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Autopoiesis and knowing: Reflections on Maturana's Biogenic Explanation of Cognition

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Maturana advanced the first systematic explanation of cognition based solely on biological principles since Aristotle. This was a risky strategy to adopt, given the intellectual currents of his time. Had it been more influential, the autopoietic theory of cognition might well have brought us much sooner to the trends currently at the forefront of the cognitive sciences, including dynamical systems, embodied and situated cognition, the emphasis on action and interaction, and other biologically based challenges to the computational paradigm, which Maturana opposed. I argue that the autopoietic theory of cognition was premature for several reasons. While it could be said that developments in the cognitive sciences have overtaken it, I believe Maturana's theory, which he developed with Varela and others, still has much to offer contemporary theorists, despite its limitations.
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Keywords: Cognition; agency; anthropogenic approach; autopoiesis; biogenic approach; computationalism; prematurity in; scientific discoveryembodied cognition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Australian National University and the University of Adelaide ., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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