Xabier Barandiaran

About Xabier Barandiaran

I consider myself a situated and embodied philosopher, which means that I situate my philosophical practice in close interaction with scientific environments and embodied in the conceptual apparatus that emerges from this interplay. The sciences on which I feel embedded are those meeting in the multidisciplinary crossroad of cognitive sciences and artificial life: particularly the origins of agency, simulation of adaptive behaviour (evolutionary robotics and computational neuroethology), and large scale neuroscience.

“Enactivism without autonomy?” – IAS-Research Seminar by Xabier E. Barandiaran

Date and time: 24th November 2014, at 12.00
Location: Carlos Santamaria Building, Room B14.
Speaker: Xabier E. Barandiaran
Title: Enactivism without autonomy? What went wrong at the roots of enactivism and how we should recover the autonomous foundations of sensorimotor agency.
Abstract: Different varieties of enactivism struggle to fill the empty throne after the long reign of representational cognitivism. And the notion of autonomy is one of the central claims under dispute within the different enactivist research programmes, despite the central role that it played on the early enactivist foundations. It is the very autonomy of enactivism itself what is at stake here, if it doesn’t want to be integrated back into a reformed version of representational cognitivism or subsumed under new forms of behaviourism. In this work I will show why autonomy is a necessary component of the enactive programme, I shall clarify some foundational misunderstandings or conceptual obstacles that have made autonomy a difficult notion to assume for some sensorimotor enactive approaches and, finally, I will propose to introduce autonomy back at the roots of enactivism through the notion of habit and sensorimotor agency.
Extended abstract: Enactivism without Autonomy? What went wrong at the roots of enactivism and how we should recover the autonomous foundations of sensorimotor agency.

“Learning and Understanding” – IAS-Research Seminar by Mike Beaton

Date and time: 25th November 2013, at 11.00
Location: Carlos Santamaria Building, Room B14.
Speaker: Mike Beaton
Title: Learning and Understanding
Abstract:There is a certain Kantian conception of perceptual experience on which experience can only present those aspects of the world which we already understand (for example, can only present trees qua trees if we understand what a tree is). McDowell has famously argued that it is only by accepting this Kantian conception that we can allow for a highly desirable kind of openness to the world, such that objects in the world can be genuine reasons for our beliefs and actions. Unfortunately this same Kantian conception appears to rule out another very desirable kind of openness: openness to that which we do not yet understand. In this paper, I argue that this problem is only apparent. Even if experience can only present that which we understand, nevertheless we can already understand – from within such a framework, as it were – that the world is not behaving consistently with our expectations. This indicates that something new is required. In any normal case, this lack of coherence with our expectations will never be total, thus we can map out the extent of our lack of understanding. The ‘shape’ of our lack of understanding (which we find by exploring the world) can guide us. In all this, past experience can only ever be a partial guide: luck (in more reductive terms, random exploration) is required, as well as judgment. Using both luck and judgment, we may arrive at some new candidate framework of understanding. At this point no more luck is required, good judgment alone (applied as we interact with the world) can tell us whether or not a new candidate framework is better for our purposes than our old framework. This way of describing things pulls apart what is in reality a fluid process, but nevertheless points to key features of that process. The transitions made in such a process are genuinely rational: they are made by the perceiver, for the perceiver’s own reasons. Thus, it is concluded, we do not need to step outside the framework of practical, engaged rationality in order to analyse perceptual openness to aspects of the world which a perceiver has not yet understood.

“Toward a phenomenology of plant life” – IAS-Research Talk by Michael Marder

Michael Marder, Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (Vitoria-Gasteiz) was invited to give an IAS-Research Talk on October the 22nd at 10:15. We recorded his talk and it is now available online at:

“The Autonomies of Bioethics” – IAS-Research Seminar by Ion Arrieta

Date and time: 25th June 2013, at 11.00
Location: Carlos Santamaria Building, Room B14.
Speaker: Ion Arrieta
Title: The Autonomies of Bioethics
Abstract: This presentation begins with a set of distinctions between differents concepts (or families of concepts) of autonomy that are present in the theory and practice of bioethics. My porpuse is to examine how the principle of autonomy works in two different branches of bioethics, health care ethics on the one hand, characterized by the dependence of patients and users of health services, and research ethics on the other, marked by the vulnerability of the subjects. Although differents fields (health care is not a science but a practice or art, while biomedical research does aspire to be scientific), I transfer some intuitions from the first to the second field, especially those emphasizing the interactive and relational nature of autonomy. The fact that autonomy is always relational is more easily seen in healthcare ethics, but not so much in research ethics. Despite that autonomy in research ethics is more formal and less personal, I defend that it needs integrate certain aspects of healtcare, which mainly affect how we understand the autonomy of the patient or research subject in relation to the clinicians or researchers who are treating them.

“Towards a Scientifically Tractable, Direct Realist, Sensorimotor Account of Experience” – IAS-Research Seminar by Mike Beaton

Next Tuesday, May 28th, remember: at 11am, Mike Beaton.

Title: Towards a Scientifically Tractable, Direct Realist, Sensorimotor Account of Experience

Abstract: The sensorimotor account of experience has arguably not lived up to its early promise. I suggest that this is because a full-blown sensorimotor account needs to reject an assumption shared by most consciousness researchers, namely that first person experience corresponds to processes in the head. I argue instead that when we are experiencing an object or property in the world, the experienced object is literally part of the subjective experience. This is a form of direct realism. The sensorimotor account shows us (in ways which can be made highly analytic and mathematical) what objects are, such that we may enact them, and what experience is, such that it may directly, constitutively involve these external objects. This externalist account of experience matches our first-person phenomenology much better than the standard, internalist view; it also makes it much clearer how we can have genuine knowledge of the external world. Action-based views of perception, such as this one, should respond to apparently problematic cases such as locked-in syndrome, not by referring to covert action, but rather by referring to counterfactual links to overt action (this use of counterfactuals is completely normal in science). Direct realist views should respond to arguments from illusion by noting that the detailed flow of subjective experience is different when we are really encountering an object, and when we only seem to be. Brain dynamics remain a crucial enabling part of experience, but not the only part; experience itself is the ongoing, meaningful relationship between subject and world.

The Cognitive Domain of a Glider in the Game of Life – IAS-Research Talk by Randall Beer

Prof. Randall D. Beer (Cognitive Science Program, School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University, USA) will be giving an IAS-Research Talk entitled “The Cognitive Domain of a Glider in the Game of Life” on Tuesday the 15th January 2013 at 11.00am at B14 Room at the Carlos Santamaría Building. Continue reading

“Emergence of Turn-taking Behaviour on Agency Detection Simulation and Behavioural Turing Test Experiment.” IAS-Research Talk by Hiro Iizuka

Dr. Hiro Iizuka will be giving a talk on “Emergence of Turn-taking Behaviour on Agency Detection Simulation and Behavioural Turing Test Experiment.”

Date and place: 4th September 2012, at 14.30, Room B1, Carlos Santamaría Building.

Abstract: In this talk, I will talk about a simulation study for agency detection and human experiments for behavioural turing test. These are recent results of series of my work using perceptual crossing paradigm where the interaction of agents or humans is restricted into simple sensor and motor. In the agency detection it is investigated how the embodied agents can establish a live interaction and discriminate this from interactions from recorded motions that are identical to the live interaction but cannot react contingently. In the behavioural turing test, it is investigated how the human can discriminate with the non-human moving objects. Both studies support that the turn-taking behaviour plays an important role to achieve the tasks and we will see how the simple embodied interaction can evolve to communicative interaction.