Cybernetics, virtue ethics and design

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBN

Abstract

In this paper I speak directly to the subject matter of this conference: to its theme of flourishing, and to the subject areas of systems thinking and design that this conference series as a whole seeks to bring together. The conference theme of flourishing is a direct reference to ethics, and in particular the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. There has been a revival of interest in this in recent decades under the heading of virtue ethics. Aristotle defined the good as that at which all things aim, and so in terms of goals and purpose. He described the goal of human life in terms eudemonia, which is usually translated as either human flourishing or the good life. There is a clear connection between this conception of ethics in terms of purpose and both design and systems. Design is an explicitly purposeful activity, which can be understood as the attempt to devise “courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1969/1996, p. 111). Purpose is of central concern for how we understand systems, most explicitly in cybernetics. The aim of this paper is to make explicit some of the deep interconnections between these three areas in terms of the theme of purpose, and to suggest areas of common concern where they might lend support to each other. In order to do this within the scope of this paper, I focus on a specific point of reference in each of the three areas: to Alasdair MacIntyre’s (1981/1985) After Virtue, Dalibor Vesely’s (1985, 2004, 2010) account of architecture, and to the debate around Rosenblueth, Wiener and Bigelow’s (1943) proto-cybernetic paper.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD6) 2017 Symposium
EditorsBirger Sevaldson
Place of PublicationOslo, Norway
PublisherSystemic Design Research Network
Pages0-0
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2017
EventRelating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD6) 2017 Symposium: Environment, Economy, Democracy - Flourishing Together - Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), Oslo, Norway
Duration: 18 Oct 201720 Oct 2017
https://systemic-design.net/rsd6/rsd6-proceedings/

Publication series

NameProceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium
ISSN (Electronic)2371-8404

Conference

ConferenceRelating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD6) 2017 Symposium
Abbreviated titleRSD6
CountryNorway
CityOslo
Period18/10/1720/10/17
Internet address

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  • Activities

    • 1 Invited talk

    Radically Constructing Ethics

    Ben Sweeting (Invited presenter)

    22 Sep 2018

    Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk

    Cite this

    Sweeting, B. (2017). Cybernetics, virtue ethics and design. In B. Sevaldson (Ed.), Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD6) 2017 Symposium (pp. 0-0). (Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium). Systemic Design Research Network. https://systemic-design.net/rsd6-content/