This article revisits the concept of autopoiesis and examines its relation to cognition and life. We present a mathematical model of a 3D tesselation automaton, considered as a minimal example of autopoiesis. This leads us to a thesis T1: “An autopoietic system can be described as a random dynamical system, which is defined only within its organized autopoietic domain.” We propose a modified definition of autopoiesis: “An autopoietic system is a network of processes that produces the components that reproduce the network, and that also regulates the boundary conditions necessary for its ongoing existence as a network.” We also propose a definition of cognition: “A system is cognitive if and only if sensory inputs serve to trigger actions in a specific way, so as to satisfy a viability constraint.” It follows from these definitions that the concepts of autopoiesis and cognition, although deeply related in their connection with the regulation of the boundary conditions of the system, are not immediately identical: a system can be autopoietic without being cognitive, and cognitive without being autopoietic. Finally, we propose a thesis T2: “A system that is both autopoietic and cognitive is a living system.”
Luhmanian sociocybernetics is an observation of socio-communicative systems with a specific difference. It is a second order observation of observations understanding society as being ‘functionally differentiated’ into autonomous autopoietic subsystems or meaning worlds in the symbolic generalized media such as money, power, truth, love, art and faith. Only communication communicates and the social is communication. The social system creates products of meaning which do not represent an aggregation of the content of individuals’ minds. The bioand psychological autopoietic systems only establish boundary conditions for the sociocommunicative systems, they do not control the socio-communicative system in any way. Somehow the socio-communicative systems seem to develop on their own (by will?) although they have no body and no subject. The psychic system in Luhmann’s theory is thus not a Kantian or Husserlian transcendental ego in spite of Luhmann’s use of aspects of Husserl’s phenomenology (while at the same time destroying its philosophical frame). On the other hand, Luhmann works with an open ontology, combined with Spencer-Brown’s philosophy that making distinctions is what creates the difference between system and environment. Thus observation is basic to the theory-but where is the observer in the theoretical framework of system theory? The inspiration from Hegel is hidden here, where distinction, creation and evolution merge. Also, Hegel has been taken out of his metaphysical frame while Luhmann never took the time to finish his own. On the other hand, the father of the pragmatic triadic semiotic C. S. Peirce-also inspired by Hegel-explicitly confronted some of these problems. Like Bataille, Peirce sees a continuity between mind and matter and his Firstness contains pure feeling, meaning that there is also an inner experience aspect of matter. The article compares Luhmann’s and Spencer-Brown’s strategies with Peirce’s, the latter of whom built an alternative transdisciplinary theory of signification and communication based on a Panentheistic theory of knowing. Surprisingly it fits well with Spencer-Brown’s metaphysics, which makes it possible to establish a consistent foundation for system theory.
Abstract: Under the aspect of constructivism evolution generates the varying boundary conditions to which evolution itself then is subject. This applies for organic as well as for cognitive evolution. The currently valid conditions for cognitive evolution we describe as laws of nature brought about by an independent reality. Within the constructivist evolutionary epistemology CEE), however. the regularities we perceive and which we condense to the laws of nature are seen as the invariants of phylogenetically formed cognitive operators. The extension of the inborn operators by means of experimental operators (i.e. by measurement facilities) will lead to the consolidation of the classical world picture if both _are _commutable. Otherwise there will be invariants which cannot be described in classical terms and, which therefore, will require non-classical theories. Likewise mathematical and logical structures can be seen as invariants of cognitive operators. It is shown that the propositions of Gödel would deal with what can be considered as the analogy of non-classical phenomena in physics. To renounce reality as an element of physical metatheory requires some rearrangements of those notions which explicitly refer to reality such as acting and perceiving, learning and adapting, and, partially, language. It turns out that the distinction between acting and perceiving is not unambiguous as it is in the “theory of reality.” Similarly we can see learning as a process of adaptation to the given environment as well as an independent development into something for which an appropriate environment or application still has to be found. It will be shown that both “adaptive” and “initiative” evolution occur in organic as well as in cultural evolution. Within CEE, language is seen as a “generative” theory rather than as a tool to portray independently existing facts. Its competence is based on the fact that it is generated by mechanisms closely related to those generating our physical perceptions. A similar genetically grounded relationship between mental operators enables mathematics to compress empirical data into a generating theory, and then, based on this theory, to extrapolate them (problem of induction). The linguistic equivalent of algorithmic data compression and the subsequent extrapolation is the recognition of a text’s meaning, and the subsequent drawing of conclusions from it, or semantic extrapolation as proposed to say. Accordingly, communication can be defined. Some parallels are discussed between verbal, cultural and genetic communication.
Excerpt: Concluding that cognitive structures and instruments are unconditional or arbitrary because they are not, and cannot be derived from external boundary conditions, is mistaken, since internal boundary conditions must also be taken into account. Firstly, there are the developmental constraints of cognitive evolution itself; cognitive as well as organic evolution is subject to what has been evolved before. Cognitive evolution in our time, therefore, would find rather limited degrees of freedom. Further, cognitive instruments exert themselves in continuous co-evolution with organic instruments for meeting organically defined needs and requirements. This means that cognitive systems cannot be explained by reference to what is called their object, but only through their organic genesis. This justifies efforts made to look for a closer relationship between cognitive and organic evolution.
Three constructivist paradigms are distinguished. Exogenous constructivism (rooted in a mechanistic metaphor) emphasizes the reconstruction of structures preformed in the environment. Endogenous constructivism (rooted in an organismic metaphor) emphasizes the coordination of previous organismic structures. Dialectical constructivism (rooted in a contextualistic metaphor) emphasizes the construction of new structures out of organism/environment interaction. It is suggested that more general metatheories integrating exogenous, endogenous, and dialectical aspects of the construction of knowledge can and should be formulated. Such formulations would not attempt an impossible synthesis of the root metaphors, but rather integrate them in a coherent metatheory by specifying the boundary conditions in which each root metaphor best applies. An example of such a metatheory, based primarily on Piagetian ideas, is presented.
All sciences have epistemic assumptions, a language for expressing their theories or models, and symbols that reference observables that can be measured. In most sciences the languages in which their models are expressed are not the focus of their attention, although the choice of language is often crucial for the model. On the contrary, biosemiotics, by definition, cannot escape focusing on the symbol-matter relationship. Symbol systems first controlled material construction at the origin of life. At this molecular level it is only in the context of open-ended evolvability that symbol-matter systems and their functions can be objectively defined. Symbols are energy-degenerate structures not determined by laws that act locally as special boundary conditions or constraints on law-based energy-dependent matter in living systems. While this partial description holds for all symbol systems, cultural languages are much too complex to be adequately described only at the molecular level. Genetic language and cultural languages have common basic requirements, but there are many significant differences in their structures and functions. Relevance: The paper expresses the classical epistemological mind-matter problem at the simplest evolutionary level, which begins with self-replication. At this level I call it the symbol-matter problem, and I discuss the physical and epistemic conditions for symbol systems and languages to arise.