Paradigms and Recursions that (might) Generate a Praxis
Judith Lombardi
ASC 2012


Cybernetics is my passion not a belief system. (1)

Heinz von Foerster triggered my interest in designing in threes when writing about triadic relationships: A triadic relationship can be compared with the inter-relationship between the chicken (hen) the egg and the rooster. You cannot say who is first and you cannot say who is last AND you need all three in order to have all three. (2)

So, when might there be a triadic relationship between the terms recursion, paradigm and praxis? How do I describe these terms when composing this report? How might this endeavor contribute to my designing a society that I desire to be an element of?

My descriptions including the video are intentional acts -- a composition that reflects my experiences and desires when nested in a cybernetic way of thinking about ways of thinking and doing - praxis. (3)


Defining the term recursion reflects a beauty of cybernetics since it is defined in a variety of ways depending on the observer, his or her background, interests, and experiential world for knowing (epistemology).

Heinz regularly suggested that circularity was THE fundamental principle of cybernetics. I wonder how this relates to his descriptions of recursion?

Stafford Beer suggested that cybernetic embodies recursion in that all viable systems contain viable systems that contain viable systems that are contained in viable systems and so on.

Humberto Maturana once described recursion as whenever an observer can claim that the re-application of an operation occurs on the consequences of its previous application.To paraphrase Maturana, what happens in us when we language is that we dance together in recurrent interactions that constitute a flow of recursive co-ordinations of co-ordinations of actions. When this is so, language is taking place in the recursive co-ordinations of actions in a dynamic relational space called humanness. (4)

Repetition occurs whenever an observer can claim that a given operation is realized again, independent of the consequences of its previous realizations. (5)

From this stance, repetition generates redundancy whereas recursion -- even when it looks like repetition -- generates insistence. So when might repeating generate insistence?

Repeat(ing), if it resists decay, retards it. (6)




Gregory Bateson once described recursive patterns, feedback that prevents information, as restraints. (7)

One consequence of restraints is redundancy, a state of not being needed or useful. Redundancy makes I -- you -- me – (us) superfluous.

When I look a system that entails redundancy, recursive restraints that generate nothing new -- there is communication. (8)

One tradition of the ASC community is composing imperatives. Some argue imperatives go against -- an ethical cybernetics. (9)

I consider them paradoxical invitations.

At the 2009 ASC meeting, as a tribute to Herbert Brün, Larry Richards introduced the Anticommunication imperative: “If you seek the new, compose a-synchronicity. (10)

Today I introduce the Transformer Imperative: “If you seek the new, compose and perform anticommunications. (11)



I want a new society, a social revolution. (12)

So I need a new language. Yet the inertia of language keeps me embedded in the assumptions and interconnecting premises associated with old paradigms. Paradigms of past -- like patriarchy, imperialism, objectivity, a variety of stratifications for human beings and other living systems. All nested in a reward-oriented-hierarchies paradigm. For example, capitalism is an interdependent recursive element of a system of class, geared toward achievement that often embraces legalized violence against women and “minorities,” associated with patriarchy and white supremacy.


As human beings we find ourselves here – now -- in a praxis of living in the happening of being humans in a present in which everything that happens, happens as an element of our praxis of living immersed in languaging. Your present changes your past changes, your present changes, your future changes. (13)

There have been many descriptions for the term paradigm over the years. (14)

When might there be a description of paradigm that reflects my desires? (15)




So I focus and design toward a future I desire, and when I turn my desires into false statements a praxis for social transformations that -- I desire -- might emerge.

My Desire via a False Statement: I live a praxis of deliberate thinking that rubs against premises and assumptions of paradigms gone by – bye. (16)

References and Notes


1. Richards, L. “Cybernetics is a way of thinking about ways of thinking of which it is one.” 1998.

2. Von Foerster, H. “Cybernetic of Cybernetics.” 1979.

3. Mead, M. Ed. Von Foerster, H. Observing Systems. “Cybernetics, not only a language that crosses disciplinary lines but a language that reflects what one sees.” 1968.

4. Maturana, H. “Ontology of Observing: Biological Foundations of Self Consciousness and of the Physical Domain of Existence." 1988.

5. Maturana, H. ‘What makes a recurrent occurrence of a given operation a recursion or a repetition has to do with its manner of association with some other processes.’ Ibid, 1988.

6.Brün, H. my words and where I want them #91. 1986

7. Freud, Sophie. “Cybernetic Epistemology.” in Paradigms of Clinical Social Work. 1988.

8. Bateson, G. ‘Information is succinctly defined as any difference which makes a difference in some later event. This definition is fundamental for cybernetic analysis and where information and negative entropy overlap.’ in Steps Toward an Ecology of Mind. 1966.

9. Brün, M. ‘Communicative language is accumulated language based on obsolete present paradigms which cannot speak for (us) who think and dream in another paradigm. There may be occasions where communicative language is tolerable. -- Whenever only criticism, reporting, and complaint is intended, communicative language will do. It always can accurately tell what is.’ “Inertia Language.” 1980. 10. Richards, L. “The Anticommunication Imperative a Tribute to Herbert Brün.” 2009.

10. Richards, L. ‘Synchronicity: the dynamics of interaction that would occur naturally, irrespective of the particular actors (you and I). Asynchronicity: an anomaly in the dynamics of interaction experienced as an inconsistency, a contradiction, a friction, a "being on different planes", i.e., being "out of sync.’ “The Praxis of Thinking: Deliberate vs. Improvised.” 2001.

11. Brün, H. ‘I use the word communication whenever I wish to speak of a human relation between persons and things which emerges and is maintained through messages required and permitted by already available systems or mechanisms.

I use the word anticommunication whenever I wish to speak of a human relation between persons and things which emerges and is maintained through messages requiring and permitting not yet available encoding and decoding systems or mechanisms.

Communication feeds on, and speeds, the decay of information in systems on which depends the significance of human relations. Anticommunication retards this decay and creates systems whose significance depends on human relations. Insistence on communication ultimately leads to social and physical violence. Anticommunication ultimately leads to the insistence on composition and peace.’ my words and where I want them.# 1980.

12. Lombardi, J. Defining the term "social."

13.Maturana, H. Structural Determined Systems. 1992.

14. Khun T. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 1962.

15. Brün, M. “Paradigms: The Inertia of Language.” 1980.

16. Richards, L.’Deliberate thinking: when I explain my way of thinking as a choice from a set of alternative ways of thinking (with awareness of my desires with respect to the consequences of my choice). The criteria for choosing depend on the approach to consciousness taken.’ “The Praxis of Thinking: Deliberate vs. Improvised.” 2001

When peace is a need

My First Desires Exercise