Paper presented to the Annual Conference of the Cybernetics Society
Birkbeck College, University of London, September 1987
© Copyright D J Stewart 1987. All rights reserved.
A Ternary Domanial Structure as a Basis for Cybernetics and its Place in Knowledge
The problem of relating cybernetics to the rest of knowledge is discussed. Cybernetics is about control, management, and government, and it is argued that these require value concepts, whereas it is usual to define science as 'value-free'. The purpose of this paper is to attempt to provide a set of terms and concepts, arranged in the form of a conceptual scheme, that could provide a solution to this problem. The effect is to augment the traditional conceptual basis of Natural Science.
Typical stages in the development of a conceptual scheme in Natural Science are described. It is then shown that there are already in the literature two theoretical discontinuities, that between energy and information and that between description and evaluation, which serve to define a set of three domains. Examination of the relationship between these discontinuities and domains leads to a special sense of the concept of 'domain', the new concept of a 'tern' and a 'principle of ternality'. A theoretical structure is built up by using this principle as an heuristic procedure to discover terns relevant to cybernetics and its typical subject-matter. This procedure yields a body of theory, together with a technique of 'Ternary Analysis', which promise to be of sufficient generality to enable them to deal with the full range of cybernetic problems, including psychological and human matters on the one hand, and physical and engineering matters on the other.
Because concepts relating to value, judgement, and justification have a natural place in the proposed structure, it is offered as a means by which cybernetics can relate both to the rest of science and also to other branches of knowledge.