First and Second-Order Cybernetics

Topics: Family therapy, Salvador Minuchin, Cybernetics Pages: 9 (3263 words) Published: April 27, 2013

Before attempting to describe differences and similarities regarding how these two approaches view reality, the best place to begin is to define “reality”. According to Reader’s Digest Universal dictionary (1987; 1278), reality is that which exists objectively and in fact. In philosophy, it is the sum of all that is real, absolute, and unchangeable. In other words, it is something that occurs in real life and is comparable by facts, according to Baron (2012). These definitions suggest the idea that reality is something that anyone can notice at any given time as some type of actuality or fact. However, another way of looking at reality, according to Baron (2012), is to see it as all those things that form central part of what an individual perceives to be real. In turn, this personal objectivity (subjectivity) replaces the objective notion of reality - as perception and belief correlates to an individual. Just from these approaches we already have opposing views concerning reality. This is similar to the two approaches considering reality. According to Baron (2012), from a first order cybernetic perspective one could ask what really is reality? This question would not be in line with a second order approach in that this question gives rise to the idea that there is a single construct or value for reality; a truth that is discoverable and obtainable that can then be used as an example that can possibly be put onto a pedestal for a group of people to view it. The idea of a finite truth and there being a real world that can be known with objective certainty is contrary to a second order perspective. On the other hand, according to Baron (2012), a second-order cybernetic perspective challenges the way we assume to perceive reality. Perception is a process of construction, that is, we invent the environment in which we find our self as we perceive/construct it. Each person is seen as being able to create their own reality and thus each person would have a different reality from the next person based on each’s unique mixture of experiences, genetics assumptions and thus perceptions. For each person, their reality is both personally true and valid. Actually, people live in a multiverse of many equally valid observer-dependent realities that has no place for objectivity and thus not even subjectivity. Regarding subject on therapists, from a first order epistemological stance, the therapist perceives reality as something that one can discover through a process of observation without being influenced by this process. The therapist thus can discover and treat problems from an outside stance in order to initiate change, as according to Baron (2012). Second order cybernetics, alternatively, sees the observer as part of the observed. Baron (2012) states that second-order therapists acknowledge that they work with the perceptions and constructions of both their clients and themselves. Consequently, reality is something that can never be completely understood from another individual in an absolute truth. The therapist’s observations influence what he/she sees and acknowledges that there are many alternative, yet equally valid perceptions of the same phenomenon.

With regards to pathology, according to Baron (2012), the first-order cybernetics relies on the idea that pathology is defined according to reference to normalcy, such as in the structural family therapy approach. Here there needs to be a model of normality against which to base its assumptions of deviance. This is achieved through interviews with ‘effectively’ functioning families from different cultures. From these statements one could deduce that there is a notion of what is healthy and what is not. What is right and what is not. Furthermore, the idea of a person who is sick who goes to see someone who can “fix” him/her is in...

References: Reader’s Digest .(1987).Universal Dictionary. London; The Reader’s Digest Ass. Ltd
Baron, P (2012). Ecosystemic Psychology. Accessed on 21 July 2012
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