THE BIOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF SELF CONSCIOUSNESS AND
THE PHYSICAL DOMAIN OF EXISTENCE
Humberto R. Maturana
2. The problem
I shall take cognition as the fundamental problem, and I shall explain language in the process of explaining cognition.
We human beings assess cognition in any domain by specifying the domain with a question and demanding adequate behaviour or adequate action in that domain. If what we observe as an answer satisfies us as adequate behaviour or as adequate action in the domain specified by the question, we accept it as an expression of cognition in that domain, and claim that he or she who answers our query knows. Thus, if some one claims to know algebra, that is, to be an algebraist, we demand of him or her to perform in the domain of what we consider algebra to be, and if according to us she or he performs adquately in that domain, we accept the claim. If the question asked is not answered with what we consider to be adequate behaviour or adequate action in the domain that it specifies, the being asked to perform (the algebraist) disintegrates or disappears, it loses its class identify as an entity existing in the operational domain specified by the question, and the questioner proceeds henceforth according to its nonexistence. In these circumstances, since adequate behaviour (or adequate action) is the only criterion that we have and can to assess cognition, I shall take adequate behaviour or adequate action in any domain specified by a question, as the phenomenon to be explained when explaining cognition.
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Instituto de Terapia Cognitiva de Santiago de Chile