1. Humans were outside of society because if society were made up of (the relationships of) humans, would arms and legs belong to it, did a barber cut the hairs of ‘society’, and how could cell chemistry as well as alchemist repression belong to the same society? His point was that humanist tradition held on to a highly clouded concept of society due to a laziness in theory building.
2. Countries were not to be geographically separated but rather the differences between countries could only be dealt with within society. That is, if the US and The Netherlands were different in terms of state organisation, language, culture and tradition, then it did not make any sense to attribute such differences to geographical differences. The problem was that such differences – as a consequence of this orientation towards territory – caused preconceived notions of what to expect in a country one traveled to (think of how travel guides are part of a bias-inducing industry). On the contrary, such differences had to be met with first, and then be explained and solved within the particular circumstance.
3. Humans could not position themselves as subject describing a ‘dead’ object. Instead, objects – such as ‘society’ – had subjective qualities of their own and don’t let themselves be ‘deadened’ like that.
For some it would be far-fetched to simply overlay these three points with the value-technology-narrative structure, but it was certainly possible. Think of how the second point related to how we told each stories of our existence, how we make sense of our societies compared to those of others. The particular way Luhmann thought there would be a more accurate way, is one of having a completely different viewpoint on society that has emancipative tendencies. Furthermore, in the first point he emphasized how technologies society fabricates and uses somehow shapes its presence and design, and thirdly, the reflection on what is dead and alive, how we already functioned as humans and with other humans connected with the deeper-lying values-tier.
And the question then really becomes: why not? The answer to that should be found, not in the argument of an unnecessary complexity-reduction, but rather in the form of an argument for rationality. To go about declaring society and human ‘beings’ as subjugated by a super system that relentlessly combined 3s and 8s would have to substitute, namely, the old-European dogma of rationality as the unreachable touchstone of humanity. As one could have guessed by now, the rest of Luhmann’s essay formed a more detailed dividing-up of these three issues in eight epistemological consideratiions. These were needed to make the switch to a structurally closed, autopoietic system of society.
1. Society could not but describe itself. Also, autology was an autological concept. That is, theories about society were theories in society about society and the concept had to be build autologically. Autology would not say autopraxis and with it all the theories that vote for isolationism. Instead, autopoiesis will say that human finds himself outside of society, in its environment, but still within the system of society.
2. The one operational process that kept society going was communicaiton – as the difference between understanding, information and message itself (borrowed from Karl Buehler). Communication was so present in modern society that it replaced space as that which enabled living beings to express social order.
3. It was impossible for anyone to say something about the 18th-century invention of ‘Man’ generally. Instead, one could speak about identities and differences but never about the unity of identity and difference.
4. Language was not a system itself, which opened up the theoretical space to introduce structural coupling (borrowed from Humberto Maturana). Language’s function would be to keep communication and consciousness separate (and additionally supported the structural coupling of both through its eye-catching peculiarities in the acoustic medium of sound and then in the optical medium of print characters). Never could a thought be a communication, and never could a communication be a thought. Language used binary coding, which meant that the response to each message was either affirmational or negational.
5. No thought could ever exit the consciousness which it reproduced. How else would one develop individuality, if others could move one’s own thougths with their thoughts? And how would one ever think of a society as the hypnosis of all by all? That meant there was no Habermasian consensus if that would mean that the empirical states of individuals was comparable.
6. This also meant that there was no normative integration of individuals within society. In other words, it was impossible to not-deviate from norms that one liked. The observational schemata in use, however, are comparable and an observer used these to determined himself to the perception that a particular behavior was either in line or not in line with a norm. This observer could also be a communicative system, a court of law, mass media, etc. Only by accepting the radical form of this theory, one could see how events in the world, despite their structural coupledness, were not entirely random. There were trends in the self-determination of structures that were dependent on the irritations they were confronted with. For instance, a human child that was constantly immersed in the particular sounds that we called language, would learn how to speak.
7. The system operated in a continuous reproduction of the difference between self-reference and other-reference. This is how consciousness externalized each operation that, which his organ for self-observation of the own organism’s state (his brain) suggested.
8. One had to use George Spencer Brown’s concept of re-entry of a form in the form. That is, there would be a difference within that which this difference differentiated. This step was needed to get rid of old-European paradoxes that did not bother to differentiate themselves from other things (being vs thinking / nature vs acting). There was never anything, other than a utopian ideal of ‘rationality’, that established its form while avoiding the paradoxical situation in which no space was allowed to reflect on the form of this form.
It would seem possible, then, to underpin Luhmann’s three ‘obstacles epistemologique’ with these eight theoretical choices:
Values: 3 (hyperreality), 5 (cosmopitan), 8 (reflection)
Technology: 2 (design), 4 (presence), 7 (diy)
Narrative: 1 (emancipation), 6 (art)
And at this point Peter was at a loss to explain, exactly, what there was against thinking of a system of society that would endlessly reiterate systemic principles that surfaced as three and were explained in steps of eight.