BCSSS Fellow John Collier, Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Associate, Philosophy, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, will visit the Center again for research reasons. 

Visit his Open Lecture on „What is Autonomy?“

28th March 2018


BCSSS, Paulanergasse 13/5, 1040 Wien


In the abstract he says:

„I will review my previous accounts of autonomy as the foundation of functionality, intentionality and meaning, which are best explained coherently via information theory. A system is autonomous if it uses its own information to modify itself and its environment to enhance its survival, responding to both environmental and internal stimuli to modify its basic functions to increase its viability. Autonomy has not played much of a role in biology and cognitive science until fairly recently, though its importance goes back to Kant, who thought we needed a special form of causation to account for it. More recently the importance of autonomy was brought to widespread attention were Maturana and Varela, who presented a theory of autopoietic systems based on cells as a paradigm. Autopoietic systems are dynamically closed to information. This gives the curious result that humans, who transfer information if anything does, are either not autonomous or else in some sense information is not really transferred between humans. Similar problems can be seen to arise cutting the autopoietic aspects from infrastructure in biological cells. This problem also holds for Robert Rosen’s account of living systems as closed to efficient causation. However this approach violates the idea that complex systems are inherently open. The solution is not a choice between third person openness and first person closure. Autonomy is a matter of degree depending on the relative self-organization of the system and system environment interactions.  I will argue that autonomous systems can accommodate the unexpected through self-organizing processes, together with some constraints that maintain autonomy. This allows adaptation to previously unencountered phenomena.“


We’re looking forward to your participation.

If you intend to attend, please, drop a line to wolfgang.hofkirchner@bcsss.org