About Humberto Maturana

 

Image from blog “Kelton Medeiros

A little biography of Prof. Humberto Maturana.

 

Some annotations and comments from “CHAPTER 3 – THE KNOWLEDGE OF KNOWLEDGE ENTAILS RESPONSIBILITY” – of the book “The Certainty of Uncertainty – Bernard Poerksen”

  • our culture does not respect difference but only tolerates them.
    • So, tolerance is the problem?
  • A conversation depends on respect, if people doesn’t respect each other but demand subservience, then their differing views will engender motives for negation.
    • A conversation demands respect.
  • Poerksen: Three kinds of truth: through convention (consensus theory of truth), the result of some experience of immediate evidence (evidence theory of truth), correspondence between theory and reality (correspondence theory of truth).
    • For Maturana, truth and reality is a proposal of explanation by an observer that is telling about his experiences. His questions about this subjects touches the way observer is included in the experience: how can experience be explained? how do i operate as an observer?
  • “When we say that we are absolutely sure of something, we mean that we are no longer forced to reflect, to ask questions, and to entertain doubts”.
  • “Observers observe, see something, affirm or deny its existence, and do whatever they do. Without the observer, there is nothing. The observer is the foundation of all knowledge, of any assumption involving the human self, the world and the cosmos”.
    • That leads me to think about the double-slit experiment, where light can behave as particle or wave, depending on the observer.  But how can a observer not be present, since without the observer that is nothing? If the observer is the same as the designer that configure the experiment, he is, somehow, always present.
    • “What exists independently from this observer is necessarily and inevitably a matter of belief and not of secure knowledge because to see something always requires someone who sees it”.
  • Who is the observer? “Human being – being who live in language” What do observers do? They “use distinction in order to distinguish something. They are aware of seeing and perceiving something. Somebody who is simply looking out of the window I would not consider an observer”. “The ability to observer is tied to the possibility of self-reflection”.
  • “I do not myself work with this classic distinction between observers and observed but I show how that which is distinguished is connected with the persons performing the distinction, and to what extent observers are involved in the distinctions they actually perform”.
  • “… it is not understanding that entails responsibility but the knowledge of knowledge”.
  • Why not use participator or sharer rather than observer? “…the notion of participation already contains an explanation and a ready-made answer, the only admissible question left would then concern the specific manner in which the assumed participation is realized. Observing is an experience which also has to do with the apparently independent existance of things, and that has to be explained.”
  • objectivity without parentheses: takes for granted the observer-independent existance of objects; believes the possibility of an external validation of statements.
    • objectivity in parentheses: the emotional basis is the enjoyment of the company of other human beings. The distinction of objects is not the basis of explanations, it is the coherence of experiences with other experiences that constitutes the foundation of all explanation.  The observer becomes the origin of all realities.
  • aesthetic seduction is a concept that i had difficulties with. It’s not strictu sensu seduction, does not involves convincing ou pressure. Playacting is acceptable to generate the experiences that may produce and make manifest what is being talked about.
  • structural determinism: to believe that a system is somehow determined by it’s structure, everything that happens in it or to it its determined by its structure.
    • external agents can triggers certain effects but not determine them.
  • “Power arises through submission”.
  • When Chile was under a dictatorship, Maturana intended to leave the country but changed his mind. “If all democratically minded people left the country there would soon be no recollection of a democratic culture and of another, a better time.”
    • He says Heinz von Foerster survived the nazi regime because of his knowledge of systems. “The more specified a system is the easier it is to cheat”.
  • Freedom is the prerequisite of responsibility.
  • “Choice and decision does not at all contradict our structure-determinedness.” Its just a matter of perspective. To have a choice is an ability to observe and compare at least two different situations.
  • “In my view, being responsible simply means to be in a certain state of attention and mindfulness: one’s  activities match one’s desires in a reflected way, that is all”.
  • The concept of autopoiesis is not clear at all, but the author is against its indiscriminate uses. He believes the concept is valid when dealing with living systems.

 

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