editorial changes not yet reviewed by author Purpose My intent in this essay is to reflect on the history of some biological notions such as autopoiesis, structural coupling, and cognition, that I have developed since the early 1960’s as a result of my work on visual perception and the organization of the living. No doubt I shall repeat things that I have said in other publications (Maturana and Varela 1980 and 1988), and I shall present notions that once they (...) are said appear as obvious truisms. But the reader it is not invited to attend to the truisms, rather he or she is invited to attend to the consequences that they entail for the understanding of biological processes. After all, explanations or demonstrations always become self evident once they are understood and accepted. KEYWORDS Autopoiesis, structural coupling, cognition, explanations, self consciousness, 1. Autopoiesis 1.1 Origins of the notion In November 1960, a first year medical student asked me the question “What began three thousand eight hundred million years ago so that you can say now that living systems began then?” I realized that I could not properly answer that question, so I said “I cannot answer this question now, but if you come back next year I shall propose an answer then.” Thus I accepted the question of the student to be answered later, and as I did so, I accepted also the question for myself. I realized that to answer this question I had to create a living system, either conceptually or practically, because I had to be able to say what kind of systems were living system to be able to say how they began. While in the attempting to answer the dual questions of what kind of systems are living systems, and of how did they begin so that I could now speak of their origin, it became obvious to me that living systems exist as autonomous entities in the form of self contained closed molecular dynamics of self production, open to the flow of molecules through them. Indeed, one can say that living systems arose in the history of the earth in the moment in which some spontaneous networks of molecular autocatalytic processes became closed upon themselves.. (shrink)
Context: Francisco Varela and HumbertoMaturana worked closely together for several short episodes and wrote joint publications during the 1970s and 1980s. After that their respective paths in life diverged. Problem: What is the common ground and what are the differences between these two authors with respect to their lives and aims? Method: The author reconstructs their common history in the form of personal reflections and conversations with Varela. Results: The personal reflections reveal the intellectual path Maturana (...) took to develop his way of thinking, in particular his fascination with explanatory processes and the phenomenon of life. The conversations with Varela portray him as a man of great “cognitive autonomy,” whose career started with the intention to study “psychism in the universe.” For Varela it seemed possible, through meditation, to reach transcendental reality as something that exists externally to the living of human beings and that can be known as such. Maturana, by contrast, claims that there is no way to refer to such a universal truth. Rather, human beings generate all the worlds they live in. Implications: While the two men collaborated in both teaching and writing, they eventually created two different constructivist approaches driven by a different set of questions. Constructivist content: Both HumbertoMaturana and Francisco Varela have decisively contributed to constructivist approaches. (shrink)
Context: In 1974, HumbertoMaturana and Francisco Varela published De Máquinas y Seres Vivos Autopoiesis: La organización de lo vivo in Santiago, Chile as a little book. A second edition of this publication was proposed in 1994, and the present document is a recent translation of Maturana’s reflections “twenty years after.” Problem: The book clearly enunciates what it means to say that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems, and this Preface reflects on the shift of understanding from (...) earlier notions of self-referred or auto-referred systems to the concept of autopoiesis. Implications: The Preface describes the systemic quality that is human living and human sense-making. It marks what we can retrospectively see as the bridge between the explicitly biological studies of Maturana (and Varela), and the later, more anthropological and therapeutic work of Maturana with Gerda Verden-Zöller between 1989 and 1994 and, especially, with Ximena Dávila Yáñez since the year 1999. Results: The underlying understanding implicit in this document outlines in great clarity the implications of Maturana’s fundamental insights. It presents both a logical and passionately argued case for mutual respect, grounded in scientific findings in biology. The Preface is a clear vision of why Maturana’s work has been so influential for reflexivity and constructivism. (shrink)
