Autopiesis

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AUI’OPOIESIS: THE ORGANIZATION OF LIVING SYSTEMS, ITS CHARACTERIZATION AND A P4OODEL

1. Introduction Notwithstanding their diversity, all living systems must share a common organization which we implicitly recognize by calling them “livi$. At present there ir no formulation of this organization, mainly because the great developments of molecular, genetic and evolutionary notions incontemporary biology have led to the overemphasis of isolated components, e.g. to consider reproduction as a necessary feature of the living organization and, hence. not to ask about the organization which makes a Living system a whole, autoncmous unity that is alive regardless of whether it reproduces or not. As a result, processes that are history depondenl (evolution, ontogenesis) and histow independent(individual organization) have been confused in the attempt to provide a single mmzchanistic explanation for phenomena which, although related, are fundamentally distinct. We assert that reproduction and evolution are not constitutive features of the living oIganization and that the properties of a unity

cannot be accounted for only through accounting for the properties of its components. Incontrast, we claim ihat the living organization can only be characterized unambiguously by specifying the network of interactions of components which constitute a living syst:m IIS a whole, that is, as a “unity”. We also claim that all biological phenomenology, including reproduction and evolution, is secondary to the establishment of this unitary organization. Thus, instead of asking “What are thenecessary properties of the components that make a living system possible?” we ask “What is the necessary and sufficient organization for a given system to be a living unity?” In other words, instead of asking what makes a living system reproduce, we ask what is the orgat;r zation reproduced when a tiving system gives origin to snother living unity? In what follow; we shall specify thisorganization.

2. Organization Every unity can he treated either as an un-

analyzable whole endowed with constitutiue properties which define it as a unity, or else as a complex system that is realized as a unity through its components and their mutual relations. If the latter is the case, a complex system is defined as a unity by the relations tetween its components which realize the system as awhole, and its properties as a unity are detertubed by the way this unity is defined, and not by particular properties of its components. It is these relations which defiie a complex system as a unity and constitute its organization. Accordingly, the same organization may be realized in different systems with different kinds of components as long as these components have the properties vhich realizethe required relations. It is obvious that with respect to their organization such systems are members of the same clas,, even though with respect to the nature of 1heir components they may be distinct.

unity by a network of productions of compsnents which (i) participate recursvely in the same network of productions of components which produced these components, and (ii) realize the network ofproductions as a unity in the space in which the components exist. Consider for example the case of a cell: it is a network of chemical reactions which produce molecules such that (i) through their interactions generate and participate recursively in the same network of reactions which pro duced them, and (ii) realize the cell as a material unity. Thus the cell as a physical unity, topographicallyand operationally separable from the background, remains as such only insofar as this organization is continuously realized under permanent turnover of matter, regardless of its changes in form and speciticity of its constitutive chemical reactions.

4. Autopoiesis and Allopoiesia 3. Autopoietic Organization It is apparent that we may define classes of systems (classes of unities) whose...
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