IAS-Research Seminar by Miguel Escribano. “G.W. Leibniz y el problema del origen de los cuerpos orgánicos. Educción y preformacionismo”


Date and time: January 22, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Miguel Escribano (UPV/EHU)

Title: “G.W. Leibniz y el problema del origen de los cuerpos orgánicos. Educción y preformacionismo”


“El problema del origen de la vida, como hoy en día se plantea, no es directamente abordado durante la modernidad filosófica. Existen, sin embargo, algunos debates que podríamos considerar al respecto por su cercanía a este problema. El caso de G.W. Leibniz es especialmente relevante. Por un lado, su Dinámica tiene la pretensión de convertirse en una ‘ontología general’ que de cuenta de todas las parcelas de lo real en términos de fuerza y forma. En este sentido, su visión de la naturaleza implica una cierta continuidad y coordinación entre las dinámicas características a los tres reinos naturales. Este programa ontológico no está exento de contradicciones. Leibniz nos aporta algunas herramientas para abordar estas contradicciones. En esta presentación haré mención a dos de ellas: por un lado, la teoría de la educción (importancia del pensamiento químico) y, por otro lado, la idea de preformación (importancia del pensamiento biológico). Considerando ambas teorías se plantea el siguiente problema: ¿existe una incompatibilidad entre la perspectiva diacrónico-embriogenética (biológica) que defiende que toda forma orgánica procede de otra forma orgánica y la perspectiva sincrónico-emergente (química) que defiende por su parte que la dinámica organizacional que caracteriza a un organismo educe a un cierto nivel de complejidad natural?”

Reading group on Evolution and Cognition


1. Objectives: 

  • Introduce basic notions of evolutionary biology and physiology of the nervous system.
  • Understand current discussion on the evolution of human cognition.
  • Discuss the role of the interaction between organism and environment in the evolution of the nervous system.

2. Format

Eleven reading seminars lasting 1.5h around different authors and topics that aim to explain the evolution of the nervous system and cognition in human beings. In each session, one participant will shortly (20min) present the topic in order to facilitate the discussion. After every session, this participant will prepare a summary of the discussion. The final transcript will be evaluated for feedback by the coordinator.

3. Schedule, topics, and readings

Seminars will take place from January to June 2019, on alternate Thursdays from 15:00 to 16:30h, open to online and in-person participation at the Carlos Santamaría Center Seminar 14.

Session Date Topic Bibliography
1. January, 10 Introduction Moreno, A., & Lasa, A. (2003). From basic adaptivity to early mind. Evolution and Cognition, 9(1).

Rosslenbroich, B. (2014). On the origin of autonomy: a new look at the major transitions in evolution (Vol. 5). Springer Science & Business Media. Chapters 8, 10.1 y 10.2

2. January, 24 Evolution of the nervous system I. Dynamic Systems Barandiaran, X., & Moreno, A. (2006). On what makes certain dynamical systems cognitive: A minimally cognitive organization program. Adaptive Behavior, 14(2), 171-185.
3. February, 7 Evolution of the nervous system II. Plant and animal cognition Calvo Garzón, P., & Keijzer, F. (2011). Plants: Adaptive behavior, root-brains, and minimal cognition. Adaptive Behavior, 19(3), 155-171.

Keijzer, F. (2015). Moving and sensing without input and output: Early nervous systems and the origins of the animal sensorimotor organization. Biology & Philosophy, 30, 311–331

4. February, 21 Evolution and Agency Barandiarán, X. (2008). Mental Life. A naturalized approach to the autonomy of cognitive agents. [Thesis Capítulos 5 y 6]
5. 7 March The 4 dimensions of evolution Jablonka, E., & Lamb, M. J. (2007). Précis of evolution in four dimensions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30(4), 353-365.
6. March, 21 Cognitive functions: working memory and the frontal lobe Damasio, El error de Descartes. capítulos 2,3 y 4.

Frederick L. Coolidge, Thomas Wynn. 2009.The Rise of Homo Sapiens, The Evolution of Modern Thinking [capítulo 3]

7. April, 4 Evolution and reproduction Gruss, L. T., & Schmitt, D. (2015). The evolution of the human pelvis: changing adaptations to bipedalism, obstetrics and thermoregulation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 370(1663), 20140063.
8. April, 18 Cultural Evolution I Portin, P. (2015). A comparison of biological and cultural evolution. Journal of genetics, 94(1), 155-168.

Lewens, T. (2015). Cultural evolution: conceptual challenges. OUP Oxford (capítulo 1)

9. May, 2 Cultural Evolution II Dunbar, R. I. (2009). The social brain hypothesis and its implications for social evolution. Annals of human biology, 36(5), 562-572.

Laland, K., Matthews, B., & Feldman, M. W. (2016). An introduction to niche construction theory. Evolutionary ecology, 30(2), 191-202.

10. May, 16 Evolution and 4E Cognition Barrett, L. The evolution of cognition: a 4E perspective. The Oxford Handbook of 4e Cognition. New York: Oxford UP.

