Saturday, 2 April 2016

How to strengthen your soul - My way

Responsibility for what we know is not always easy, requires, among other, a strong soul. The path depicted in this picture shows my current way of strengthening my soul, work in progress ...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Knowledge and Goodness

In short: it is GOODNESS that enables us to KNOW!

"I mean, do you think there's any advantage in owning everything in the world except good things, or in understanding everything else except goodness, and therefore failing to understand anything worthwhile and good?"

- Plato, Republic, Book VI, 505a (translated by Robin Waterfield, 1993)

"So the sun is not to be identified with sight, but is responsible for sight and is itself within the visible realm. Right?
"Yes" he said.
"The sun is the child of goodness I was talking about, then" I said. "It is a counterpart to its father, goodness. As goodness stands in the intelligible realm to intelligence and the things we know, so in the visible realm the sun stands to sight and the things we see."

- Plato, Republic, Book VI, 508 b (translated by Robin Waterfield, 1993)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The essence of the essence of constructivism

In one famous article dating from 1988 (German edition 1998), Maturana states that the problem of reality is “the most important problem of our time”. I fully agree with him and I think that realism needs to be expressively refuted and the choice between realism and constructivism cannot be considered “a matter of taste”, an attitude which in my view prevents to make progress in solving the problem of reality in a more viable way. 

In the constructivist thesis that “reality is the construction of an observer” and in the realist thesis that “reality exists independently”, the term reality is merely a homonym, means two different things! Hence the common attitude to mention them, as if they would mean the same, is very confusing!

For me as a constructivist, the reality that I construct is not a physical reality but a conceptual one. 

For a realist, on the contrary, the reality that he sees as existing independently is actually a combination of the two: physical reality as the “reference” and conceptual reality as its “copy” in his head. 

In constructivism we need to disentangle these two things, and here is where Maturana’s reflections about autopoiesis and cognition become essential. 

Consider for example his differentiation between two fundamental ways in which we, as humans, can understand explanations; he distinguishes two mutually exclusive explanatory paths: the path of ‘objectivity without parentheses’ and the path of ‘objectivity with parentheses’ (Maturana 1988:28ff)

On the explanatory path of objectivity without parentheses, the observer assumes either implicitly or explicitly that he is capable of making statements about the logic of things, as if the logic he accords to them would exist independently of him. He does not ask himself: “How can I say that the logic of this thing exists independently of me?” If someone makes the implicit assumption that he can reference things, as if the logic he accords to them exists independently of him, then he is also effectively stating that the explanations he applies can ultimately be validated by the things themselves, independently of him. This explanatory path therefore contains the implicit and unaware assumption that an individual can reference a logic which exists independently of him and which validates what he says. And what could that be? It is a logic of reality (the logic of being, the essence of things etc.) or in other words a universal truth. It is universal because it exists independently of us. It is valid for everything because it is independent from everything.
On the explanatory path of objectivity with parentheses, the observer notes something different, something very interesting: that his explanations are validated by his actions. The logic of his experience is explained by the logic of his other experiences and not by a reference to a logic which is independent of us. The observer sees himself as a source of validation for his own statements. This is the essence of the essence of constructivism!   And it is highly relevant for understanding our responsibility for what we know.


Maturana, H.R. & Varela, F. (1980) Autopoiesis: The Organization of the Living. Dordrecht: Reidel.
Maturana, H. R. (1988): REALITY: The Search for Objectivity or the Quest for a Compelling Argument. The Irish Journal of Psychology, Vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 25-82.
Maturana, H.R. (1998) Biologie der Realität, Frankfurt a/M: Suhrkamp
Maturana, H.R. (1992) Explanations and Reality. Transcript of a plenary talk at the Congress "Die Wirklichkeit des Konstruktivismus", Heidelberg, 18.10.1992

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Prinzip der Ethik nach K-O. Apel

„Wenn man zeigen kann, daß schon die logische Argumentation (und damit auch die Wissenschaft) als Bedingung ihrer Möglichkeit eine intersubjektiv gültige Ethik voraussetzt, dann ist man in der Lage, die szientischtische Blockierung der ethischen Rationalität in rational zwingender Form aufzuheben und ein für alle Argumentationswilligen unbestreitbares Prinzip der Ethik anzugeben.“

- Karl-Otto Apel: Diskurs und Verantwortung, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 1988, 36
Dieses Prinzip der Ethik sieht Apel in der wechselseitigen Anerkennung in einer idealen Kommunikationsgemeinschaft.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Universal responsibility

"I believe that to meet the challenge of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for his or her own self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources, and through concern for future generations, the proper care of the environment." The XIVth Dalai Lama,  more ...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Circular thought patterns: An autopoietic process model

This post has been inspired by reading what Zack wrote on November 17, 2012 as a comment to Myrko Thum's blog post here: I think that my model of how we generate knowledge and experience can shed some light on the conception of "circular thought patterns" mentioned by Zack.

