Making Autopoiesis and Functional Attributions Compatible
Keywords:Autopoiesis, functional attributions, causal roles, fitness, adaptation
When structuring their comprehension about living beings as autopoietic machines, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela repeatedly weave criticisms to the application of the notions of function and fitness then established in scientific theories. Such criticisms are presented in two main fronts: the authors say that functional attributions are causally inert, what reduces them to mere non-operational explanatory artifices; on the other hand, they defend that every organism, as long as it is not destroyed in its interactions with the medium, conserves its fitness, which is constitutive of living beings and, therefore, invariable. However, as Gustavo Caponi defends, we can understand that attributing functions means nothing more than highlighting causal roles they play in certain reference processes, so that the comparison between structures that perform the same function enable the measurement of different degrees of efficiency in its performance. In the field of biology, this conceptual structure is translated into the biological functions, performed by different organismic subsystems that relates to life cycle maintenance, as well as into fitness, understood as the efficiency in the operation of such functions and determinative of the evolutionary process. We argue that Caponi's proposal is immune to both attacks made by the Chilean authors, as it incorporates an operational and contextual content into functional attributions and enables the reference to fitness, whose evolutionary importance can be measured from time to time. Such an approach seems to be, moreover, a very opportune addition to the theory of autopoiesis, equipping it with a much pertinent conception of functional attributions.
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