In this article, we propose some fundamental requirements for the appearance of adaptivity. We argue that a basic metabolic organization, taken in its minimal sense, may provide the conceptual framework for naturalizing the origin of teleology and normative functionality as it appears in living systems. However, adaptivity also requires the emergence of a regulatory subsystem, which implies a certain form of dynamic decoupling within a globally integrated, autonomous system. Thus, we analyze several forms of minimal adaptivity, including the special case of motility. We go on to explain how an open-ended complexity growth of motility-based adaptive agency, namely, behavior, requires the appearance of the nervous system. Finally, we discuss some implications of these ideas for embodied robotics.
Living agency is subject to a normative dimension (good-bad, adaptive-maladaptive) that is absent from other types of interaction. We review current and historical attempts to naturalize normativity from an organism-centered perspective, identifying two central problems and their solution: (1) How to define the topology of the viability space so as to include a sense of gradation that permits reversible failure, and (2) how to relate both the processes that establish norms and those that result in norm-following behavior. We present a minimal metabolic system that is coupled to a gradient-climbing chemotactic mechanism. Studying the relationship between metabolic dynamics and environmental resource conditions, we identify an emergent viable region and a precarious region where the system tends to die unless environmental conditions change. We introduce the concept of normative field as the change of environmental conditions required to bring the system back to its viable region. Norm-following, or normative action, is defined as the course of behavior whose effect is positively correlated with the normative field. We close with a discussion of the limitations and extensions of our model and some final reflections on the nature of norms and teleology in agency.
Bishop J. M. & Nasuto S. J. (2005) Second-order cybernetics and enactive perception. Kybernetes 34(9/10): 1309–1320. https://cepa.info/835
Purpose: To present an account of cognition integrating second-order cybernetics (SOC) together with enactive perception and dynamic systems theory. Methodology – The paper presents a brief critique of classical models of cognition then outlines how integration of SOC, enactive perception and dynamic systems theory can overcome some weaknesses of the classical paradigm. Findings: Presents the critique of evolutionary robotics showing how the issues of teleology and autonomy are left unresolved by this paradigm although their solution ﬁts within the proposed framework. Implications: The paper highlights the importance of genuine autonomy in the development of artiﬁcial cognitive systems. It sets out a framework within which the robotic research of cognitive systems could succeed. Practical implications: There are no immediate practical implications but see research implications. Originality/value – It joins the discussion on the fundamental nature of cognitive systems and emphasises the importance of autonomy and embodiment. Relevance: This paper draws explicit links between second order cybernetics, enactivism and dynamic systems accounts of cognition.
Broonen J. P. (1998) Social autopoiesis: A concept in search of a theory. AIP Conference Proceedings 437: 284–294. https://cepa.info/7739
This paper is a brief report on the issue of extension of the concept of autopoiesis to social systems. The arguments developed by four groups of authors to bring a response to that issue are summarized: Maturana and Varela, the fathers of the concept of autopoieis; Zeleny & Hufford who proposed a simple extension of the concept to social systems; Luhmann and Hejel with two different transformations of the concept; Morgan and his metaphorical perspective. The determinist vs teleological conception of (social) autopoiesis explicitly or implicitly sustained by several authors is emphasized.
A proposal for the biological grounding of intrinsic teleology and sense-making through the theory of autopoiesis is critically evaluated. Autopoiesis provides a systemic language for speaking about intrinsic teleology but its original formulation needs to be elaborated further in order to explain sense-making. This is done by introducing adaptivity, a many-layered property that allows organisms to regulate themselves with respect to their conditions of viability. Adaptivity leads to more articulated concepts of behaviour, agency, sense-construction, health, and temporality than those given so far by autopoiesis and enaction. These and other implications for understanding the organismic generation of values are explored.
Fischer B. (1997) Toward a constructivist epistemology: Johann Gottfried Herder and Humberto Maturana. The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms 2(2): 304–308. https://cepa.info/2801
Excerpt: The point has been made that Humberto Maturana’s “radical constructivism” is in many respects neo-Kantian. There are also definite parallels between aspects of Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre and Maturana’s biological epistemology. On the other hand, it should not be overlooked that idealist authors like Kant and Fichte were still entangled in several metaphysical paradigms, which can no longer be supported by constructivist theories. For political and ethical reasons, this seems especially important, when it comes to idealist philosophies of history. Kant, for instance, continued the tradition of a teleology of history, even though he did it by way of his famous “as-if” relativization. He felt that his critical philosophy had to act as if there were a telos and potentially describable purpose to history, although it could never be proved. Eschatology was, therefore, considered to be more than just a necessity of human reason. (On that level – as a principle of reason, log¬ics, and the construction of meaning – teleology is, of course, important for constructivism as well.) One had to act as though it were a law of nature as well, or else there would ultimately be no reason.
