Ideas are created by people who exist in networks of conversations.  Even though “an idea” happens in the experience of an individual, no individual generates their ideas without the fertile ground of having grown  and learned language through relations with other humans. 

I can gratefully name many, many people who I am aware of having contributed to my understanding, directly or through their writings, and there are probably others whose contributions I am not aware of.  However, in this particular context I wish to emphasize the substantive contribution of my friend and colleague, Humberto Maturana.  His work has deeply influenced how I see, how I am, and what I do.  I feel grateful in a way I cannot fully express.

Dr. Humberto Maturana Romesin

Humberto Maturana was born in Santiago, Chile. He studied medicine at Universidad de Chile, neurophysiology and anatomy at University College of London, and Biology at Harvard where he received a PhD in 1958. He continued at MIT where he worked with the neurophysiology of vision. After returning to Chile, in 1965 he worked with colleagues to found the Science Faculty at the University of Chile; of which he is now Professor Emeritus. In 2000 Maturana and Ximena Dávila co-founded the an Institute named Matriztica.  (The website is in Spanish)

Maturana is the recipient of several national and international awards including the Chilean National Science Award for his research on perception and his approach to the biology of cognition. He has been bestowed with Honorary Doctorates by Belgium, Spain and Chile in recognition of his vast body of scientific work concerning living (autopoiesis), language and cognition (biology of language and cognition) and humanness (biology of love). Most recently he and Ximena Dávila have developed the biological-cultural Matrix of Humanness.

Maturana’s early work was in perception; as a neurobiologist he studied how an animal maintains a constant connection with its environment.  He has always asked the question of “how” in a way that looks deeper.  In the 1984 Spanish version of the Tree of Knowledge, (el árbol del conociemiento), which he wrote with his student Francisco Varela based on a course Humberto had been teaching for many years, there is a diagram that is an overview of both the course and his work to that point. 

In the 1980’s and 90’s Maturana’s work turned to the role of emotioning and to human origins. For a period he was justly famous in many professions for the insights he contributed on the Biology of Love.  Further, he has more deeply articulated many of the ideas sketched in his earlier works, and with Dávila he has expanded on the domain of social relations and inner feelings.

This all a rather brief and somewhat dry overview.  I think the website as a whole will offer a much more personal and readable view  and I will be including some video segments later on.

In the English version this same diagram has been converted to an oddly boxy, engineering type figure where the arrows are difficult to follow. (you can click on the thumbnail if you want to download a .jpg.

A Biography of Maturana’s works, compiled by my friend Randall Whitaker, can be accessed on the Constructivist Foundations special issue on works about or inspired by Maturana that I edited in 2011.