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Francisco Varela

Francisco Varela in Dharamsala, 1994

Francisco Javier Varela García (Sept 7, 1946May 28, 2001), was a Chilean biologist, philosopher and neuroscientist who, together with his teacher Humberto Maturana, is best known for introducing the concept of autopoiesis to biology.

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Biography

Francisco_Varela was born in 1946 in Santiago in Chile. Like his mentor Humberto Maturana, Varela studied first medicine then biology in Chile, then did a Ph.D. in biology at Harvard University. His thesis, defended in 1970 and supervised by Torsten Wiesel, was titled Insect Retinas: Information processing in the compound eye.

After the 1973 military coup led by Augusto Pinochet, Varela and his family spent 7 years in exile in the USA before returning to Chile to become a Professor of biology.

Varela became a Tibetan Buddhist in the 1970s, initially studying with the meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, founder of Vajradhatu and Shambhala Training, and later with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, a Nepalese master of higher tantras.

In 1986, he settled in France, where he at first taught cognitive science and epistemology at the École Polytechnique, and neuroscience at the University of Paris. From 1988 until his death, he led a research group at the CNRS (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique).

He died in 2001 in Paris of Hepatitis C is his account of his 1998 liver transplant.[1]. Varela had four children, including the actress and model Leonor Varela.

Work

Varela was primarily trained as a biologist, and was fundamentally influenced by his teacher and fellow Chilean, Humberto Maturana, also a biologist with a strong philosophical orientation.

Varela wrote and edited a number of books and numerous journal articles in biology, neurology, cognitive science, mathematics, and philosophy. He was a founding member of the Integral Institute, a thinktank dedicated to the cross-fertilization of ideas and disciplines.

Varela was a proponent of the embodied philosophy which argues that human cognition and consciousness can only be understood in terms of the enactive structures in which they arise, namely the body and the physical world with which the body interacts. He introduced into neuroscience the concepts of neurophenomenology, based on the phenomenological writings of Edmund Husserl and of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and on "first person science," in which observers examine their conscious experience using scientifically verifiable methods.

See also

Publications

Varela wrote several book and articles:[2]

  • 1980 (with Humberto Maturana). Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living. Boston: Reidel.
  • 1979. Principles of Biological Autonomy. North-Holland.
  • 1998 (1987) (with Humberto Maturana). The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Boston: Shambhala Press.
  • 1991 (with Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. MIT Press.
  • 1992 (with P. Bourgine, eds.). Towards a Practice of Autonomous Systems: The First European Conference on Artificial Life. MIT Press.
  • 1992 (with J. Hayward, eds.). Gentle Bridges: Dialogues Between the Cognitive Sciences and the Buddhist Tradition. Boston: Shambhala Press.
  • 1993 ( with D. Stein, eds.). Thinking About Biology: An Introduction to Theoretical Biology. Addison-Wesley, SFI Series on Complexity.
  • 1997 (ed.). Sleeping, Dreaming and Dying. Boston: Wisdom Book.
  • 1996-99. Invitation aux sciences cognitives. Paris: Seuil.
  • 1999. Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom and Cognition. Stanford University Press.
  • 1999 (with J. Shear, eds.). The View from Within: First-Person Methodologies in the Study of Consciousness. London: Imprint Academic.
  • 1999 (with J. Petitot, B. Pachoud, and J-M. Roy, eds.). Naturalizing Phenomenology: Contemporary Issues in Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. Stanford University Press.

References

  1. ^ "Intimate Distances - Fragments for a Phenomenology of Organ Transplantation"
  2. ^ Comprehensive bibliography by Randall Whitaker.

External links

v • d • eSubfields of and scientists involved in cyberneticsSubfields Polycontexturality · Second-order cybernetics · Catastrophe theory · Connectionism · Control theory · Decision theory · Information theory · Semiotics · Synergetics · Biological cybernetics · Biosemiotics · Biomedical cybernetics · Biorobotics · Computational neuroscience · Homeostasis · Management cybernetics · Medical cybernetics · New Cybernetics · Neuro cybernetics · Sociocybernetics · Emergence · Artificial intelligenceCyberneticistsIgor Aleksander · William Ross Ashby · Anthony Stafford Beer · Claude Bernard · Ludwig von Bertalanffy · Valentin Braitenberg · Gordon S. Brown · Walter Bradford Cannon · Heinz von Foerster · Charles François · Jay Wright Forrester · Buckminster Fuller · Ernst von Glasersfeld · Francis Heylighen · Erich von Holst · Stuart Kauffman · Sergei P. Kurdyumov · Niklas Luhmann · Warren McCulloch · Humberto Maturana · Talcott Parsons · Gordon Pask · Walter Pitts · Alfred Radcliffe-Brown · Robert Trappl · Valentin Turchin · Jakob von Uexküll · Francisco Varela · Frederic Vester · Charles Geoffrey Vickers · Stuart Umpleby · John N. Warfield · Kevin Warwick · Norbert Wiener v • d • eSystemsand systems scienceSystems categoriesConceptual systems · Physical systems · Social systems · Systems theory · Systems science · Systems scientistsSystemsBiological system · Complex system · Complex adaptive system · Conceptual system · Cultural system · Dynamical system · Economic system · Ecosystem · Formal system · Global Positioning System · Human anatomy · Information systems · Legal systems of the world · Living systems · Systems of measurement · Metric system · Multi-agent system · Nervous system · Nonlinearity · Operating system · Physical system · Political system · Sensory system · Social structure · Solar System · Systems artTheoretical fields Chaos theory · Complex systems · Control theory · Cybernetics · Scientific holism · Sociotechnical systems theory · Systems biology · System dynamics · Systems ecology · Systems engineering · Systems psychology · Systems science · Systems theorySystems scientists Russell L. Ackoff · William Ross Ashby · Gregory Bateson · Stafford Beer · Ludwig von Bertalanffy · Kenneth E. Boulding · Peter Checkland · C. West Churchman · Heinz von Foerster · Charles François · Jay Wright Forrester · Ralph W. Gerard · Debora Hammond · George Klir · Niklas Luhmann · Humberto Maturana · Donella Meadows · Mihajlo D. Mesarovic · Howard T. Odum · Talcott Parsons · Ilya Prigogine · Anatol Rapoport · Francisco Varela · John N. Warfield · Norbert Wiener Categories: 1946 births | 2001 deaths | Chilean people | Chilean biologists | Chilean philosophers | Complex systems scientists | Converts to Buddhism | Consciousness researchers and theorists | Cyberneticists | Integral theory | Systems scientists | Theoretical biologists | People from Santiago | Tibetan Buddhists from Chile

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