• Humberto R. Maturana
  • Francisco J. Varela
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 42)


Man knows and his capacity to know depends on his biological integrity; furthermore, he knows that he knows. As a basic psychological and, hence, biological function cognition guides his handling of the universe and knowledge gives certainty to his acts; objective knowledge seems possible and through objective knowledge the universe appears systematic and predictable. Yet knowledge as an experience is something personal and private that cannot be transferred, and that which one believes to be transferable, objective knowledge, must always be created by the listener: the listener understands, and objective knowledge appears transferred, only if he is prepared to understand. Thus cognition as a biological function is such that the answer to the question, ‘What is cognition?’ must arise from understanding knowledge and the knower through the latter’s capacity to know.

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Humberto R. Maturana
  • Francisco J. Varela

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