Circling the Archimedean Viewpoint: Observations of Physiology in Nietzsche and Luhmann


In an interview conducted by the Italian literary journal Alfabeta in April of 1987, Niklas Luhmann was asked if sociology, in particular its systems-theoretical variant, could replace the privileged position that art, religion, philosophy, and politics had lost, and provide an Archimedean point from which to describe society as a whole. Luhmann responded that today it is no longer possible to imagine such an outside position for the observation of the whole, sociology being no exception. In its description of society, contemporary sociology can merely offer to reflect its own descriptions as being part of what they describe, and “reflect its own refusal to adopt an ontological, subject-transcendental or epistemologically privileged position” (Archimedes 165-6). In the interview, Luhmann suggests that the forfeiting of an Archimedean viewpoint is what distinguishes his sociological theory from the Old-European tradition.

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