Volume 3 · Number 1 · Pages 21–26
Systemic versus Genetic Determination

Humberto R. Maturana

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Purpose: Reflecting on the propensity of our culture to think in local linear causality such as “genetic determination” by examining (living) systems and their operation. Findings: The existence of a system is operational, and a system exists as such only as long as the operational conditions that constitute it prevail. As the observer distinguishes a system, he or she specifies with his or her operation of distinction the conditions that constitute the system. Since the adaptation between living systems and medium is invariant, all that happens in their history must happen as a flow of structural congruent changes conserving their organization and adaptation. Therefore, the ontogenic phenotype is not genetically determined but arises in the process of epigenesis i.e., along a path of interactions starting from the initial structure of both system and medium, along the conservation of its living. Implications: Natural selection should not be considered as a directing pressure causing the differential survival of living systems but as its result.

Key words: causality, structural determinism, systems, existence, adaptation, epigenesis, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, natural selection


Maturana H. R. (2007) Systemic versus genetic determination. Constructivist Foundations 3(1): 21–26. http://constructivist.info/3/1/021

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