I do not wish to deal with all the domains in which the word time enters as if it were referring to an obvious aspect of the world or worlds that we human live. Indeed, the very fact that time can be made an issue of reflection shows us that what the word time connotes changes with the circumstances in which it is used. This situation alone, however, would not constitute a problem inviting us to enter in (...) deep reflections if we just accepted that the context defined the meaning of the word in each case. But we do not do that, and we ask the question what is time? as if we thought that the word time referred to some independent entity or dimension of nature that could be properly disclosed or described if we tried hard enough, even if we could not the final essence of it. I consider, however, that the question what is time? is adequate because it implies from the start the view that time can be properly treated as some kind of independent entity or dimension of nature. And I consider that such a view is fully inadequate because I think that all that we human beings talk about are relations that arises in our operation in language as a closed domain of recursive consensual coordinations of behaviors. Let me explain what I say with a few words about living, language, and cognition , and then answer the question what distinctions do we make or connote when we talk of time? (shrink)
The answers to these two questions would have been obvious years ago: Human beings, of course, machines are instruments of human design! But now days when we speak so much of progress, science and technology as if progress, science and technology were in themselves values to be venerated, there are many people that think that machines as they become more and more complex and intelligent through human design, may in fact become alive so that they may supplant us as a (...) natural outcome of that very venerated progress and expansion of intelligence. Also many people seems to think that evolution is changing its nature so that technology is becoming the guiding force in the flow of the cosmic change in relation to us. I do not hold this view. I do not look at progress, science or technology as if they were values in themselves, nor do I think that biological or cosmic evolution is changing its nature or character. I think that the question that we human beings must face is that of what do we want to happen to us, not a question of knowledge or progress. The question that we must face is not about the relation of biology with technology, or about the relation between art and technology, nor about the relation between knowledge and reality, nor even about whether or not metadesign shapes our brains. I think that the question that we must face at this moment of our history is about our desires and about whether we want or not to be responsible of our desires. (shrink)
We propose that to understand the biological and neurophysiological processes that give rise to human mental phenomena it is necessary to consider them as behavioral relational phenomena. In particular, we propose that: a) these phenomena take place in the relational manner of living that human language constitutes, and b) that they arise as recursive operations in such behavioral domain. Accordingly, we maintain that these phenomena do not take place in the brain, nor are they the result of a unique operation (...) of a human brain, but arise with the participation of the brain as it generates the behavioral relational dynamics that constitutes language. (shrink)
The phenomenon of size constancy is defined as the apparent perceptual invariance of the linear dimensions of a seen object as this approaches the eye or recedes from it. It has been interpreted as resulting from the application by the brain of a size correction, made possible by the subject's apprehension of distance cues present in the image. We present several observations which, by dissociating accommodation from distance of the seen object and by suppressing the optic effects of accommodation on (...) the visual image itself, show that this interpretation is incorrect, and that in fact the size correction of the visual image is a function of the central effort of accommodation, not of the distance of the seen object. (shrink)
"Knowing how we know" is the subject of this book. Its authors present a new view of cognition that has important social and ethical implications, for, they assert, the only world we humans can have is the one we create together through the actions of our coexistence. Written for a general audience as well as for students, scholars, and scientists and abundantly illustrated with examples from biology, linguistics, and new social and cultural phenomena, this revised edition includes a new afterword (...) by Dr. Varela, in which he discusses the effect the book has had in the years since its first publication. (shrink)
La noción del Tao constituye una invitación a un vivir en el bien-estar psíquico y corporal, a un vivir sin esfuerzo en la unidad de toda la existencia en el hacer que surge del ver el presente cuando no hay prejuicio o expectativa. Como tal, la noción del Tao ha llevado a muchas personas a la reflexión y a la acción que busca encontrar o revelar la naturaleza de ese vivir en los ámbitos de la filosofía, la mística, y la (...) religión. ¿Con qué nos conecta ese vivir?, ¿con lo divino o lo biológico? Pensamos que el vivir al que la noción del Tao nos invita es el vivir fundamental del vivir del ser vivo en su naturaleza biológica que se da en el existir en un presente cambiante continuo. En nosotros, los seres humanos, ese vivir ocurre como un vivir en el lenguajear sin enajenarse en el explicar, vivir que surge cuando se vive en la ampliación del ver en el desapego que es la biología del amar. Por esto el camino del Tao es el camino del amar, y el camino del amar es la biología del Tao. (shrink)
Upshot: Fifteen years in the making, but recounting three and a half million years of biological drift, this book outlines important future choices for becoming more ‘human’, for reviving our fading matristic capabilities, and for avoiding too much ‘monkey-business’.
