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

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.