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From Being to Doing: The Origins of the Biology of Cognition
Humberto #Maturana / Bernhard Poerksen #amreading
If we attend to the relational nature of questions and answers, we can easily see that the person that accepts an answer for his or her question determines in his or her listening what makes the answer that he or she accepts valid for him or her. #Maturana
Nothing is true in itself, valuable, adequate or acceptable in itself. #Maturana
A metaphysical attitude that accepts that the essence of being is transcendental entails an attitude that denies the body as the fundament of human knowledge, understanding, & consciousness, and gives rise to an epistemological view in which the body is seen as an interference >
< and limitation in the path of true knowledge. #Maturana
Without the observer, there is nothing. #Maturana
What is said can under no circumstances be separated from the person saying it. There is no possibility of validating one’s own assertion with regard to an observer-independent reality the existence of which is, in addition, considered as evidently given. #Maturana
Nobody can claim to have a privileged access to an external reality or truth. #Maturana
All observers are part of their observation. #Maturana
The very assumption that external reality exists independently from us will immediately show itself to be fundamentally absurd and nonsensical notion: it cannot be validated in any way. #Maturana
How can we claim to know of the existence of that absolute reality and at the same time assert its unknowability? #Maturana
The observer observes, sees something, affirms or denies its existence, and does whatever he does. What exists independently from him is necessarily a matter of belief and not of certain knowledge because to see something always requires someone who see it. #Maturana
The observer is the source of everything. Without the observer, there is nothing. The observer is the foundation of all knowledge, of any assumption involving the human self, the world and the cosmos. #Maturana
The disappearance of the observer would mean the end of and the disappearance of the world we know; there would be nobody left to perceive, to speak, to describe, and to explain. #Maturana
The very reference to some reality or some sort of truth, unavoidably, involves language. #Maturana
Language is not a prison; it is a form of existence, a way and manner of living together. The simple expression ‘we cannot escape language’ makes us believe that there exists some other place, a place beyond language, although it may never be reached. #Maturana
The universe is wherever I go. We are inseparably moving together. #Maturana
Whenever I distinguish something, the entity that is distinguished emerges together with some background in which the distinction makes sense; it brings forth the domain in which it exists. #Maturana
What, in fact, is an observer? #Maturana
Objectivity is a subject’s delusion that observing can be done without him. Invoking objectivity is abrogating responsibility – hence its popularity. von Foerster cited in #Maturana
We must not forget that the notion of a reality existing independently from us corresponds with the belief that it is possible to achieve authoritative, universally valid statements,. These may be used to discredit certain kinds of experience. #Maturana
< It is the reference to this reality that is held to make a statement objective and universality valid; in a culture based on power, domination and control, it provides the justification for forcing other people to subject themselves to one’s own view of things. #Maturana
By speaking of objectivity in parenthesis, I want to keep everybody aware of the fact that it is impossible to establish an observer–independent point of reference. At the same time,I want to conceptualize our experience that there seem to be objects independent from us #Maturana
How can it be that we experience objects as distinct from us although we know that everything said is said by us and cannot be separated from us? #Maturana
Objectivity in parenthesis #Maturana
Of course, we need to reduce complexity; we need to narrow down our focus & rely on specific expectations to be capable of acting at all. However, problem is not sticking to certain expectations, reducing complexity, or categorizing a multitude of phenomena under one, concept. >
< The central problem is whether one is prepared to give up one’s certainties when something unexpected develops. #Maturana
Certainties are dangerous as far as their consequences are concerned: they render alternative ways of feeling, thinking and acting invisible. #Maturana
If people are allowed to make mistakes, they can correct them. People who are entitled to change their views can reflect. If people have the right to get up and leave at any moment, they will stay only if they wish to. #Maturana
That concludes chapter 1 & 2. #Maturana More tomorrow, hopefully. :)
I can supply arguments and reasons that meet the conditions of a scientific explanations, but what I am actually saying is neither true nor false. #Maturana
Cognition is the observation of adequate behaviour in a particular domain, not the representation of an independently existing reality, nor a process of computing according to the conditions of the environment. #Maturana
Knowledge is behaviour in a particular domain, which is judged adequate by observers. #Maturana
In the living of living beings living entails knowing, and knowing entails living. #Maturana
The distinction between structure and organization permits us to grasp the different ways in which any system may change and remain recognizably the same system. #Maturana
There is no autonomy [in the sense that implies that a system can be separated from its medium] because every living system exists in a medium. #Maturana
People making predictions speak of their expectations as observers. They believe that they know all the factors influencing a system and assert that certain states will result from other states that we can then observe. >
< Living systems, however, are not calculable in this sense although they operate in a structure-determined way. Structural determinability does not entail predictability but is related exclusively to the structural coherence of the moment, which change all the time. #Maturana
Recurrent and recursive interactions generate structural coupling. #Maturana
Two living systems and their interactions in a medium. #Maturana
The phenomenon of language emerges from a particular structural congruence that has evolved through a history of interaction. Just reflect on the precondition for the emergence of language: a coordination of behavioral coordinations. > #Maturana
< I maintain that symbols are of secondary, not primary importance. The ur-situation of language use is an everyday one. #Maturana
Whenever there is a coordination of coordination of behaviour in the flow of interactions, there is language. These are the processes, I maintain, that are necessary for us to be able to say that language is used in a situation. #Maturana
Even when grappling with the problem of whether there exists an observer–independent reality out there somewhere, we need language for a discussion of this sort – and that is, in fact, the reason why such discussion and assertions of existence are totally nonsensical. #Maturana
Whenever we encounter a recursive coordination of behaviour, that is, a flow in coordination of coordinations of behaviour, we see that something new arises, namely, language. #Maturana
Language is not an instrument of information transmission and not a system of communication but a way and manner of living together in the flow of the coordination of coordinations of behaviour. #Maturana
Symbols are not the beginning of language but that, conversely, language is the origin of symbols. #Maturana
End of chapter 5. #Maturana

