral Imagination from Aristotle to Levinas and from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to House Made of Dawn

Thomas Claviez

Aesthetics & Ethics: Otherness and Moral Imagination from Aristotle to Levinas and from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to House Made of Dawn

(Heidelberg: Winter, 2008) 

http://www.claviez.de/?page_id=41

Wittgenstein’s Aesthetics

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wittgenstein-aesthetics/

Aesthetics and Ethics

Aesthetics and Ethics  

Richard Eldridge

The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics

Edited by Jerrold Levinson

The Ethics of Aesthetics

Don Ritter Berlin, Germany

“Ethics and Aesthetics are One”: The Case of Zen Aesthetics

Bai, H. (1997).

Canadian Review of Art Education, 24(2), 37-52.

Ethics as Style:
Wittgenstein’s Aesthetic Ethics and Ethical Aesthetics

Kathrin Stengel

Independent Scholar, New York

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Its beauty which brings one closer to truth and goodness.

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Key Terms

  • Fundamental Triplicity
  • Satyam Shivam Sundram
  • Sat Chit Ananda
  • Truth Beauty Goodness
  • Platonic Triad
  • Socratic Trinity
  • Ken Wilber AQAL Model
  • Victor Cousin
  • Charles Sanders Peirce
  • Semiotics
  • I – You – We – It

From Awakening Wonder:

A Classical Guide to TRUTH, GOODNESS & BEAUTY

The True, the Good, and the Beautiful

It is in this civilizational context that we first encounter the emergence of the cosmic values known as the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. The Greek term aletheia (“truth”) literally means “nonconcealment,” the negation of lethein, “to elude notice, to be unseen.”9 Aletheia thus connotes a sense of disclosure: “truth in the sense of the unhiddenness . . . and disclosedness of the state of affairs which exhibits itself and is therefore perceived in its actuality.”10 The term agathos (“good”) as an adjective connoted “the significance or excellence of a thing or person” and was eventually developed by philosophers to designate the goal, purpose, or meaning of existence.11 Likewise, kalos (“beauty”) is generally rendered as “beautiful,” “healthy,” “excellent,” “strong,” or “good.”12 It is during the fifth century BC that we find two of the three terms used together. For example, kalos is first used together with agathos in a political or social context: the kaloi and agathoi are leading citizens who embody the virtues of the polis, the Greek city-state. Indeed, the synonymity of the terms contracted into a single word, kalokagathia.

Plato and the “Socratic Trinity”

However, it is not until the writings of Plato that these three terms converge into mutually interpreting concepts, in what has been termed the “Socratic trinity” or “Platonic triad.” Though Plato did not provide a systematic treatment of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, it is not coincidental that the first clear presentation of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful historically comes from a fifteenth-century commentary on Plato’s Philebus by the Italian humanist scholar Marsilio Ficino.13

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty for Plato were divine concepts; they make up what he called the eidon, the eternal transcendent world of the ideas or forms. This Socratic trinity is the eternal source of life in which the totality of our cosmos participates as an eikon, a temporal, finite image or icon of the eternal transcendent world of the Ideas or Forms. For Plato, the universe is very much alive, or at least inextricably bound up with divine activity, and is thereby considered an object of veneration. In the Timaeus, the world is animated by a rational soul, which is the macrocosmic basis for the microcosmic human soul.14 Humans, as microcosmic replications of the larger macrocosmic world, are composed of tripartite souls that loosely correspond to the Socratic trinity: logos, thymos or ethos, and eros or epithymetes. The logos involves our rational capacities; the thymos or ethos involves our emotional, ethical, or moral capacities; and the epithymetes or eros involves our desires and aesthetic capacities.15 And it is through the tripartite soul that was forged in the world of the forms before our birth and embodiment (Plato held more or less to a doctrine of reincarnation) that the individual human can mirror, reflect, or image the virtues of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, and thus exemplify and participate in divine life.

Now, for Plato, the dilemma is that we as tripartite souls already possess a knowledge of the virtues, literally the divine order of the eternal ideas or forms—the imprint—of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, but this knowledge has been forgotten as the result of our birth and embodiment. As he made clear in his Meno, knowledge does not derive from inductive or deductive processes or an investigation into the nature of things, but rather knowledge is a recollection, what Plato termed anamnesis, a recovery of Truth insofar as our souls have experienced it prior to our embodiment.16 So the key here is that knowledge needs to be awakened. And it is philosophia, the love of wisdom, that seeks to recover human perception of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful so as to restore the human soul to its participation in divine life. This pursuit of Truth in the Phaedrus and Gorgias, of Goodness in the Republic, and of Beauty in Diotima’s speech in the Symposium, in effect reorients the human person to the divine world of the eternal and immutable, and thereby effects a harmonious relationship with the cosmos, which itself participates in divine life.

The Platonic Conception of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

The precise relationship between the True, the Good, and the Beautiful in Plato is very difficult to determine, largely because these concepts are not treated systematically but rather are spread out among his works. But we can map out a broad, general model for how they work together in relation to the tripartite soul.

