Original Research

Contrasting differences in identity and agency between narrative and autopoietic systems

Nico Buitendag
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 1 | a1966 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i1.1966 | © 2013 Nico Buitendag | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 March 2013 | Published: 09 July 2013

About the author(s)

Nico Buitendag, Department of Jurisprudence, University of Pretoria, South Africa


The article aims at contrasting the autopoietic understanding of an individual and her or his actions as described by Niklas Luhmann with Paul Ricoeur’s notion of narrative identity, focusing on people as legal subjects. The article assumes that when legal subjects necessitate ethical engagement and evaluation, the law could cease to deal with problems in a mere legalistic fashion but is allowed the freedom to appeal to norms of justice external to itself as in other natural law theories. Through narrative identity the deeds of role players are to be understood in greater complexity than what a self-referential legal system is comfortable in dealing with.


Law; Identity; Agency; Niklas Luhmann; Paul Ricoeur; autopoiesis; narrative; complexity; systems theory; time; causality


Total abstract views: 3350
Total article views: 6267

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.