This chapter introduces the central concerns of HumbertoMaturana's theory of autopoiesis as they relate to the domain of psychotherapy. Several common terms which are redefined within his theory in an unusual manner are unpacked as to their idiosyncratic significance including the expressions, 'linguistic behaviour', 'languaging', 'structure determinism', 'organisation', 'structure' and others. The source material used for this exposition include not only the cited texts but also several workshops from which verbatim transcripts are often used in the form (...) of brief quotations. I have attempted to stay as close to the original material as possible in order to convey both the meaning and the texture of Maturana's work. This is not an easy theory to grasp ranging as it does across several specialist fields from the neurophysiology of perception through social communication to epistemology. Nor are the implicative transitions from a theory of biology to the praxis of psychotherapy without complexity and controversy. Nonetheless, Maturana offers a novel theory of conversations which could form the basis of a much needed new paradigm for personal change. (shrink)
Purpose: Ernst von Glasersfeld has dedicated a lot of effort to trying to define just where his views and those of his friend HumbertoMaturana part company, epistemologically speaking (Glasersfeld 1991, 2001). As a contribution to unravelling this puzzle I propose in this article to delineate just where they seem to differ most and why these differences arise. Approach: Part of my contribution is to propose drawing a distinction between von Glasersfeld's Radical Constructivism as the last viable outpost (...) of constructivism before entering into the domain of solipsism, in contrast to Maturana's position which is saved from being located within the solipsistic domain by virtue of his ideas on "structure determined systems" and his theory of how language arises in human experience. Findings: Von Glasersfeld's puzzle arises due to what Kant called "transcendental illusion," that is, the error of trying to encompass two mutually untranslatable phenomenal domains within the same language framework. Conclusion: After an examination of some of the crucial differences between von Glasersfeld and Maturana I typify Maturana's positioning as that of "radical realism" in contrast to von Glasersfeld's "radical constructivism.". (shrink)
Este artículo muestra que la Biología del conocimiento de HumbertoMaturana pretendió ser una Fenomenología del conocer pero devino gnoseología escéptica. El problema se originó cuando el autor no partió desde la descripción de las experiencias que justificarían la nueva "conciencia epistemológica" que buscaba, es decir, la conciencia de que la realidad debiera ponerse entre paréntesis. En vez de eso, prefirió adherir arbitrariamente a axiomas escépticos, porque su propósito principal era la refutación de la teoría de la objetividad.
Purpose: This paper demonstrates the conceptual relevance of Maturana’s biology of cognition for the theoretical foundations of the language sciences. Approach: Stuck in rationalizing, rather than naturalizing, language, modern orthodox linguistics is incapable of offering a comprehensible account of language as a species-specific, biologically grounded human feature. This predicament can be overcome by using Maturana’s theory to stress that lived experience gives language an epistemological “lining.” Findings: The key concepts of Maturana’s biology of cognition provide a more (...) coherent theoretical framework for the study of language that can give new life to the language sciences by stressing languaging and the importance of connotation. Conclusion: Maturana’s concept of “languaging” allows the language sciences to depart from the view of language as a system of symbols. Instead, focus should be placed on how the relational dynamics of linguistic interactions trigger changes in the dynamics of the nervous system and the organism as a whole, and how their reciprocal causality is distinguished and described by the languaging observer in terms of mind, intelligence, reason, and self-consciousness. (shrink)
Context: Maturana’s published corpus is vast, and his publications span multiple venues, formats, and languages. For these and other reasons, the corpus is as complex as it is daunting in its scale. Problem: Over the last two decades, bibliographic data on Maturana’s publications had proliferated in terms of available resources, scope of coverage, and accessibility. However, as of 2011 the degree of accessibility was not matched by the inclusiveness, detail, and accuracy of the relatively few dedicated bibliographies upon (...) which most such resources relied. It had become time to update, consolidate, and better validate the core bibliographic data. Method: The five most comprehensive electronic bibliographies were merged and collated. The merged listing was then validated using the available evidence and a three-tiered set of evaluation criteria. Finally, the resultant merged and validated listing was augmented with previously unrecorded entries and data, subject to the same evidentiary constraints and evaluation criteria pertaining to the validation phase. Results: None of the five bibliographies in the starting set was comprehensive. All five contained ambiguities, missing details, discrepancies, and outright errors. The updated and consolidated listing presented here is the largest, most comprehensive, and most accurate compiled to date. Implications: The resultant bibliography offers a more complete and more reliable reference resource to both veteran Maturana scholars and newcomers to his work than previously existing bibliographies. (shrink)
Going back to Hum ber to Ma tu ra na´s ini - tial works about the ba sic con di tions for the ori - gin of Life through the con junc tion of `clo su re´, `au to nomy´ and `struc tu re´ of a pri mary cell as an au to poie tic system, an over view is made about two cen tral areas to wards which t..