For Plato, the Good is not simply a thing or a value; the Good is universal priority in which all true things participate and from which they exist. In book VII of the Republic, Plato considered the Good to be the universal principle, the self-sufficient source of all being and the irreducible essence of reality:

[I]n the region of the known the last thing to be seen and hardly seen is the idea of Good, and that when seen it must needs point us to the conclusion that this is indeed the cause for all things of all that is right and beautiful, giving birth in the visible world to light, and the author of light and itself in the intelligible world being the authentic course of truth and reason.17

For Plato, the Good is not simply a thing or a value; the Good is universal priority in which all true things participate and from which they exist. The Good is “beyond being” and is thus the foundation of all hypotheses which requires no hypothesis; that Idea from which all Ideas emerge and on which they depend.18 According to his allegory of the cave in book VII of the Republic, the Good is to the world of Ideas much like what the sun is to our perceptible, physical world. As such, the Good, the divine source of life, is in itself unknowable, being the essence, the light, by which all things are known and perceived. The Good itself must thus be revealed; it must be communicated to the human mind by means of aletheia or “Truth.”19 Drawing from the allegory of the cave, we might say that Truth is the splendor of the Good that can be perceived by the soul.20 For Plato, Truth involves understanding how all things in our world, all particulars, participate in and derive their nature from the Good.21 Thus, concomitant with its etymology, it is the nature of Truth to reveal or disclose reality, the priority of the Good, to the human mind or logos.

However, the Good is not merely revealed to the mind through Truth. A desire, an eros, is awakened for the Good within the human soul through kalos or “Beauty.” In Diotima’s speech in the Symposium, Beauty is the object of eros or love.22 And it is here that Plato revealed the means by which the soul encounters the True and the Good. In awakening eros, Plato’s conception of Beauty becomes inextricably linked with Grecian physics, in that eros constitutes the law of attraction. Empedocles had envisioned the cosmos as a whole and all the particulars within it, including humans, as directed by eros and eris, literally “desire” and “strife,” which served as the opposing forces of attraction and repulsion. In accordance with Greco-Roman physics, this love, this desire awakened through Beauty, serves the indispensable role of momentum or motivation in intellectual, moral, and spiritual pursuits. This is why we associate Beauty with “attraction”; through Beauty we are drawn to the True and the Good. By awakening eros within us, Beauty provides us with the allure, the momentum, the gravitational pull toward the True and the Good and thus unites us with the divine source of life:

When a man has been thus far tutored in the lore of love, passing from view to view of beautiful things, in the right and regular ascent, suddenly he will have revealed to him, as he draws to the close of his dealings in love, a wondrous vision, beautiful in its nature; and this, Socrates, is the final object of all those previous toils. . . . Beginning from obvious beauties he must for the sake of that highest Beauty be ever climbing aloft, as one the rungs of a ladder, from one to two, and from two to all beautiful bodies; from personal Beauty he proceeds to beautiful observances, from observance to beautiful learning, and from learning at last to that particular study which is concerned with the beautiful itself and that alone; so that in the end he comes to know the very essence of Beauty.23

The important point here is that Beauty, because of its divine nature, is always linked with the True and the Good. In order for something to be truly beautiful, it must by definition draw one to the True and the Good. When eros or love is amputated from Truth and Goodness, say in the case of pornography, it is no longer love but rather lust or epithymia.24 The Greeks alluded to this differentiation in the mythologies of the Muses and the Sirens: the Muses are the daughters of Zeus who inspire Beauty and Truth, while the Sirens are water nymphs who lure sailors to their deaths through their bewitching songs. So we see here a highly ethical significance to this encounter with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Because Beauty communicates the True and the Good through its radiance, the awakening of eros always involves the awakening of arête—the classical virtues (wisdom, moderation, justice, and courage)—which occurs when the logos, thymos, and epithymetes or eros constituting the tripartite human soul reflect the balance or harmony of the cosmos.25 Thus Plato saw an inextricable link between virtue and a true knowledge of the world.

The important point here is that Beauty, because of its divine nature, is always linked with the True and the Good. In order for something to be truly beautiful, it must by definition draw one to the True and the Good.

Encountering Truth, Goodness, and Beauty through Paideia

For Plato, the educational project of paideia involves teaching students to repudiate what deserves repudiation and to love what is in fact lovely and deserving of our desires.26 This involves what amounts to be a three-stage process.

First, there is the need to realize there is in fact a problem, that one is in fact ignorant and incapable of accounting for reality. This admission of personal impoverishment, what the Greeks called aporia and the Latins called pietas, is the rationale for the Socratic Dialogue; Socrates was able to impart wisdom only when his interlocutor admits ignorance and perplexity.

Second, this intellectual and spiritual vacuousness, this virtue of humility, can then be filled—and filled not merely with facts but with a recollection of the knowledge of the world as it relates to that which is eternally True, Good, and Beautiful. This stage involves a twofold purification by which students cultivate a detachment from false things and an attachment to true things. The twofold purification consists of a moral and an intellectual purification. Moral purification involves the practice of the virtues, which in effect distances the soul from the confines and temptations of the body. Intellectual purification, or theoria, involves contemplation of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, particularly in mathematics, where students are able see the reality that lies beyond appearances. Thus, all subjects in an educational curriculum serve as lenses through which the True, the Good, and the Beautiful can be encountered. Gymnastics cultivate the virtue of enkrateia or self-mastery; music and poetry provide the chief means by which the rhythm and harmony of the cosmos can be communicated through the body and sunk deeply into the recesses of the soul.27

Third, there is ultimate theoria, the union of the soul with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, a beatific vision that one simply cannot experience while embodied. One experiences this vision only at death.28

Summary

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty emerge historically in a world very much removed from our own. This world was characterized by cosmic piety, the sense that the universe was alive with divine presence and thus obligated all people born into the world to live a particular kind of life, one that oriented the self into a harmonious relationship with the world and others. This obligation was lived out in the life of the polis, the city-state, which served as the civic center for communion between men and the gods. In order to foster a harmonious relationship with the cosmos and city, the Greek educational project called paideia sought to instill within students a love for the cosmic values: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. As particularly developed in the work of Plato, these values served as the harmonious model for cultivating a comparable harmony in one’s own soul, which one then lived out in harmony with one’s fellow man, and thus exemplified and perpetuated the cosmic harmony that sustained the world.

