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Monte Grande: what is life? With Francisco Varela 1946-2001 [electronic resource].

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Record details

  • Physical Description: 1 online resource (1 video file (ca. 80 min.)) : sd., col.
  • Publisher: [United States] : Icarus Films : 2005.

Content descriptions

Restrictions on Access Note: Digital content provided by hoopla.
Creation/Production Credits Note: Directed by Franz Reichle.
Participant or Performer Note: Francisco Varela, Heinz Von Foerster, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso [Dalai Lama], Christian Valdez, Samy Frenk, Aida Inzunza, Miruska Milicic, Raoul Varela, Alejandra Vega, Antoine Lutz, Evan Thompson, William I. Thompson, Amy Cohen Varela, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Humberto Maturana, Leonor Palma, Leonor Varela, Javier Varela, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Anne Harrington.
Summary, etc.: How is it possible for body and mind to exist as an integrated whole? The important Chilean neurobiologist Francisco Varela devoted his entire life - from childhood to death - to this question. Varela died in Paris in May 2001 at the age of 54. He was a leading figure in the field of cognitive science who became known for his work on autopoiesis, a definition of life based on autonomy. In the last few months before Varela's death, noted filmmaker Franz Reichle (The Knowledge of Healing) had several intense conversations with him on themes central to his life and work, and was able to record these discussions. A main focus for Varela's work was the idea of building a bridge between the discoveries of the mind in science and the discoveries of the mind through experience. After a simple childhood in the village of Monte Grande in the north of Chile, then a rapid, successful period of study at Harvard, Pinochet's 1973 coup, during which his father-in-law and friends were murdered, confronted Varela with death for the first time in his life. Varela was also one of the main founders of Mind & Life (, a forum that brought together a group of scientists and the Dalai Lama every two years to compare western research findings with the discoveries of Buddhist teachings, to pursue new directions for western research, and, on the other hand, to give new impulses to the Buddhist tradition. Monte Grande's structure is based on Varela's non-linear thinking and focuses on his concepts of autopoiesis, ethics, consciousness, meditation and dying (see links below to background information about these and other ideas). The film also includes narrative accounts and reflections from Varela himself, his family (former partners and children), leading scientists, friends and thinkers, including His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Heinz von Foerster (the father of cybernetics), Jean-Pierre Dupuy (philosopher and founder of Center for Research in Applied Epistemology at the Ecole Polytechnique, Paris), Harvard professor Anne Harrington (Co-Director of Harvard's Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative), Humberto Maturana (biologist, joint developer of the autopoiesis idea), and others. Three key concepts shape the film: the relationship between body and mind (embodiment), the meaning of self-responsibility (autonomy) and spirituality. Binding these concepts is Varela's strong humanistic commitment, his clear and realistic way of thinking, his warm-heartedness and the candour he brought to his relationships - with his wife, children, friends, students and colleagues - which made him an exceptional man and a great catalyser of ideas. He once said, "Ideas fly through the air; one only needs to be open in order to catch, understand and develop them."
Target Audience Note: Not rated.
System Details Note: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Subject: Varela, Francisco J., 1946-
Scientists > Biography.
System theory.
Mind and body.
Autonomy (Philosophy)
Chile > Intellectual life > 20th century.

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