Thinking in eigenbehaviors as a transdisciplinary approach

Manfred Füllsack, Alexander Riegler

Research output: Contribution to journalScientific review


Context • By proposing to regard objects as "tokens for eigenbehavior," von Foerster's seminal paper opposes the intuitive subject-object dualism of traditional philosophy, which considers objects to be instances of an external world. Problem • We argue that this proposal has two implications, one for epistemology and one for the demarcation between the natural sciences and the humanities. Method • Our arguments are based on insights gained in computational models and from reviewing the contributions to this special issue. Results • Epistemologically, von Foerster's proposal suggests that what is called "reality" could be seen as an ensemble of eigenforms generated by the eigenbehavior that arises in the interaction of multiple dynamics. Regarding science, the contributions to this special issue demonstrate that the concept of eigenbehavior can be applied to a variety of disciplines from the formal and natural sciences to the humanities. Its universal applicability provides a strong argument for transdisciplinarity, and its emphasis on the observer points in the direction of an observer-inclusive science. Implications • Thinking in eigenbehavior may not only have implications for tearing down the barriers between sciences and humanities (although a common methodology based on von Foerster's transdisciplinary approach is still to crystalize), a better understanding of eigenbehaviors may also have profound effects on our understanding of ourselves. This also opens the way to innovative behavior design/modification technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239–245
Number of pages7
JournalConstructivist Foundations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2017


  • Computational philosophy
  • Eigenbehavior
  • Eigenform
  • Heinz von Foerster
  • Nondualism
  • Observer-inclusive science
  • Scientific methodology
  • Transdisciplinarity


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