Over the last quarter century, the term "self-organization" has acquired a currency that, notwithstanding its long history, has been taken to signal a paradigm shift, and perhaps even a scientific revolution, introducing a new Weltanschauungin fields as diverse as mathematics, physics, biology, ecology, cybernetics, economics, sociology, and engineering. But there is a prehistory to this revolution, as to the term itself, with at least two earlier episodes in which the same term was used to signal two other, quite different revolutions. In this paper, I review the pre-history of "self-organization," starting with Immanuel Kant, who first introduced the term, and then turn to the dramatic reframing of the concept by mid-twentieth century engineers. In a subsequent paper, I will review the more recent history of this concept when the term was once again reframed, this time by physicists. My aim will be to situate this latest incarnation of "self-organization" against the backdrop of earlier discussions.
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