We have a thread for Varela in this sub-forum so I figured his cohort from The Embodied Mind would be worthy. I've provided some of his recent material elsewhere that I'll move over here. For now this is his homepage. Therein is a link to some of his selected articles, one of which is a condensed version of what will be in his forthcoming book, Waking, Dreaming, Being: New Light on the Self and Consciousness from Neuroscience, Meditation and Philosophy (link). The article is "Dreamless sleep, the embodied mind and consciousness: The relevance of a classical Indian debate to cognitive science" (link). (Kela in times past would have loved this one. Wonder if he's still around out there?) Abstract from the article:

"One of the issues debated between the Advaita Vedānta and Nyāya schools in classical Indian philosophy is whether consciousness is present in dreamless sleep. Advaita Vedānta argues that the waking report 'I slept well' is a memory report and hence requires previous experience, whereas Nyāya argues that the report expresses a retrospective inference. Consideration of this debate, especially the reasoning Advaita Vedānta uses to try to rebut the Nyāya view, calls into question the standard neuroscience way of operationally defining consciousness as that which disappears in dreamless sleep and reappears when we wake up or dream. The Indian debate also offers new resources for contemporary philosophical concern with the relationship between phenomenal consciousness (subjective experience) and access consciousness (accessibility to working memory and verbal report). At the same time, findings from cognitive neuroscience have important implications for the Indian debates about cognition during sleep, as well as for Indian and Western philosophical discussions of the nature of the self and its relation to the body. Finally, considerations about sleep drawn from Advaita Vedānta, as well as the Yoga school and Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, suggest new experimental questions and protocols for the cognitive neuroscience of sleep and consciousness."

Views: 1789

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I.e., the center of self and consciousness "is determined by the distributed tensile stress of the entire system," a "co-determination of inner and outer."

On p. 6 I introduced Garfield's review of Thompson's latest book. Thompson responds to all the commentators of that issue of Philosophy East and West here. His specific response to Garfield begins on p. 991. He said he was using the notion of a conventional self "in order to criticize contemporary views, such as Thomas Metzinger’s, that argue that there is no self in any sense because there is no substantially existent self. In my view and in Madhyamaka terms, such views, while avoiding the extreme of 'reification,' fall prey to the other extreme of 'nihilism.' So what was at stake for me in using Madhyamaka was to show why 'neuro-nihilism' is misguided, and how the Madhyamaka idea of the person as conventionally existent can be illuminated by a cognitive-science account of how the conventional self gets constituted."

"Who am I: the conscious and unconscious self." Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2017; 11: 126. Some excerpts:

"In this article we suggest the idea that the processing of self-referential stimuli in cortical midline structures (CMS) may represent an important part of the conscious self, which may be supplemented by an unconscious part of the self that has been called an 'embodied mind' (Varela et al., 1991), which relies on other brain structures."

"When we describe the self as structure and organization we understand it as a system. But the concept of the embodied self states that the self or cognition is not an activity of the mind alone, but is distributed across the entire situation including mind, body, environment (e.g., Beer, 1995), thereby pointing to an embodied and situated self."

"Furthermore, we argue that through embodiment the self is also embedded in the environment. This means that our self is not isolated but intrinsically social. [...] Hence, the self should not be understood as an entity located somewhere in the brain, isolated from both the body and the environment. In contrast, the self can be seen as a brain-based neurosocial structure and organization, always linked to the environment (or the social sphere) via embodiment and embeddedness."

Development and evolution is the subtitle of Evan Thompson's Chapter 7 in his book Life in Mind (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), the main title of which is "Laying down a path in walking." Therein he details the received view of biological evolution and compares it with the enactive, dynamic systems  view. It is highly technical and beyond my current knowledge of the topic, but nonetheless instructive in my burgeoning education down this path in walking. A copy of this chapter is attached.


"The serpent's gift: evolutionary psychology and consciousness" by Bering & Bjorklund, is Chapter 22 of The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). A copy of the chapter is attached. The abstract:

"As a higher-order cognitive system enabling access to intentional states, and one that few (if any) other species even marginally possess, consciousness or, more appropriately, self-consciousness has likely been both selectively advantageous and the source of adaptive conflict in human evolutionary history. Consciousness was likely advantageous to early human beings because it built on more ancient primate social adaptations. Individuals likely profited by having the capacity to track the intentions of the self and of social others in that consciousness permitted behavioral strategies involving deception and declarative communication. However, consciousness was likely also a source of adaptive conflict in that it interfered with the functioning of more ancient social adaptations, such as infanticide and male sexual coercion of females. Having access to the epistemic states of others meant that knowledge of social transgressions could be rapidly conveyed between parties. For many evolved psychological mechanisms, what was adaptive in human ancestral history suddenly became maladaptive when consciousness appeared."


Chapter one of Thompson's book Mind in Life attached is on the definitions and differences between the computational, connectivist and embodied theories of cognition, enactivism being a variety of the last.


Reply to Discussion


What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2024   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service