Two Principles for Self-Organization

  • F. Varela
Part of the Springer Series in Synergetics book series (SSSYN, volume 26)


In this paper I would like to propose two guiding principles for the study and understanding of self-organization in natural systems, which are derived from a combination of both empirical observation and cybernetic considerations. The basic thrust of these ideas is to see self-organization as a behavior of a specific class or type of systems, whose organization can be clearly spelled out. This amounts to explore the underlying mechanisms for self-organization itself. The two principles are as follows:
  1. Principle 1:

    Every operationally closed system has eigenbehaviors.

  2. Principle 2:

    Every operationally closed system changes by natural drift.



Operational Closure Lateral Geniculate Nucleus Boolean Network Internal Coherence Basic Thrust 
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Notes and References

  1. (1).
    For this distinction see H. Maturana and F. Varela (1980), Autopoiesis and Cognition, BSPS 42, D. Reidel, Boston.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. (2).
    The notion of operational closure is motivated, defined, and explored extensively in F. Varela (1979), Principles of Biological Autonomy, North-Holland/Elsevier, New York.Google Scholar
  3. (3).
    Cf. Varela (1979), op.cit. for further discussion on the meaning and formal definition of this term.Google Scholar
  4. (4).
    A discussion of recent results is F. Fogelman-Soulie (1984), Frustration and stability in random boolean networks, Discrete Math. (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  5. (5).
    For more on this notion see H. Maturana and F. Varela (1984), Evolution: natural drift through the conservation of adaptation, J. biological, social Structures (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  6. (6).
    See Maturana and Varela (1980) op.cit. for the original discussion of this point of view.Google Scholar
  7. (7).
    For details on this issue, but from a rather different perspective, see E. Land and J. McCann (1971), Lightness and the retinex theory, J. optical Society America 61: 1–11.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. (8).
    For an interesting approach to this question see P. Peretto (1984), Statistical properties of neural networks, Biological Cybernetics (in press).Google Scholar
  9. (9).
    See Maturana and Varela (1984) op.cit. for more on this crucial point.Google Scholar
  10. (10).
    See D. Wake, G. Roth, and M. Wake (1983), On the problem of stasis in organismal evolution, J. theoretical Biology 101: 211–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. (11).
    S. Gould and R. Lewontin (1979), The spandrets of San Marco and Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist paradigm, Proc. Royal Society Series B. 205: 581–598, p. 594.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. (12).
    A. Scheleracher (1972), Divacariate patterns in petecypod shells, Lethaia 5: 325–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. (13).
    This paper is partly based on F. Varela, (1983), L’autorganisation: au-delà des appariances et vers le méchanisme, in: P. Dumouchel, J.P. Dupuy (Eds.), L’Autorganisation, Colloque de Cerisy, Eds. du Seuil, Paris.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Varela
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Biologica, Facultad ciencias basicasy farmaceuticasUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile

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