The educational project of paideia involves teaching students to repudiate what deserves repudiation and to love what is in fact lovely and deserving of our desires.

Plato’s philosophy provides us with the cosmic, anthropological, and civic frames of reference for the emergence of a distinctly Christian development of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, and it is to this Christian reappropriation that we now turn.

Please see my related posts:

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Cyber-Semiotics: Why Information is not enough

The Great Chain of Being

Indra’s Net: On Interconnectedness

On Holons and Holarchy

Interconnected Pythagorean Triples using Central Squares Theory

Shapes and Patterns in Nature

Consciousness of Cosmos: A Fractal, Recursive, Holographic Universe

Integral Philosophy of the Rg Veda: Four Dimensional Man

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

Myth of Invariance: Sound, Music, and Recurrent Events and Structures

Mind, Consciousness and Quantum Entanglement

Understanding Rasa: Yoga of Nine Emotions

Geometry of Consciousness

Key Sources of Research:

Lectures on the true, the beautiful, and the good

Victor Cousin

Translation by O. W. Wight

Click to access cousin.PDF

Awakening Wonder:

A Classical Guide to TRUTH, GOODNESS & BEAUTY

Stephen R. Turley, PhD

Click to access prod059505_smpl0.pdf

THE GOOD, THE TRUE, AND THE BEAUTIFUL

Click to access SeeNoEvil_Chapter3.pdf

THE BIRTH OF THE TRUE, THE GOOD, AND THE BEAUTIFUL:

TOWARD AN INVESTIGATION OF THE STRUCTURES OF SOCIAL THOUGHT

John Levi Martin

Click to access The%20Birth%20of%20the%20True,%20the%20Good,%20and%20the%20Beautiful.pdf

Beauty as a transcendental in the thought of Joseph Ratzinger

John Jang

University of Notre Dame Australia

https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=theses

Quotes by Victor Cousin

Cybernetics Group: A Brief History of American Cybernetics

Cybernetics Group: A Brief History of American Cybernetics

The Cybernetics Group

Focusing on the Macy Foundation conferences, a series of encounters that captured a moment of transformation in the human sciences.

In this sequel to his acclaimed double biography, John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener, Steve Heims recounts another fascinating story in twentieth-century intellectual history – a series of encounters that captured a moment of transformation in the human sciences. Focusing on the Macy Foundation conferences, which were designed to forge connections between wartime science and postwar social science, Heims’s richly detailed account explores the dialogues that emerged among a remarkable group that included Wiener, von Neumann, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Warren McCulloch, Kurt Lewin, Molly Harrower, and Lawrence Kubie. Heims shows how those dialogues shaped ideas in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and psychiatry.

 

Cybernetics

THE MACY CONFERENCES 1946-1953. THE COMPLETE TRANSACTIONS

Between 1946 and 1953, the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation sponsored a series of conferences aiming to bring together a diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars and researchers who would join forces to lay the groundwork for the new science of cybernetics. These conferences, known as the Macy conferences, constituted a landmark for the field. They were the first to grapple with new terms such as information and feedback and to develop a cohesive and broadly applicable theory of systems that would become equally applicable to living beings and machines, economic and cognitive processes, and many scholarly disciplines. The concepts that emerged from the conferences come to permeate thinking in many fields, including biology, neurology, sociology, ecology, economics, politics, psychoanalysis, linguistics, and computer science.

This book contains the complete transcripts of all ten Macy conferences and the guidelines for the conference proceedings. These transcripts are supplemented with an introduction by Claus Pias that charts the significance of the Macy conferences to the history of science.

 

Macy Conferences Participants

A series of 10 focused meetings spanning 1942 to 1953 sponsored by the Josiah Macy Foundation, which brought together

  • John von Neumann
  • Norbert Wiener
  • Margaret Mead
  • Karl Lashley
  • Ross Ashby
  • Warren McCulloch
  • Walter Pitts
  • Arturo Rosenblueth
  • Claude Shannon
  • Heinz von Foerster
  • Rafael Lorente de No ́
  • R. Karl Pribram
  • Duncan Luce
  • Donald M. MacKay
  • Gregory Bateson
  • Kurt Lewin
  • Molly Harrower
  • Lawrence Kubie
  • Filmer S. C. Northrop
  • Lawrence K. Frank
  • Heinrich Kluver
  • Leonard J Savage
  • Ralph Girard and many others

 

Stuart A. Umpleby

A Short History of Cybernetics in the United States

The Origin of Cybernetics

Cybernetics as a field of scientific activity in the United States began in the years after World War II. Between 1946 and 1953 the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation sponsored a series of conferences in New York City on the subject of „Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems.“ The chair of the conferences was Warren McCulloch of MIT. Only the last five conferences were recorded in written proceedings. These have now been republished.1 After Norbert Wiener published his book Cybernetics in 1948,2 Heinz von Foerster suggested that the name of the conferences should be changed to „Cybernetics: Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems.“ In this way the meetings became known as the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics.

In subsequent years cybernetics influenced many academic fields – computer science, electrical engineering, artificial intelligence, robotics, management, family therapy, political science, sociology, biology, psychology, epistemology, music, etc. Cybernetics has been defined in many ways: as control and communication in animals, machines, and social systems; as a general theory of regulation; as the science or art of effective organization; as the art of constructing defensible metaphors, etc.3 The term ‚cybernetics‘ has been associated with many stimulating conferences, yet cybernetics has not thrived as an organized scientific field within American universities. Although a few cybernetics programs were established on U.S. campuses, these programs usually did not survive the retirement or death of their founders. Quite often transdisciplinary fields are perceived as threatening by established disciplines.