More next weekend.
It has become customary in biology to answer the q of what being alive means by drawing up a list of necessary properties. To be alive means, it is said for ex., to be capable of reproducing & to be able to move around. Why did you not find any such list satisfactory?
Drawing up a list of features presupposes, strictly speaking, knowledge of the potential features. Only those who believe that they already have the answer, although they are still looking for it, could possibly know when their list is complete. #Maturana
How the concept of autopoiesis was invented #Maturana
Living systems produce themselves within their closed dynamics. They share the autopoietic organization in the molecular domain. #Maturana ->
When we examine a living system, we find a network producing molecules that interact with each other in such a way as to produce molecules that, in turn, produce the network producing molecules, and determine its boundary. Such a network I call autopoietic. #Maturana
<- If we, therefore, encounter such a network in the molecular domain, whose operations effect its own production, then we are dealing with an autopoietic network and, consequently, with a living system. It produces itself. #Maturana
Autopoiesis #Maturana
Autopoiesis is the specific way and manner intrinsic to living systems of being autonomous, of realizing their autonomy. #Maturana
Why a computer model that simulates an autopoietic system is not itself an autopoietic system #Maturana
Autopoiesis refers to a molecular network of the production of molecules that through their interaction produce that very network and create its boundary. Autopoiesis is one variant of autonomy among many. (The only definition & use of autopoiesis that #Maturana seems to accept.)
#Maturana certainly not on board with Luhmann’s adoption of autopoiesis in the domain of social systems
Tension between #Maturana and Luhmann
If you deprive people of the opportunity [to complain & protest against their characterization], you treat them like freely disposable objects; they've the status of slaves compelled to function w/out the opportunity of complaining when they do not like what is happening to them.
This is what analytics firms do when they deploy algorithms to sort, classify and predict who we are and how we might behave, all without our awareness . I'm reminded of this thread on #WeAreData
A social system that forbids and even principally excludes complaint and protest is not a social system. It is a tyranny. #Maturana
The feeling of love is not grasped or described by the reference to hormones and neurotransmitters. Any such attempts are reductionist. #Maturana
End of chapter part 1, chapter 7. #Maturana

