the enumeration of its properties; it must be understood as aunity. But if the organism is a unity, in what sense are itscomponent properties it parts? The organismic approach doesnot answer this question, it merely restates it by insisting thatthere are elements of organization that subordinate each partto the whole and make the organism(In:
Autopoiesis and Cognition
a unity [Cf. Bertalanffy, 1960]. The questions
'How does thisunity arise?'
'To what extent must it be considered a property of the organization of the organism, as opposed to a property emerging from its mode of life?'
remain open. Asimilar difficulty exists for the understanding of the functionalorganization of the nervous system, particularly if oneconsiders the higher functions of man. Enumeration of thetransfer functions of all nerve cells would leave us with a list, but not with a system capable of abstract thinking,description, and self-description. Such an approach would begthe question,
'How does the living organization give rise tocognition in general and to self-cognition in particular?'
Organisms are adapted to their environments, and it hasappeared adequate to say of them that their organizationrepresents the 'environment' in which they live, and thatthrough evolution they have accumulated information aboutit, coded in their nervous systems. Similarly it has been saidthat the sense organs gather information about the'environment', and through learning this information is codedin the nervous system [Cf. Young, 1967]. Yet this generalview begs the questions,
'What does it mean to "gather information"?'
'What is coded in the genetic and nervous systems?'
.A successful theory of cognition would answer both theepistemological and the biological questions. This I proposeto do, and the purpose of this essay is to put forward a theoryof cognition that should provide an epistemological insightinto the phenomenon of cognition, and an adequate view of the functional organization of the cognizant organism thatgives rise to such phenomena as conceptual thinking,