The circular relationship between knowledge and reality

The cognitive system and its representational structure or knowledge cannot be understood properly if they are treated in isolation from the environment or as a static system. Rather they have to be seen as a part of a circular feedback process: the generated behavioural output influences – mediated by environmental structures – parts of the sensory input. The sensory input influences – mediated by the non-linear representation system – the motor output. Abstractly speaking, two feedback loops are involved, each interacting with the other and trying to achieve a state of equilibrium or homeostasis. From a biological perspective, the internal loop is responsible for keeping the cognitive system alive and coupled to the environmental dynamics in a stable manner via the external loop. Epistemologically speaking, this process can be interpreted as trying to achieve an epistemological equilibrium between the internal knowledge structures (embodying behavioural strategies) and external environmental constraints and perturbations (Maturana and Varela, 1980).

An excerpt from Organising Knowledge (Palgrave Macmillan)

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