Publication 2778

Mingers J. (1990) The philosophical implications of Maturana’s cognitive theories. Systems Practice 3(6): 569–584. Fulltext at
Maturana and Varela have developed important theories about living systems (autopoiesis) and also about the brain/nervous system and cognition. These theories have strongly subjectivist implications leading to the view that our explanations and descriptions reflect the structure of the subject, rather than that of an objective world, and that we therefore construct the world which we experi¬ence. This paper analyzes Maturana’s ideas in terms of the main philosophical traditions – empiricism, idealism, and realism – showing that they are a blend of both realist and antirealist positions. It then provides a critique of Maturana’s radical subjectivism and argues that his theory is best seen as compatible with critical realism.

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