On the path to understanding Luhmann I seem to try to understand him with an observation point focusing on other Discourses or Grand Stories. (Actually I am using exactly the system/environment-tool, because system theory (which is the system) is observed in relationship/difference to deconstruction (which is (a part of) the environment))
When Luhmann addresses the need to understand and choose the observation point for a second-order observation before the observation can be processed, and when he constitutes past and present as horizons of the now, does he not just align himself with the findings of deconstruction? Deconstruction acknowledges that knowledge about the world can only be obtained in “the edge” of own system (or should we say Grand Story), hereby acknowledging that you are still a part of the system, which you are describing, and therefore not without biased/absolute observation point.
Luhmann acknowledges this when he distinguishes between first-order and second-order observations, but seems to believe that the second-order observation cures the paradox:
“Constructivist theories maintain that cognitive systems are not in a position to distinguish between the conditions of existence of real objects and the conditions of their own knowledge because they have no access to such real objects other than through knowledge. It is certainly the case that this defect can be corrected at the level of second-order observations.” (Luhmann, The Reality of Mass Media, 2000, p5)
Am I caught in the discourse of deconstruction, when I lay out like this?
This is though only observing one part of the environment, that of deconstruction.
When the act of finding the differences (the relationship) between system and environment, it is actually similar to the psychic process that cognitive metaphor-theorist describes. For them new knowledge is obtained through interpretation of the object by aligning it with the already known. The question the mind is asking is: How is this new thing (the system/the object) different from what I already know (the environment).
It aligns well with Luhmanns stressing of the importance of the environment:
“The system is neither ontologically nor analytically more important than the environment; both are what they are in reference to each other” (Luhmann, Social Systems, 1995, p177)
The beauty of Luhmanns system theory though, is that he provides the guiding distinction system/environment, the ontological tool, where the goal of the second-order observer is to determine the reference in the difference between system and environment in the observations moment and space.
Even though deconstruction is turning its back to metaphysics, it seems that Luhmanns social system is much more grounded in a phenomenological perspective, when it simply deals with the basics of reality’s communication.
The guiding distinction system/environment becomes a helpful tool, that will keep any analysis grounded in nothing but a theory, that can be counter-proved by same method in the next moment, as communication is only a communication at a given situation.
(the picture is Res Koolhaas’ Casa de Musica in Porto. Mostly an existing building, but surely a building that gives a new way of understanding a building or the world at large:)