Relative to other academic societies the meetings on cybernetics tended to have more than the usual controversy, probably due to the wide variety of disciplines represented by the participants. Indeed Margaret Mead contributed an article,

Cybernetics of Cybernetics, to the proceedings of the first conference of the American Society for Cybernetics, in which she suggested that cyberneticians should apply their knowledge of communication to how they communicate with each other.4

Interpretations of Cybernetics

Not everyone originally connected with cybernetics continued to use the term. The original group of cyberneticians created approximately four research traditions.

  • The cybernetics of Alan Turing and John von Neumann became computer science, AI, and robotics. Turing5 formulated the concept of a Universal Turing Machine – a mathematical description of a computational device. He also devised the Turing test – a way of determining whether a computer program displays „artificial intelligence“.6 The related professional societies are the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Association for Artificial Intelligence.
  • Norbert Wiener’s cybernetics became part of electrical engineering. This branch of cybernetics includes control mechanisms, from thermostats to automated assembly lines. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, including the Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society, is the main professional society. The principal concern is systems engineering.
  • Warren McCulloch’s cybernetics became „second order cybernetics“. McCulloch chaired the Macy Foundation conferences. He sought to understand the functioning of the nervous system and thereby the operation of the brain and the mind. The American Society for Cybernetics has continued this tradition.
  • Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead pursued research in the social sciences, particularly anthropology, psychology, and family therapy. Work on the cybernetics of social systems is being continued in the American Society for Cybernetics and the Socio-Cybernetics Group within the International Sociological Association.

Other groups can also be identified. For example, a control systems group within psychology was generated by the work of William Powers.7 Biofeedback or neuro- feedback is a subject of investigation by some researchers in medicine and psycho- logy. The Santa Fe Institute has developed simulation methods based on the ideas of self-organizing systems and cellular automata.8 Some members of the International Society for the Systems Sciences have an interest in management cybernetics.

This paper recounts about sixty years of the history of cybernetics in the United States, divided into five year intervals. The emphasis will be on the third and fourth groups, McCulloch’s cybernetics and social cybernetics.

Early 1940s

In 1943 two landmark papers were published. Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts wrote, A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity.9 This article sought to understand how a network of neurons functions so that we experience what we call „an idea.“ They presented their explanation in mathematical form.

Arthuro Rosenblueth, Norbert Wiener and Julian Bigelow published Behavior, Purpose, Teleology.10 They observed behavior, which they interpreted as purposeful, and then sought to explain how this phenomenon could happen without teleology, using only Aristotle’s efficient cause. Also in the early 1940s Wiener worked on a radar-guided anti-aircraft gun.

Late 1940s

In the late 1940s the early Macy Conferences were held in New York City.11 They were attended by scientists including Norbert Wiener, Julian Bigelow, John von Neumann, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Ross Ashby, Grey Walter, and Heinz von Foerster. By 1949 three key books were published: Von Neumann’s and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,12 Wiener’s (1948) Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine,13 and Shannon’s and Weaver’s (1949) The Mathematical Theory of Communication.14 These books defined a new science of information and regulation.

Early 1950s

In the early 1950s more Macy conferences took place. This time proceedings were published with Heinz von Foerster as editor. Meanwhile the first commercial com- puters were manufactured.

Late 1950s

In the 1950s the CIA was concerned about the possibility of brain-washing and mind control. Under the code name MKUltra experiments with LSD and other drugs were conducted at Harvard University and elsewhere.15 Some of the money for this research was channeled through the Macy Foundation. In one incident, a CIA employee was given LSD without his knowledge. Apparently he thought he was going mad and jumped out a window of a hotel in New York City. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, when he was a student at Harvard, was an experimental subject of these mind control experiments.16

Early checkers-playing programs were written and raised the possibility of artifi- cial intelligence.17 In 1956 at a conference at Dartmouth University people interested in studying the brain and people interested in creating computer programs parted ways. Neurophysiologists valued work that illuminated the nature of cognition. Engineers valued work that led to useful machines. Thereafter the people interested in cybernetics and those interested in artificial intelligence had little interaction.

Following a sabbatical year working with Arthuro Rosenblueth and Warren McCulloch, Heinz von Foerster founded the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) at the University of Illinois in 1958. During the 1960s and early 1970s BCL was the leading center for cybernetics research in the U.S. Frequent visitors were Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Gordon Pask, and Lars Loefgren. Graduates included Klaus Krippendorff, Alfred Inselberg, Crayton Walker, Roger Conant, and Stuart Umpleby.  During the same period the Mental Health Research Institute (MHRI) at the University of Michigan was the leading center for general systems research in the U.S. The founding director of MHRI was James G. Miller. Other systems scientists at MHRI were Kenneth E. Boulding, Anatol Rapoport, Richard L. Meier, and John R. Platt.

Early 1960s

In the early 1960s several conferences on self-organizing systems were held.18 One of these conferences was held in 1961 at the University of Illinois’s Allerton Park.19 As a result of an invitation made at this conference, Ross Ashby moved from England to Illinois. The work on self-organizing systems was a forerunner to the field of study now called ‚complexity‘ or ‚complex systems‘.

Although the Macy Foundation Conferences ended in 1953, the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) was not founded until 1964. This seems rather late. Actually the ASC was founded not so much to continue the work of the Macy conferences but rather as a result of the Cold War.20 During the Presidential campaign in 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected, there was talk about a „missile gap“ between the United States and the Soviet Union. Not long thereafter there began to be talk about a „cybernetics gap.“ Some people in the Soviet Union thought cybernetics would provide the theory they needed to operate their centrally planned economy.

