Dear Friends,

`Within the context of my membership of the Autopoiesis-Dialogue list I`

`received the following posts. I would like to cross post it here in order`

`that the discussion that Joel Issacson and Hugo Urrestazu are having can be`

`considered by the Members as I believe that it is very relevant to the`

`current thread on Causation that we have ongoing. While I have some`

`technical issues with Hugo's point about the problem of infinite regress in`

`formal systems, his statements are unusually clear and crisp and deserve`

`consideration.`

Onward! Stephen

`-----Original Message-----`

`From: Hugo Urrestarazu`

Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 6:24 AM To: autopoiesis-dialog...@yahoogroups.com Subject: [autopoiesis-dialognet] Re:Autopoietic Recursion Re-Examined Hi Joel I would like to react to your post about the "Recursive Distinctioning (RD" There you state, concerning the notion of Recursion: ". It turned out that the notion of "recursion", invoked repeatedly by Maturana in many of his writings and teachings, is a bit ambiguous. Only in the mid-1990 Maturana became more specific in this regard. This state of affairs seems to have caused some confusion among avid Maturana followers, and thus it is fairly common to see people entangle circularity and recursion in a way that suggests that recursion is the outcome of some natural circularity in the biology of cognition (rather than the other way around)." And below, you say also: ". Either repetition or recursion may generate in an observer a perception of circularity; but, in principle, when circularity is observed one cannot tell whether it is a by-product of repetition or recursion. Which obviously means that one needs to be circumspect when observing circularity and refrain from positing circularity as the ultimate 'engine' of perception; for it is rather Recursive Distinctioning.." I was a student of Maturana, back in the 70's in Santiago. In our discussions I never encounter ambiguous references concerning the notion of recursion. As a physicist I was quite satisfied with his account of the phenomenological explanation of how recursiveness manifests itself in biological (and hence, cognitive) phenomena. At the time we concluded that all operations of distinction made by observers and explained to other observers, can be stated in general for any observable phenomenal domain, provided that the formal relations used in the languaging domain in order to describe the relations between the dynamic entities existing in the observed phenomenal domain express causal interactions, whatever the causation mechanism may be. This applies also to the distinction of the phenomenon of recursion as a natural observable process (note that I talk about an observable phenomenon and not about a "notion" or abstract concept). This distinction is essential to avoid a common theoretical snare when appealing to abstract reasoning. The snare consists of confusing the phenomenal relationships that an observer can establish on observational grounds with logical inferences resulting from theoretical formalisms meant to model an observed phenomenology. Entailment (meaning strict, logical, or analytical implication, as between two statements so that one can be deduced from the other on purely logical grounds) is a cognitive operation involving logical statements of the sort: "if A is true then B is true" (A entails B), which leads to the definition of a relation Re (A,B); whereas causation is a description of observed phenomena involving statements such as: "I observe that whenever X happens, then Y happens consecutively within a finite time interval" (X causes Y), which leads to the definition of a relation Rc (X,Y). Both previous statements can be used to define mathematical abstract relations like Re (A,B) (for entailment) and Rc (X,Y) (for causation), but the meaning of the word 'then' is quite different in each case. In the first case it expresses an inference that has significance only in formal terms with respect to rules, axioms or theorems expressed within a formal mathematical system with a timeless logical validity. In the latter case, the word 'then' can be replaced by the expression 'it happens that', which refers to an observed fact totally unrelated to any observer's cognitive operation other than the act of observing and its validity is circumstantial and time dependant. This distinction between entailment relations and causation relations becomes crucial when describing reflexive and reciprocal relations between dynamical entities, because in the first case reflexivity or reciprocity relations are interpreted as timeless 'recursive' functional applications leading to infinite regress, whereas in the second case, as the causation propagation time is explicitly taken into account, reflexive and reciprocal relations may be interpreted as succession of causation events with a restricted time dependant phenomenal validity, in which unbounded recursive causation loops lead to changes and transformations, but never to the kind of infinite regress or contradiction prone results that pure logical entailments may produce in our mathematical formalisms. Causation flow refers to the notions of events occurring in time, of successions of such events and of observed regularities in those successions of events. The notion of causal relationship linking objects arisen in our experience as observers refers to the observation of repeated regularities in the successions of events concerning those entities, so that we are allowed to claim that we can distinguish relations that link those entities together in our perception of their dynamic activity. This is the case (more or less trivial) of the molecular activity which is the basis of biological processes, but it is also the case of other higher order phenomena where we can distinguish dynamical entities interacting together, like the neural activity patterns in the brain leading to the observation of high level cognitive phenomena, for example. In my opinion, most of the fuzz about the problem of "Recursive Distinctioning (RD)" arises when we discover as observers that our biological activity involved in distinguishing observable phenomena where recursion occurs as a phenomenon, is an observable phenomenon in itself in which recursion also takes place. It is difficult to express this in the languaging domain, but confusion arises only when we assimilate abstract notions, concepts and mathematical constructs to the phenomena that we are trying to observe-distinguish-explain. This kind of intellectual exercises are breathtaking indeed, but if you keep to a strict phenomenological approach within the ontology of observing, all conundrums and theoretical artefacts of logical reasoning may be avoided at the price of some effort. Hugo Urrestarazu