Open peer commentary on the target article “How and Why the Brain Lays the Foundations for a Conscious Self” by Martin V. Butz. Excerpt: My reflections will be first, about how the brain operates in the generation of the adequate behavior of an organism in a changing medium, and second, about how self-consciousness appears in the course of the history of humanness.
Purpose: To show how is it that that which we connote with notions of self and consciousness are configurations of sensorialities that arise in the flow of our living in recursive coordinations of doings which eventually they guide, and not entities independent of our doings. Approach: Following the consequences of our condition of structure determined systems that do not distinguish in the experience whether what they live is a perception or an illusion. Findings: That we human beings occur as relational (...) dynamics of recursive coordinations of feelings in which self and consciousness occur as configurations of sensorialities in the evanescent continuous present of the the changing flow of our living which they also guide. Practical Implications: Thinking, acting and reflecting in the awareness that self and consciousness are not physical entities or properties. (shrink)
Purpose: Reflecting on the propensity of our culture to think in local linear causality such as "genetic determination" by examining (living) systems and their operation. Findings: The existence of a system is operational, and a system exists as such only as long as the operational conditions that constitute it prevail. As the observer distinguishes a system, he or she specifies with his or her operation of distinction the conditions that constitute the system. Since the adaptation between living systems and medium (...) is invariant, all that happens in their history must happen as a flow of structural congruent changes conserving their organization and adaptation. Therefore, the ontogenic phenotype is not genetically determined but arises in the process of epigenesis i.e., along a path of interactions starting from the initial structure of both system and medium, along the conservation of its living. Implications: Natural selection should not be considered as a directing pressure causing the differential survival of living systems but as its result. (shrink)
Purpose: To consider the implications of the operation of the nervous system -- and of the constitution of cultures as closed networks of languaging and emotioning -- for how we understand and generate so-called "virtual realities." Findings: The nervous system is a detector of configurations within itself and thus cannot represent reality. The distinction between virtual and non-virtual realities does not apply to the operation of the nervous system; rather it pertains to the operation of the observer as a languaging (...) being. Our human existence has changed as virtual realities have become non-virtual through their systemic cultural inclusion in the realization of our biological human manner of living. Implications: Virtual realities are never trivial, because we always become transformed as we live them according to the emotioning of the psychic space that they bring about in our living, and this is so regardless of whether we like it or not. (shrink)
Context: HumbertoMaturana has generated a coherent and extensive explicatory matrix that encompasses his research in neurophysiology, cognition, language, emotion, and love. Purpose: Can we formulate a map of Maturana’s work in a manner that is consistent with the systemic matrix it represents and that serves as an aid for understanding Maturana’s philosophy without reifying its representation? Method: Our arguments are based on experience gained from teaching and presentations. Results: We present a map that that represents (...)Maturana’s main contributions as clusters of notions clustered according to how we see them to be related to each other as a projection of a matrix of ideas onto a two-dimensional space. We claim that there are many paths through these clusters of ideas. Though ideas relevant to individuals are obtained from various partial perspectives, a deep understanding of any element is dependent on an understanding of the whole matrix. Furthermore, we summarize the contributions to this special issue on Maturana. (shrink)
This paper is based on notes taken during a three day lecture given by HumbertoMaturana in St Kilda, Victoria, August 7th - 9th, 1993. It was obvious from the participants that many non biologists have found Maturana's work to be influential in their thinking. The audience included immunologists, family therapists, academics, architects, agriculturalists and information technologists.
