Autopoiesis, Life, Mind and Cognition: Bases for a Proper Naturalistic Continuity [Book Review]

Biosemiotics 6 (3):379-391 (2013)
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The strong version of the life-mind continuity thesis claims that mind can be understood as an enriched version of the same functional and organizational properties of life. Contrary to this view, in this paper I argue that mental phenomena offer distinctive properties, such as intentionality or representational content, that have no counterpart in the phenomenon of life, and that must be explained by appealing to a different level of functional and organizational principles. As a strategy, and following Maturana’s autopoietic theory of cognition, I introduce a conceptual distinction between mind and cognition. I argue that cognition corresponds to the natural behaviour that every living being exhibits in the realization of its existence, and that, viewed in that way, cognition is a dynamic process of structural coupling that, unlike mental phenomena, involves no representational contents. On the basis of this distinction, I try to show that while life suffices for cognition, it does not suffice for mind. That is, that the strong continuity is not between life and mind but between life and cognition



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