Re: Nothing succeeds like success

Ton Maas (
Thu, 10 Sep 1998 17:12:32 +0200

Message-Id: <v03102805b21d9a3b2abd@[]>
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Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 17:12:32 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: Nothing succeeds like success

Mario wrote:
>3. News and views by C. Bargmann. 1996. From the nose to the brain. Nature
>384: 512, discussing Mombaerts, P. et al. 1996. Cell 87: 675-686.
>'Do two people perceive the same thing when they say that jasmine smells
>floral?' In other words, is information from the olfactory system organized
>similarly in different individuals? Mombaerts and colleagues argue that it
>is. They have used elegant mouse genetic methods to tackle the question and
>their results raise the intriguing possibility that the olfactory receptor
>proteins themselves help to organize a map of olfactory information as it
>flows from the nose to the olfactory bulb in the brain.'

But according to neurophysiologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela
(who coined the autopoiesis theory) there is no neurological necessity for
this. Unlike most digital computers, which are after all intentionally
programmed to perform specified tasks, living organisms (and neural nets)
invariably find their own idiosyncratic ways of solving real-life problems.
The key to understanding this, is to acknowledge the fundamental and
necessary gap between the phyiological "carrier" of a mental process and
the "contents" of that mental process. In principle, similar subjective
sensations can involve quite opposite brain-events.

According to autopoietic theory, the reasons behind the relative coherence
between perceptions by different individuals (and species) are ecological
and historical rather than genetic or mechanistic.


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