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Dear Russell,

Actually, there is no clear boundary between the brain and the rest of the nervous system. It is not like a mainframe CPU in a box with cables running under the floor to the peripheral devices, as used to be imagined.

In fact, the assumption that all mentation takes place in the brain is just that - an assumption for which there is no clear evidence.

It is fascinating that no pre-modern society considered the brain to be an important organ. Aristotle thought of it as a kind of radiator to keep the blood cool and assumed the heart was the important organ.

The Egyptians removed the brain using a hook up a nostril and discarded it in the process of mummification, while keeping the heart in the corpse and the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver in Canopic jars, since these were assumed to be important enough to be needed in the afterlife. It seems that you don't need a brain to get along fine for eternity, but you do need a good heart!

On 19 Mar 2010, at 14:36, russell_c wrote:

> Roger, 
> 
> As I spent most of last year reading Maturana (mostly on the train) it is good to be able to use it.  
> 
> So I guess we could say that the nervous system is not crossing the road and posting a letter, rather it is doing its thing in the fog and keeping within viable limits of hot and cold, and away from 10 ton trucks etc. So it must be the observer who imparts meaning and willful purpose?
> 
> Question: Is the brain also part of Maturana's closed nervous system per se? It has no feeling if operated on I think? Is this because it is a terminus for the nervous system rather than part of it?
> 
> regards
> Russell
> 
> On Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 9:59 PM, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Russell, the quotations are relevant and insightful, and your personal example is good.
> 
> When doing my doctoral thesis I found the examples of acupuncture,  tai chi and homeopathy mapped closest on to my own understanding of VSM,
> 
> 
> Roger
> 
> On 19 Mar 2010, at 13:25, russell_c wrote:
> 
>> I believe Maturana was less than comfortable with his/their term "autopoiesis" being used to describe non-biological organisations except by way of metaphor. He applied it to living biological systems to explain their 'purpose'. 
>> 
>> It seems to me, in simple speak, the nervous system 'cares' about itself, and its internal chatter in the corridors of the labyrinth. Simply put, Matruana is saying that this is necessary for a working boundary to be established with the environment, and this 'closed organisation' focused on itself, is the way it is achieved. Close off some section of it (e.g. by drugs) and this remote segment is lost to the system's awareness. I note the feeling of the body is a dual effect -- feeling and being felt. Sleep on an arm so it goes 'dead' and then feel it with the other hand to experience a distinct difference -- i.e. of other!  And I note there is a condition where people have limbs amputated because they feel they do not belong to the body, and all report feeling better with it gone! It is a brain mapping issue I believe. 
>> 
>> In fact my chiropractor very effectively uses an acupuncture needle in the lower back ... in his own words, to stimulate the brain's model of its body -- thus reminding it to correct certain muscle tensions etc. I attest that is can go from virtually crawling in to walking out in about 15 minutes. (although it takes some days for total pain to subside). 
>> 
>> Please forgive me for just typing this in (below), but it is Friday evening here and these two other voices can add clarity I think to this difficult topic -- i.e. of what is involved, cybernetics wise, in "crossing the road and posting a letter". I had already typed it in any case, so will throw it in for those who do not have access to the book. 
>> 
>> Poerksen: Surely people who speak of the closure of a system can neglect the existence of an external world, can challenge and deny it.
>> 
>> Maturana: The assumption of closure has to do with the internal dynamics of a nervous system and refers to its mode of operation; it has nothing to do with the question whether there is  --  independently from the closure of the system -- an external world or whether we must consider reality an illusion. That is no longer the problem. Once we have accepted that there is no possibility of making testable claims about an observer-independent reality, the fundamental change in our epistemology has been completed. All forms of observation and explanation are now expressions of the system's operations with whose production we may now deal. A re-orientation has come about, a change from Being to Doing, a transformation of the classic philosophical questions.
>> 
>> Poerksen: The assumptions of closure of the nervous system and the external viewpoint of the observer imply, if I understand it correctly, the distinction of two perspectives of observation. On the one hand, observers describe external impingements upon a system and construct correlations between stimulus and response, input and output, cause and effect. On the other hand, the system operates -- independently of external influences -- in its own specific manner. 
>> 
>> Maturana: That is it. The phenomenal domain of physiology and internal system dynamics does not intersect with the domain of behaviour and observable movements in an environment. These domains cannot be reduced to each other, nor can the phenomena of one of the domains be derived from the other.  (pp. 62-63) 
>> 
>> He then goes on to give the example of pilots landing a plane in fog by instruments alone -- 
>> 
>> They have no immediate access to the external world nor do they need it, they act on the basis of measurement values and indicators, employing their instruments when the values change or particular combinations of values emerge. They establish sensorimotor correlations in order to keep the relevant values within specified limits. (p.63) 