Consequently, the Soviet government generously funded cybernetics research. Some people in the U.S. government then feared that the U.S. might fall behind in a criti- cal area of research, if this country did not also fund cybernetics research.

In Washington, DC, a cybernetics luncheon club was meeting. The participants included Paul Henshaw, Atomic Energy Commission; Carl Hammer, Univac; Jack Ford, CIA; Douglas Knight, IBM; Walter Munster; Bill Moore, lawyer. This group founded the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC). The founding ceremony was held at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. A grant from the National Science Foundation helped the Society to establish the Journal of Cybernetics. A conference on the social impact of cybernetics was held at Georgetown University in 1964.21 The first conference arranged by the ASC was held in 1967 at the National Bureau of Standards in Gaithersburg, MD.22

Late 1960s

Social movements in the United States – against the Viet Nam war and for civil rights, women’s rights, and environmental protection – produced a time of student activism on campuses. In terms of research it was a productive period for the Bio- logical Computer Laboratory (BCL) at the University of Illinois.23

Early 1970s

At a meeting of the American Society for Cybernetics in 1974 in Philadelphia, Heinz von Foerster introduced the term „second order cybernetics.“24 The Mansfield Amendment, which was an attempt to reduce campus unrest caused by the Viet Nam War, cut off government funds for research that was not related to a military mission, including research at BCL.25

There was an argument between the officers of ASC and the publisher of the Journal of Cybernetics. The dispute was submitted to arbitration, and the publisher won. Thereafter the journal continued to be published, but without ASC involvement. The journal published articles primarily in engineering. However, the field of cybernetics was increasingly emphasizing biology and the social sciences.

Late 1970s

Heinz von Foerster retired from the University of Illinois in 1976 and moved to California. There he communicated with Paul Watzlawick, John Weakland and others at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto. During this time second order cybernetics or constructivist epistemology had a significant impact on the field of family therapy.26

In the late 1970s no meetings of the American Society for Cybernetics were held. The people connected with BCL attended meetings of the Society for General Systems Research, which a few years later changed its name to the International Society for the Systems Sciences.

For a few years, due to a conflict among the ASC officers in Washington, DC, there was a rival organization, the American Cybernetics Association (ACA), based in Philadelphia. The two organizations came back together a few years later through the efforts of Barry Clemson, Doreen Steg, Klaus Krippendorff and others. The reorganized society used the ASC name and the ACA by-laws. But the society remained small, usually having fewer than 400 members.

Stuart Umpleby, who received his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1975 and moved to The George Washington University in Washington, DC, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for an Electronic Information Exchange for Small Research Communities. The BCL group moved into cyberspace.27 This group, discussing General Systems Theory, was one of nine academic groups using the Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES) at New Jersey Institute of Technology. For three years in the late 1970s cyberneticians and systems scientists across the United States and a few in Europe communicated with each other using email and computer conferencing via dumb terminals and, initially, 300 baud modems. The long distance telephone charges were paid by the NSF grant. When the grant ran out, there was disappointment that universities would not pay the communications charges. Indeed, it took almost fifteen years before costs declined sufficiently to permit regular email communication among academics.

Early 1980s

As a result of being the moderator of the on-line discussion group, Umpleby was elected president of ASC. A planning conference in 1980 charted a new direction for the Society.28 ASC began organizing conferences again and reestablished connec- tions with its former journal, now called Cybernetics and Systems.

A series of meetings with Soviet scientists was started as a way to bring leading American scientists together to review fundamentals, in particular to discuss second order cybernetics.29 The meetings were funded by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Soviet Academy of Sciences. These meetings were quite productive for exchanging views; however, a controversy with the Soviet side arose over the participation of Vladimir Lefebvre, a Soviet émigré. Prior to glasnost and perestro- ika Lefebvre’s theory30 of two systems of ethical cognition was not accepted by the Soviet government. However, during the break up of the USSR Lefebvre’s work was used by people at the highest levels of government in both the United States and the Soviet Union to prevent miscommunication.31

Lefebvre’s work is being further developed through annual conferences organized by Vladimir Lepsky in the Insti- tute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Lefebvre’s theory of reflexive control is being used by psychologists and educators to help with the psychological and cultural difficulties involved in the social, political, and economic transition in Russia.32

Late 1980s

Members of the American Society for Cybernetics began offering tutorials on first and second order cybernetics prior to systems conferences (see Table 1). They were seeking to make a scientific revolution.33 At a conference in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in 1987 the members of the American Society for Cybernetics decided to focus their attention almost exclusively on advancing second order cybernetics.34 The focus on second order cybernetics to the exclusion of other interpretations of cybernetics had the effect of reducing the membership of the ASC to about one hundred mem- bers. However, there was strong interest in second order cybernetics in Europe.35

 

Table 1. Definitions of First and Second Order Cybernetics

Author

First Order Cybernetics

Second Order Cybernetics

von Foerster

The cybernetics of observed systems

The cybernetics of observing system

Pask

The purpose of a model

The purpose of modeler

Varela

Controlled systems

Autonomous systems

Umpleby

Interaction among the vari- ables in a system

Interaction between observer and observed

Umpleby

Theories of social systems

Theories of the interaction between ideas and society

The second Soviet-American conference was held in Tallinn, Estonia, in 1988. Due to glasnost and perestroika the original topics (epistemology, methodology, and management) were expanded to include large-scale social experiments.

