The Biological Function Paradigm Applied to the Immunological Self-Non-Self Discrimination: Critique of Tauber's Phenomenological Analysis

  • Wilfried Allaerts


Biological self reference idioms in brain-centered or nervous-system-centered self determination of the consious Self reveal an interesting contrast with biological self-determination by immunological self/non-self discrimination. This contrast is both biological and epistemological. In contrast to the consciousness conscious of itself, the immunological self-determination imposes a protective mechanism against self-recognition (Coutinho et al. 1984), which adds to a largely unconscious achievement of the biological Self (Popper 1977; Medawar 1959). The latter viewpoint is in contrast with the immunological Self-determination as an essentially cognitive process as expressed in the analysis of Tauber (1994). Comparison of the immune system in vertebrates and invertebrates, according to new biological insights, has contributed to a better understanding of the relative role of innate (or inherited) immunity versus immunity acquired during each individual life. Also in this respect, immunological self-achievement shows both a striking analogy and a fundamental discrepancy with the activity of the nervous system.

The analysis of immunological Self/non-self discrimination versus brain-centered self-determination adds to the understanding of the function paradigm in biological self-reference idioms, especially when regarding the importance of the connectivity notion in both systems. Adopting functional explanatory schemes for understanding immunological self-non-self discrimination, as well as for the understanding of functional mapping of the brain at (conscious) activity (Friston et al. 1993; Frith et al. 1995), forwards the notion of effective/functional connectivity. Network connectivity not only is a primary question in solving the dimensionality question for immunological ‘idiotypic networks’ (Jerne 1974a, b; 1984), it may also have an important value in describing phase transitions in the development of both immune and nervous systems.

biological function immunological self/non-self discrimination innate/acquired immunity connectivity Tauber 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

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  • Wilfried Allaerts

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