More next weekend (hopefully! Reading #Maturana really is exhausting)
Part II: Application of a Theory. Psychotherapy #Maturana
Human beings cannot be controlled in a linear way…. All those who claim to know the universally valid procedure for freeing people from pain and suffering will no doubt feel irritated by my views. #Maturana
Nobody is capable of determining precisely what is going on in another person, & nobody is able to carry out instructive intervention on a structure-determined system-a human being-& to determine w exacting precision how that system will behave when confronted w a certain insight
The intentions and theories of human change that therapists may possess have no predictive quality because their considerations and wishes cannot be directly implemented in the domain of an individual client’s human relation and lead to specific results. #Maturana
When is there love? Whenever we see a person behaving in a relational manner through which another being or him - or herself arises as a legitimate other in coexistence with him-or herself, we say that we see loving behavior in that person. #Maturana
A glimpse into #Maturana as a person
Systemic understanding [as far as psychotherapy is concerned] will always be necessary because every action is embedded in a dynamics of relations. #Maturana
To those who have chosen the path of objectivity in parenthesis, pathology is not a feature of a world existing independent from an observer; an illness appears as a condition that observers - according to their inclination - may consider undesirable. #Maturana
To be normal & healthy means that one does not make any effort in the stream of life to change one’s situation with external assistance. There's no pathology as such, there's no problems as such, & there is no illness that is independent of an observer’s desires & predilections.
Part II: Application of a Theory. Education
If you want to teach autonomy and reflection, you cannot use force as a method but must create an open space for communal reflection and action. There must be no contradiction between goals and means. #Maturana
Teachers do not simply transmit some content; they acquaint their pupils with a way of living. In the process, the rules of arithmetic, the laws of physics, or the grammar of language will be acquired. My claim is: Pupils learn teachers. #Maturana
A mistake is a statement made in a particular domain of reality, which is heard and evaluated in the context of another. #Maturana
Poerksen: Are there not perceptions that are patently illusory? What if I said to you: “Professor Maturana, look outside, there is a unicorn at the window observing us."

Any human being can learn what any other human being has learned, if he or she only wants to. #Maturana
What intelligence tests elicit and diagnose is the degree of inclusion in a culture. It is, as I claim, the emotions that determine whether and to what extent we are able to exploit our capabilities and our fundamental intelligence. #Maturana
Intelligence is not some specific activity but the general capacity to move in a changing world flexibly and with internal plasticity. #Maturana
#Maturana fails short of acknowledging invisible social and structural barriers that impact a person depending on their class, gender, race, sexuality, (dis)ability, etc, as he puts the onus on the individual person.
That's it for today. End of Par II. #Maturana

More tomorrow or next weekend, depending on how I feel. ;)
Okay, get ready for the last wave of #Maturana tweetstorm
Behaviour cannot be classified as good or bad in itself, we must pay attention to the web of relations in which it is embedded and autonomously chose our mode of action. #Maturana
#Maturana grew up in a poor but matristic family
Formalism should only be implemented only when complete understanding has been achieved of what the problem is and what is actually happening. If you use formalism, you express your momentary understanding - and abstract from it. #Maturana
Premature formalism may deprive one of comprehensive understanding and block one’s thinking. #Maturana
The circular process of knowing and living
The perfect model of academia - in an ideal world

Whatever is said can under no condition be separated from the human being saying it. There is no division between the speaker and what is spoken. The observer is necessarily the origin and source of everything. #Maturana
The harder you try to convince people, the less trustworthy you become
Current paradigm of normal science is undoubtedly that of realism:the majority of the scientific community still believes in an observer-independent world whose essential features we are able to discover step by step. Such a paradigm often has the shape & hardness of a paradogma.
Poerksen: how would you describe yourself?

P: your ideas correspond w those of Kant, who focuses on the transcendental subject, & shows that all perception is unavoidably structured & that the absolute, the thing-in-itself, is unknowable. You describe the observer-independence of all knowledge. Conclusions are similar.
Naturally, many scientists believe that they are neutral and objective and have nothing to do with the object of their research. I do not share this view. #Maturana
Science is not a domain of objective knowledge but a domain of subject-dependent knowledge, defined and determined by a methodology, which lays down the properties of the knower. #Maturana
Pure science does not speak to us; scientists speak to us, who bear the responsibility for their pronouncements. #Maturana
Scientists do not describe an objectively given world, a transcendental reality. They can grasp only what they are able to distinguish & investigate. They describe what they hold to be relevant, what they want to observe, show, and prove experimentally in certain ways. #Maturana
Scientists who are aware that whatever is said is said by them, also know that their research is bound to have consequences for other people. They must therefore, make clear the connections between their work and the ethics of the world they live in. #Maturana
97% of all illness is caused by a lack of love 💕
Ethics is a consequence of love; it occurs in language because only language enables us to reflect our chosen course of action. #Maturana
Biology does not tell us what we must do, and as a biologist and therefore as a scientist I cannot tell anyone what to do - that would be a misunderstanding. #Maturana
In nature, nothing is good or bad. Things simply are. It is only in the human domain of the justification and rejection of a certain kind of behaviour - i.e. when our particular preferences are at stake - that evaluations and distinctions such as good or bad arise. #Maturana
Act always in such a way as to create or preserve love. #Maturana
We bring forth the world we live by living it. #Maturana
The End!

From Being to Doing: The Origins of the Biology of Cognition
Humberto #Maturana/Bernhard Poerksen
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