Ontology and epistemology

Ontology refers to the nature of the reality or phenomenon under study. In this case, it is the agriculture, rurality and cultural landscape in the context of integral and sustainable development based on local and global landscape design, situated in a systemic theory [33], ecological theory [29, 34], as well as the information theory [35, 36], the complex systems theory [8, 37, 38], and cognitive theory [3, 13, 39, 40]. The adaptive flexibility of the cultural landscape is related to the information content of the system [41]. Information and diversity, from the operational point of view, can be considered equal.

Despite the enormous technical advances modern agriculture has undergone, the late twentieth century lacked a unifying theory integrating all the above issues, as well as its thematic and conceptual context. A theoretical framework was needed to locate and frame the agricultural engineering in a holistic, systemic, integrated, and transdisciplinary context, in view of the advance of science and engineering paradigms by the end of the century [13, 42-44]. This theoretical framework arises for agriculture and for several other disciplines from general systems theory, holism, ecology, and new paradigms emerging in recent decades.

The final rationality of stakeholders, as cognitive agents, is to maintain the structural coupling with its domain of existence [13, 39, 40]. In this context, mutual determinations that keep this co evolutionary coupling between the stakeholders and their scenario are of an emotional nature [4]. The stakeholders experience an emotion when confronted with the phenomenon they perceive, determining the action which will generate the landscape, which in turn feeds their perception [8].

According to Roling [13], the cognitive support of collective decision making is sized into four components: value, theory, context and action (Figure 1). According to Lawes’ [16] definition of agriculture, value must be based on ecological rationality given by principles, laws and ecosystem structure, with any style of agriculture. In the theoretical model the value must be constructivist, so it must be generated within an epistemological framework for dialogue and collective subjectivity. Action should be deliberate and collective according to the culture of the stakeholders, associated with their perception and cognition. Finally, the context of agriculture should focus on man as the greatest driving force of the cultural landscape and determining their own future. However, the territorial problems as well as degradation of ecosystems and natural resources, show the lack of an instrument which lets us handle this force [2].

The four dimensions of cognitive support of collective decision making are considerably modified if instead of using the definition of Lawes, we use a definition that increases an agriculture focused on production. The prevailing definition of agriculture determines the paradigm that governs the actions on the cultural landscape and its sustainability.