Organisational closure in biological organisms | Matteo Mossio, Alvaro Moreno (2010)

The central aim of this paper consists in arguing that biological organisms realize a specific kind of causal regime that we call “organisational closure”, i.e. a distinct level of causation, operating in addition to physical laws, generated by the action of material structures acting as constraints. We argue that organisational closure constitutes a fundamental property of biological systems since even its minimal instances are likely to possess at least some of the typical features of biological organisation, as exhibited by more complex organisms. Yet, while being a necessary condition for biological organization, organisational closure underdetermines, as such, the whole set of requirements that a system has to satisfy in order to be taken as s paradigmatic example of organism. As we suggest, additional properties, as modular templates and control mechanisms via dynamical decoupling between constraints, are required to get the complexity typical of full-fledged biological organisms.

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How Does It Work? The Search for Explanatory Mechanisms | MARIO BUNGE (2004)

This article addresses the following problems: What is a mechanism, how can it be discovered, and what is the role of the knowledge of mechanisms in scientific explanation and technological control? The proposed answers are these. A mechanism is one of the processes in a concrete system that makes it what it is — for example, metabolism in cells, interneuronal connections in brains, work in factories and offices, research in laboratories, and litigation in courts of law. Because mechanisms are largely or totally imperceptible, they must be conjectured. Once hypothesized they help explain, because a deep scientific explanation is an answer to a question of the form, “How does it work, that is, what makes it tick — what are its mechanisms?” Thus, by contrast with the subsumption of particulars under a generalization, an explanation proper consists in unveiling some lawful mechanism, as when political stability is explained by either coercion, public opinion manipulation, or democratic participation. Finding mechanisms satisfies not only the yearning for understanding, but also the need for control.

Keywords: explanation; function; mechanism; process; system; systemism

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An Integrated Socio-Environmental Model of Health and Well-Being: a Conceptual Framework Exploring the Joint Contribution of Environmental and Social Exposures to Health and Disease Over the Life Span

Purpose of the review Environmental and social determinants of health often co-occur, particularly among socially disadvantaged populations, yet because they are usually studied separately, their joint effects on health are likely underestimated. Building on converging bodies of literature, we delineate a conceptual framework to address these issues.

Recent findings Previous models provided a foundation for study in this area, and generated research pointing to additional important issues. These include a stronger focus on biobehavioral pathways, both positive and adverse health outcomes, and intergenerational effects. To accommodate the expanded set of issues, we put forward the Integrated Socio-Environmental Model of Health and Well-Being (ISEM), which examines how social and environmental factors combine and potentially interact, via multi-factorial pathways, to affect health and well-being over the life span. We then provide applied examples including the study of how food environments affect dietary behavior.

Summary The ISEM provides a comprehensive, theoretically informed framework to guide future research on the joint contribution of social and environmental factors to health and well-being across the life span.

Keywords Total environment . Social determinants . Cumulative exposures . Life course . Health disparities

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Key Papers on Theory of Triadic Influence | Brian R. Flay, John Petraitis and Frank Snyder

Some theories of health behavior focus on proximal cognitive predictors of behavior, some focus on expectancy-value formulations, some focus on social support and bonding processes, some focus on social learning processes, and some point toward personality and intrapersonal processes. Very few extant theories of health behavior incorporate several of these viewpoints, and those that do are limited in various ways. We propose a new comprehensive theory that integrates constructs from all previous theories. Triadic influence theory includes seven “tiers” of “causes” of behavior that range from very proximal to distal to ultimate, and three “streams of influence” that flow through the seven “tiers”: (I) cultural- environmental influences on knowledge and values, influencing attitudes, (2) social situation-context influences on social bonding and social learning, influencing social normative beliefs, and (3) intrapersonal influences on self determination / control and social skills, leading to self-efficacy. In addition to the direct influences of these streams, there are important inter-stream effects and influences that flow between tiers. The theory is intended to account for factors that have direct effecls as well as indirect effects on behavior. It is also intended to account for both new behaviors and regular behavior. Experiences with related behaviors and early experiences with a new behavior lead to feedback loops through all three steams adding to the prior influences of these streams. Our integration of existing theories leads to a meta-theoretical view that suggests higher order descriptions and explanations of health behavior, leads to a new and comprehensive view of health behavior change, and suggests new approaches for health promotion and disease prevention.

