Consensual Coordination

Recursive consensual coordination page

Maturana's notion of Languaging is deeply rooted in his “Biology of Cognition” and in the epistemological orientation provided by the “autopoietic systems” theory developed with Varela.

Within this framework, language is traced to its operational and interactional matrix. In this paper, I show how pursuing such a “bio-logically” grounded approach allows a shift from traditional conceptions of language, in particular with regards to its role in the achievement of communication and joint activities. In order to make explicit the constitutive conditions underlying linguistic activity, I address both languaging as embodied activity and the interindividual coordination within which such an embodied activity takes place. To this end, I focus on the relation between individual languaging behaviour and the domain of coordination, as two complementary aspects underlying all classes of phenomena in human communication. Some linguistic and cognitive implications of the framework will be subsequently discussed.


RAIMONDI, Vincenzo, 2019. The bio-logic of languaging and its epistemological background. Language Sciences. 1 January 2019. Vol. 71, p. 19–26. DOI 10.1016/j.langsci.2018.03.003.

Based on a bio-logic of living beings, what are the constitutive conditions for human social interaction and what is the role of languaging?

Let us start by developing an explanation of interaction that draws on just such a standpoint.

Since we have rejected internalist views of mind as well as explanations of interactional phenomena centred on the individual, we instead acknowledge interactional phenomena as relational processes generated through the operation of two or more organisms.


As we have already established, the organism as a whole is structurally coupled with its medium, and the mutually adaptive relation between the two is an existential condition that results from a specific ontogenetic and phylogenetic history.

In this paper, I maintain a heuristic distinction between “Structural Coupling” and “Interaction; ” while structural coupling is to be defined as the necessarily continuous dynamic of mutual triggering between an organism and its biotic and abiotic medium, interaction is understood as defined events where an observer can distinguish a given sequence of interlocked operations between two or more organisms. Interactions between organisms are spontaneous events in the ontogenetic framework of structural coupling. According to Maturana and Varela, the constitutive conditions of interaction are logically subordinate to structural coupling (Raimondi, 2014b). Interaction participates in the conservation of the invariant conditions of living, that is to say, the autopoietic organization of living being (which takes place in the domain of components) and the organism’s relation of adaptation to its medium (which takes place in the domain of the organism as a whole). Throughout the biosphere, different species have different types of interaction which generate different kinds of social phenomena that each necessarily play an important part in the construction of a particular niche. Based on this, can we identify the constitutive conditions underlying human communication and all forms of joint activity? In response, I propose a theoretical account based on the Maturanian notion of coordination. In this context, coordination is conceived of through a non-spectatorial perspective, meaning that it does not posit reflexive abilities as a prerequisite to coordination. In line with Maturana’sdefinition (Maturana, 1988), “consensual coordination” is a relational notion which refers to the process (or the result of this process) where two or more organisms interact and the interdependency of their respective operations (which may be behavioural or mental) is the spontaneous result of a specific history of interactions.