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Warren McCulloch

Guiding Questions
A man has a mind to say something and says it. The embodiement problem is directed towards describing coherently, and relating on all levels of interpretation the complex of events involved in such situations: the intention, the utterance, the reference of the utterance, the happenings in man's brain.

A man has a mind to say something and says it. The embodiment problem is directed toward describing coherently, and relating on all levels of interpretation, the complex of events involved in such situations: the intention, the utterance, the reference ot the utterance, the happenings in the man's brain.

It would be futile to discuss whether this enterprise belongs to philosophy, to neurology, or to psychology except that each of these disciplines has established traditions and modes of thought that preclude progress by deformation of the problem. (EM xiii)

What should be controlled?

What should be controlled? The way to use management cybernetics and the principle of intrinsic control in this situation is as follows. We should not try to measure the variable characteristics of every machine and every job and every machine-job. We should instead measure something rather more sophisticated -- an output of our system that we expect to remain steady. Various choices are open. A statistic I have often used with success is the ratio of planned to actual time. This (you will note) is a pure number, applicable to every job regardless of the machines used or the nature of the product. It reduces variety straight away, therefore. Moreover, it invariably turns out that production as measured in these terms is more homogeneous than anyone suspected. The statistical analysis of a population of ratios (as opposed to a population of heterogeneous jobs) is a simple and rewarding exercise. (MS 150)

What is a number that a man may know it, and a man that he may know a number?

In the fall of 1917, I entered Haverford College with two strings to my bow - facility in Latin and a sure foundation in mathematics. I "honored" in the latter and was seduced by it. That winter Rufus Jones called me in. "Warren," said he, "what is thee going to be?" And I said, "I don't know." "And what is thee going to do?" And again I said, "I have no idea; but there is one question I would like to answer: What is a number, that a man may know it, and a man, that he may know a number?" He smiled and said, "Friend, thee will be busy as long as thee lives." I have been, and that is what we are here about. (EM 2)

Why is the mind in the head?

Coming as I do between psyche anatomized and psyche synthesized, I must so define my terms that I can bridge the traditional gulf between mind and body and the technical gap between things begotten and things made.

By the term "mind,'' I mean ideas and purposes. By the term "body," I mean stuff and process. Stuff and process are familiar to every physicist as mass and energy ill space and time, but ideas and purposes he keeps only in the realm of discourse and will not postulate them of the phenomena he observes. In this I agree with him. But what he observes is some sort of order or invariance in the flux of events. Every object he detects in the world is some sort of regularity. The existence of these objects is the first law of science. To detect regularities in the relations of objects and so construct theoretical physics requires the disciplines of logic and mathematics. In these fundamentally tautological endeavors we invent surprising regularities, complicated transformations which conserve whatever truth may lie in the propositions they transform. This is invariance, many steps removed from simple sensation but not essentially different. It is these regularities, or invariants, which I call ideas, whether they are theorems of great abstraction or qualities simply sensed. The reason for excluding then from physics is that they must not be supposed to be either stuff or process in the causal sequences of any part of the world. (EM 72)

 
Home Cybeneticians Warren McCulloch Guiding Questions
 
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