Zoom link will be sent to MLE Friends

MLE Friends Talk with Sebastjan Vörös

‘Intimate Distances’: Reflections about, and with, Francisco Varela

In my talk, I would like to focus on two closely intertwined themes. First, my own encounter
with the work of Francisco Varela, and second, the broader philosophical, ideational horizon in
which Varela developed his ideas. I came across Varela’s work at a very particular, and
particularly precarious, point in my life. What struck me the most in his writings and left a lasting
impression, both intellectually and existentially, were not so much his individual ideas as the
distinct mode or style of thought he sought to develop. The contours of this thought style, as I
discovered later, were importantly shaped during a rather precarious period in his own life, and
were closely tied to a profound experience of groundlessness he had during the infamous
Chilean coup d’état. The experience led Varela to recognize the intellectual and existential
significance of the epistemological frameworks – to what extent they determine not only how we
think but also how we see, will, act, even emote, feel and breathe. This, in turn, led him on a life-
long journey of exploring, articulating, and finally instigating a progressive shift – an “ontological
turn” – from the prevailing epistemological framework (what he called “Cartesianism” or the
“image of the world”) towards an alternative epistemological framework (sometimes referred to
as “epistemology of participation”). If the latter postulates a strong divide between the knower
and the world, the former not only seeks to reintegrate the two but also to explore how these
different epistemic modes of engagement with the world come to be in the first place. In my
talk, I will try to portray some of the main characteristics of this “ontological shift” – the role
they play in our being able to properly understand the concepts and themes in Varela’s oeuvre –
while simultaneously reflecting on how, and why, they had such profound impact on my life-

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Sebastjan Vörös

Dr Sebastjan Vörös is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His research interests encompass philosophy of science, epistemology, phenomenology, and philosophy of religion. He is the author of Podobe neupodobljivega (The Images of the Unimaginable; KUD Logos & University of Ljubljana Press 2013, 2015), in which he investigates the phenomenon of mystical experiences from neuroscientific, phenomenological, and gnoseological perspectives. He has (co)edited numerous articles and special issues centered on embodiment, enaction and (neuro)phenomenology, with a special emphasis on Francisco Varela’s contributions to these fields. Additionally, he has translated several important philosophical texts into Slovene: in addition to works by A. Damasio, D. Dennett, W. James and A. N. Whitehead, he has also translated and edited The Embodied Mind by F. Varela, E. Thompson, and E. Rosch. Finally, he is the head of the transdisciplinary institute-in-the-making Metanoia, and is currently – painfully slowly, yet arduously – writing a book on the philosophical and scientific work of Francisco Varela.

Event info
MLE Friends Talk with Sebastjan Vörös

14-12-2023 06:00 PM
14-12-2023 07:30 PM
Zoom link will be sent to MLE Friends

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