Our passion for this work arose in very different histories of living, but these histories converged some years ago around the writings of Humberto Maturana1. There were other reasons for us getting together, but it was the ideas of Maturana which inspired us both to take another look at the way we were doing things in our research and education, respectively. One of us (Lloyd) was grappling with basic biological questions which arose from research on the physiology of (...) stress. Maturana's ideas provided a new way of thinking about the relationship between living things and their environment. David, in psychology and education, sought from Maturana a more solid scientific grounding for the extraordinary richness of the experiential learning environment in which he worked. (shrink)
Francisco Varela’s work is a monumental achievement in 20th century biological and biophilosophical thought. After his early collaboration in neo-cybernetics with HumbertoMaturana (“autopoiesis”), Varela made fundamental contributions to immunology (“network theory”), Artificial Life (“cellular automata”), cognitive science (“enaction”), philosophy of mind (“neurophenomenology”), brain studies (“the brainweb”), and East- West dialogue (the Mind and Life conferences). In the course of his career, Varela influenced many important collaborators and interlocutors, formed a generation of excellent students, and touched the lives (...) of many with the intensity of his mind, the sharpness of his wit, and the strength of his spirit. In this essay, I will trace some of the key turning points in his thought, with special focus on the concept of emergence, which was always central to his work, and on questions of politics, which operate at the margins of his thought. I will divide Varela’s work into three periods – autopoiesis, enaction, and radical embodiment – each of which is marked by a guiding concept; a specific.. (shrink)
The referential focus of this paper is not a hypothesis or theoretical point per se. Instead, it is the body of work (hereafter termed autopoietic theory) developed by HumbertoMaturana and Francisco Varela. The intended audience is not a community of critical scholars per se. Instead it is the "community of interest" for whom autopoietic theory is at least an object of interest and at most an object of personal commitment. To the extent autopoietic theory has prospered and (...) spread over the last quarter century, it has often been a function of highly interactive, even personal, relationships among self-acknowledged adherents and those generally interested. Owing to the distribution of such correspondents across diverse disciplines, their cohesion as a "community" has been tenuous at best. I wish to step back from the usual scholarly perspective and use this venue to address what may be termed the pragmatics of autopoietic theory. The intention is to offer some sort of "state of the community" assessment, recommendations, and / or tips regarding: (a) autopoietic theory's documentary corpus; (b) discourse on autopoietic theory; and (c) applying the theory in the context of focused research. The goal is to help orient newcomers and provoke reflection among the "veterans.". (shrink)
The question of whether humans have free will, like the question of the meaning of life, is one whose answer depends on how the question itself is interpreted. In his recent book Neurophilosophy of Free Will: From Libertarian Illusions to a Concept of Natural Autonomy, Henrik Walter examines whether free will is possible in a deterministic natural world, and he concludes that the answer is "It depends" (xi). He rejects a libertarian account of free will as internally inconsistent, but argues (...) for a version of compatibilism that he calls "natural autonomy." Natural autonomy, or "giving oneself laws" (8), is a successor concept to libertarian free will, and it provides for a self-determination that is consistent with a deterministic and fully physical world. Walter covers a lot of ground in this book. He debunks dualism, examines classical and modern physics, critiques radical constructivism, and utilizes chaos theory, and he refers to figures from St. Augustine to HumbertoMaturana, Dennett, Einstein, Hegel and Nozick. This book could be seen as encompassing two distinct projects. The first project is a defense of what Walter calls "neurophilosophy" as a methodology for answering traditional philosophical questions. This methodology is more commonly known as "cognitive science," and Walter accepts the naturalistic premises that underlie most of the work being done by cognitive scientists today. The second project is an application of the neurophilosophical methodology to the traditional question of whether free will is compatible with determinism. The defense of a neurophilosophical methodology is concentrated in the second section of the book, whereas the first and third sections focus on the issue of free will. In the first section Walter presents a thorough overview of the free will debate. It is the final third of the book that warrants the most attention, for this is where the original work is concentrated. Before we examine Walter's contribution to the free will debate, let us briefly look at his historical analysis and the neurophilosophical method that he advocates.. (shrink)
