Themes

What is Autopoiesis?

Meaning and Definition of Autopoiesis

The term poiesis comes from the Greek and literally means production or creation. This word was originally used in the field of philosophy and art to refer to any type of creative process.

If we add the prefix auto , which is equivalent to by itself , we form the concept of autopoiesis , which means the creation of something by itself . A neologism proposed by two Chilean biologists in the early 1970s.

Questions about the origin of life and the evolution of living things pose an intellectual challenge for biologists. We know the metabolic processes that affect organisms and they seem to have a spontaneous life cycle.

This general idea inspired Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela to propose a new idea: any living organism can be produced . In other words, everything that is alive is autopoietic .

This means that the phenomenon of life on our planet can be explained as if it were a system of molecules that are cyclically transformed from the internal mechanism of the system.

Life’s sense

Looking at any living organism, we are likely to ask a question about its origin . In this sense, biologists discuss the first bacterium and how it became more complex until the later appearance of different species. The idea of ​​autopoiesis can be said to be an epistemological principle , since it deals with the theory of knowledge about life itself.

Although the emergence of life on Earth is a puzzle for biologists and astrobiologists , the idea of ​​autopoiesis is put forward as a possible proposal for a solution to the puzzle. Therefore, according to the central thesis defended by its creators, all living phenomena are created by their own internal systems.

When we think of a serious illness, the doctor prescribes a treatment and gives the patient guidance on how to cure it, but who really heals or not is the patient. In other words, we heal or we die. This simple example tells us that humans are a biological system and its functioning depends on the autopoietic mechanism . Death occurs when the self-production mechanism stops working.

Autopoiesis and Philosophy

In the first place, the living being has no end, since each biological entity depends on its own self-regulation. On the other hand, if there is no purpose in nature , it means that there is no force or God to determine the evolution of living beings.

Finally, Maturana and Varela’s reflections on biology and autopoiesis were expressed in a book published in 1972, “ On machines and living beings ”.

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