Humberto Maturana & Francisco Varela:

THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE (Shambhala, 1992)

(Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
A popular introduction to Maturana's biology of cognition, centered around the concept that action and cognition cannot be separated: "all doing is knowing and all knowing is doing". A living organism is defined by the fact that its organization makes it continually self-producing (autopoietic), i.e. not only autonomous but also self-referring ("the being and doing of an autopoietic system are inseparable"). Life's origins is not a mystery: at some point of its history the Earth presented conditions that made the formation of autopoietic systems almost inevitable. The whole process of life depends not on the components of a living organism, but on its organization. Autopoiesis is about organization, not about the nature of the components.
Basic concepts are defined: replication as a process that generates unities of the same class, copy as a process that generates an identical unity, reproduction as a process that generates two unities of the same class, ontogeny as the history of structural change in a unity that preserves its organization. Since ontogeny always happens in an environment, the organism has to use the environment as a medium to realize its autopoiesis. There occurs a "structural coupling" between a unity and its environment.
Evolution is a natural drift, a consequence of the conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation. There is no need for an external guiding force to direct evolution. All is needed is conservation of identity and capacity for reproduction.
The nervous system enables the living organism to expand the set of possible internal states ant to expand the possible ways of structural coupling.
When two or more living organisms interact recurrently, they generate a social coupling. Language emerges from such social coupling. Language is a necessary condition for self-consciousness. Consciousness therefore belongs to the realm of social coupling.

TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi