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Critical Theory and EpistemologyThe Politics of Modern Thought and Science$
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Anastasia Marinopoulou

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781526105370

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526105370.001.0001

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Systems theory

Systems theory

Chapter:
(p.111) 4 Systems theory
Source:
Critical Theory and Epistemology
Author(s):

Anastasia Marinopoulou

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781526105370.003.0005

In his systems’ theory, Luhmann attempts to redefine communication, and associates it with information. For Luhmann, communication is distinct from action (Handeln), and the rationality of the scientific system resides in the notion of Zweck, or in the ends of the sciences towards action. For the first time in the epistemological history of modernity, rationality is understood as a certain scientific purpose of action and not as the critique of scientific truth and validity of reason. The schism that Luhmann brought about between ‘traditional’ epistemology (reconsidered now as novel) and the ‘critical’ theory of science (seen by Luhmann as ‘traditional’) was irredeemable. In the following pages, I maintain that all evidence to the contrary such a divergence was inherent to modernity.Drawing on the Schützean model of multiple realities, Luhmann manages to blur the distinction between instrumentality and rationality by relativizing both within systemic complexity. According to Luhmann, complexity characterizes a multifaceted social system, such as science itself. However, I argue that where complexity, in Luhmann, interprets the systemic, it also employs presentism and partial situationalism to explain the essence and methodology of science as a system.

Keywords:   Luhmann, Systems theory, Habermas, Rationality, Umwelt, Complexity, Dialectics, Action, Lifeworld

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