Francisco J. Varela (1946-2001) co-founded the Mind & Life Institute in 1987. Born in Chile, he received his PhD in Biology from Harvard University in 1970. Trained as a biologist, mathematician, and philosopher, he wrote and edited numerous books and journal articles on biology, neurology, cognitive science, mathematics, and philosophy. Francisco introduced the concept of autopoiesis to biology and supported embodied philosophy, viewing human cognition and consciousness in terms of the enactive structures in which they arise. His work popularized within the field of neuroscience the concept of neurophenomenology, which requires observers to examine their own conscious experience using scientifically verifiable methods. His book The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (1991), co-authored with Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch, is considered a classic in the field of cognitive science, offering pioneering phenomenological connections and introducing the Buddhism-informed enactivist and embodied cognition approach. In 2004, Mind & Life launched the Francisco J. Varela Research Grants to support the examination of contemplative techniques and their application to reducing human suffering and promote flourishing. 

This profile was last updated on April 15, 2020

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