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Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Darnell, Regna


This thesis confronts the urgency with which new language and vocabulary is required to move beyond linear assumptions in mainstream science and humanities, as well as global policy making. I examine Gregory Bateson’s body of work in history and philosophy of science, psychiatry and psychotherapy, anthropology, biology and ecology designed to communicate the necessarily interdisciplinary consideration for a nonlinear and recursive investigation of the self, other, and environment. Such intellectual forays cannot be dismissed as non-scientific. I offer definitions and contextualizations of key terms derived from cybernetics, new materialisms, and posthumanism (such as emergence, process, paradox, metaphor, fractality) to speak about the ramifying intricacies and pathologies in processes of knowing at various different scales. I conclude with a theory of resonance that may offer the epistemological groundwork with which to construct a metaphor of precarious intervention and to model a critical relationship between epistemology and ethics.

Summary for Lay Audience

The world that we know and participate in is moulded and edited according to what we believe about it, as well as how we think about such things. Our beliefs about ourselves, the others that we encounter, and the shared environments we occupy will determine the reality we live in, and such material contexts allow for these perception-determining beliefs to emerge in turn. I am developing a new way of thinking about thinking, which includes thinking about the nature of order and organization in living systems. The living systems in question are varied in form: one’s network of ideas, a natural ecology, a collective social organization, an interpersonal relationship, or even a human body. I believe this meta-level task must be at the forefront of all scientific and theoretical inquiry, for science and theory must encounter their own potential for material repercussions. I believe that at a basic level, these disciplines can produce themselves in ways that do not harm or diminish the systemic nature of oneself or the world. But such ideas must be articulated through a radically new language rather than one of linear purpose and commodity value as valorized by late industrial capitalist society. This thesis introduces and elaborates upon certain aspects of the vocabulary used within scientific circles of the mid-to-late twentieth and twenty-first centuries (cybernetics, systems theory, psychoanalysis, new materialisms, posthumanism), bridged across each other with their shared desire to articulate the complexity, and perhaps indeed the beauty of their subject matter. I conclude with an intervention of my own, the word and concept of ‘resonance’ which I propose as conducive to the ideas of systemic complexity in its open-ended and interdisciplinary usage.