 

Early 1990s

In 1990 two symposia on Theories to Guide the Reform of Socialist Societies were held in Washington, DC, and Vienna, Austria.36 These meetings were the beginning of a multi-year effort both to understand the changes occurring in the former Soviet Union from the perspective of social theory and to use knowledge of social systems to guide the transitions.

The work on second order cybernetics was also changing. The members of the ASC had worked almost twenty years on developing and promoting the point of view known as second order cybernetics or constructivism. Some people wanted to move from a period of revolutionary science to a new period of normal science.37 One way to understand the change is to say that the period of engineering cyberne- tics lasted from the mid 1940s to the mid 1970s. The period of biological cybernetics or second order cybernetics lasted from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s. And the period of social cybernetics began in the mid 1990s (see Table 2).

Late 1990s

Symposia on the transitions in the former Soviet Union continued to be held as part of the European Meetings on Cybernetics and Systems Research. These meetings are held every two years in Vienna, Austria. The symposia bring together scientists from East and West.

In Washington, DC, a series of meetings on the Year 2000 Computer Problem were held with the support of The Washington Post. These meetings were based on the idea that „y2k“ could be regarded as an experiment which would reveal the amount of interconnectedness in our increasingly cybernetic society.38

Niklas Luhmann’s writings in sociology introduced ideas such as constructivism and autopoiesis to social scientists in Europe.39 A Socio-Cybernetics Working Group within the International Sociological Association was established by Felix Geyer and others.

Early 2000s

In the early years of the 21st century large conferences on informatics and cyber- netics were organized by Nagib Callaos and his colleagues in Orlando, FL. One result has been organizing efforts in Latin America stimulated by the conferences in Orlando. Annual conferences on reflexive control began to be held in Moscow

 

Table 2. Three Versions of Cybernetics

Engineering Cybernetics

Biological Cybernetics

Social Cybernetics

The view
of epistemo­ logy

A realist view of epistemology: knowledge is a „picture“ of reality

A biological view of epistemology: how the brain func­ tions

A pragmatic view of epistemology: knowledge is con­ structed to achieve human purposes

A key distinction

Reality vs. Scientific Theories

Realism vs. Constructivism

The biology of cognition vs. the observer as a social participant

The puzzle to be solved

Construct theories which explain ob­ served phenomena

Include the ob­ server within the domain of science

Explain the rela­ tionship between the natural and the social sciences

What must be explained

How the world works

How an individual constructs a „real­ ity“

How people cre­ ate, maintain, and change social sys­ tems through lan­ guage and ideas

A key as­ sumption

Natural processes can be explained by scientific theo­ ries

Ideas about knowl­ edge should be rooted in neuro­ physiology

Ideas are accepted if they serve the observer’s pur­ poses as a social participant

An impor­ tant conse­ quence

Scientific know- ledge can be used to modify natural processes to benefitpeople

If people accept constructivism, they will be more tolerant

By transforming conceptual systems (through persua­ sion, not coercion), we can change society

and may lead to the founding of a Russian Association in the field of cybernetics and systems.

In the International Society for the Systems Sciences there is growing interest in group facilitation and participation methods.40 An increasing number of books about cybernetics appear, frequently by German authors.41 A Heinz von Foerster

Society was established in Vienna to further develop the ideas explored at the Bio- logical Computer Laboratory. A new biography of Norbert Wiener was published which explains the break that occurred between Wiener and McCulloch.42

The „global university system“ created by the Internet and the Bologna process is not only greatly facilitating communication among scientists around the world but is also leading to a new metaphor for the social implications of cybernetics, an alternative metaphor to the „global brain.“43

Questions about the History of Cybernetics

Given the promising and exciting beginnings of cybernetics, the outstanding sci- entists involved, and the subsequent impact of cybernetics on many disciplines, it is curious that the term ‚cybernetics‘ is not widely known or used today, even though most professional people spend several hours a day in cyberspace. Margaret Mead commented on the development of cybernetics at the first ASC conference in 1968:

„We were impressed by the potential usefulness of a language sufficiently sophisticated to be used to solve complex human problems, and sufficiently abstract to make it possible to cross disciplinary boundaries. We thought we would go on to real interdisciplinary research, using this language as a medium. Instead, the whole thing fragmented. Norbert Wiener wrote his book Cybernetics. It fascinated intellectuals and it looked for a while as if the ideas that he expressed would become a way of thought. But they didn’t.“44

Why did the cybernetics movement break up following the Macy Conferences? Perhaps it never came together. People stayed in their home disciplines. Many very thought-provoking meetings were held under the label of cybernetics, but the educational programs that were established did not survive in discipline-oriented universities. When their founders retired, the programs were closed. One conse- quence of the lack of educational programs at universities is that key ideas tend to be reinvented. One example is the work on complex systems centered at the Santa Fe Institute. These writers rarely refer to the work in cybernetics and systems theory.

What prevented unity? There was never agreement on fundamentals. Eric Dent in his doctoral dissertation at The George Washington University provides an explanation of the continuing heterogeneity of the field of cybernetics and systems science.45 Dent claims that after World War II the systems sciences dramatically expanded the scientific enterprise. Specifically, science expanded along eight dimen- sions: causality, determinism, relationships, holism, environment, self-organization, reflexivity, and observation.46 However, not all of the various systems fields chose to emphasize the same dimensions. Indeed, each field chose a unique combination. This meant that the various systems fields did not agree on what the key issues were. As a result each subfield developed its own language, theories, methods, traditions, and results.

