On the Autonomous Cognitive Agency of Social Systems

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


We argue the case that human social systems are distinct cognitive agents operating in their own self-constructed environments. Our point of departure is Luhmann’s (1996) theory of social systems as self-organising relationships between communications. Applying to the Luhmannian model of social systems the enactive theory of cognition (Di Paolo et al., 2010) and Simondon’s (1992) theory of individuation results in a view of social systems as complex, individuating sequences of communicative interactions that together constitute distributed yet autonomous cognitive agencies. Our argument is based on a broader understanding of cognition as sense-making, which precedes the existence of a consolidated cognitive agent to whom the activity of sense- making can be attributed. Instead, we see cognitive activity as a process by which the actual agents are formed. This brings us to conclude that though there is `nobody there’ in the essentialist sense, human social systems constitute distributed yet distinct and integrated loci of autonomous cognitive activity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Practice of Thinking
Subtitle of host publicationCultivating the Extraordinary
EditorsMarta Lenartowicz, Weaver D.R. Weinbaum
PublisherAcademia Press
ISBN (Print)9789401469814
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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