Although Heidegger thinks cybernetics is the “supreme danger,” he also thinks that it harbours within itself poiēsis, the “saving power.” This article providesa justification of this position through an analysis of its relation to HumbertoMaturana and Francisco Varela’s Santiago theory of cognition and James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis’ Gaia theory. More specifically, it argues that Maturana and Varela’s criticism of cybernetics and their concomitant theory of “autopoiesis” constitutes the philosophical disclosure of “Being itself,” and that the (...) extension of Santiago theory’s various different conceptualizations of poiēsis to Gaia theory makes possible the rise of the “saving power.”. (shrink)
Context: This paper is intended for readers familiar with HumbertoMaturana’s theory of autopoietic systems and with the still unresolved debate concerning the existence of non-biological autopoietic systems. Because the seminal work of the Chilean biologist has not yet been fully and correctly understood in other disciplines, I consider that it is necessary to offer a more generalized concept of the autopoietic system, derived by implication from Maturana’s grounding definition. Problem: The above-mentioned debate is rooted in a (...) deficient application of some rigorous distinctions, definitions, and epistemological considerations introduced by Maturana when he coined the term “autopoiesis.” Some researchers think that social or economic organizations could be considered as autopoietic systems of a higher order because they appear to behave autonomously and be self-organized and self-producing. However, in practice some precise distinctions would need to be verified through observation in order to claim properly their autopoietic nature. These distinctions were defined by Varela, Maturana and Uribe in 1974 as a set of six decisional rules (“MV&U rules”) whereby an observer may possibly justify this stand. My aim is to pinpoint clearly the basic cognitive tasks that an observer should perform in order to ascertain such a claim. Method: I accomplish this with a thorough analysis of the entailments derived from each rule when applied to the most general case – when the observational domain where the system manifests itself is not specified. A bottom-up approach is used to avoid referring to “apparent autopoietic behavior” as a starting point distinction (top-down approach): the aim is to distinguish “autopoietic behavior” as an outcome of more basic distinctions, not as a premise for these. These may be used as abstract tools to facilitate a rigorous description of observations and lead to precise explanations of the emergence of complex self-generated dynamic systems. In theory, this conceptual frame is not limited to the macro-molecular domain and may therefore be applicable to non-biological systems. Results: According to MV&U rules, the most important distinctions are those that refer to intra-boundary phenomenology: this focus is necessary to explain how the key processes involved in the emergence of autopoiesis actually manifest themselves. These explanations are crucial to validating a claim about the “autopoietic nature” of an observed system. Implications: This work could help multidisciplinary researchers to apply properly the theory of autopoietic systems beyond the realm of biology and to settle ongoing debates. It could also help investigations related to the specifications of software simulation processes for modeling a minimal artificial autopoietic system. However, the rigorous focus on the role of intra-boundary phenomenology and self-production of components reveals that our chances of detecting “natural” meta-molecular autopoietic systems are scarce. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Radical Constructivism and Radical Constructedness: Luhmann’s Sociology of Semantics, Organizations, and Self-Organization” by Loet Leydesdorff. > Upshot: My focus is upon the uneasy relation of “person/culture,” a relation that any serious consideration of the important work of Luhmann cannot gloss over. The author indeed tackles this issue, but perhaps a fuller consideration of the work of HumbertoMaturana sheds light on the argument.
