Francisco Varela and his colleagues proffer a provoking conclusion in their
groundbreaking The Embodied Mind. By relying almost exclusively on introspection, Western philosophy from Plato to Merleau-Ponty is at best proto-cognitive scientific. Oddly enough, the movement out of philosophy and into neuroscience is carried out by mindfulness and meditation. Oddly because forms of discursive rational introspection would seem to share affinities with empirical, experimental, and quantifiable neurosciences, that would not be shared by a silent gaze of emptiness and nondiscursive awareness. The raft from philosophy to the neurosciences is Varela’s subtle and deft reinterpretation of Western philosophy. According to Varela et al., Eastern philosophy is hospitable to the sciences of brain and behavior, which is to say that philosophy qua philosophy is alive and well. Without it, there is no contemplative inquiry. We coax Varela’s reliance on a contemplative, social, and political philosophy by imagining Merleau-Ponty responding to Varela’s work.

Eduardo Velasquez

Washington and Lee University