One of my intellectual heroes passed away a few weeks ago (May 6). Humberto Maturana was 92. For those of you who may not know him, Maturana was a Chilean biologist and philosopher. I have collected a few snippets from the web below.

Maturana and his student Francisco Varela were the first to define and to employ the concept of autopoiesis. Aside from making important contributions to the field of evolution, Maturana is also a founder of radical constructivism, a relativistic epistemology built upon empirical findings of neurobiology. In his own words:

Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organisms, with or without a nervous system.


His particular interest is focussed on the nervous system as well as on physiology of perception and on the nature of knowledge. Due to his research on the biology of living systems, and due to his “ingenious conceptual design of the world and the being” (according to the neuroscientist Gerhard Roth, Bremen, Germany) Humberto Maturana earned worldwide approval. The results of his research have turned out to be very fruitful in interdisciplinary terms: philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, educationalists, ecologists and communication scientists have picked up his ideas.

The program that is unfolded by Humberto Maturana can be described as experimental epistemology. According to him the primary question of all philosophy which is about the nature of knowledge and the truth of perception should be answered with scientific precision and the best design of theory available. The essential epistemological assumption is that the observer and the observed, the subject and the object are indissolubly connected to each other in the act of cognition. The world that we live in is not something that surrounds us in a segregated way; we create it, literally.

The last sentence is of particular relevance to me as it is closely aligned with the world that is created by the left hemisphere according to the divided brain model of Iain McGilchrist. His works about love, similarly, fit into the way the right-brain works. He will be much missed by all who have been inspired by his work.

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