Maturana - Epistimology LO12909

Richard Karash (
Sun, 16 Mar 1997 20:13:35 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO12908 --

On Sun, 16 Mar 1997, John Paul Fullerton wrote:

> Rick shared from the Maturana conference.
> Maturana says
> > Perception is not taking in data from the environment
> Perception involves taking in data from the environment. What we "see" is
> a combination of at least 1. data received from the environment, 2.
> fundamental brain processing, 3. developed processes in the brain, as well
> as 4. the established thoughts we have about what is taking place.

Maturana is very clear in his statement... He really means it. I am
enjoying turning this over in my mind to see what it might mean.

On your points 3 & 4, I understand you are saying that what we see
depends on what we have been thinking. On this, Maturana says there
is very clear biological evidence in support of this, and a mechanism by
which it happens is pretty well understood.

> > *THE* question... How do we do what we do? We live and observe. How
> > do we do this?
> >
> > I invite you to accept this question and consider it. To not
> > consider the question is to make the assumption that there is an
> > objective reality independent of the actions of the observer and
> > to assume that we can know that objective reality. To rely on
> > "reality" as an explaining principle. This view is fundamentally
> > flawed. I say this not as a philosopher, but as a biologist, based
> > on findings about human perception.
> How do we live and observe? Decent philosophical or scientific question, I
> guess. To consider the question, one does not have to assume or accept
> that there is no objective reality. To say that there is no objective
> reality, is to make an apparently objective statement about what is real,
> and that's not fair.

This is a very subtle point... Is there a reality? Maturana says no.
What's subtle is exactly what he means by this. The point is one that I
have trouble with, and the people attending the seminar had trouble with
it as well.

I asked him about this at lunch. He said, "Whatever it might be, we can't
talk about it." That is, I think, we cannot make statements about what it
is like to observe reality.

I probed further, pointing to a plate on the table, "In what domain does
this plate exist?"

He replied, "The plate exists in the domain of human interactions."

More about the observer: A critical point for Maturana is... If we think
we can explain things, we should use the same approach to explaining what
is an observer and what is observing. I believe his point is that based
on scientific explanations in biology, if we include the notion of
reality, then we'll have impossible contradications when we try to
explain observing.

> > QUESTION: One of the hardest things for me to explain is the
> > notion of boundary in an autopoietic entity, yet it seems very
> > important in Maturana's view. When I try to explain it, my friends
> > say, "I don't think there are boundaries, everything is connected
> > to everything else, it's all one very expansive network of
> > relationships, why think of a boundary?" What is the importance of
> > the boundary? What is it's significance to the way we act in the
> > world in everyday life?
> Skipping the idea of an autopoietic entity, and just considering the kind
> of entity that I know about, one that doesn't conceive itself, for
> instance, every temporal thing has a boundary. How could boundaries not
> matter? Without boundaries we can't identify things and things have no
> identity. Without boundaries there may be no quick accounting for morality
> or bad and good treatment.

Well, I find it easy in conversations to have trouble finding the
boundaries on an organization, for example. If we consider a business
organization as a system and ask how far it extends, we might include
suppliers, the surrounding community, the schools which educate people
for the org, etc. Maturana is saying that living beings have very clearly
defined boundaries and that this clarity of boundary sets living beings
apart from things that aren't living.

I've snipped several of John's points, only because I don't have any
responses to them.

-- Rick

      Richard Karash ("Rick")    |  <>
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