A central feature of living systems is their autonomy. In this article I propose that the manner of autonomy of living systems is self-production, and that all biological phenomena are consequences of this. In particular 1 discuss reproduction, heredity and evolution, as structural phenomena that result from the structural dynamics of the cell as a first order self-producing (autopoietic) unity in the medium in which it is realized as such a unity.
In diesem Artikel zu Ehren meines Freundes und Lehrers Joaquin Luco möchte ich auf anregende Weise und in groben Zügen meine Ansichten über das Phänomen des Lernens darstellen. Natürlich ist das, was ich hier sagen werde, nicht ohne ganz bestimmte Voraussetzungen; es hat seinen Ursprung in meiner Geschichte als Biologe in Chile, wo ich Gelegenheit hatte, bei Luco zu lernen, was ich niemals in einem anderen Teil der Welt hätte lernen können. Dafür möchte ich ihm mit dieser Arbeit meinen Dank sagen.
Abstract: My intent in this essay is to reflect on the history of some biological notions such as autopoiesis, structural coupling, and cognition, that I have developed since the early 1960's as a result of my work on visual perception and the organization of the living. No doubt I shall repeat things that I have said in other publications (Maturana & Varela, 1980, 1988), and I shall present notions that once they are said appear as obvious truisms. Moreover, I shall refine or expand the meaning of such notions, or even modify them. Yet, in any case, the reader is not invited to attend to the truisms, or to what seems to be obvious, rather he or she is invited to attend to the consequences that those notions entail for the understanding of cognition as a biological process. After all, explanations or demonstrations always become self evident once they are understood and accepted, and the purpose of this essay is the expansion of understanding in all dimensions of human existence.
Context: In 1974, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela published De Máquinas y Seres Vivos. Autopoiesis: La organización de lo vivo in Santiago, Chile as a little book. A second edition of this publication was proposed in 1994, and the present document is a recent translation of Maturana’s reflections “twenty years after.” Problem: The book clearly enunciates what it means to say that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems, and this Preface reflects on the shift of understanding from earlier notions of self-referred or auto-referred systems to the concept of autopoiesis. Implications: The Preface describes the systemic quality that is human living and human sense-making. It marks what we can retrospectively see as the bridge between the explicitly biological studies of Maturana (and Varela), and the later, more anthropological and therapeutic work of Maturana with Gerda Verden-Zöller between 1989 and 1994 and, especially, with Ximena Dávila Yáñez since the year 1999. Results: The underlying understanding implicit in this document outlines in great clarity the implications of Maturana’s fundamental insights. It presents both a logical and passionately argued case for mutual respect, grounded in scientific findings in biology. The Preface is a clear vision of why Maturana’s work has been so influential for reflexivity and constructivism.
This paper summarizes some initial empirical results from a new computer model (artificial chemistry) which exhibits spontaneous emergence and persistence of autopoietic organization. the model is based on a system originally presented by Varela, Maturana, and Uribe. In carrying out this reimplementation it was found that an additional interaction (chain-based bond inhibition), not documented in the original description by Varela et al., is critical to the realization of the autopoietic phenomena. This required interaction was rediscovered only following careful examination of (unpublished) source code for an early version of the original model. The purpose of the paper is thus two-fold: firstly, to identify and discuss this previously undocumented, but essential, interaction; and secondly, to argue, on the basis of this particular case, for the importance of exploiting the emerging technologies which support publication of completely detailed software models (in addition, of course, to conventional publication of summary experimental results).
Maturana and Varela developed the concept of autopoiesis to explain the phenomena of living organisms. They went further and postulated theories concerning the nervous system and the development of cognition. These theories have radical conclusions concerning human thought, language, and social activity. This paper aims to introduce these ideas and to explore the main implications. It also discusses the application of these cognitive theories in three separate domains – computer systems design, family therapy, and the Law.