Publication 5655

Goudsmit A. (1992) A one-sided boundary: On the limits of knowing organizational closure. In: Van de Vijver G. (ed.) New Perspectives on cybernetics: Self-organization, autonomy and connectionism. Kluwer, Dordrecht: 175–205. Fulltext at
Maturana’s theory of autopoiesis, and particularly his ideas on language and the ensuing construction of reality, are used as the major line of thought in this contribution. Some basic notions from his theory are used and extended as a framework to provide some explicit thoughts about what is considered as a particular omission in his theory: an affirmation of the impossibility to empirically observe the internal states of an autopoietic system. It is maintained that the definition of autopoiesis entails a concept of ‘state’ that coincides with ‘state transition’. A researcher who is interested in observing the internal states of an autopoietic system will become enmeshed in the impossibility to perceive his own perceptual acts. This is related to Merleau-Ponty’s notion of a ‘negative philosophy’, i.e. a philosophy in which the central theme is the impossibility for consciousness to grasp itself as a consciousness of the world. Finally, the concept of a ‘one-sided boundary’ is presented as a metaphor for the inaccessibility of closure. It is maintained that entering a closed system is not so much a matter of observation, but rather of its cessation.

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