>> 
>> Poerksen then argues that there must be an exchange of "matter and energy" with the environment.
>> 
>> Poerkens: What does it mean, then, to conceive of the nervous system as a closed system? It cannot be totally shut off against the environment because it is dependent on the exchange of matter and energy . . . 
>> 
>> Maturana:  Now you are arguing like a physicist in the context of thermodynamics. Naturally, the nervous system of an organism must be open for the flow of energy and matter -- that is more than obvious. The cells would die otherwise. Closure is not a physical concept but characterises the self-referential working of an internal dynamics. The processes recurring in a particular domain remain in this domain; we are dealing with the operations of a system that determine its boundaries and make it a determinate entity. Therefore, by closure of the nervous system I mean that its states of activity always lead to other states of activity and are triggered by states of activity; and that all these diverse states of activity remain within the network of neuronal elements. (pp. 65-66)
>> 
>> regards
>> Russell
>> 
>> On Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 8:59 PM, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Stefan, you've lost me. Maturana certainly does impose 'hard definitions', but I'm not sure that they are the ones you refer to.
>> 
>> All Maturana says is that the observer (and hence all knowledge and scientific findings) is constrained by the biological fabric, and that in this sense, the queen of sciences should be biology not physics. That seems eminently sensible to me.
>> 
>> Roger
>> 
>> On 19 Mar 2010, at 12:15, Stefan Wasilewski wrote:
>> 
>>> Point taken Roger
>>> 
>>> Having studied the thermodynamics of systems I do not differentiate amongst the world apart from those soft boundaries needed to define systems that 'seem' self-referential. I just cannot accept the hard definitions Maturana etc impose as I see the Universe as a complex dynamic system with multi-leveled nested boundaries within which certain functional closure maintains its existence for a given amount of time.
>>> 
>>> This discussion is one to run and run.
>>> 
>>> On 19 Mar 2010, at 11:53, Roger Harnden wrote:
>>> 
>>>> To get back to a point mentioned initially by Stefan:
>>>> 
>>>> "From my point of view it's wrong as no system can be isolated from its context, autopoietic systems just becomes aware that 'it is' and what it needs to stay that way. This firmly says it must be embedded within a system and communicate whether the information is data, atoms or both."
>>>> 
>>>> Stefan, no-one is saying anything about the system being isolated. There is a semantic confusion here between 'closed system' (in the thermodynamic sense) and 'organisational closure' (in the Matrunana and Varela sense. The first is closed to any sort of inputs including disturbances. The second depends on disturbances in the course of its 'natural flow' in a niche'. These disturbances are determined by its structure  (via structural coupling), but are a never-ending dynamic of process and exchange (for instance, metabolism). It is just that the organisation is strivingto remain within its boundaries conditions as the structural components shift and change. The 'niche, in turn, is part of an environment.
>>>> 
>>>> Roger
>>>> On 19 Mar 2010, at 11:34, Roger Harnden wrote:
>>>> 
>>>>> Sorry, I meant add an important point.
>>>>> 
>>>>> IN terms of structural coupling and organisational closure, there are no 'instructive' interactions as far as the brain is concerned (this does not of course say that this is the same for the mind. We are talking biologically about the brain). And this bears on the initial point triggered by RogerD on information. The dynamics of the brain can be 'triggered' or 'disturbed' but not 'instructed'. There is no one-to-one correspondence between anything outside the nervous system and anything inside it. Inside there are no singularities. 
>>>>> 
>>>>> It's exactly the same as the mechanism described by William Powers in his control theory.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Information is then something inferred, and anaguage is implicative connotative NOT denotative. It is from the consequences of our our behaviours that we connote denotation (Powers).
>>>>> 
>>>>> Roger
>>>>> On 19 Mar 2010, at 11:22, Roger Harnden wrote:
>>>>> 
>>>>>> Yes - this is a fascinating example of the connection (or clash) of two paradigms.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> The biology of cognition (Maturana's work as developed from the discoveries as to brain dynamics of Warren McCulloch and on human behaviour and social interaction of Gregory Bateson), focused ion the question of HOW an otherwise organisationally closed system (such as - in physiological terms - is the brain) enables all the higher functions and behavioural variety of life, to take place.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> In other words, it starts from the insight into brain dynamics and organisational closure, rather than from the study of external or behavioural factors. And, given such a premise, one has to explain how the organism in which the brain is embodied functions effectively, and how all higher functions emerge. To answer this, Maturana and Varela developed the notion of 'structural coupling', in terms of which the internal dynamics of the nervous system striving towards its own internal coherences becomes critical, rather than any notion that effective action emerges from accurate representation of external happenings. Such people as Maturana and the whole thrust of the move towards artificial life given the relative failures of AI, confirm the limitations of the paradigm of representation. in generating meaning.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>>  Roger
