Ouroboros Seminars

Life and Work of Francisco Varela

Aim of the lecture series

The goal of the 'Ouroboros Seminars' is to create an online research and discussion group centered around the work of Francisco Varela. The main activities of the group will consist in reading, presenting, and discussing Francisco's research spanning different time periods and different topics. 



Francisco Varela was an extremely prolific and creative thinker whose interests encompassed many disciplines, ranging from biology and cognitive neuroscience to phenomenology and wisdom traditions. However, due to his untimely death, the many strands of his life and thought have never been integrated into a coherent, unified whole. This is unfortunate, as it has often led to some of his ideas being overlooked, misunderstood, or even distorted. The activities of the group will be geared towards achieving a better understanding of the various dimensions and implications of Francisco’s work, and discussing how they could be creatively explored and developed further in contemporary philosophical and scientific discussions. 


  • The group meetings will be held online (on Zoom). They will take place bi-weekly (in the first and the third Wednesday of each month), and will cover 12 pre-selected papers.
  • At each session, a 20-to-40-minute presentation of the selected paper will be followed by a 60-minute discussion.
  • Each paper will be presented by an expert in the field under scrutiny, preferably by one of Francisco’s friends, colleagues, or collaborators.
  • The meetings will be recorded and uploaded on YouTube so that they may attract wider audience and instigate further discussion.

Please note: All lectures of the Ouroboros Seminars will be live streamed.


Time frame

March - December 2021.



Sebastjan Vörös (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts), Metanoia (Slovenia).

Overview: dates


Season 1
March 17, 2021

Varela, “Calculus of Self-Reference” (1975) and Varela & Goguen, “The Arithmetic of Closure” (1978)

Louis Kauffman

April 7, 2021Varela, “Not One, Not Two” (1976)Evan Thompson
April 21, 2021

Varela, “Autonomy and Autopoiesis” (1981) and Varela, “Steps to a Cybernetics of Autonomy” (1986)

Tom Froese
May 5, 2021Varela, Thompson, “Color vision: A case study for the foundations of cognitive science” (1990)Adrian Palacios
May 19, 2021

Varela, “Organism: A Meshwork of Selfless Selves” (1991) and Varela, “Patterns of Life” (1997)

Ezequiel DiPaolo
June 2, 2021Varela, “Whence Perceptual Meaning” (1992)Mog Stapleton
June 16, 2021Varela, “A Cognitive View of Immune System” (1994)Hugues Bersini



Season 2
September 1, 2021Varela, “Neurophenomenology” (1996)

Antoine Lutz

September 15, 2021Varela, “The phenomenology of Sunyata”Michel Bitbol
October 6, 2021Varela, Depraz, Vermersch, “The Gesture of Awareness” (1999)Claire Petitmengin
October 20, 2021Varela, Weber, “Life after Kant - Natural purposes and the autopoietic foundations of biological individuality”Andreas Weber
November 3, 2021Varela, Depraz - “Imagining - Embodiment, Phenomenology, and Transformation“ (2003)Hanne de Jaegher
November 17, 2021Varela, Depraz, “At the Source of Time” (2005)Natalie Depraz
December 1, 2021Final Session: Varela, “Intimate Distances” (2001)Amy Cohen Varela


Please note: All lectures of the Ouroboros series will be live streamed on YouTube and Facebook.