Ultrastability … Autopoiesis? Reflective Response to Tom Froese and John Stewart – Maturana (2011)

Ultrastability … Autopoiesis? Reflective Response to Tom Froese and John Stewart Humberto Maturana Romesín Published 2011 Computer Science Cybern. Hum. Knowing

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Ultrastability … Autopoiesis? Reflective Response to Tom Froese and John Stewart

It is unfortunate that Tom Froese and John Stewart in their article have treated the thinking of Ross Ashby as a conceptual source for my work and the development of the notion of autopoiesis, because by doing so they have obscured their possibility of seeing what questions I am answering in my work. It is also unfortunate that they have assumed that I follow the path of cybernetics, which certainly is not the case. Cybernetics has been used in the attempt to formalize the circularity of biological processes, but one formalizes what one thinks about the processes that one wants to formalize and not the process that one believes to be formalizing. If one is not aware of this, one confuses the formalism proposed with the process that one intended to formalize, and this is what has happened with the notion of autopoiesis at least in the reflections about it. In this context it is unfortunate that in their scholarly effort the authors of this article, in their attempt to show that I do not satisfy what seems to be their deep feeling that living to occur requires the operation of some organizing principle, have been blind and deaf to what I say in my writings. At the same time I think that it is good that at the end of their article they recognize that Ashby’s notions about ultrastability are not adequate to understand what makes a living system a living discrete autonomous entity. When one speaks of the autonomy of living systems, one is saying that their operation as discrete living entities follows regularities determined by the manner they are made, and not by any external organizing factor. As such, autonomy is a feature of the operation of living systems as they continuously make themselves, and we find them autonomous when we begin to reflect about them. So what I say is that what makes living beings autonomous living discrete entities is their constitution and operation as molecular autopoietic systems. In these circumstances the autonomy of living systems needs not to be explained as such, although it is no doubt interesting to reflect on how the organisms transform as autonomous entities in the course of the ontogenic and phylogenic drift of the different organism-niche unities that they integrate.3 The authors of this article speak as if they thought that the notion of autopoiesis were something that existed out there in the world and about which one can have different opinions, although they do not say what they are talking about when they use

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