Anatomically, the organisation of a nervous system is that of a closed network of interacting components that integrates a larger system in which it expands through its operation the domain of states as well as the domain of interactions. Operationally, its organisation is that of a closed network of changing relations of interactions between components in which every change in relation of interactions between its components gives rise to further changes in relations of interactions between its components, and in which all takes place in a system of highly interconnected loops of unending recurrent circular processes of changing relations of interactions of different length and time constant. In us, the elements that compose our nervous systems are cells (neurons, sensory cells and effector cells), but in other systems they can be elements of a different kind, like molecules, as is the case in protozoans. There are several consequences of this organisation of the nervous system that I wish to mention due to their relevance to the contents of this essay.
1) As a structure determined system, the nervous system does not and cannot operate with representations of an environment; indeed, nothing external to it can specify what happens in it. It is due to the structural determinism of our nervous system, or, better, it is due to our structural determinism as living systems, that we cannot distinguish in the experience between perception and illusion. The operational congruence between any natural system with a nervous system and its medium is the result of the conservation of the structural congruence between the system (its nervous system included) and its medium through its history of interaction (see Maturana, 1983).
2) The states of a nervous system as a composite entity are relations of interactions between its components, yet, and at the same time, it is through the operation of the properties of its components that a nervous system interacts as a composite entity. Furthermore, the structure and the domain of states of a nervous system change as the properties of its components change as a result of the structural changes triggered in them by their interactions. Due to this, as the structure of the components of a nervous system changes as a result of their interactions, the structure and the domain of the states of the nervous system integrated by the changing components changes too, and does so following a course contingent on the history of their interactions.
3) As a nervous system integrates a larger system, let us say an organism, it exists as a whole, that is, as a composite entity, in the domain of existence of the organism that it integrates, and its components interact through this in the domain of interactions in which this interacts. As a result, the structure of the components of a nervous system, the structure of the nervous system that they compose as well as its domain of states, and the structure of the organism that the nervous system integrates, all change congruently, following a path contingent on the history of interactions of the organism. In other words, the structure of the nervous system and its dynamics of change are dynamically coupled to the structure of the organism and its dynamics of change. To the extent that the changes of state of the nervous system result in changes of state of the organism, and the changes of state of the organism result in changes in its interactions, that is, in changes in its behavior, the nervous system participates through its dynamics of state in the generation of behavior of the organism that it integrates. Due to all this, the structure of a nervous system is necessarily always, and at any moment, the present in a flow of structural changes arising contingent on the history of interactions of the organism that it integrates, and its dynamics of states is necessarily always, and at any moment, operationally correspondent with the historical features of the behavior of the organism that it generates.
4) What I have said above is also applicable to us in our operation in language. Languaging takes place in the flow of recursive co-ordinations of consensual behaviors. Operationally, a recursion takes place only in reference to a succession of events that the repetition of an operation is a recursion. That is, a recursion is the repetition of a circular process that an observer sees coupled to a historical phenomenon in a manner such that he or she can claim that, in the historical flow of that phenomenon, that repetition results in the reapplication of that process on the consequences of its previous occurrence. It is due to this manner of constitution of the phenomenon of recursion that not all circular processes are recursive processes. At the same time, it is due to this that, although the nervous system is a circular network of interconnected circular processes of different time constants, there are not recursive processes in it until languaging arises. Or, in other words, the nervous system as a closed network of changing relations of interactions between its components only generates circular process regardless of whether the organism that it integrates participates in language or not, yet, in the context of the flow of the recursive co-ordinations of actions of languaging, and only with respect to such flow of co-ordinations of actions, some of these circular processes constitute recursive processes.
5) Since the structure and operation of a nervous system always embodies the behavioral present of the history of interactions of the system that it integrates, and therefore generates the dynamics of states that gives rise to that behavioral present, the nervous system of an organism that participates in language can generate a dynamics of states proper to languaging as a feature of its closed dynamics. Due to this, an organism that participates in a domain of languaging in which observing, reflection and self-awareness have arisen can operate in a soliloquy, that is, in a flow of internal dynamics that an observer sees as reflecting an internal dialogue in self-consciousness of self-awareness.