Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century

By Stuart G. Shanker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9

Cybernetics

K.M. Sayre


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Cybernetics was inaugurated in the 1940s expressly as a field of interdisciplinary research, in reaction to the specialization that already had begun to encumber the established sciences. Chief among the disciplines initially involved were mathematics (represented by N. Wiener, the leader of the movement), neurophysiology (W. Cannon, A. Rosenbleuth, later W. McCulloch), and control engineering (J. Bigelow). The interdisciplinary base of the group was soon expanded to include mathematical logic (W.H. Pitts), automaton theory (J.von Neumann), psychology (K. Lewin) and socioeconomics (O. Morgenstern). While activities of the group at first were centred around Harvard and MIT, its subsequent expansion led to several meetings at other locations along the northeastern seaboard. Notable among these was a conference on teleology and purpose held in New York in 1942 under the auspices of the Josiah Macy Foundation (followed by other meetings under those auspices resuming in 1946), and a meeting on the design of computing machinery held in Princeton in 1944. The role of these early meetings was like that of a community forum, allowing participants to share insights into common problems and jointly to explore novel means of resolution.

Need for a forum of this sort arose first in connection with problems being studied by Wiener and Bigelow in the design of mechanisms for controlling artillery directed against fast-moving aircraft, which Rosenbleuth saw to be similar to problems he had been studying in the erratic control of goal-directed motor behaviour in human patients. The topic of feedback processes (see below) on which the group subsequently focused attention thus arose from a comparative study of biological and artifactual control systems. Invariably associated with problems in the design of effective control systems are problems

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Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • General Editors' Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Chronology xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • Chapter 1 - Philosophy of Logic 9
  • Bibliography 39
  • Chapter 2 - Philosophy of Mathematics in the Twentieth Century 50
  • Chapter 3 - Frege 124
  • Bibliography 153
  • Chapter 4 - Wittgenstein's Tractatus 157
  • Notes 187
  • Chapter 5 - Logical Positivism 193
  • Bibliography 210
  • Chapter 6 - The Philosophy of Physics 214
  • Bibliography 233
  • Chapter 7 - The Philosophy of Science Today 235
  • Chapter 8 - Chance, Cause and Conduct: Probability Theory and the Explanation of Human Action 266
  • Chapter 9 - Cybernetics 292
  • Bibliography 313
  • Chapter 10 - Descartes' Legacy: the Mechanist/Vitalist Debates 315
  • Notes 366
  • Glossary 376
  • Index 444
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