Snakes all the Way Down: Varela’s Calculus for Self-Reference and the Praxis of Paradise – André Reichel (2011)

 

https://www.andrereichel.de/resources/REI_2011_Snakes.pdf

(pdf)

 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/sres.1105

Research Paper

Snakes all the Way Down: Varela’s Calculus for Self-Reference and the
Praxis of Paradise

 

André Reichel*
European Center for Sustainability Research, Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany

This contribution seeks to commemorate Francisco Varela’s formal conceptions of self-reference, providing an overview of his writings while shedding some light in the praxis of self-reference, from where a future research agenda can be derived. The architecture of Varela’s thinking, determined by the interrelated notions of autopoiesis, autonomy, closure and self-reference, was examined. The emphasis was on the development and expansions of his calculus for self-reference from George Spencer Brown’s Laws of Form. After dealing with some of the criticism launched at both works, an appraisal of the praxis of self-reference of Varela’s thinking in action was given. The outlook rounds up this contribution, shedding some light on a possible future research agenda for the formalization of theory and praxis of self-reference.

 

Keywords Francisco Varela; self-reference; Laws of Form; closure; autonomy

 

“If everybody would agree that their current
reality is a reality, and that what we essentially
share is our capacity for constructing a reality,
then perhaps we could agree on a metaagreement for computing a reality that would
mean survival and dignity for everybody on
the planet, rather than each group being sold
on a particular way of doing things. Thus,
self-reference is, for me, the nerve of this logic
of paradise . . .”

(Varela, 1976: 31)