Maturana’s two questions

“What takes place in the phenomenon of perception?”
“What is the organization of the living?”

Maturana presented his ideas in searching these two questions in the fall of 1968:

“The nervous system operates as a closed network of interactions, in which every change of the interactive relations between certain components always results in a change of the interactive relations of the same or of other components.”

Maturana postulated that the nervous system is not only self-organizing but also continually self-referring, so that perception cannot be viewed as the representation of a external reality but must be understood as the continual creation of new relationships within the neural network: “The activities of nerve cells do not reflect an environment independent of the living organism and hence do not allow for the construction of an absolutely existing external world.”

He then took the radical step of postulating that the process of circular organization itself – with or without a nervous system – is identical to the process of cognition:” Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organisms, with and without a nervous system.”

“Living systems are organized in a closed causal circular process that allows for evolutionary change in the the way the circlarity is maintained, but not for the loss of the circularity itself.”