© 1992

Understanding Origins

Contemporary Views on the Origin of Life, Mind and Society

  • Francisco J. Varela
  • Jean-Pierre Dupuy

Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 130)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Understanding Origins: An Introduction

    1. Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Francisco J. Varela
      Pages 1-25
  3. Origins: A View from the Literature

    1. René Girard
      Pages 27-42
  4. Violence: The Origin of Social Order

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 43-43
    2. Andrew J. McKenna
      Pages 45-76
    3. Paisley Livingston
      Pages 91-110
  5. The Origin of Money: Symbols and Texts

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 111-111
    2. André Orléan
      Pages 113-143
    3. Jean-Joseph Goux
      Pages 145-149
  6. Evolution and the Diversity of Life

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 151-151
    2. John Dupré
      Pages 183-190
    3. Daniel R. Brooks
      Pages 191-212
    4. Brian C. Goodwin
      Pages 213-226
    5. Susan Oyama
      Pages 227-232
  7. Perception and the Origin of Cognition

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 233-233
    2. Christine A. Skarda
      Pages 265-271
    3. Umberto Eco
      Pages 273-303

About this book


The main intention of this book is to bring together contributions from biology, cognitive science, and the humanities for a joint exploration of some of the main contemporary notions dealing with the understanding of origins in life,mind and society. The question of origin is inseparable from a web of hypotheses that both shape and explain us. Although origin invites examination, it always seems to elude our grasp. Notions have always been produced to interpret the genesis of life, mind, and the social order, and these notions have all remained unstable in the face of theoretical and empirical challenges. In any given period, the central ideas on origin have had a mutual resonance frequently overlooked by specialists engaged in theirown particular fields. As a consequence, this book should be of interest to a wide audi­ ence. In particular, for all those engaged in the social sciences and the philosophy of science, it is unique document, since bridges to the natural sciences in a mutually illuminating way are hard to find. Whether as a primary source or as inspirational reading, we feel this book has a place in every library. The material comes from an international meeting held in September 13-16, 1987 at Stanford University, organized by F. Varela and J.-P. Dupuy at the request of the Program of Interdisciplinary Research of Stanford University. We are grateful to Rene Girard, the Program Director, for making it possible with the help of the Mellon Foundation.


biology evolution ontogeny phylogeny the origin

Editors and affiliations

  • Francisco J. Varela
    • 1
  • Jean-Pierre Dupuy
    • 1
  1. 1.École PolytechniqueCREAParisFrance

Bibliographic information