At a conference last month called Investigating the Mind, held here at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, neuroscientists and Buddhist scholars discussed attention, mental imagery, emotion, and collaborations to test insights gleaned from meditation.
This paper aims to provide principles and to give a case study of the application of Bateson’s ideas to promote epistemological change in organisations to deal with problems which many governments currently attempt to address by control through detailed performance indicators and top-down monitoring. It suggests that epistemological change requires an approach that goes beyond rational argument and provides an example of the way that emotional engagement and story telling can be built into action research based on cybernetic ideas. Bateson stresses the need for an epistemological change to embrace an understanding of the implications of circular causation to underpin our approach to problems and policy making. The case study shows how research using systemic principles can address epistemological change at all its stages including data collection and dissemination. In this way the research aims to become a conversation in which participants can reflect on the epistemological assumptions that underpin their actions. Relevance: Following Maturana and Bateson it is found that a reflexive conversation that engages participants through emotion and story telling as well as demonstrating reflection on the researcher’s own assumptions can powerfully engage participants in changing how they see problems and what they do. Whilst rational argument can be used to develop and expand a rational domain, including the rational domain of cybernetics, the paper suggests that the introduction of a systemic or cybernetic understanding to newcomers instead requires aesthetic seduction that can be achieved by promoting reflection on epistemological assumptions through story telling and emotional engagement.
This article praises the development of second-order cybernetics by von Foerster, Maturana and Varela as an important step in deepening our understanding of the biopsychological foundation of the dynamics of cognition and communication. Luhmann’s development of the theory into the realm of social communication is seen as a necessary and important move. The differentiation between biological, psychological and socialcommunicative autopoiesis and the introduction of a technical concept of meaning is central. Furthermore, Varela’s development of Spencer Brown’s ‘Laws of Form’ from a dual to a triadic categorical basic structure is considered vital. Finally the paper shows that second-order cybernetics lacks explicit and ontological concepts of emotion, meaning and a concept of signs. C. S. Peirce’s theory is introduced for this purpose. It is then shown that both theories are triadic and second order, and therefore can be fruitfully fused to a cybersemiotics.
This article praises the development of second order cybernetics by von Foerster, Maturana, and Varela as an important step in deepening our un- derstanding of the bio-psychological foundation of the dynamics of information, cognition, and communication. Luhmann’s development of the theory into the realm of social communication is seen as a necessary and important move. The triple autopoietic differentiation between biological, psychologi- cal, and social-communicative autopoiesis and the introduction of a technical concept of meaning is central. Finally, the paper shows that second order cybernetics lacks explicit and ontological concepts of emotion, meaning, and a concept of signs. C. S. Peirce’s theory is introduced for this purpose. It is then shown, through Varela’s development of Spencer Brown’s ‘Laws of Form’ from a dual to a dynamic triadic categorical structure, that both theories are triadic and second order, and therefore can be fruitfully fused to a Cybersemiotics.
This paper seeks to tease out the systemic character of a body of work that elsewhere in both the primary and secondary literature tends to be described, discussed and applied in fragmented and reductionist terms. The origins of “autopoietic theory” may be traced back to experimental work in cellular biology and neuro-physiology and to the concept of “autopoiesis” (a theory of living systems) itself. From there, it has extended its coverage into a wide range of diverse areas including cognition, perception, emotion, evolution, language, culture, epistemology, the philosophy of science and ethics. Against this background, the paper seeks to outline a high-level systemic interpretation of autopoietic theory; specifically one that integrates its various biological, social and epistemological components and which shows that it is best evaluated and understood as an explanatory whole and not in a reductionist manner.
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.
George Kelly’s personal construct theory (PCT) has been accused of disregarding the role of emotion in human life. This charge originates from a misunderstanding of PCT’s basic assumptions. Kelly deals with experiences commonly called “emotional” in terms of dimensions of transition according to a genuinely constructivist epistemology. A review of the literature shows few elaborations of Kelly’s original formulation of constructs relating to transitions, and even some contributions critical of Kelly’s approach to emotions. This article rebuts the criticisms while making clear the epistemological and theoretical bases of Kelly’s treatment of transitional experiences, its peculiarities, and its role in the diagnostic/therapeutic process. Relevance: It deals with the notion of emotion from a genuinely constructivist epistemology such as that envisioned by Kelly’s personal construct theory.
Cognitive neuroscience investigations of self-experience have mainly focused on the mental attribution of features to the self (self-related processing). In this paper, we highlight another fundamental, yet neglected, aspect of self-experience, that of being an agent. We propose that this aspect of self-experience depends on self-specifying processes, ones that implicitly specify the self by implementing a functional self/non-self distinction in perception, action, cognition and emotion. We describe two paradigmatic cases – sensorimotor integration and homeostatic regulation – and use the principles from these cases to show how cognitive control, including emotion regulation, is also self-specifying. We argue that externally directed, attention-demanding tasks, rather than suppressing self-experience, give rise to the self-experience of being a cognitive-affective agent. We conclude with directions for experimental work based on our framework.
Emotion theorists tend to separate “arousal” and other bodily events such as “actions” from the evaluative component of emotion known as “appraisal.” This separation, I argue, implies phenomenologically implausible accounts of emotion elicitation and personhood. As an alternative, I attempt a reconceptualization of the notion of appraisal within the so-called “enactive approach.” I argue that appraisal is constituted by arousal and action, and I show how this view relates to an embodied and affective notion of personhood. Relevance: It proposes an enactive conceptualization of the phenomenon of appraisal.
The theory of autopoiesis is central to the enactive approach. Recent works emphasize that the theory of autopoiesis is a theory of sense-making in living systems, i.e., of how living systems produce and consume meaning. In this chapter I first illustrate (some aspects of) these recent works, and interpret their notion of sense-making as a bodily cognitive-emotional form of understanding. Then I turn to modern emotion science, and I illustrate its tendency to over-intellectualize our capacity to evaluate and understand. I show that this over-intellectualization goes hand in hand with the rejection of the idea that the body is a vehicle of meaning. I explain why I think that this over-intellectualization is problematic, and try to reconceptualize the notion of evaluation in emotion theory in a way that is consistent and continuous with the autopoietic notion of sense-making. Relevance: It links emotion theory and the enactive notion of sense-making.