Here is my model, in a version recently published (Bettoni & Eggs, 2010, section "The Logic of Experience", note: in the article the Figure 5 reproduced here has an error, corrected here below).
Circular organization of knowing in a feedback loop.
 First of all, in line with Piaget (1967) we suggest seeing a formative, organic principle at work in the generation of knowledge, too; secondly, as proposed by Freeman (2000: 9), we try to conceive of knowledge operands as “a kind of living structure” with constructive procedures or operational sequences organized according to an underlying organic principle. Finally, since the essence of a living system (organism) is autopoiesis, or in other words “self generation,” we suggest understanding knowing as an autopoietic process with its peculiar form of circular organization. Maturana, who developed the concept of autopoiesis, says: “The product of the functioning of the components is the same functioning organisation that produced them.” (Maturana 1980: 9).  In the domain of knowing, this requires that the interactions of the elements (= knowing) “bring forth elements of the same kind; that is crucial” (Maturana & Poerksen 2004: 107).

Accordingly, we conceive of knowledge as a result of cognitive processes in the dynamic form of a functional organization that extends or modifies the functional organization that produced it. In this conception, knowledge displays a “product/function duality” similar to the wave/particle duality in physics; as a product, the results of knowing can be used as building bricks of a knowledge edifice (a theory, an inquiry, a claim, a judgement, etc.); as a function, they become part of the same “knowing system” that produced them.

In Figure 5 the autopoietic process of knowing is represented as circular organization with two blocks (thinking and experience) connected by a feedback loop.

Thinking here has been distinguished into two sub-processes – perception and elaboration – with A (alteration) as input, P (percept) as an intermediate result and K (knowledge) as the final product.

For example, if we consider the knowing needed to knot a necktie in the morning, then A comes from the necktie, Perception and Conceptualization are relevant when learning to knot the tie and Elaboration is relevant when the knot is made without looking at, automatically.

The second block, Experience, where the final result K is fed back from Thinking, has been distinguished into three sub-systems: a system of attention (Ceccato 1964, Ceccato 1964/1966; Bettoni 2007), which on one side controls the constitutive part of Thinking (perception and conceptualization) through a Water Logic System, and on the other side also controls the regulative part of Thinking (elaboration) through a Rock Logic System. These three systems are the place where the knowledge, K, produced in thinking and fed back behaves as function and becomes part of the same “knowing system” that controlled its production.

Surprisingly, perception is far more important for knowledge than elaboration. But traditional thinking – according to Edward de Bono – is focused exclusively on elaboration and dislikes the vagueness, subjectivity and variability of perception. In our tradition, elaboration consists basically of the use of argument and reason with the goal of “falsification”: i.e., demonstrating the contradictions of a position or showing that something is false. Reality is proposed as the Universal Absolute that has to be used as the reference. “I am right – you are wrong” (de Bono 1992) condenses the essence of the “logic of elaboration” (rock logic, because, like a rock, it is permanent, hard, and has a definite shape).

Luckily perception has a different logic, the logic of pattern-building systems, but we ignore it. Why? Because we have never understood perception! Just as water fits in a bowl or bottle, the patterns that perception constructs are not right or wrong; they simply “fit” in the situations and circumstances that the person lives and experiences (water logic). Conceptualization (categorization) also works within the same “water logic”: this is the main reason why perception is more important for knowledge than elaboration. For example, this page can be conceived as a “part” (of the blog) or as a “whole” (in relation to the lines, words, etc. of this webpage), depending on what fits what the person lives, not depending on “Reality.” We, with our conceptual operations, can flexibly adapt our perception and conceptualization to “fit in the bowl.” This “operational” perspective is the pioneering contribution of Silvio Ceccato and his Italian Operational School (Glasersfeld 1995; Sowa 1983; Bettoni 2007).

Bettoni M. (2007) The Yerkish language – From operatio al methodology to chimpanzee
communication. In: Glanville R. & Riegler A. (eds.) The importance of being Ernst. edition echoraum, Vienna: 107–121.
Bettoni, M. & Eggs, C. (2010). "User-centred Knowledge Management: A Constructivist  and Socialized View". Constructivist Foundations, Vol. 5, number 3, 130-143.
Ceccato S. (1964) A model of the mind. Methodos 16: 3–78.
Ceccato S. (1964/1966) Un tecnico fra i filosofi. Vol. 1 & 2. Marsilio, Padova.
de Bono E. (1992) I am right – you are wrong: From this to the new renaissance – From rock logic to water logic. Penguin, London.
Freeman W. J. (2000) How brains make up their minds. Columbia University Press, New York.
Glasersfeld E. von (1995) Radical constructivism. A way of knowing and learning. Falmer Press, London.
Maturana H. R. (1980) Biology of cognition. In:Maturana H. R. & Varela F. J., Autopoiesis and cognition. Reidel, Dordrecht.
Maturana H. R. & Poerksen B. (2004) From being to doing. The origins of the biology of cognition. Carl-Auer Verlag, Heidelberg.
Sowa J. F. (1983) Conceptual structures : Information processing in mind and machine. Addison-Wesley, Reading MA

Monday, 29 October 2012

Verantwortung für Denken und Wissen

"... Man braucht in der Tat gar nicht sehr tief in das konstruktivistische Denken einzudringen, um sich darüber klar zu werden, dass diese Anschauung unweigerlich dazu führt, den denkenden Menschen und ihn allein für sein Denken, Wissen, und somit auch für sein Tun verantwortlich zu machen. Heute ... ist eine Lehre ungemütlich, die andeutet, dass wir die Welt, in der wir zu leben meinen, uns selbst zu verdanken haben." -
Ernst von Glasersfeld, (1981) Einführung in den radikalen Konstruktivismus. In: P. Watzlawick (ed.) Die erfundene Wirklichkeit. Munich, Germany: Piper, 16–38.