Wednesday, October 12, 2005

situating Varela

Having read only the first six chapters of THE EMBODIED MIND, I am not yet in a position to comment on the book’s novel pairing of recent developments in cognitive science with Buddhist awareness meditation. Although I can see how both strains point to the lack of a fixed/unified self, I am not v. satisfied by the introduction of Buddhist thought as a means of situating cognition in lived practice, perhaps because Buddhism seems as remote to my lived experience as the theories of cognition being articulated. As the thesis of the book is yet to come, however, I am awaiting some illumination on how this all fits together.

For the time being, I’d like to learn more about how Varela’s later work in the field of cognitive science fits into/diverges from his early collaboration w/ Maturana on autopoiesis.

Also: I wondered where linearity/historicity fits into these circular models of cognitive science and the wheels of Buddhist philosophy. What role, if any, does memory play in our insistence (however faulty) on a central self?


Blogger asw said...

Your question at the end of your post really made me think back to the text and wonder where would memory place on the Wheel of Life?

I went back to look at the Wheel on page 112 and found that perhaps we could view memory in two ways? First, perhaps it can be incompassed in the ignorance and volitional action links that encompass the active past?

Second, looking at the other 12 links you made me question whether memory could fall across most of the links from 1 through 10 ending at becoming as we are transforming our "self" and going through the past 9 links and I am sure that the memory would play a role in each link. But on the otherhand the "self" should be isolated out as we have learned from this text, so should the memory exist in the first place and what kind of memory should it be to avoid it being ego-driven? (If that makes any sense) What a great post! You really have my mind working on this one. I am curious what others will post.

6:03 AM  
Blogger gt said...

Eileen, I recognized Varela's name from reading Web of Life by Fritjof Capra and also wondered if there was a difference between what he wrote in '91 and what Capra said he wrote in '96. Unfortunately, the only extensive quoting Capra does of Varela is from The Embodied Mind.

2:56 PM  

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