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: http://www.myrkothum.com/finding-balance/ 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. http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/journal
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.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


"Mais si vraiement l'existence précède l'essence, l'homme est responsble de ce qu'il est. Ainsi, la première démarche de l'existentialisme est de mettre tout homme en possession de ce qu'il est et de faire reposer sur lui la responsabilité totale de son existence. Et, quand nous disons que l'homme est responsable de lui-même, nous ne voulons pas dire que l'home est responsable de sa stricte individualité, mais qu'il est responsable de tous les hommes."

Jean-Paul Sartre, L'Existentialisme est un Humanisme. Paris: Nagel, 1970, p. 24

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Ceccato 1970: Analisi operativa di "Responsabilità" e "Rischio"

"... Si provi ad aprire la mano sentendo prima la "responsabilità" e poi il "rischio" di quell'aprire. Pur senza condurre l'analisi sino alle complesse combinazioni di stati attenzionali, credo non possa sfuggire una fondamentale antitesi fra due gruppi di operazioni che costituiscono i due atteggiamenti.
    L'assunzione della responsabilità introduce un soggetto di due attività di cui l'aprire la mano diviene oggetto, e precisamente una attività di controllo e di eventuale intervento, cioè attività modificatrice; ed il soggetto dell'aprire la mano e questo del controllo e dell'intervento possono essere lo stesso soggetto o due soggetti diversi.
   Nell'assunzione del rischio, oggetto diviene la mano che si apre, l'aprir-si della mano, mentre all'assuntore dell'atteggiamento non rimane che l'attività d'osservazione, attività di natura costitutiva e quindi del tutto immodificatrice."

Ceccato, S. (1970) Cibernetica per tutti. Vol. 2. Milano: Feltrinelli, pp.84-85.