These eight dimensions have both united and divided the systems sciences. The dimensions unite the systems sciences because each of the subfields of systems sci- ence uses at least one of the new assumptions, whereas classical science uses none. The dimensions divide the systems sciences because each subfield emphasizes a different dimension or set of dimensions. Hence, issues that are very important in one subfield are less important or do not arise in other subfields. Given different questions, the answers in theories and methods have been different.47 Perhaps in the 21st century the progress made in developing the field of cybernetics in many disciplines will be successfully integrated.

Notes

1  Claus Pias, ed., Cybernetics – Kybernetik: The Macy Conferences 1946–1953, Zürich and Berlin 2004.

2  Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Cambridge, MA 1948.

3  Larry Richards, Defining ‚Cybernetics‘ (1987), http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/definitions.htm.

4  Margaret Mead, Cybernetics of Cybernetics, in: Heinz von Foerster et al., eds., Purposive Systems, New York 1968.

5  Alan Turing, On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, in: Pro- ceedings of the London Mathematical Society 42/2 (1936), 230–265. Reprinted in Martin Davis, ed., The Undecidable, New York 1965.

6  Alan Turing, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, in: Mind 59 (1950), 433–460.

7  William Powers, Behavior: the Control of Perception, New York 1973.

8  M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, New York 1992.

9  Warren S. McCulloch and Walter Pitts, A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity, in: Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics 5 (1943), 115–133; reprinted in Warren S. McCulloch, Embodiments of Mind, Cambridge, MA, 1965, 19–39.

10  Arturo Rosenblueth, Norbert Wiener and Julian Bigelow, Behavior, Purpose and Teleology, in: Philosophy of Science 10 (1943), 18–24; reprinted in W. Buckley, ed., Modern Systems Research for the Behavioral Scientist, Chicago 1968, 221–225.

11  Steve J. Heims, The Cybernetics Group, Cambridge, MA 1991.

12  John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, Princeton, NJ 1944.

13  Wiener, Cybernetics.

14  Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, Urbana, Ill. 1949.

15  John Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, New York 1978.

16  Alston Chase, Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist, New York 2003.

17  Arthur Samuel, Some Studies in Machine Learning Using the Game of Checkers in: IBM Journal 3/3 (1959), 210–229.

18  Marshall Yovits and Scott Cameron, eds., Self-Organizing Systems, London 1960; Marshall Yovits, George Jacobi, Gordon Goldstein, eds., Self-Organizing Systems – 1962, Washington 1962.

19  Heinz von Foerster and George W. Zopf Jr., eds., Principles of Self-Organization, New York 1962.

20  Charles Richard Dechert, ed., The Social Impact of Cybernetics, New York 1966.

21  Ibid.

22  Heinz von Foerster et al., eds., Purposive Systems, New York 1968.

23  Albert Müller and Karl H. Müller, eds., An Unfinished Revolution? Heinz von Foerster and the Bio- logical Computer Laboratory, 1958–1976, Wien 2007.

24  Heinz von Foerster, Cybernetics of Cybernetics, in: Klaus Krippendorff, ed., Communication and Control in Society, New York 1979.

25  Stuart Umpleby, Heinz von Foerster and the Mansfield Amendment, in: Cybernetics and Human Knowing 10 (2003), No. 3–4.

26  Paul Watzlawick, The Invented Reality: How do we Know what we Believe we Know? Contributions to Constructivism, New York 1984.

27  Stuart Umpleby, Computer Conference on General Systems Theory: One Year’s Experience, in: M. Henderson and M. MacNaughton, eds., Electronic Communication: Technology and Impacts, Boul- der, CO 1979; Stuart Umpleby and K. Thomas, Applying Systems Theory to the Conduct of Systems Research, in: Anthony Debons ed., Information Science in Action: System Design, vol. l, The Hague 1983.

28  Stuart Umpleby, The 1980 Planning Conference of the American Society for Cybernetics, in: Cyber- netics Forum 10/1 (1981).

29  Stuart Umpleby, American and Soviet Discussions of the Foundations of Cybernetics and General Systems Theory, in: Cybernetics and Systems 18 (1987); Stuart Umpleby and Vadim Sadovsky, eds., A Science of Goal Formulation: American and Soviet Discussions of Cybernetics and Systems Theory, New York 1991.

30  Vladimir A. Lefebvre, Algebra of Conscience: A Comparative Analysis of Western and Soviet Ethical Systems, London 1982.

31  Stuart Umpleby, A Preliminary Inventory of Theories Available to Guide the Reform of Socialist Societies, in: Stuart Umpleby and Robert Trappl, eds., Cybernetics and Systems 22/4 (1991).

32  Stuart Umpleby and Tatyana A. Medvedeva, Psychological Adjustment to Economic and Social Change, in: Reflexive Control 1/1 (2001), 102–112.

33  Stuart Umpleby, On Making a Scientific Revolution, in: Heinz von Foerster, ed., Cybernetics of Cy- bernetics, Urbana 1974; reprinted in 1995, Minneapolis: Future Systems.

34  Stuart Umpleby, Three Conceptions of Conversation, in: Continuing the Conversation: A Newsletter of Ideas in Cybernetics, No. 10, 1987.

35  Stuart Umpleby, Cybernetics of Conceptual Systems, in: Cybernetics and Systems 28/8 (1997), 635– 652.

36  Umpleby, Inventory.

37  Stuart Umpleby, The Science of Cybernetics and the Cybernetics of Science, in: Cybernetics and Systems 21/1 (1990).

38  Stuart Umpleby, Coping with an Error in a Knowledge Society: The Case of the Year 2000 Computer Crisis, in: George E. Lasker et al., eds., Advances in Sociocybernetics and Human Development VIII, Windsor, Canada 2000.

39  Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems. Stanford, CA 1995.

