Francisco Varela (1946–2001) studied biology in Chile and in the United States with neurobiologist Humberto Maturana, with whom he developed the theory of _autopoiesis. _ According to this theory, the minimal form of autonomy that defines biological life is autopoiesis or self-production, which has the aspect of a reaction network, operationally closed and membrane bound. The theory of autopoiesis suggests that the nervous system cannot be considered as an input-output information processing system. After some years spent in the United States, Varela moved to Paris, France, where he addressed two main directions of research: the experimental study of brain activity – in particular as regards the neuronal integration during the performance of cognitive tasks – and the phenomenological investigation of human consciousness. Within this second direction of philosophical studies, Varela developed an original and controversial approach to cognition.
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