Publication 2682

Fleischaker G. R. (1992) Questions concerning the ontology of autopoiesis and the limits of its utility. International Journal of General Systems, 21(2): 131–141. Fulltext at
There are several deep and age-old questions which underly science, philosophy, psychology, and social theory: What is the nature of the world? What is the nature of life? and, What is the nature of human beings in the world? These are fundamentally questions of ontology,{1} that is, What sorts of things ‘are’ in the world? Equally ancient are the philosophical questions of ontogenesis, of how things ‘come to be’: What is the origin of the world? What is the origin of _the _living as one particular sort of thing in that world? and, What is the origin of society or social ordering among the living? And arising from these ontological questions is the fundamental question of epistemology: How do we, as human social beings, come to know the world in which we find ourselves? Both kinds of questions are evolutionary, that is, they are concerned not only with the nature of things in the world but how they come into being and how they change over time as well. These foundational problems – of what things are in the natural world, how they come to be, how they evolve, and how we can know them – are all major issues in contemporary science. They are brought to the fore in the focal paper of this special forum issue, and an international group of experts from several different fields has been chosen to shed light on them in the ensuing forum discussion.


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