Humberto Maturana
Autopoiesis,Structural Coupling and Cognition
Cybernetics & Human Knowing
vol.9, no 3-4, 2002
pg 27


Language
As I found myself facing the matter of cognition I became aware that I had to consider language as a biological phenomenon that took place in the living and through the living of the organism, and that any attempt to understand language through philosophical reflections would be inadequate because such reflections had no way of taking into consideration the way living systems operate as structure determined systems.

We human beings exist as observers in language as we operate in the domain of structural coupling to which we belong.

That is, we human beings exist in structural coupling with other living and not living entities that compose the biosphere in the dimensions in which we are components of the biosphere, and we operate in language as our manner of being, as we live in the present, in the flow of our interactions, in our domains of structural coupling.

Living in language, doing all the things that we do in language, however abstract they may seem, does not violate our structural determinism in general, nor our condition as structure determined systems.

As I observed our behaviour and the behaviour of other animals, I realised that the central aspect of languaging was the flow in living together in recursive coordinations of behaviours or doings, and that notions of communication and symbolisation are secondary to actually existing in language.

I say this in a synthetic manner: language is a manner of living together in a flow of coordinations of coordinations of consensual behaviours that arises in the history of living in the collaboration of doing things together.

We human beings exist and operate as human beings as we operate in language: languaging is our manner of living as human beings.


Language occurs in the actual flow of coordinations of coordinations of behaviours, not in any particular gesture, sound or attitude taken outside of that flow. It is like the movement seen in a film that exists as such only as long as the film runs.

We human beings language while operating in the domain of structural coupling in which we coexist as languaging beings with other languaging beings.

As we language, objects arise as aspects of our languaging with others, they do not exist by themselves. That is, objects arise in language as operations of coordinations of coordinations of doings that stand as coordinations of doings about which we recursively coordinate our doings as languaging beings. I shall call the domain of objects that arises in our coordination of coordinations of behaviour a domain of shared objects or entities.

In other words, objects and any entity that arises in languaging pertains to a domain of inter-objectivity that we live with other languaging beings with whom we generate (we language) the objects and other entities that constitute that domain.

It follows that we human can generate and, therefore, exist as languaging beings in as many different domains of objects (or domains of different kinds of entities) as domains of coordinations of coordinations of behaviour we can generate in our living in structural coupling in the biosphere, and through this, in the cosmos.

Accordingly, we human beings can in fact live with each other in as many domains of shared entities, or domains of inter-objectivity, as there are dimensions of structural coupling in which we can live. Living in languaging is living a domain of shared objects in inter-objectivity.

Conversations
In the course of the expansion of our understanding of our operation as structure determined autopoietic systems it also becomes apparent that as we human beings exist in language, we exist in emotions as well. When we distinguish emotions we distinguish different domains of relational behaviours that at every moment constitute the relational fundament on which we human beings do all that we do as languaging beings. In fact we human beings exist in the continuous interlacing of our coordinations of coordinations of doings and emotions in what I call conversations.

All that we do we do in a network of conversations.
Different networks of conversations constitute different domains of existence or domains of reality in which different kinds of entities exist - brought forth by the recursive coordinations of coordinations of doings that constitute them.

So, the understanding of language brings forth the understanding of existence. Existence is a word that connotes that about which an observer can talk, so that about which an observer cannot talk does not exist. Given this, the observer can only talk about that which arises within the network of conversations in which he or she distinguishes it in his operation in language.

Humberto Maturana
Language

 

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