`-----Original Message-----`

`From: joelisaacson2001`

Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2010 8:26 PM To: autopoiesis-dialog...@yahoogroups.com Subject: [autopoiesis-dialognet] Autopoietic Recursion Re-Examined Hi all, During the past 30 days there was a burst of activity on a discussion list called CYBCOM that is associated with the American Society for Cybernetics. It was triggered by the unlikely issue of cybernetics as a capitalist tool that had been raised by by radical thinkers some 10 years ago in a French publication named Tiqqun. A series of articles attacking cybernetics appeared in a volume titled "The Cybernetic Hypothesis." The CYBCOM discussion soon veered into wide ranging topics relating to basic ideas of cybernetics. A central concept discussed was "Recursive Distinctioning," which led to close examination of the notions of recursion, circularity, and the relationship between the two. What is Recursive Distinctioning (RD)? The act of distinguishing, or distinction-making, and its import in cognition is long understood within cybernetic circles. Many thinkers, including Bateson and Maturana went as far as talking about distinctions-of-distinctions (or "difference that makes a difference") and sometimes even suggested further recursion of distinction-making operations of distinctions upon distinctions. In RD, recursion of distinction-making is taken to be indefinite, and the consequences of such indefinite recursion are observed in great detail. It can be shown, thru rigorous mathematical means, that RD will always converge on a closed cycle. It usually starts as a linear transforming process, but eventually ends up in circularity. So, in RD, recursion and circularity seem to be entangled, where the latter is a by-product of the former. What is Recursion? It turned out that the notion of "recursion", invoked repeatedly by Maturana in many of his writings and teachings, is a bit ambiguous. Only in the mid-1990 Maturana became more specific in this regard. This state of affairs seems to have caused some confusion among avid Maturana followers, and thus it is fairly common to see people entangle circularity and recursion in a way that suggests that recursion is the outcome of some natural circularity in the biology of cognition (rather than the other way around). Recursion has numerous meanings across many disciplines. So, simply reading a Wikipedia article on the matter may serve more to confuse than enlighten. The specific type of recursion that applies in Recursive Distinctioning is the same that applies in Cellular Automata, fractals, and (for a specific example) the Mandelbrot Set. This form of recursion is straightforward: An initial pattern is selected or given; a certain transformative operation is applied to the initial pattern, which generates a second, new pattern; the same transformative operation is applied to the second pattern, which produces a third pattern... and so on and on... indefinitely. Typically, very complex set of patterns emerges, some cyclical and some not, some symmetrical, and some self-similar, etc. Generally, there is no way to predict in advance what a given initial pattern will generate globally under what transformative operation. In RD, the particular transformative operation is distinction-making, such that each new pattern is the result of distinction-making within the prior pattern. Thus, we have a realization of angoing process of distinctions-of-distinction-of- distinctions- .... indefinitely, in a formal automaton whose properties can be studied in great technical detail. A side discussion in CYBCOM also differentiated between mere repetition and recursion. Either repetition or recursion may generate in an observer a perception of circularity; but, in principle, when circularity is observed one cannot tell whether it is a by-product of repetition or recursion. Which obviously means that one needs to be circumspect when observing circularity and refrain from positing circularity as the ultimate 'engine' of perception; for it is rather Recursive Distinctioning. I hope that this is relevant to this group and would welcome comments and further discussion. Best, -- Joel -- You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Everything List" group. To post to this group, send email to everything-l...@googlegroups.com. To unsubscribe from this group, send email to everything-list+unsubscr...@googlegroups.com. For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/everything-list?hl=en.