Are living beings extended autopoietic systems? An embodied reply

Complexity Digest

Mario Villalobos, Pablo Razeto-Barry

Adaptive Behavior Vol 28, Issue 1, 2020


Building on the original formulation of the autopoietic theory (AT), extended enactivism argues that living beings are autopoietic systems that extend beyond the spatial boundaries of the organism. In this article, we argue that extended enactivism, despite having some basis in AT’s original formulation, mistakes AT’s definition of living beings as autopoietic entities. We offer, as a reply to this interpretation, a more embodied reformulation of autopoiesis, which we think is necessary to counterbalance the (excessively) disembodied spirit of AT’s original formulation. The article aims to clarify and correct what we take to be a misinterpretation of AT as a research program. AT, contrary to what some enactivists seem to believe, did not (and does not) intend to motivate an extended conception of living beings. AT’s primary purpose, we argue, was (and is) to provide a universal individuation criterion…

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