IAS-Research Seminar by Nei de Freitas Nunes-Neto: “Regulation in organisms and its ecological consequences”

Date and Time: December 14, Monday, 11.30 am

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14

Speaker: Nei de Freitas Nunes-Neto (Federal University of Bahia, Brazil)

Title: Regulation in organisms and its ecological consequences


In this talk, we argue that one of the keys to understand how increasingly complex and diverse ecosystems can reach stability lies in the internal regulation of complex multicellular organisms. Indeed, multicellular organisms are able to perform new and complex ecological functions, which, at least in the case of many animals, strongly depend on regulatory controls exerted by the multicellular organism on an internal ecological community, harbored in their guts. Through the development of a case study on termites harboring an internal ecological community in their guts, we highlight two main general issues. First, that regulation implies an asymmetric relation between the regulatory and the regulated level, where the higher, regulatory level functionally modulates lower level functions. And second, that this hierarchical organization implies that, in order for a (sub)system to exert a regulatory control, it requires a capacity for global functional integration. Based on this conceptualization, we extend on the ecological consequences of regulation, arguing that the performance of the ecological functions by multicellular animals can be interpreted as actions of niche construction, in the context of larger ecosystems, contributing to their stability. Additionally, as a final point, we make a comparison of our view with the holobiont theory.

International Workshop on Levels of organization, causality & top-down relations

International Workshop on Levels of organization, causality & top-down relations
June 4th, 2015
William Bechtel (U. California, San Diego): 
Top-down causation without levels 
  • Nicole Perret (IEA Nantes): Biological circularity and causality from a Kantian perspective
  • María Cerezo (U. Murcia): Causal dispositionalism in gene expression: the case of alternative splicing
  • Jon Umerez (UPV/EHU): A defense of inter-level causation
  • Leonardo Bich (UPV/EHU): Biological regulation: a theoretical model and its implications
  • Arantza Etxeberria (UPV/EHU): Biological organization & medical normativity

Venue: Faculty of Philosophy, Room 2.6

Time: 9.30 – 18.00

(download full program here)


9:30: Alvaro Moreno: Brief Presentation

9:40-11:00: William Bechtel: Top-down causation without levels

11:00-11:30 Coffee break (at the cafeteria)

11:30- 12:15: Nicole Perret: Biological circularity and causality from a Kantian perspective

12:15 – 13:00: María Cerezo: Causal dispositionalism in gene expression: the case of alternative splicing

13:00-14:45 Lunch

14:45-15:30: Jon Umerez: A defense of inter-level causation

15:30-16:15: Leonardo Bich: Biological regulation: a theoretical model and its implications

16:15-16-30 Break

16:30-17:15: Arantza Etxeberria: Biological organization & medical normativity

IAS-Research Seminar by Nei de Freitas Nunes-Neto: “Functionality and regulation in ecological and social-ecological systems”

Date and time: Monday, May 11, 11.30 am.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14

Speaker: Nei de Freitas Nunes-Neto (Federal University of Bahia, Brazil)

Title: Functionality and regulation in ecological and social-ecological systems 

Abstract: In this talk, I will focus on functionality and regulation of ecological and social-ecological systems, presenting an overview of the work I’m developing along this year at IAS-Research Group. The talk will be composed of two main parts. First of all, I’ll present the organizational approach of ecological functions developed in a previous work, and a possible reformulation of it, pointing to some relevant issues, such as the distinction between primary and non-primary functions and the complex relationships between different closures of constraints associated to a given ecosystem. And, second, based on the previous discussion, I’ll discuss the topic of regulation in ecological and social-ecological systems. Along the presentation, I’ll use examples of ecological or social-ecological systems (based on the following keystone species: a bromeliad, a wild bee and a dung beetle) to illustrate the general ideas.

