Vincenzo Raimondi is Senior Lecturer in Languages Sciences at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne – Alliance Sorbonne Université (France). His recent works focus on the autopoietic approach of language, conversation and social interaction, and on the autopoietic theory of evolution.
Open peer commentary on the article “Social Autopoiesis?” by Hugo Urrestarazu. Upshot: Although accepting Urrestarazu’s view of how autopoietic dynamics can be sought in the domain of the non-living, we see no reason to trace the social to autonomy. Rather, we stress that social systems happen all the time: they arise as people coordinate while also using the peculiarities of human languaging.
Raimondi V. (2014) Social interaction, languaging and the operational conditions for the emergence of observing. Frontiers in Psychology 5: 899. https://cepa.info/7954
In order to adequately understand the foundations of human social interaction, we need to provide an explanation of our specific mode of living based on linguistic activity and the cultural practices with which it is interwoven. To this end, we need to make explicit the constitutive conditions for the emergence of the phenomena which relate to language and joint activity starting from their operational-relational matrix. The approach presented here challenges the inadequacy of mentalist models to explain the relation between language and interaction. Recent empirical studies concerning joint attention and language acquisition have led scholars such as Tomasello et al. (2005) to postulate the existence of a universal human “sociocognitive infrastructure” that drives joint social activities and is biologically inherited. This infrastructure would include the skill of precocious intention-reading, and is meant to explain human linguistic development and cultural learning. However, the cognitivist and functionalist assumptions on which this model relies have resulted in controversial hypotheses (i.e., intention-reading as the ontogenetic precursor of language) which take a contentious conception of mind and language for granted. By challenging this model, I will show that we should instead turn ourselves towards a constitutive explanation of language within a “bio-logical” understanding of interactivity. This is possible only by abandoning the cognitivist conception of organism and traditional views of language. An epistemological shift must therefore be proposed, based on embodied, enactive and distributed approaches, and on Maturana’s work in particular. The notions of languaging and observing that will be discussed in this article will allow for a bio-logically grounded, theoretically parsimonious alternative to mentalist and spectatorial approaches, and will guide us towards a wider understanding of our sociocultural mode of living.
Raimondi V. (2017) Origines du langage et hominisation dans la perspective du languaging [The origins of language: Hominization and languaging]. Intellectica 68(2): 123–139. https://cepa.info/7346
By laying the foundations of the conception of language in terms of languaging, the enactive and autopoietic approaches open a new framework to understand the emergence of the linguistic phenomenon in relation with hominization. However, this approach has not been sufficiently explored in the research field addressing the “origins of language,” with a few exceptions (Andresen, 2014). The Theory of Natural Drift (Maturana & Varela, 1994; Varela et al., 1993; Maturana & Mpdozis, 2000) and the Theory of Developmental Systems (Oyama et al., 2001) can provide the ideal background to rethink the ecological conditions of the phylogenetic trajectory, as well as the role of conduct in the conservation of coordination through languaging as the privileged domain of interactions. In order to show its innovative contributions, I will first address the most controversial aspects of current Neo-Darwinian models (genetic determinism and adaptationism) that feed many hypotheses within this field. I will then introduce some lines of thought about the phylogenetic process. In particular, I will address some aspects of the anatomical and neurobiological evolution (encephalization, speech and brachiomanual articulation) on one hand, and the relational and social factor of human living on the other hand.
Raimondi V. (2019) The bio-logic of languaging and its epistemological background. Language Sciences 71: 19–26. https://cepa.info/5913
Maturana’s notion of languaging is deeply rooted in his “Biology of cognition” and in the epistemological orientation provided by the “autopoietic systems” theory developed with Varela. Within this framework, language is traced to its operational and interactional matrix. In this paper, I show how pursuing such a “bio-logically” grounded approach allows a shift from traditional conceptions of language, in particular with regards to its role in the achievement of communication and joint activities. In order to make explicit the constitutive conditions underlying linguistic activity, I address both languaging as embodied activity and the interindividual coordination within which such an embodied activity takes place. To this end, I focus on the relation between individual languaging behaviour and the domain of coordination, as two complementary aspects underlying all classes of phenomena in human communication. Some linguistic and cognitive implications of the framework will be subsequently discussed.
The notion of languaging provides a new understanding of the intimate relationship between sociality and language. In this paper, I address the evolutionary emergence of language by subscribing to the autopoietic theory of natural drift (Maturana and Varela 1987; Varela et al. 1993; Maturana and Mpdozis 2000) I show that this systemic approach to evolution can offer the ideal epistemological background to evaluate the role of languaging throughout hominization. The central idea is that the languaging-based way of living acted as an attractor for the evolutionary process. This claim relies on three interrelated assumptions: 1) behavioral and relational habits may channel the course of genetic and structural change; 2) recursive coordination and specific forms of sociality set the systemic conditions for coexistence-through-languaging to be conserved over generations; 3) the conservation of these systemic conditions gives rise to a spiraling, positive-feedback process that involves body, cognition, and culture.
Genetic reductionism is increasingly seen as a severely limited approach to understanding living systems. The Neo-Darwinian explanatory framework tends to overlook the role of the organism for an understanding of development and evolution. In the current fast-changing theoretical landscape, the autopoietic approach provides conceptual distinctions and tools that may contribute to building an alternative framework. In this article, I examine the implications of the theories of autopoiesis and natural drift for an organism-centered view of evolution. By shifting the attention from genes to ontogenetic organism-niche configurations and their transformations over generations, this approach presents a compelling perspective on the role of organismal behavior in guiding phylogenetic drift.
Raimondi V. (2022) La matrice operazionale del languaging: Un approccio radicalmente relazionale del linguaggio [The operational matrix of languaging: A radically relational understanding of language]. Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio 15(2): 49–58. https://cepa.info/7792
Languaging is interactional and relational in nature. The aim of this paper is to explore the constitutive conditions of human language from a «bio-logic» perspective. The main claim is that the notion of languaging contributes to expanding the post-cognitivist understanding of social interaction and linguistic activity. From both a phylogenetic and an ontogenetic perspective, the emergence of language needs to be traced to a species-specific form of sociality and distributed agency. By connecting individual agency to social interdependence, the approach of languaging shows that language arises from patterns of concerted actions. It follows that not only is linguistic activity inherently distributed, but also cannot be separated from the activities and practices it brings into being.
Open peer commentary on the article “The Maturanian Turn: Good Prospects for the Language Sciences” by Alexander V. Kravchenko. Abstract: Maturana’s extensive work has applications in many domains of enquiry, including the study of language and social interaction. I discuss Maturana’s insightful perspective on the role of language in human evolution, while also showing its relevance for current approaches of human sociality.