Publication 3759

Brocklesby J. (2004) Reconnecting biology, social relations and epistemology: A systemic appreciation of autopoietic theory. International Journal of General Systems 33(6): 655–671. Fulltext at
This paper seeks to tease out the systemic character of a body of work that elsewhere in both the primary and secondary literature tends to be described, discussed and applied in fragmented and reductionist terms. The origins of “autopoietic theory” may be traced back to experimental work in cellular biology and neuro-physiology and to the concept of “autopoiesis” (a theory of living systems) itself. From there, it has extended its coverage into a wide range of diverse areas including cognition, perception, emotion, evolution, language, culture, epistemology, the philosophy of science and ethics. Against this background, the paper seeks to outline a high-level systemic interpretation of autopoietic theory; specifically one that integrates its various biological, social and epistemological components and which shows that it is best evaluated and understood as an explanatory whole and not in a reductionist manner.

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