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Rebel GeniusWarren S. McCulloch's Transdisciplinary Life in Science$
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Tara H. Abraham

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035095

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035095.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
Rebel Genius

Tara H. Abraham

The MIT Press

This chapter argues that the best way to understand McCulloch’s various identities is to understand them as performatively produced. Drawing on Judith Butler’s framework of performative identity, the chapter outlines the ways that McCulloch’s identities were neither straightforward products of his own agency nor solely shaped by his context. It also argues that in spite of McCulloch’s self-fashioning as a philosopher and his characterization of cybernetics as universal and unified, McCulloch’s identities varied and the cybernetic project was anything but unified. At the heart of McCulloch’s scientific practices were his ways of asking grand humanistic questions, his penchant for theoretical modelling, and his rhetorical strategies. Much of these practices were responses to his institutional and cultural milieux. When seen in this light, McCulloch’s brand of cybernetics was less focused on command and control and more on introducing new scientific practices to the life and human sciences.

Keywords:   Performative identity, cybernetics, scientific practice, historiography, rhetorical strategies in science, discipline, modelling

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