The theory of autopoiesis holds that an organism can be defined as a network of processes. However, an organism also has a physical body. The relationship between these two things—network and body—has been raised in this issue of Adaptive Behaviour, with reference to an extended interpretation of autopoiesis. This perspective holds that the network and the body are distinct things, and that the network should be thought of as extending beyond the boundaries of the body. The relationship between body and network is subtle, and I revisit it here from the extended perspective. I conclude that from an organism = network perspective, the body is a biological solution to the problem of maintaining both the distinctness of an organism, separate from but engaged with its environment and other organisms, and its distinctiveness as a particular individual.
The necessity of extended autopoiesis