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Varela, Francisco

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Francisco Varela (1946–2001) contributed to a number of disciplines including neurobiology, medicine, neurophenomenology, cybernetics, mathematics, and brain imaging (Froese 2011; Rudrauf et al. 2003; Thompson 2001). He is more famously known for his theory of autopoiesis, and his work contributing to the qualitative fields of epistemology and phenomenology, specifically neurophenomenology. He also significantly contributed to the field of cybernetics through his work with “the biology of cognition” (Froese 2011, p.631). While his work was more theoretical in nature, his contributions largely influenced multiple disciplines view of “the issue of relationships between our subjective experience and our objective bio-physical embodiments” (Rudrauf et al. 2003, p. 27).


Valera received his primary education and developed a love of philosophy at the German Lyceum in Santiago, Chile (Thompson 2001). His secondary education included both an MSc (Licenciatura) in Biology...

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  • Froese, T. (2011). From second-order cybernetics to enactive cognitive science: Varela’s turn from epistemology to phenomenology. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 28, 631–645.

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  • Rudrauf, D., Lutz, A., Cosmelli, D., Lachaux, J.-P., & Le van Quyen, M. (2003). From autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: Francisco Varela’s exploration of the biophysics of being. Biology Research, 36, 27–65.

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  • Thompson, E. (2001). Franscisco J. Varela (1946-2001). Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8(8), 66–69.

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Correspondence to Amanda Dishon-Brown .

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Dishon-Brown, A. (2018). Varela, Francisco. In: Lebow, J., Chambers, A., Breunlin, D. (eds) Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy. Springer, Cham.

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