El objetivo de este trabajo es examinar cómo engarza la noción de autonomía biológica con las nociones de autonomía que se manejan habitualmente en filosofía. A partir de los años setenta del siglo XX, los biológos chilenos HumbertoMaturana y Francisco Varela desarrollaron la teoría de la vida como autopoiesis, que origina una nueva concepción de autonomía: la autonomía biológica. El desarrollo de este concepto supone una cierta recuperación de la noción de organismo en un contexto científico en (...) el que la biología y la filosofía de la biología están marcadas por el estudio del gen, propiciado por la biología molecular, y de la evolución por selección... (Leer más) natural, por la llamada Síntesis Moderna. En este artículo trataremos de mostrar algunas de las implicaciones que el concepto de vida como autonomía tiene para la biología actual y cómo puede entenderse este concepto a la luz de otras nociones de autonomía más habituales en filosofía. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to examine how the notion of biological autonomy may be linked to other notions of autonomy usual in philosophical discussions. Starting in the 70s, the Chilean biologists HumbertoMaturana and Francisco Varela developed a theory of life as autopoiesis which gives rise to a new conception of autonomy: biological autonomy. The development of this concept implies the recovery of the notion of the organism in a scientific context in which biology and philosophy (...) of biology are focused on the study of the gene by Molecular Biology and evolution by natural selection, by the so called Modern Synthesis. Here we try to show some implications of the concept of life as autonomy for current biology and how this concept can be related to other more usual ones in philosophy. (shrink)
There is a large body of literature by the Chilean biologists HumbertoMaturana and Francisco Varela, usually referred to as Autopoietic Theory. This theory describes the dynamics of living systems; dealing with cognition as a biological phenomenon. The theory, however, has found far wider application thanmay be suggested from its biological roots. This is because the theory builds from its cognitive base to generate implications for epistemology, communication and social systems theory. Since, in essence, there is no discontinuity (...) between what is social and what is human, from the perspective of their biologicalroots.This paper presents some of the key elements of autopoietic theory and explores their application to organisations and their management. The topics considered are: i) the epistemological qualities of our knowledge and its relevance in understanding organisation; ii) human enterprises as autonomous selforganisingsystems; iii) the meaning of communication and the role of language in organisations. The paper also describes a new approach to organisational inquiry. This brings together, in a co-determinate fashion, a pragmatic attitude to human experience and language, and the value of theoretical insight. (shrink)
Translation has long been viewed as ‘code-switching’ either within or between languages. Hence, most translation discussions center on its linguistic and cultural aspects. However, the fundamental mechanism of ‘translation as interpretative semiosis’ has yet to be studied with appropriate rigor. Susan Petrilli (2008) has identified ‘iconicity’ as the key that enables translative semiosis. Nevertheless, as her model is restricted to a discussion of literary translation activity in verbal sign systems, a fundamental mechanism to explain translation as interpretative semiosis is still (...) needed. By analyzing the interactions between the source sign (the translated) and the target sign (the translatant) in the translating process, it can be discerned that HumbertoMaturana’s notion of autopoiesis may provide some crucial insights into translative semiosis. By identifying the autopoietic nature of translation, that is, the interlocked structural coupling between the Translated and Translatant, translation is no longer the ‘one-to-one-correspondence’ between sign systems, but rather a recursive process of interpretation—an interpretive semiosis. Moreover, it is by this autopoietic, self-productive mechanism of translation that I would suggest translation becomes a recursive generation of new inter-connections between semiotics systems. (shrink)
"Languaging", as Maturana occasionally explains, serves, among other things, to orient. By this he means directing the attention and, consequently, the individual experience of others, which is a way to foster the development of "consensual domains" which, in turn, are the prerequisite for the development of language. - Although the sentence (you might say, the languaging) with which I have here begun is at best a pale imitation of Maturana's style, it does perhaps represent one important aspect of (...)Maturana's system: The circularity which, in one way or another, crops up again and again. (shrink)
