From organization of processes to organisms and other biological individuals

Seminar on Thursday, 2nd of February at 11:15am at the Carlos Santamaria (IAS room)

Argyris Arnellos (UPV/EHU): From organization of processes to organisms and other biological individuals


The emphasis on the collaborative dimension of the living world overlooks the importance of biological individuals (conceived as highly integrated and self-maintaining organizations) as the very conditions of possibility for the subsequent buildup of more complex collaborative networks in the course of evolution. Acknowledging the importance of collaboration in life, I briefly explain a process-based organizational ontology for biology, according to which I suggest that the essential features of unicellular organismality are captured by a self-maintaining organization of processes that is integrated on the basis of a special type of collaboration (realized through regulatory processes entailing an indispensible interdependence) between its constitutive and interactive aspects. I then use this ontology to describe different types of unicellular collaborations and to argue that it takes a certain type of collaboration among cells to yield a multicellular organism. The suggested organizational framework is used to critically assess and provide clearer and specific alternatives for several implications raised from the consideration of a mainly and ‘excessively’ collaborative view of life, and especially, issues related to the identification of biological individuals and their boundaries, the distinction between biological individuals and organisms, the organismal status of symbiotic multicellular systems, and the distinction between life and not life, avoiding the problems of pluralism but without however ignoring, neither underestimating nor undermining the central role of the concept of collaboration in understanding the biological realm.

First Bordeaux-San Sebastián Workshop on Philosophy of Biology

Date and time: October 20-21, 2016. Centro Carlos Santamaría (Aula A.4). Campus de Gipuzkoa – UPV/EHU, Donostia-San Sebastián

Speakers: Lynn Chiu (CNRS, Université de Bordeaux), Martha Susana Esparza Soria (UPV/EHU), Arantza Etxeberria (UPV/EHU), Sara Green (University of Copenhagen), Alvaro Moreno (UPV/EHU), Laura Nuño de la Rosa (UPV/EHU), Thomas Pradeu (CNRS, Université de Bordeaux), Marie-Elise Truchetet (University Hospital of Bordeaux)

Organizers: Leonardo Bich (CNRS, U. Bordeaux) Arantza Etxeberria (UPV/EHU)


Flyer: Here

Program and abstracts: Here

IAS-Research Seminar by Michael Beaton (UPV-EHU & Sussex): “Sensorimotor Direct Realism: How We Enact Our World”

Date and Time: June 13, Monday, 11:00 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14

Speaker: Michael Beaton (UPV-EHU & Sussex)

Title: Sensorimotor Direct Realism: How We Enact Our World


Direct realism is a non-reductive, anti-representationalist theory of perception which is currently generating a lot of interest within mainstream analytic philosophy. For all that, it is widely held to be both controversial and anti-scientific. The sensorimotor theory of perception, on the other hand, initially generated a lot of interest within mainstream cognitive science, but has not yet delivered on its early promise of changing fundamentally the way in which cognitive scientists think about perception. Here I will argue that sensorimotor theory and direct realism complement each other very well, and that the resultant theory – sensorimotor direct realism – is a scientifically tractable alternative to the dominant, mainstream, representationalist approach within cognitive science. I will argue for the apparently philosophically radical claim that we directly perceive objects themselves, showing how this claim can be understood in a way which makes it amenable to normal scientific study. Objects are analysed as a kind of collaboration between the world and the perceiver. On this account, whilst we never perceive outside the categories of our own understanding, we do, literally, perceive outside our own heads, with no intermediary representations required.

Presentation based on three pieces recently published in Constructivist Foundations.

IAS-Research Seminar by Laura Menatti and Antonio Casado da Rocha: “Landscape and Health: Connecting Psychology, Aesthetics, and Philosophy through the Concept of Affordance”

Date and Time: June 13, Monday, 10:00 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14

Speakers: Laura Menatti (Chile) and Antonio Casado da Rocha (UPV/EHU)

Title: Landscape and Health: Connecting Psychology, Aesthetics, and Philosophy through the Concept of Affordance


