The Tree of Knowledge by

The Tree of Knowledge by Humberto Maturana and Francisco J. Varela

All cognitive experience involves the knower in a personal way, rooted in his biological structure. THere, his experience of certainty is an individual phenomenon blind to the cognitive acts of tohers, in a solitude which, as we shall see, is transcended only in a world created with those others.

Nothing we are going to say will be understood in a really effective way unless the reader feels personally involved and has a direct experience that goes beyond all mere description.

This special situation of knowing how we know is traditionally elusive for our Western cluture. We are keyed to action and not to reflection, so that our personal life is generally blind to itself. It is as though a taboo tells us: "It is forbidden to know about knowing." Actually, not knowing what makes up our world of experience, which is the closest world to us, is a crying shame. There are many things to be ashamed about in the world, but this ignorance is one of the worst.

Now, if the reader has followed seriously what was said in these pages, he will be impelled to look at everything he does --- smelling, seeing, building, preferring, rejecting, conversing -- as a world brought forth in coexistence with other people....

We must walk on the razor's edge, eschewing the extremes of representationalism (objectivism) and solipsism (idealism). Our purpose in this book has been to find a via media: to understand the regularity of the world we are experiencing at every moment, but without any point of reference independent of ourselves that would give certainty to our descriptions and cognitive assumptions. Indded, the whole mechanism of generationg ourselves as describers and observers tells us that our world, as the world which we bring forth in our coexistence with others, will always have precisely that mixture or regularity and mutability, that combination of solidty and shifting sand, so typical of human experience when we look at it up close.

We are continusously immersed in this network of interractions, the results of which depend on history. Effective action leads to effective action: it is the cognitive circle that characterizes our becoming, as an experession of our manner of being autonomous living systems.

We have only the world that we bring forth with others, and only love helps us bring it forth.

We affirm that at the core of all the troubles we face today is our very ignorance of knowing. It is not knwoledge, but the knowledge of knowledge, that compels.

Posted by Jay Cross at November 9, 2001 12:26 PM | TrackBack

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