García-Valdecasas M. (2022) On the naturalisation of teleology: Self-organisation, autopoiesis and teleodynamics. Adaptive Behavior 30(2): 103–117. https://cepa.info/7861
In recent decades, several theories have claimed to explain the teleological causality of organisms as a function of self-organising and self-producing processes. The most widely cited theories of this sort are variations of autopoiesis, originally introduced by Maturana and Varela. More recent modifications of autopoietic theory have focused on system organisation, closure of constraints and autonomy to account for organism teleology. This article argues that the treatment of teleology in autopoiesis and other organisation theories is inconclusive for three reasons: First, non-living self-organising processes like autocatalysis meet the defining features of autopoiesis without being teleological; second, organisational approaches, whether defined in terms of the closure of constraints, self-determination or autonomy, are unable to specify teleological normativity, that is, the individuation of an ultimate beneficiary; third, all self-organised systems produce local order by maximising the throughput of energy and/or material (obeying the maximum entropy production (MEP) principle) and thereby are specifically organised to undermine their own critical boundary conditions. Despite these inadequacies, an alternative approach called teleodynamics accounts for teleology. This theory shows how multiple self-organising processes can be collectively linked so that they counter each other’s MEP principle tendencies to become codependent. Teleodynamics embraces – not ignoring – the difficulties of self-organisation, but reinstates teleology as a radical phase transition distinguishing systems embodying an orientation towards their own beneficial ends from those that lack normative character.
The distinguishing feature of enactivist cognitive science is arguably its commitment to non-reductionism and its philosophical allegiance to first-person approaches, like phenomenology. The guiding theme of this article is that a theoretically mature enactivism is bound to be humanistic in its articulation, and only by becoming more humanistic can enactivism more fully embody the non-reductionist spirit that lay at its foundation. Our explanatory task is thus to bring forth such an articulation by advancing an enactivist theory of human personality. To this end, we synthesize core concepts from cognitive science, personality theory, and phenomenological philosophy in order to develop an Enactivist Big-5 Theory (EB5T) of personality. According to EB5T, personality traits are dispositional tendencies for how we come to optimally grip our distinctly human worlds. Individual differences in personality are therefore reflective of stylistic differences in optimal gripping tendencies between human beings. EB5T affords a non-reductionist understanding of the immanent teleology of the autopoietically embodied human mind as a kind of full-scale optimal gripping process that is achieved along five major dimensions of personality. To the degree that these dimensions are universal, therefore, we argue that our theory offers a viable path forward in advancing enactivist cognitive science beyond the life of a cell and into the mind of a person, a longstanding hope and ambition held by proponents of the enactive approach.
Le Moigne J.-L. (1997) Les épistémologies constructivistes: Un nouveau commencement III: L’auto-éco-ré-organisation des épistémologies constructivistes [Constructivist epistemologies: A new beginning III: Auto-eco-re-organization of constructivist epistemologies]. Sciences de la société 42: 161–181. https://cepa.info/7749
If it appears that the paradigm founding the positivist and realist epistemologies and their gnoseological and methodological basis are cultural conventions and not absolute and certain beliefs, can we ignore the paradoxical problem of «a knowledge without foundations » (Morin)? We can understand the intelligible cognitive loop of construction-and-translation of knowledge self generated by purposeful human action as a complex process of “auto-eco-re-organization”. The paradigm of constructivist epistemologies can be today developed and presented by its two gnoseological hypothesis (phenomenology and teleology) and its two methodological principles (systemic modelling and dialectical reasoning): on this basis, it proposes an interpretation of the system of sciences (seen as an emerging volcanic island more than as the “tree of knowledge”); system of sciences which leads to the legitimation of inter and trans-disciplines.
Problem: While the elaboration and framing of constructivist epistemologies in keeping with the “currents of contemporary scientific epistemology” can be attributed to Jean Piaget, their development under the banner of radical constructivist epistemology is a result of the epistemological work of Ernst von Glasersfeld. The development of this epistemological paradigm, pursued over the last 40 years with the objective of “linking knowledge to action and situating the subject and the object on the same, multiple levels,” warrants further exploration and contextualization within the framework of current scientific activity. Results: In what amounts to a historical coincidence, von Glasersfeld discovered the work of Piaget in 1973, the same year that the author of this article first began to read Piaget’s Epistemological Studies; this coincidence provides a starting point for describing the epistemological itinerary that led the author from a reading of Piaget in 1973 to a somewhat tardy reading of von Glasersfeld in 1988 (the same year of the translation of his “Introduction to Radical Constructivism” into French). He then explicates the subsequent developments of this paradigmatic conjunction over the last 30 years, interpreting them in the contexts of contemporary developments of scientific and operational interdisciplinarity as well as in terms of historical roots extending from Leonardo da Vinci to Paul Valéry. Implications: The paradigm of constructivist epistemologies (working from a phenomenologically-based gnoseological hypothesis) can be presented and supported with arguments that are at least as solid and legitimate as those invoked in favor of alternative paradigms of realist and post-positivist epistemologies (working from an ontologically-based gnoseological hypothesis).