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Reflections in relation to the article “Are living beings extended autopoietic systems? An embodied reply.” | Humberto Maturana Romesín


This is a very interesting article, and I would like to make a few epistemological and operational reflective commentaries that it evokes in me.

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EARTH CHARTER AND CULTURAL BIOLOGY Co-Inspired by Love | Ximena Dávila and Humberto Maturana (2011)

Interview with Humberto Maturana and Ximena Davila, of Matriztica School in Santiago, Chile.

Humberto Maturana is a renowned biologist and philosopher from Chile. He invented a theory of autopoiesis, about the nature of reflexive feedback control in living systems. Ximena Davila is a Professor from Chile who collaborates with Maturana, together they developed the dynamic vision that entangled the Biology of Knowledge and the Biology of Love that conform the basis for the Biological Matrix of Human Existence. Together they co-founded “la Escuela Matriztica de Santiago”.

In this interview, done by Cristina Moreno together with the staff members of the Methodist University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Humberto Maturana and his colleague Ximena Davila offer their insights and reflections about the meaning of the Earth Charter and its relevance for today’s challenges.

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The need for a new public administration | James K. Galbraith (2018)

The economic model according to which markets are self-equilibrating rests on a world-view of harmony and stasis that goes back to classical China, and was already fully rejected in all domains of science and also in political economy in the 19th century. Somehow it survives in textbook economics to this day. A new public administration needs to rest on modern scientific habits, recognizing that all biological, mechanical and social systems require effective regulation, not to “reduce externalities” but because otherwise they cannot exist at all. Once this is recognized, the task of government is to make regulation and public provision of services work well, minimizing predation, parasitism, force and fraud.

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There is more than one economy | Neva Goodwin (2018)

Human economies can be understood in more than one way.

  • The private business economy is what economics textbooks are generally about.
  • The public purpose economy consists of governments and their agencies as well as non-profits and international institutions like the World Bank or the United Nations. The public purpose economy is a collection of institutions that are justified by their stated intention to act for some broader good than their own profit or enrichment – though they may differ widely in their definitions of what is “good”.
  • The core economy is where households and communities carry on their internal activities of production, distribution and consumption. The core economy’s justification and purpose is the survival and well-being of its members. It is located in home, family, and neighborhood; places that function as markets for emotional, social, and civic transactions. This paper will consider some distinguishing characteristics of these three economies – in particular: their goals or justifications; what currency they use; what kind of demand they respond to; and how they define and reward work.

The second half of the paper will offer reflections on the harms caused by an excessive dominance of the private business economy over the other two, with thoughts on some of what will be required to redress this balance. It will conclude with an image of a healthier relationship between humanity and our natural environment – a relationship that will inevitably come about, whether we choose to move into it positively, or are forced into it by breakdowns in all of our economies resulting from natural and social disasters.

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The public economy: understanding government as a producer. A reformation of public economics | June Sekera (2018)

In mainstream economics scripting, government is either bumbler or villain. Cast as market fixer, intervenor, enforcer or redistributor, the state cannot but act inefficiently or, worse, illegitimately. Public goods and collective action are called “problems,” the commons a “tragedy.” Even today’s so-called “public economics,” as represented by the “public choice” school, is decidedly anti-public. It was not always thus. More than a century ago, economists theorized the state as a framework of collective agency for public purpose and understood government as a producer meeting collective needs. A cogent concept of “the public economy” guided this nascent field of public economics, long since lost to historic upheavals and repression by proponents of market-centric rational choice theory.

This paper rejects today’s orthodoxy and its artful, but artificial, construct that subverts the ability of the public economic system to produce on behalf of the polity. I call instead for the embrace of a new public economics that returns to lost roots while breaking new ground by taking into account the biophysical imperatives of production. The model offered here takes a systems perspective (as did Quesnay and early 18th- century Physiocrats); recognizes a public economy with distinctive purpose and drivers (as did the “German Public Economics” theorist Gerhard Colm in the 1920’s); and focuses on government as a producer (as did Paul Studenski in the 1930s-50s). Finally, it draws on two centuries of physics and on 21st century systems ecology in recognizing biophysical imperatives inherent to production. Developing and promoting a cogent theory of the public economy system is vital to the effective operation and, ultimately, the survival of the governmental systems by which democratic nation-states function today. The simplistic type-casting of government, the “market-failure” rationalization for state action, the invalid imposition of market axioms and assumptions on the public domain, the disregard of public purpose must all be rejected. It is time for a Reformation of public economics.

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