Observations and Distinctions

What, then, is an observation? I have mentioned some obvious examples in the previous posts, such as explicit judgements or whether or not something fits into a certain category. One thing all examples have in common is that they provide a distinction, separating different areas of meaning. In the case of a judgement, this could be good from bad, cheap from expensive, fast from slow, etc.

But is this really the end of it? For an observation, do we need to make the other side explicit as well? I would argue that this is not the case. For any observation, it is usually enough to just state that something is good, bad, cheap, expensive, or indeed fitting a certain category. It is, however, not necessary to make explicit the opposite, i.e. to specify what exactly is not good, not bad, not cheap, not expensive, and not fitting the category. This can remain unspecific and only be made explicit upon request, e.g. when a judgement is challenged by an opposing observation. Then, however, such an explication will have to be viewed as a separate, additional observation. In the meantime, while the other side of the original observation is left unspecified, the observer attributed with the observation is implicitly accountable for the other side as well. After all, it was this observer who made the distinction between the two sides in the first place, so he can be expected to know both and make the implicit other side of what he communicated explicit if necessary.

One could even go so far to say that, indeed, the observer is the distinction, insofar as the distinction is entirely accounted to him, and he in turn is also defined by the distinctions he makes in communication. In communication, the observer is entirely invested in the distinction he makes in his observation. If he wanted to pull away from it, he would have to bring in another observer to whom the distinction could be attributed. However, this would then be another, different observation, separating the actual observer from the attributed observer. In this second observation, the actual observer would again be fully invested to the extent that he could be identified as the distinction itself. In cybernetic theory, this is known as the constant oscillation between observations of the first order (observations of an actual observer), and of the second order (observations one actual observer can make of other observations). We will come back to this.


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