Publication 2764

Zolo D. (1990) Autopoiesis: Critique of a postmodern paradigm. Telos 86: 61–80. Fulltext at
The theory of autopoiesis is meant to answer two questions: “what is a living system? ” and “what is cognition?” Before a “scientific” answer can be formulated, however, these questions require philosophical ela¬boration. Today the philosophical dispute between mechanism and vitalism is over. Molecular biology, biophysics and biochemistry are concerned with the activity of animal and vegetable organisms, and research is normally conducted without a rigorous definition of bio¬logical phenomena and “living systems.” In their theory of auto¬poiesis, Maturana and Varela seek to spell out “the necessary and suffi¬cient condition of life, ” and this has aroused considerable interest. Al¬though they are experimental biologists, they believe they have found a philosophical solution.

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