Re: Explanatory coherence

Ton Maas (
Wed, 6 Aug 1997 07:24:11 +0200

Message-Id: <v03102804b00db729470a@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 07:24:11 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: Explanatory coherence

>A child is born with a rich biological complement which includes a
>nervous system which undergoes growth into the early 20s (at which point
>the skull sutures finally set). Everything the child assimilates about
>culture comes by way of physical input from the external world. It makes
>sense of this input with a brain which is biased to process all sorts of
>things in certain ways.

Thanks to the notion of "structural coupling" (Varela & Maturana) we can
now describe biology as a *historical* process, which enables us to see
that the initial condition of a child is not simply a "given" but the
result of the learning process of the whole species, shaping itself
vis-a-vis its changing environment as it goes along. In this sense they
bridged the gap between representationalism (where what we perceive is what
is actually outside us) and solipsism (where we make everything up). Old
philosophical debates such as "do I see the same colors as you", can then
be answered in a new way. No, they don't have to/can never be exactly the
*same* (see Grimes' Eternal Verity about identity), but they have to be
*similar* enough to allow for our survival. This coincides with Nagarjuna's
epistemological correction to Buddhism (in the 6th century AD), which
stated that "you should not ponder the source or essence of things, but
only observe how they evolve". In that sense the initial condition of the
child doesn't explain anything, it needs further explanation itself.


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