Publication 3932

Zeleny M. & Hufford K. D. (1992) The ordering of the unknown by causing it to order itself. International Journal of General Systems 21(2): 239–253. Fulltext at
Excerpt: In the focal paper of Zeleny and Hufford (1991), the criteria of autopoiesis (which were created by others) were applied to three examples of systems: cells, osmotic growth, and family. This is a simple exercise, but with very important implications. It has also not been carried out before, not even by the “fathers” of autopoiesis. Our conclusions are also clear: Although all living systems are autopoietic, not all autopoietic systems are living. All autopoietic systems must be social systems. These conclusions have many implications, some of them significant. It is irrelevant whether we personally like, dislike, or hate such implications. Such emotions, although important, should not make their way into the discussion. Without attempting to be “cute,” let us remember that many critics deeply hated not only Galileo’s conjecture, but the man himself; also, we all might dislike the law of gravity while falling down a flight of stairs. It certainly was not our goal to discuss human families, concentration camps, biological cells, or osmotic growths as such in all their richness and specificity. We will therefore resist being drawn into discussing whether these systems are good, bad, or “hell.” It all depends on one’s personal experiences with them. We would have written an entirely different paper had we wished to address such emotions. Clarity, simplicity, and importance of the premises and conclusions of our paper should normally elicit very short, simple, and clear responses. In this context, one should comment on whether or not we have misapplied one or more of the criteria and instruct us about their correct application, or perhaps even question the set of criteria itself, although we have not questioned them ourselves. In this context and in our opinion the rejoinders consist of only tangentially related personal views, experiences, philosophies and convictions which are inappropriate and redundant in the discussion of the focal topic, “The application of autopoiesis in systems analysis: Are autopoietic systems also social systems?” If it is necessary to refer to other related, or even remotely related, ideas, it is, as it always has been, appropriate to provide published references rather than substitute a full, personal exposé.

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