Workshop with Alfred Tauber: on Identity and Autonomy

International Workshop on Autonomy and Identity in the Biomedical Sciences

April 24th, 2015


Alfred I. Tauber (Boston University): 

Autonomy versus Dignity: The Search for Philosophical Foundations 


  • Argyris Arnellos (KLI): Constitutive self-determination in the transition from uni- to multi-cellularity
  • Antonio Casado (UPV/EHU): Patient autonomy: narrative or episodic?
  • Alvaro Moreno (UPV/EHU): Agency and multicellular identity

Venue: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room A4

Organizers: Antonio Casado and Jon Umerez (UPV/EHU)

“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.

Autonomeeting 25 Feb.: David Romero, Art as a Mirror of Corporality


José David Romero Martín
Faculty of Fine Arts, UPV/EHU

The question of the body finds clear roots in phenomenological approaches (Sartre, Merleau- Ponty, Waldendels, among other authors), although it has also been reflected in other fields, such as neurology, anthropology or psychology. The aim of this proposal is to explore a few questions related to the perception of our own body, particularly in relation to the dialectical experiences of estrangement-integration, based on the analysis of a few paradigmatic case studies (artistic works from different periods and media).

Based on the hypothesis that art can function as a mirror of corporeality, the state of art will offer an analysis of the principal concepts implied in the complex phenomenon of self-bodily perception, that come from philosophy, literature, psychology, poetry, neurology and art experiences. Among others, the concepts of cultural estrangement, prosthesis and the phenomenon of phantom limb (Ramachandran) are particularly relevant in the analysis.

The result of the research is a model to understand how art develops a role of mirror of self- perception. This model is structured in four categories or paradigms that classify different case-studies: (1) External-autoscopic; (2)Indicial; (3) Internal-autoscopic; and(4) Relational.

Keywords: Art, Mirror, Phenomenology, self-bodily perception, estrangement-integration

Next autonomeeting: Dr. Yanna Popova, “Narrativity and Enaction: the Social Nature of Narrative Understanding”

Date and time: 18th March 2014, at 11.15

Location: Carlos Santamaria Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Dr. Yanna Popova, Department of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University

Title: Narrativity and Enaction: the Social Nature of Narrative Understanding


The theme of this presentation is an exploration of the deep continuity between the nature of narrativity (what makes a story a story) and a new and comprehensive approach to social cognition, enaction. Although a much scrutinised subject and the topic of many volumes, the field of narrative research is still an open one. That narratives play an irreplaceable role in human knowledge organisation is undeniable, yet the reasons for this remain elusive, and ultimately dependent on the orientation of the research paradigm asking the questions. Some of the main questions motivating my own research on narrative are: “Why do we have stories?” and “What does a narrative possess that makes it a better cognitive tool for organising experience than, for example, a description, an explanation, or an argument?”  In everyday life, in art, and among young children, a schematic (narrative) organisation is a preferred form of organising experience. The answer to the question why that I propose is hereby sought in understanding the narrative exchange as enaction.

I propose that narrative is a form of social cognition that is experientially more real than other forms of organising experience for two reasons. First, stories re-describe experience through a dynamic causal structure (perception of causality). Second, stories facilitate social agency through an affordance of a narratorial consciousness enacted by a reader in the process of narrative understanding. Participatory sense making, a crucial concept from the enactive paradigm, will be explored in relation to specific verbal and non-verbal narrative features.  Definitional in the enactive approach is the notion that cognition bears a constitutive relation to its objects. Similarly, in my understanding the story world is defined as a relational domain, enacted or brought forward by an autonomous agency, defined through the classical notion of the narrator. Events become stories through the mediating role of an anthropomorphic quasi-personal entity, performing two default functions (types of action) in any kind of narrative: perception and enunciation. The default function in verbal literary narratives is one of enunciation (voice); it is closely related to linguistic expression: word choice, imagery, manner of speaking. The default function in filmic narratives is one of perception (seeing). Finally, I provide a typology of narrative enaction which serves to explain, depending on the specific functions performed, the quasi-experiential feel of narrative and its cultural ubiquity.

“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.

“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.