Volume 6 · Number 3 · Pages 293–306
Origins and Implications of Autopoiesis. Preface to the Second Edition of De Máquinas y Seres Vivos

Humberto R. Maturana, Alberto Paucar-Caceres & Roger Harnden

Log in to download the full text for free

> Citation > Similar > References > Add Comment


Context: In 1974, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela published De Máquinas y Seres Vivos. Autopoiesis: La organización de lo vivo in Santiago, Chile as a little book. A second edition of this publication was proposed in 1994, and the present document is a recent translation of Maturana’s reflections “twenty years after.” Problem: The book clearly enunciates what it means to say that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems, and this Preface reflects on the shift of understanding from earlier notions of self-referred or auto-referred systems to the concept of autopoiesis. Implications: The Preface describes the systemic quality that is human living and human sense-making. It marks what we can retrospectively see as the bridge between the explicitly biological studies of Maturana (and Varela), and the later, more anthropological and therapeutic work of Maturana with Gerda Verden-Zöller between 1989 and 1994 and, especially, with Ximena Dávila Yáñez since the year 1999. Results: The underlying understanding implicit in this document outlines in great clarity the implications of Maturana’s fundamental insights. It presents both a logical and passionately argued case for mutual respect, grounded in scientific findings in biology. The Preface is a clear vision of why Maturana’s work has been so influential for reflexivity and constructivism.

Key words: autopoiesis, constitution of the living, systemic, structural determinism, humanness


Maturana H. R., Paucar-Caceres A. & Harnden R. (2011) Origins and implications of autopoiesis. Preface to the second edition of de máquinas y seres vivos. Constructivist Foundations 6(3): 293–306. http://constructivist.info/6/3/293

Export article citation data: Plain Text · BibTex · EndNote · Reference Manager (RIS)

Similar articles

Maturana H. R. (2012) Reflections on My Collaboration with Francisco Varela
Maturana H. R. (2007) Systemic versus Genetic Determination
Maturana H. R., Bitbol M. & Luisi P. L. (2012) The Transcendence of the Observer. Discussions at the Conference “The Ethical Meaning of Francisco Varela’s Thought”
Cadenas H. & Arnold M. (2015) The Autopoiesis of Social Systems and its Criticisms
Hejl P. M. (2011) The Individual in Radical Constructivism. Some Critical Remarks from an Evolutionary Perspective


Foucault M. (1970) The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences. Pantheon Books, New York. French original: Foucault M. (1966) Les mots et les choses. Une archéologie des sciences humaines. Éditions Gallimard, Paris. English translation: ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Huxley J. (1942) Evolution: The modern synthesis. Allen & Unwin, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Jung C. G. (1966) Septem sermones ad mortuous. In: Jung C. G., Memories, dreams, reflections. Vintage Books, New York: 378–390. Originally published in German in 1916. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. & Mpodozis M. (1992) Maturana H. R. & Mpodozis J. (1992) Origen de las especies por medio de la deriva natural (Publicacion Ocasional no. 46) Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Santiago. English translation: Maturana H. R. & Mpodozis J. (2000) The origin of species by means of natural drift. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 73(2): 261–310. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. & Varela F. J. (1984) El árbol del conocimiento: Las bases biológicas del entendimiento humano. Editorial Universitaria, Santiago. English translation: Maturana H. R. & Varela F. J. (1987) The tree of knowledge. The biological roots of human understanding. Shambhala, Boston & London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. & Verden-Zöller G. (1993) Amor y juego: Fundamentos olvidados de lo humano. Instituto de Terapia Cognitiva, Chile. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. (1970) Biology of cognition. Biological Computer Laboratory BCL report N. 9.0, University of Illinois. Reprinted in: Maturana H. R. & Varela F. J. (1980) Autopoiesis and cognition. The realization of the living. Reidel, Dordrecht: 5–58. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. (1970) Neurophysiology of cognition. In: Garvin P. (ed.) Cognition – A multiple view. Spartan Books, New York: 3–24. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. (1975) The organization of the living: A theory of the living organization. International Journal of Man–Machine Studies 7: 313–332. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. (1980) Autopoiesis: Reproduction, heredity and evolution. In: Zeleny M. (ed.) Autopoiesis, dissipative structures and spontaneous social orders. AAAS Selected Symposium 55. Westview Press, Boulder CO: 45–79. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Prigogine I. & Stengers I. (1984) Order out of chaos. Man’s new dialogue with nature. Bantam Books, Toronto. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Varela F. J., Maturana H. R. & Uribe R. B. (1974) Autopoiesis: The organization of living systems, its characterization and a model. Biosystems 5(4): 187–196. References in the translators’ notes. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar

Comments: 0

To stay informed about comments to this publication and post comments yourself, please log in first.