A quote from Stafford Beer

From the SUO mailing list

SUO: Ontology of systems
To: Leonid Ototsky
Subject: SUO: Ontology of systems
From: "Douglas McDavid"
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 2001 10:43:41 -0700
Cc: standard-upper-ontology@majordomo.ieee.org
Importance: Normal
Reply-To: "Douglas McDavid"
Sender: owner-standard-upper-ontology@ieee.org

Leonid --
Thanks for this reference. At some point I wanted to open a thread for the
ontology of systems, including complex adaptive systems, dissipative
structures, autopoietic systems, et al. Your note has provided a starting
point for that thread.

Doug McDavid
Certified Executive Consultant
Business Innovation Services - IBM, US
Member of IBM Academy of Technology
mcdavid@us.ibm.com -- 916-549-4600

Leonid Ototsky @ieee.org on 01/11/2001 10:04:11 PM
Please respond to Leonid Ototsky
Sent by: owner-standard-upper-ontology@ieee.org
To: "West, Matthew MR SSI-GREA-UK"
cc: "Horn, Graham" , "'pat hayes'"
, standard-upper-ontology@majordomo.ieee.org
Subject: Re[4]: SUO: RE: Re: More KIF-ified Ontology Content

Dear Matthew,
Thursday, January 11, 2001, 11:02:26 PM, you wrote:
<< This can be a useful way to think about it, i.e. as classes and
Relations existing for all time, rather than being timeless. However,
strictly with a 4D viewpoint you are standing outside time and looking at
what is going on as if it were just another linear dimension, a bit mind stretching. >>

May be the problem is more complex and there is a need in more
systemic point of view . See for example the qoutes from the
Stafford Beer's preface to the "Autopoiesis and Cognition" by Maturana & Varela book.
The authors first of all say that an autopoietic system is a homeostat. We already know what that is: a device for holding a critical systemic variable within physiological limits. They go on to the definitive point: in the case of autopoietic homeostasis, the critical variable is the system's own organization. It does not matter, it seems,whether every measurable property of that organizational structure changes utterly in the system's process of continuing adaptation. It survives. This is a very exciting idea to me for two reasons. In the first place it solves the problem of identity which two thousand years of philosophy have succeeded only in further confounding. The search for the `it' has led farther and farther away from anything that common sense could call reality. The `it' of scholasticism is a mythological substance in which anything attested by the senses or testable by science inheres as a mere accident - its existence is a matter of faith. The `it' of rationalism is unrealistically schizophrenic, because it is uncompromising in its duality - extended substance and thinking substance. The `it' of empiricism is unrealistically insubstantial and ephemeral at the same time - esse est percipi is by no means the verdict of any experiencing human being. The `it' of Kant is the transcendental `thing-in-tself' - an untestable inference, an intellectual gewgaw. As to the `it' of science and technology in the twentieth century world their `it' is notified precisely by its survival in a real world. You cannot find it by analysis, because its categories may all have changed since you last looked. There is no need to postulate a mystical something which ensures the preservation of identity despite appearances. The very continuation is `it'. At least, that is my understanding of the authors' thesis - and I note with some glee that this means that Bishop Berkeley got the precisely right argument precisely wrong. He contended that something not being observed goes out of existence. Autopoiesis says that something that exists may turn out to be unrecognizable when you next observe it. This brings us back to reality, for that is surely true. >>