Context: Maturana’s work is not easy to follow. Correct and full understanding of his work has still to be achieved in spite of its importance. Problem: The objective of this paper is to investigate the core logic penetrating Maturana’s wide-ranging work and to place his work in the history of western thought. Method: Through intensive reading of his wide-ranging work, I intended to grasp the core biological structure that he advocates, namely, his core logic. Results: Maturana’s biology (...) is the biology of structural determinism. It is embodied in a composite entity called a “structure-determined system” with two non-intersecting domains - the domain of interactions and the domain of the composition of components – which can be called the core structure or the core logic of his biology. From the perspective of the history of western thought, Aristotle and Schopenhauer can be regarded as good candidates as the precursors of Maturana’s work, and his work can be characterized as an advanced form of Aristotle’s hylomorphism, depicted on the horizon of Schopenhauer’s world of “Vorstellung” (bringing-forth). Implications: This finding will be useful for understanding Maturana’s wide-ranging work and its place in the history of western thought. (shrink)
Context: Maturana’s views on cognitive processes and explaining have ethical implications. The aim of this paper is to link ethics and epistemology to facilitate thinking about how to promote respect between different viewpoints through mutual understanding. Method: Maturana’s views on ethics are outlined in three domains: the personal, the interpersonal, and the societal. Results: The ethical implications that emerge around the notion of reality with or without parenthesis, the concept of the legitimate other, and Maturana’s conjectures about (...) the origins of human social groups. Social groups in which cooperation is more important than competition are based on love in the sense that others are accepted as legitimate members of the community. An epistemology that responds to the biological origins of human cognition is one that is more open to cooperation, honesty, responsibility, and respect than an epistemology that takes reality as given and the task of human cognition to represent truth. Implications: This framework for thinking about cognitive processes provides a way of approaching disagreements so they become opportunities for discussion rather than for power assertion of one reality over another. In a world where strongly held viewpoints on ethics and reality lead to conflict, promoting viable models of cognitive process that link cognition and ethics may lead to insights that promote tolerance. Ideas from attribution theory in social psychology are presented as a means of facilitating the emergence of the concept of the legitimate other in discussion about disagreements. (shrink)
Context: Introduced in 1970, bioethics is now more and more commonly used since it applies to a variety of concepts belonging to traditional Western thought. Just like other dualisms that are typical of traditional Western thought (e.g., mind/body, subject/object, philosophy/science), bioethics is developing in areas that are mostly isolated from each other, with each argument restricted to its specific space, without affecting the general concept of bioethics. It is also characterized by the dualism ought/being. Purpose: I maintain that the definition (...) of a relevant moral criterion should include the whole scope of thinking and the whole adopted perspective. Consequently, the current conception of bioethics should be changed. Such an alternative view objects to the fragmentation of knowledge. In this way, specifically in bioethics, our way of living and life itself acquire an ethical dimension. Maturana’s theory is expected to be a useful instrument for dealing with the difficulties that the concept of “bioethics” brings. Method: First, traditional bioethics and its way of dealing with some of its typical problems are discussed. Then, Maturana’s epistemology, including his emphasis on the observer, his biology of cognition located in “languaging,” and his ethics of love are described. Its features, such as trust and respect, will be highlighted, taking into account his modality of speaking as a biologist, exposed to the risk of “naturalistic fallacy” but dispelling it thanks to – I argue – the radical difference between Maturana’s theory and the traditional Western epistemology. Results: Maturana’s definition of ethics leads to the conclusion that the whole of living is ethics, the whole of life is ethics, and there is no separation existing between the “ought” and the “being.” Bioethics, and also ethics, dissolve themselves in the circularity of the living, which operates in the living-acting of each human being in the systemic texture they belong to and which they contribute to creating in an open-ended process of “languaging.”. (shrink)
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Problem: Starting with his personal experience the author pursues the question: How can we alter our way of living, sensoriality and reflective skills so that we can handle today’s information flows, which nowadays are so large that they create confusion and ineffective educational actions? Method: The approach to follow is called “parenthesism,” a practice based on Maturana’s theoretical frameworks of the “biology of cognition” and the “biology of love.” Results: One of the findings when a person lives in parenthesism (...) is the ability to see their own dogmatism and stubbornness when that person would otherwise be blind to his/her own convictions. Implications: Many aspects of this essay, and this manner of thinking, are circular and tautological, and hence may appear illogical to the reader. However, the author claims that existence is not solely logical, and that in a complex matrix circular and recursive relationships are common, and that these can best be understood through circular and recursive logics. Furthermore the relevance of parenthesism for UNESCO’s view on learning paradigms is reviewed in this light. (shrink)