Reflections on My Collaboration with Francisco Varela

Constructivist Foundations 7 (3):155-164 (2012)
Context: Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana worked closely together for several short episodes and wrote joint publications during the 1970s and 1980s. After that their respective paths in life diverged. Problem: What is the common ground and what are the differences between these two authors with respect to their lives and aims? Method: The author reconstructs their common history in the form of personal reflections and conversations with Varela. Results: The personal reflections reveal the intellectual path Maturana took to develop his way of thinking, in particular his fascination with explanatory processes and the phenomenon of life. The conversations with Varela portray him as a man of great “cognitive autonomy,” whose career started with the intention to study “psychism in the universe.” For Varela it seemed possible, through meditation, to reach transcendental reality as something that exists externally to the living of human beings and that can be known as such. Maturana, by contrast, claims that there is no way to refer to such a universal truth. Rather, human beings generate all the worlds they live in. Implications: While the two men collaborated in both teaching and writing, they eventually created two different constructivist approaches driven by a different set of questions. Constructivist content: Both Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela have decisively contributed to constructivist approaches
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