General Homeostasis, Passive Life, and the Challenge to Autonomy

  • Stefano FranchiEmail author
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 376)


The paper argues that the conception of life as generalized homeostasis developed by W.R. Ashby in Design for a Brain and his other writings is orthogonal to the traditional distinction between autonomy and heteronomy that underlies much recent work in cellular biology, evolutionary robotics, ALife, and general AI. The distinction is well-entrenched in the Western philosophical canon but it fails to do justice to Ashby’s conception of life. We can assess the philosophical and technical viability of the general homeostasis thesis Ashby advocated, the paper argues, through the construction of virtual cognitive agents (i.e. simulated robots in a physically plausible environment) that replicate the architecture of Ashby’s original homeostat through a Ctrnn-like network architecture, whose outline implementation is then discussed.


Homeostasis W.R. Ashby Life Autonomy Heteronomy 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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