Whether stated or not, the fundamental quest of neurophysiology is to understand the processes that determine the so-called higher functions in the brain. The present work is an explicit attempt in that direction. Whatever success I have in this endeavor I owe to the enriching discussions I had with my friend Heinz Von Foerster and my student Francisco Varela.
Maturana H. R. (1975) The organization of the living: A theory of the living organization. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies 7(3): 313–332. https://cepa.info/547
The fundamental feature that characterizes living systems is autonomy, and any account of their organization as systems that can exist as individual unities must show what autonomy is as a phenomenon proper to them, and how it arises in their operation as such unities. Accordingly the following is proposed. (1) That autonomy in living systems is a feature of self-production (autopoiesis), and that a living system is properly characterized only as a network of processes of production of components that is continuously, and recursively, generated and realized as a concrete entity (unity) in the physical space, by the interactions of the same components that it produces as such a network. This organization I call the autopoietic organization, and any system that exhibits it is an autopoietic system in the space in which its components exist; in this sense living systems are autopoietic systems in the physical space. (2) That the basic consequence of the autopoietic organization is that everything that takes place in an autopoietic system is subordinated to the realization of its autopoiesis, otherwise it disintegrates. (3) That the fundamental feature that characterizes the nervous system is that it is a closed network of interacting neurons in which every state of neuronal activity generates other states of neuronal activity. Since the nervous system is a component subsystem in an autopoietic unity, it operates by generating states of relative neuronal activity that participate in the realization of the autopoiesis of the organism which it integrates. (4) That the autopoietic states that an organism adopts are determined by its structure (the structure of the nervous system included), and that the structure of the organism (including its nervous system) is at any instant the result of its evolutionary and ontogenic structural coupling with the medium in which it is autopoietic, obtained while the autopoiesis is realized. (5) That language arises as phenomenon proper to living systems from the reciprocal structural coupling of at least two organisms with nervous systems, and that self-consciousness arises as an individual phenomenon from the recursive structural coupling of an organism with language with its own structure through recursive self-description. |314|
Maturana H. R. (1978) Biology of language: The epistemology of reality. In: Miller G. & Lenneberg E. (eds.) Psychology and biology of language and thought: Essays in honor of Eric Lenneberg. Academic Press, New York: 27–63. https://cepa.info/549
I am not a linguist, I am a biologist. Therefore, I shall speak about language as a biologist, and address myself to two basic biological questions, namely: 1. What processes must take place in an organism for it to establish a linguistic domain with another organism? 2. What processes take place in a linguistic interaction that permit an organism (us) to describe and to predict events that it may experience? This is my way of honoring the memory of Eric H. Lenneberg, if one honors the memory of another scientist by speaking about one's own work Whatever the case, I wish to honor his memory not only because of his great accomplishments, but also because he was capable of inspiring his students, as the symposium on which this book is based revealed. The only way I can do this is to accept the honor of presenting my views about biology, language, and reality. I shall, accordingly, speak about language as a biologist. In doing so, I shall use language, notwithstanding that this use of language to speak about language is within the core of the problem I wish to consider.
Maturana H. R. (1978) Cognition. In: Hejl P., Köck W. & Roth G. (eds.) Wahrnehmung und Kommunikation. Peter Lang, Frankfurt: 29–49. https://cepa.info/550
That we cognite seems to us self-evident. In the very process of doing what I am doing, cognition appears to me as my immediate experience. I perform an act of knowledge when I act in a manner that I describe as a manipulation or handling of the world in which I exist. The cogito ergo sum of Descartes grasps this and gives to the experience of knowledge a central role: the cogito, the act of cognition, is for Descartes the starting point. Or, in other words, cognition is a human property and no question arises about cognition as a phenomenon. This I wish to change. I wish to present the way in which I make cognition a problem, and how I answer the question, “What phenomenon is the phenomenon of cognition?"
Maturana H. R. (1988) Ontology of observing: The biological foundations of self-consciousness and the physical domain of existence. In: Donaldson R. E. (ed.) Texts in cybernetic theory: An in-depth exploration of the thought of Humberto Maturana, William T. Powers, and Ernst von Glasersfeld. American Society for Cybernetics (ASC). https://cepa.info/597
It is said that we human beings are rational animals. On account of this, we devalue emotions and exalt rationality so much that, whenever we see some complex behavior in a non-human animal, we want to ascribe rational thinking to it. In this process, we have made the notion of objective reality a reference to something that we deem universal and independent of what we do, and which we use as an argument aimed at compelling someone to do something against his or her will. As an analysis of this, the article concerns the ontology of reality and is a reflection on the social and ethical consequences that understanding such an ontology may have.
Maturana H. R. & Varela F. J. (1980) Autopoiesis: The organization of the living. In: Maturana H. R. & Varela F. J. (eds.) Autopoiesis and cognition: The realization of the living. Reidel, Dordrecht: 73–140. https://cepa.info/7624
Excerpt: We are asking a fundamental question: ‘What is the organization of living systems, what kind of machines are they, and how is their phenomenology, including reproduction and evolution, determined by their unitary organization?’
Varela F. J., Maturana H. R. & Uribe R. (1974) Autopoiesis: The organization of living systems, its characterization and a model. Biosystems 5(4): 187–196. https://cepa.info/546