>>>>>> On 19 Mar 2010, at 10:59, russell_c wrote:
>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> I read it this way. 
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> Maturana claims the nervous system is closed -- i.e. Information does not pass through it from the outside in a processing cycle (input/output). Rather external events trigger changes in the nervous system. We experience these nervous system events which are nudged (that is my term) by outside forces. Our experience is therefore not 1st hand direct of the real external world but rather derived from our nervous system's reaction to these stimulus events.   
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> He suggests a new epistemology is required -- i.e. as per the function of 2nd order cybernetics mentioned in the paper by Tom Froese (2010) mentioned recently by Roger H. (there being two Rogers!) I believe it involves an "epistemological shift" that he credits Ashby with initiating (p. 79) . 
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> I take this to imply the observer is not a theoretical mental construct or trick of the mind, but rather an actual living experiential fact related to the effects of the external world on our nervous system. 
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> Leprosy removes the nervous system's effects on us as observers, as does anesthetic at the dentist: so can hypnotism. 
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> [in referring to light falling on the retina] The external world can only trigger such changes in the nervous system of an organism as are determined by the structure of the nervous system itself. The consequence is that there is no possible way, in principle, for the external world to communicate itself in its primordial, true form to the nervous system. . . . 
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> [in abandoning the information processing model] Our approach changes completely. We no longer accept descriptions of the nervous system as a system that computes representations of an external world and processes information coming in from outside, which then results in adequate behaviour and appropriate reactions of the organism. The nervous system now appears as a structure-determined system with its own specific mode of operation. Any change in it is only triggered but neither determined nor specified exclusively by the features and properties of the external world. It computes nothing but its own transformations from state to state. People who accept this insight must draw a strict conceptual distinction between the operations taking place inside the nervous system and all the processes occurring outside it. They must also be quite clear about the fact that there is no inside and no outside for the nervous system but only a perpetual dance of internal correlations in a closed network of interacting elements; inside and outside exist for the observer but not for the system itself. (Maturana in From Being to Doing, Poerksen 2004, pp. 61-62)
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> My daily train ride to the 'hamster wheel' involves studying the inter-carriage movements around bends etc and imagining that these are segments of the nervous system (that I as the observer am inside of) and that all information being experienced by the macro observer (customer) of the nervous system (i.e. not me as a nano-me in this case) is in fact the result of the continual changes in the segments on a full 360 degree circle -- and all these information corresponding to macro states and positions and memories etc. I can get six carriages on an "S" bend in view (max number of carriages) -- the nervous system must have zillions of these positional references linked to what we call observer awareness. That's my simple daily meditation take on it -- happy to be corrected. 
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> Hope this helps.
>>>>>>> Russell
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> On Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 6:32 PM, Stefan Wasilewski <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>>>>> Dear Luc
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> I think Trevor (and myself) would be thinking of that closed system that is us because for a system to be autpoietic according to your definition it would have to be inert from our perspective.
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> Stefan
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> On 19 Mar 2010, at 09:48, Luc Hoebeke wrote:
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> Dear Trevor and Stefan,
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> The number of disturbances which impinge on you during this trip to the mail-box is infinite and not to be processed. Only what your constructed perseptions select to be meaningful in that trajectory, only to what you yourself makes sense of, gives meaning to, thanks to how your distributed brain functions have worked out until now enables you to post the letter in the box. Imagine that you give this assignment to someone who never has experienced traffic and mailboxes: what risk he would take. Because most of the disturbances impinging on his senses would be meaningless.
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> Kind regards,
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> Luc
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> Op 19-mrt-10, om 10:22 heeft Trevor E Hilder het volgende geschreven:
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>> Dear Stefan,
