Francisco Varela

(1946-2001) Chilean MD, he got his PHd in biology at Harvard University

(1946-2001)  Chilean MD, he got his PHd in biology at Harvard University. He was a philosopher, neuroscientist and epistemologist. He worked, among many places, at the “Max Planck Institute for Brain Research” in Frankfurt.  In 1987 together with Adam Engle, Varela founded the Mind and Life Institute (MLI), initially to sponsor a series of dialogues between scientists and the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso on the relationship between modern science and Buddhism.

Umberta Telfener: We were in Spoleto during the Festival of the two worlds, invented and organized since 1958 by Giancarlo Menotti both in Umbria and in the USA (Charleston). It was late June. The Sigma-Tau Foundation had organized Spoleto-Scienza and a cycle of conferences `”What is knowledge”, coordinated by Lorena Preta and Pino Donghi. It was 1990. I was there as the translator of Heinz von Foerster. We were sitting on the steps in front of the Duomo when Francisco Varela arrived with his companion, a French psychoanalyst. Varela was calm and assertive, the others were immediately connecting with him and listening for what he had to say, as if he was a catalyst. He showed a very dense psychic specific weight, as if he were the force that illuminated others from within.  He climbed ‘naturally’ to the chair, even simply sitting on the steps that slope down towards the Cathedral.

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