Excerpt: In 1995, the Leo Apostel Centre in Brussels, Belgium, organised an international conference called “Einstein meets Magritte”. Nobel prize winner Ilya Prigogine held the opening lecture at the conference, and Heinz von Foerster’s lecture was scheduled last… Heinz von Foerster was enchanted by the conference theme and – in the spirit of surrealist Belgian painter René Magritte – had chosen an appropriate title for his talk: “Ceci n’est pas Albert Einstein”. … [H]e was delighted to grant the organisers the following interview, in which he tells us about an even longer journey – that of his remarkable life and scientific career.
Ten years ago, a group of researchers, led by Francisco Varela, were proposing an alternative vision of the immune system main behavior and function. I was part of this group. This new vision saw the immune system not as behaving distinctively with self and non-self or according to any dichotomy imposed a priori and from outside (the self-recognition vision), but rather as behaving in a unique way. From this indifferent behavior, any external impact would progressively been treated in two different ways, reactive and tolerant, but now, consequently and from inside the system (the self-assertion view). This paper will recall, through a very artificial simulation, the difference existing between these two visions. Also at that time, we believed that, from an engineering perspective, this new vision, emphasizing more the adaptability and the need for endogenous constraints than the recognition and the defensive ability, although less obvious to accept than the classical defensive one, should be more beneficial. These last ten years proved that we haven’t been convincing enough, and in this paper I resume the crusade.
Context: Humberto Maturana has generated a coherent and extensive explicatory matrix that encompasses his research in neurophysiology, cognition, language, emotion, and love. Purpose: Can we formulate a map of Maturana’s work in a manner that is consistent with the systemic matrix it represents and that serves as an aid for understanding Maturana’s philosophy without reifying its representation? Method: Our arguments are based on experience gained from teaching and presentations. Results: We present a map that that represents Maturana’s main contributions as clusters of notions clustered according to how we see them to be related to each other as a projection of a matrix of ideas onto a two-dimensional space. We claim that there are many paths through these clusters of ideas. Though ideas relevant to individuals are obtained from various partial perspectives, a deep understanding of any element is dependent on an understanding of the whole matrix. Furthermore, we summarize the contributions to this special issue on Maturana.
It has been argued that the difference between an autonomous entity and an agent is in the ability of the latter to perform behaviors supplemental to processes of self-maintenance (autopoiesis). Theories have been proposed concerning how such behaviors might relate to autopoiesis, but so far, computational models of autopoiesis have paid little attention to these relations. In this article we present a new model designed to explore the relationship between mechanisms of autopoiesis and behavior. We report on three clarifications of the theory provided by the model: (a) mechanisms of behavior can be related to mechanisms of autopoiesis while remaining operationally distinct, (b) the organization of an operationally closed system can change over time while remaining operationally closed, and (c) behavior modulation based upon autopoietic efficacy has limitations that can be avoided through the use of a partially decoupled behavioral system. Finally, we discuss questions that have surfaced during examination of the model.
Part of the World is the most extensive biographical account of Heinz von Foerster, widely regarded as a founder of “constructivism” although an important theme of this story is how he came to reject that label. The book reflects the significance of von Foerster’s over-ninety-year-long life against the background of world and scientific history. In a fascinating dialogue with Monika Broecker, who asks smart and empathic questions, von Foerster relates his life story and his most important thoughts. Many photographs are reproduced, some of them published here for the first time.
First paragraph: I shall write about my first meeting with Ernst von Glasersfeld, and how his comments then on my doctoral study continue to help me clarify what it is I am trying to talk about; how he challenged me to pursue what has turned out to be my life’s work so far; and about how these seem to me now to fit in with that constellation of ideas.
Excerpt: In 8 March 2007 Ernst von Glasersfeld attains the age of 90. In celebration of this, we take great pride in publishing this festschrift as our way of saying thank you, and of sending greetings and our affection to this remarkable, honest and modest man. A festschrift is a particular publication, and we have a particular approach. We require that in the all pieces we will publish, the work of von Glasersfeld will take centre stage. We also invite two types of contribution: the more normal academic paper, and more anecdotal pieces which carry a more personal message. We are grateful to our authors for helping us realise a festschrift that attains these aims. We add our thanks, too, to photographers, artists and poets who have enriched the von Glasersfeld related material we have been able to publish, which, we believe, enhances the general quality.