In this paper we address a frontier topic in the humanities, namely how the cultural and natural construction that we call landscape affects well-being and health. Following an updated review of evidence-based literature in the fields of medicine, psychology, and architecture, we propose a new theoretical framework called “processual landscape,” which is able to explain both the health-landscape and the medical agency-structure binomial pairs. We provide a twofold analysis of landscape, from both the cultural and naturalist points of view: in order to take into account its relationship with health, the definition of landscape as a cultural product needs to be broadened through naturalization, grounding it in the scientific domain. Landscape cannot be distinguished from the ecological environment. For this reason, we naturalize the idea of landscape through the notion of affordance and Gibson’s ecological psychology. In doing so, we stress the role of agency in the theory of perception and the health-landscape relationship. Since it is the result of continuous and co-creational interaction between the cultural agent, the biological agent and the affordances offered to the landscape perceiver, the processual landscape is, in our opinion, the most comprehensive framework for explaining the health-landscape relationship. The consequences of our framework are not only theoretical, but ethical also: insofar as health is greatly affected by landscape, this construction represents something more than just part of our heritage or a place to be preserved for the aesthetic pleasure it provides. Rather, we can talk about the right to landscape as something intrinsically linked to the well-being of present and future generations.

Presentation based on paper recently published in Frontiers Psychology (see online).

IAS-Research Seminar by Xabier Barandiaran: “Collective identities in interaction networks: exploring the technopolitical autonomy of the 15M through neurodynamic analogies”

Date and Time: February 26, Friday, 15.00 pm

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14

Speaker: Xabier Barandiaran (UPV-EHU)

Title: Collective identities in interaction networks: exploring the technopolitical autonomy of the 15M through neurodynamic analogies


The emergence of network-movements since 2011 has opened the debate around the way in which social media and networked practices make possible innovative forms of collective identity. We briefly review the literature on social movements and ‘collective identity’, and show the tension between different positions stressing either organization or culture, the personal or the collective, aggregative or networking logics. We argue that the 15M (indignados) network-movement in Spain demands conceptual and methodological innovations. Its rapid emergence, endurance, diversity, multifaceted development and adaptive capacity, posit numerous theoretical and methodological challenges. We show how the use of structural and dynamic analysis of interaction networks (in combination with qualitative data) is a valuable tool to track the shape and change of what we term the ‘systemic dimension ’ of collective identities in network-movements. In particular, we introduce a novel method for synchrony detection in Facebook activity to identify the distributed, yet integrated, coordinated activity behind collective identities. Applying this analytical strategy to the 15M movement, we show how it displays a specific form of systemic collective identity we call ‘ multitudinous identity ’ , characterized by social transversality and internal heterogeneity, as well as a transient and distributed leadership driven by action initiatives. Our approach attends to the role of distributed interaction and transient leadership at a mesoscale level of organizational dynamics, which may contribute to contemporary discussions of collective identity in network-movements.

Barandiaran, X. E., & Aguilera, M. (2015). Neurociencia y tecnopolítica: hacia un marco analógico para comprender la mente colectiva del 15M. En J. Toret (Ed.), Tecnopolítica y 15M. La potencia de las multitudes conectadas (pp. 163-211). Barcelona: Editorial UOC.

Monterde, A., Calleja-López, A., Aguilera, M., Barandiaran, X. E., & Postill, J. (2015). Multitudinous identities: a qualitative and network analysis of the 15M collective identity. Information, Communication and Society, doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1043315

IAS-Research Seminar by Ezequiel Di Paolo: “Participatory Object Perception”

Date and Time: February 26, Friday, 16.00 pm

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14

Speaker: Ezequiel Di Paolo (UPV-EHU)

Title: Participatory Object Perception


When we regard an object with an abstract attitude, taking into account it’s shape, colours and other properties, are we exercising a social skill?
Social factors have so far been neglected in embodied theories to perception despite the wealth of phenomenological insights and empirical evidence indicating their importance. In this talk I examine evidence from developmental psychology and neuroscience and attempt an initial classification of this evidence according to whether social factors play a contextual, enabling, or constitutive role in the ability to perceive objects in a detached manner, i.e., beyond their immediate instrumental use. While evidence of cross-cultural variations in perceptual styles and the influence of social cues on visual attention could not be said to play more than a contextual role, other factors such as the intricate developmental links between dyadic and triadic interactions in infancy, as well as episodes of peer-learning in children play enabling roles. A common element in these factors is the presence and resolution of interpersonal conflict. Detached object perception could not develop without these social factors. I argue, in addition, that social skills such as managing partial social acts which are addressed to and completed by others, linguistic mediation, make- believe play, and the ability to control perspectival switches are constitutive –i.e., are of the essence– for seeing objects as present with a detached attitude. I discuss the prospects of incorporating such social elements into dynamical interpretations of the sensorimotor approach through the enactive notion of participatory sense-making.
This talk is based on this recent article:
Di Paolo, E. A. (2016). Participatory object perception. Journal of Consciousness Studies, forthcoming.

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