40  Ken Bausch, ed., Special Issue on Agoras of the Global Village, World Futures, 6/1–2 (2004).

41  Müller and Müller, Revolution.

42  Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics, New York 2005.

43  Stuart Umpleby, Strengthening the Global University System, in: R. Meyer, ed., Perspectives in Higher Education Reform, vol. 12, Alliance of Universities for Democracy, American University in Bulgaria, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria 2003.

44  Mead, Cybernetics.

45  Eric B. Dent, The Design, Development, and Evaluation of Measures to Survey Worldview in Orga- nizations. Ann Arbor, MI University Microfilms 1996

46  Eric B. Dent, System Science Traditions: Differing Philosophical Assumptions, in: Systems, Journal of the Polish Systems Society 6 (2001), No. 1–2.

47  Stuart Umpleby and Eric B. Dent, The Origins and Purposes of Several Traditions in Systems Theory and Cybernetics, in: Cybernetics and Systems 30 (1999).

 

 

 

 

Please see my related posts

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

Feedback Thought in Economics and Finance

Reflexivity, Recursion, and Self Reference

Autocatalysis, Autopoiesis and Relational Biology

Socio-Cybernetics and Constructivist Approaches

Cybernetics, Autopoiesis, and Social Systems Theory

Ratio Club: A Brief History of British Cyberneticians

Second Order Cybernetics of Heinz Von Foerster

Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Recursive Vision of Gregory Bateson

Society as Communication: Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

 

Whatever Happened to Cybernetics

Kevin Kelly in his book Out of Control

https://kk.org/mt-files/outofcontrol/ch23-a.html

The Cybernetics Group

Steve Heims

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/cybernetics-group

Constructing a Social Science for Postwar America

The Cybernetics Group, 1946–1953

By Steve Joshua Heims

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/constructing-social-science-postwar-america

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/396a/f617fb699b71d3a7ecb44c5a8a39d7c69d31.pdf?_ga=2.252779531.343517398.1572734637-1265037359.1572734637

 

John Von Neumann and Norbert Weiner

From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death

Steve Heims

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/john-von-neumann-and-norbert-weiner

Cybernetics

THE MACY CONFERENCES 1946-1953. THE COMPLETE TRANSACTIONS

EDITED BY CLAUS PIAS

 

https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/C/bo23348570.html

 

 

 

Do Cyborgs Dream of Electronic Rats? The Macy Conferences and the Emergence of Hybrid Multi-Agent Systems

 

Samuel Gerald Collins

 

Click to access FS07-04-005.pdf

 

 

Macy conferences

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macy_conferences

 

 

Cybernetics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybernetics

History of Cybernetics

American Society of Cybernetics

http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/history.htm

 

History of Cybernetics and Systems Science

http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/CYBSHIST.html

 

 

HISTORY OF CYBERNETICS
Additional Reference Resources

http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/historyrefs.htm

The Macy Story

https://macyfoundation.org/news-and-commentary/the-macy-story

 

 

The Next Macy Conference: A New Interdisciplinary Synthesis [Keynote]

September 2015

Andrew Pickering

 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281896821_The_Next_Macy_Conference_A_New_Interdisciplinary_Synthesis_Keynote

 

 

A Brief History of (Second-Order) Cybernetics

Louis Kauffman
Stuart Umpleby

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319751991_A_Brief_History_of_Second-Order_Cybernetics

 

 

A Short History of Cybernetics in the United States

The Origin of Cybernetics

 

Stuart Umpleby

 

Click to access 4566_oezg4_08_s28_40_umpleby_1_.pdf

 

 

 

Analog, digital, and the cybernetic illusion

Claus Pias

 

Click to access kybernetes.pdf

 

 

 

 

GREGORY BATESON, CYBERNETICS, AND THE SOCIAL/BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES

 

Click to access gbcatsbs.pdf

 

 

Cybernetics: A General Theory that Includes Command and Control

Stuart Umpleby

 

Click to access 076.pdf

 

The Future of Cybernetics

Click to access Pangaro-Nano-2018.pdf

 

 

John Bowlby: Rediscovering a systems scientist

Gary S. Metcalf, PhD

January 7, 2010

 

Click to access John_Bowlby_-_Rediscovering_a_systems_scientist.pdf

 

 

REBEL GENIUS: WARREN MCCULLOCH’S TRANSDISCIPLINARY LIFE IN SCIENCE

By Tara H. Abraham

2016 MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, USA

ISBN: 9780262035095

 

Click to access The%20prophet%20who%20foretold%20our%20future%202018-4523.pdf

 

 

 

Where are the Cyborgs in Cybernetics?

Ronald Kline

 

Click to access Where-are-the-Cyborgs-in-Cybernetics-Kline.pdf

 

 

SECOND ORDER CYBERNETICS

Ranulph Glanville

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.645.9031&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

The Road to Servomechanisms: The Influence of Cybernetics on Hayek

from The Sensory Order to the Social Order

Gabriel Oliva

 

Click to access The%20Road%20to%20Servomechanisms.pdf

 

 

Cybernetics Revolutinaries

Click to access Eden_Medina_Cybernetic_Revolutionaries.pdf

 

 

 

CYBERNETICS AND THE MANGLE: ASHBY, BEER AND PASK*

Andrew Pickering

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.15.882&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

 

 

Cybernetics Page at Monoskop.org

https://monoskop.org/Cybernetics

 

 

 

The Cybernetics Brain

Andrew Pickering

 

 

 

HISTORY OF CYBERNETICS

R. Vallée

Université Paris-Nord, France

 

Click to access E6-46-03-01.pdf