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By Niklas Luhmann

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Well-defined systems make it possible, in other words, to live in the face of an extremely complex and contingent world and yet always have to choose from among only a small number of consciously controllable possibilities of behavior. Sociology today is generally and almost unquestioningly understood as a science of social action, and this common understanding J L 54 MEANING AS BASIC CONCEPT Si " is shared by both action-theoretical and systems-theoretical positions. Contrasting them requires the assumption that sociology is concerned exclusively with human action, and it is only on this basis that we have controversy about whether it is the concept of action by itself or only that of action system that is theoretically fruitful; or whether, as for example Parsons assumes, the concept of action already implies that of action system, 58 so that a systems theory can be deduced from the concept of action.

Language serves primarily to keep possibilities open, to allow access to unforeseen meaning combinations. , the conditions of linguistically possible sentences, it does so within an extremely broadly conceived, universally adequate framework which allows far too much and, therefore, requires further selection mechanisms. , define additional boundaries within the domain of the linguistically possible. For the realm of meaningful experience and action these are psychic and social systems of the most diverse kinds.

Forces itself to take responsibility for itself. Only thus can it hilly recognize the fact that its truths are, and remain, hypothetical in nature and that their positivity is nothing other than the structural variability of the system within which it seeks to recognize truths. It must then try, with specifically sociological means, to discover which societal system makes science possible and which science system, sociology; further, what truth means sociologically and which stage in the development of MEANING AS BASIC CONCEPT 61 society first makes the interpretation of truth as undeniable intersubjective certainty possible; which social structures are implied in this context by the word subject and how society and the world must be ordered if such an abstract interpersonal relationship as that of intersubjectivity is to be practicable; what specific functional contribution can be made in this context by perception, theory, and methods; and not least, which structural conditions make structural variability possible and with it, among other things, the positivity of the conditions for knowledge; and which stage in society's development sets which limits here.

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