"The Phenomenon of Science", a book on MSTT
Principia Cybernetica Web

"The Phenomenon of Science", a book on MSTT

As part of our electronic library, Principia Cybernetica Web offers the complete text and drawings of the book "The Phenomenon of Science. A cybernetic approach to human evolution" by Valentin Turchin.

The book was originally published in 1977 by Columbia University Press (New York), but is now out of print. Therefore, we have made it again available on the web, either chapter by chapter in HTML, or as a single file in PDF format (1.3 Mb) for printing (You can use it with the free PDF reader from Adobe.) If you prefer to read the book version, you might still be able to order a copy from the Amazon web bookshop.

This is the first book to introduce the ideas of Metasystem Transitions Theory. It is directed at a broad, non-specialised public, and requires not more than high school mathematics. It discusses the evolution of humanity, starting from the first living cells up to human culture and science. It shows how the great advances in intelligence and cognition, from simple reflexes, to learning, thought, mathematical reasoning and the most advanced realms of metascientic analysis, can be understood as metasystem transitions, in which a higher level of control emerges. Its originality lies in the integration of a cybernetic analysis of knowledge with the trial and error process of natural selection, which creates ever higher levels in the hierarchical organization of mind.

Prof. Valentin Turchin, a cyberneticist, computer scientist and physicist, started his research career in the Soviet Union, but is presently an emeritus professor at the City College of the City University of New York (see his biography). He is a founding editor of the Principia Cybernetica Project.

The "Phenomenon of Science" first took shape during the 1960's in Russia. The original manuscript was positively evaluated by Soviet reviewers, but was finally rejected for publication because of the dissident political activities of its author. Happily, the Russian manuscript got to the West where it was translated and published by Columbia University Press, at about the same time that its author was forced to emigrate to the USA.

Although the original text is almost 30 years old, this visionary document is still highly relevant to our present situation and state of knowledge. It is particularly recommended to people who wish to understand the basic ideas behind the Principia Cybernetica Project. As such it is complementary to another book published on Principia Cybernetica Web, Joël de Rosnay's "The Macroscope". Whereas "The Macroscope" applies the concepts of systems theory and cybernetics synchronically, to get a large scale picture of the world in which we live, "The Phenomenon of Science" uses these concepts diachronically, to understand its historical development.

Table of Contents (links go to the HTML version)

Copyright© 2000 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Feb 21, 2000 (modified)
Nov 6, 1997 (created)


Reference material

Principia Cybernetica Electronic Library

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