>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>> I share your puzzlement. I am about to step outside my house, walk about 50 metres down my road and cross a busy road to post a letter. I can't understand how I could survive this experience if there is no information exchange with my environment!
>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>> On 18 Mar 2010, at 21:23, Stefan Wasilewski wrote:
>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>> I don't see it that way and whether I'm short on concepts, miss the point or maybe right I'll keep searching for an answer to your comments below and why they jar me so.
>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>> Perhaps I'll write down my thoughts and post them here for criticism.
>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>> On 18 Mar 2010, at 21:01, Luc Hoebeke wrote:
>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>> Maturana firmly states: no information exchange. The concept of autopoiesis sees the autonomous system as being alive in a world of disturbances or noise. The system itself selects and gives meaning to this noise. Some years ago I gave a talk at Lancaster University elaborating on the concept of information as a surrogate of meaning. Hayles has well documented the struggle in the Macey conferences about the introduction or the rejection of the concept of meaning. Atlast, meaning was not quantifiable, and information could be put in the Shannon Weaver formula. They said that they did not know what they were measuring, but as it was measurable it could be useful. A bit like IQ.
>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>> Think about a fish swimming in data and only making sense of what corresponds to what is meaningful for it. No information streams, only data. Second order cybernetics can do without the concept of information.
>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>> Kind regards,
>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>> Luc
>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>> Op 18-mrt-10, om 20:42 heeft Stefan Wasilewski het volgende geschreven:
>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>>> Without reading the book I can't, but maybe she's got something wrong or else in her mind.
>>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>>> From my point of view it's wrong as no system can be isolated from its context, autopoietic systems just becomes aware that 'it is' and what it needs to stay that way. This firmly says it must be embedded within a system and communicate whether the information is data, atoms or both.
>>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>>> any help?
>>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>>> On 18 Mar 2010, at 10:56, Roger Duck wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>>>> I am puzzling over the following from Katherine Hayles’ book (How we Became Posthuman):
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>> P10: “In a sense, autopoiesis turns the cybernetic paradigm inside out. Its central premise – that systems are informationally closed – radically alters the idea of the informational feedback loop, for the loop no longer functions to connect a system to its environment. In the autopoietic view, no information crosses the boundary separating the system from its environment.”
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Again: “no information crosses the boundary separating the system from its environment.” This is a strong statement! Is it consistent with the VSM view? I tend to think of the loops between S1 and the environment, and even more so between S4 and the environment, as dealing with “finding things out about what is going on out there”. And Stafford’s second and third principles of organisation mention “channels carrying information”.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Anyone want to help me though this conceptual jungle?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Roger D
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Roger Duck
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Mapsar Ltd
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Founding associate of the Unlike Minds capability network
>>>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Mob:        +44 (0)7711 346 908
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Skype:      roger.duck 
>>>>>>>>>>>>> E-mail:    [log in to unmask]
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Unlike Minds Ltd is registered in England and Wales under registration number 06528775.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> The registered office address is Plodwell Farm, Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 5TU
>>>>>>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>>>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html Archive of CYBCOM eList available at -http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>>>>>>>> 
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>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>> -- 
>>>>>>>>> Regards,
>>>>>>>>>  Trevor                            [log in to unmask]
>>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>>>>>> 
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>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>>>> 
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>>>>> 
>>>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to: www.platformforchange.org METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>>> 
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>>> 
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>> 
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>> 
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> 
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> 
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-- 
Regards,
 Trevor                            [log in to unmask]


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