Maturana Seminar LO12961

John Farago (
Fri, 21 Mar 97 00:41 GMT0

Replying to LO12943 --

In-Reply-To: <v01530508af52e936bb47@[]>

Like Rick Karasch and Arthur Battram, I also attended Maturana's seminar
at the Open University in Milton Keynes in England last week. I was happy
to meet Rick again (we first met in London last year) and Arthur (we keep
going to the same events and share many interests, although we do not
always share the same views).

I consider myself very fortunate to have participated in the event. (A
treat for my 68th birthday). Maturana is very sprightly, energetic and
dynamic - a great performer as well as a great intellect. He is slim, not
tall, tousled hair, grey beard; looks very fit for his 69 years. He
moves swiftly and gracefully, almost dancing. His fairly heavy Spanish
accent takes some getting used to and could deceive one, but make no
mistake, his command of English is better than most native English
speakers (he studied and did research in England and USA before returning
to the University of Santiago) and he answers difficult questions with
grace and humour.

For an introduction to some of Maturana's ideas, and those of Varela and
the people at the Santa Fe Institute and other related concepts I can
recommend the recently published book: Fritjof Capra(1996):'The Web of
Life: a new synthesis of mind and matter.'

I am still reeling from the seminar experience and gradually trying to
take in statements like:

'We exist only in the present. The past and the future exist only in the
present.' (Think about that. If you are thinking about that you are doing
so in the present!)

I don't think that Rick quoted the opening paragraph of the leaflet that
Professor Ray Ison of the Open University produced to announce the


'It is sometimes hard to know what it is to be human. When we look at
people's perceived experiences of interacting with others, we begin to
question what it actually is to be human, and this can have significant
consequences for an understanding of social order social interaction and
the construction of the human social world.'

Maturana's biology has led him to consider the experience of living. He
asks not only 'how do we know what we know' (e.g what is involved in
'knowing' that 'the sky is blue') but 'How do we do what we do?'

>From there he constructs a dense (sometimes very difficult to follow and
accept) set of coherent propositions ('coherence' is a very important
concept in his thinking) about observations and observers, about language
and languaging about being human and the final proposition that it is love
as much as language that enables us to interact and co-operate in a
uniquely human way.

Th proposition that there is no such thing as objective reality is, of
course, not new. Anyone reading 'Sophie's World' will find that such
propositions go back to the Greek philosophers.

And George Kelly in the 1950s with his Personal Construct Psychology
showed us that each individual constructs her/his own model of the world
and that each experience forces us to confirm or adapt that model.

Nevertheless, Maturana's perspective on being, knowing and doing is as
unique now as was the proposition of Copernicus that the earth goes around
the sun.

Maturana does for biology and humanity what Copernicus did for astronomy
and Planck did for physics. He asks questions that others have never
asked before. The unique questions are as important as the 'answers'.
[An example: Maturana , his wife and young child - and a fly - go to the
Metropolitan Museum in New York and look at a painting by Rembrandt. The
fly lands on the painting and flies away again. Do they all see a painting
by Rembrandt?]

And yet, as Maturana points out, for our daily domestic life it is
convenient to forget the mechanics of the solar system and to go on
thinking of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west; and in our
daily life it is often convenient to act as if there is some form of
'reality' 'out there' beyond the confines of our individual living

The web of life has many strands and they interweave. Perhaps by picking
through my notes or responding to other contributors here to this thread I
can make some further contributions.

Greetings from Wimbledon John Farago

-- (John Farago)

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