IFSR Newsletter 1996 Vol. 15 No. 2 June
A Postscript to Kenneth Boulding
Ernst von Glaserfeld
Scientific Reasoning Research Institute
The University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003, USA
As participant in the Symposium on the General Systems Paradigm at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Denver (Colorado), February 1977, Kenneth Boulding seemed to be taking copious notes while the speakers of the symposium presented their pieces. Then, during the subsequent discussion, he got up and with his inimitable stammer read his comments from two handwritten pages. They were in the form of a satirical poem. After the session, I fortunately secured a copy of the manuscript. To me this is another demonstration of Boulding’s remarkable quickness of wit and intellectual horizon.
From Plato to Boulding philosophers sweat
About how much reality images net.
So we roundabout roundabout roundabout go
On how do we know that we know that we know.
And in between long philosophical pauses
We think about causes of causes of causes
But you stand in a great intellectual bog
If you cannot distinguish a leaf from a frog.
And when I look into a mirror at me
I cannot experience the thing that I see
So nothing of this makes a great deal of sense
Without the new logic of self reference.
Ethnomethodology hopefully fits
The problem of subjective objective splits.
If we listen for ever to talk that is taped
We finally catch things that might have escaped.
But if I become what I partially see
I worry about what has happened to me.
The world that is seen in the eye of a frog
Is different from that seen by man or by dog
But any old image will lead to survival
If each will behave just as its rival
And so we can prove with experiments neat
That kittens can see with the soles of their feet.
So no matter what glasses we wear, we will train
Ourselfs to be King of a Knowledge Domain
And knowledge will mostly turn out to be crap
Unless we can learn how to walk on our map.
If we think of the moon as the wife of the sun
A proper astronomy never gets done
But think of your wife as kind of moon,
You can bet Dr.Freud that you’ll be divorced soon.
A fact that creates a wide difference of views
Is that women feed babies and men seldom do.
If science is seen as a big living system
It comes from the cells, and unless we have
We find 19 pieces that come right up through
And finally end up in me and in you.
The nine information types tie us together
And help us explain both the why and the whether
And so science fruits into succulent kernels
That end up as papers in technical journals
And from these a sweet emanation arises
That finally falls out as big Nobel prizes.
me (Kenneth Boulding)
A scientist caught out in telling of lies
Will never get back in the club till he dies
And a scientist guilty of mishandling data
Will be found out in time by some dull replicator.
And so by the shaving of error, in sooth,
What’s left has a large percentage of truth.