Malafouris, L. Bringing things to mind. In The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition.

11. May, 30
Congress July, 10-14 4E Cognition Theories

4. Coordination and more information

In order to join the reading group or request further information, please contact the coordinators:

Enara Garcia (enara.garcia.otero@gmail.com)

Guglielmo Militello (guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus)

Alejandra Martínez Quintero (alejandra.mtz.quintero@gmail.com)

Graduate Workshop on Philosophy of Science / Seminario de Investigación en Filosofía de la Ciencia

Date and time: March 9, Friday, 9:00 – 13:30

Location: ”Sala de Juntas” (Facultad de Educación, Filosofía y Antropología, EHU/UPV)

Opening: Alba Amilburu (EHU-UPV, IAS-Research) & Cristian Saborido (UNED)

Speakers: Alejandra Martínez Quintero (EHU-UPV), Giorgio Airoldi (UNED), Guglielmo Militello (EHU-UPV), Emilio Cáceres Vázquez (UNED)

Program: Graduate Workshop on Philosophy of Science1

“Evolvability as a dispositional property”

Seminar on Tuesday, 14th of February at 11:15am at the Carlos Santamaria (IAS room, B14)

Laura Nuño de la Rosa: “Evolvability as a dispositional property”

Evolvability, or the ability of biological systems to evolve, is usually taken to be a cornerstone of evo-devo and, more generally, of the so-called Extended Evolutionary Synthesis. In the last years, evolutionary biologists have made several efforts to define evolvability, and philosophers of biology have shown an increasing interest in understanding the dispositional nature of this concept. In this talk, I will explore the philosophical consequences associated to two major conceptual tensions permeating current definitions of evolvability. The first concerns the relationship between variability and adaptability. While some authors define evolvability as the capacity of biological systems to vary, evolvability is mostly seen as the capacity to vary in an adaptive way, excluding the capacity of a system for producing deleterious mutations as a part of the ability to evolve. The idea that the ability to adapt can evolve has been charged with suggesting a teleological view of evolution, insofar as natural selection cannot adapt a population for future contingencies. I will explore the existing solutions to this dilemma and will argue that evolvability can be defined in a functional sense without invoking teleology. The second conceptual tension among the existing definitions of evolvability concerns the very subject of evolvability. While most philosophers of biology agree that evolvability can only be a property of populations, I will argue that biologists are right in defining evolvability as a capacity of biological systems that apply to different levels of organization. Finally, I will explore the role of extrinsic (environmental) factors in the determination of evolvability, and argue that the context-sensitivity of evolvability does not challenge its intrinsicality.

Talk by Carissa Véliz (U. of Oxford): “In defence of habits”

Date and time: Monday Dec. 15th. 11.00 am.
Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14
Speaker: Carissa Véliz (U. of Oxford)
It is tempting to think that habitual behaviour is undesirable when it comes to morality and politics. When we think of an ideal moral agent and citizen, we tend to imagine someone whose behaviour is the result of careful rational deliberation and not habitual impulses. Kant, for example, believed that “As a rule all habits are reprehensible.” (2006, §9, 149). Habits seem particularly threatening for projects seeking social change, for habits enable people to go through their day-to-day life without conscious questioning of what they do, and partly constitute a basic resistance to doing things differently.
I argue that habits are an inevitable part of moral and political life, and that this is not necessarily negative; although habits are often instrumental to maintaining the status quo, they can also be tools for social change. I will first present five features of habitual action. I will then differentiate between habits, dispositions, and practices, and argue for the conceptual advantages of talking of habits in moral and political philosophy. Finally, I will argue against views of habits as obstacles to responsible moral and political behaviour leading to social transformation.

Dec. 1. Talk by Leonardo Bich: Biological Regulation: an organisational account

TITLE: Biological Regulation: an organisational account

LOCATION: Centro Carlos Santamaría Zentroa B14

TIME: Dec 1, 11.00

ABSTRACT; Biological systems exhibit a wide range of molecular mechanisms and behavioral strategies to ensure their survival under variable conditions. All of these mechanisms tend to be interpreted as regulatory because they contribute to the maintenance of  the system’s viability against perturbations by modulating their own basic dynamics. However, despite the widespread appeal to the notion of regulation in biology, be it for explanatory, modeling or defining purposes, the meaning of this notion is left somehow vague and its relationship with akin concepts, such as homeostasis, robustness, feedback or adaptation is hardly stated in clear terms. I will propose an organizational approach to regulation, by focusing on the mechanisms at the basis of responses to perturbations in minimal living systems. In the first place, I will analyze different forms of control in the cell, and how they can be recruited by biological organization to respond to internal or external perturbations. In doing so I will distinguish between two different classes of responses, based respectively on stability and regulatory mechanisms. I will describe the limits of stability as an adaptive response, and I will provide a definition and a basic set of organizational requirement for regulation, by pointing out the differences with similar concepts such as feedback. robustness and homeostasis.

17 Nov., Talk by Sara Murillo – Towards integrative compartmentalized chemical systems: a lipid-peptide rendez-vous


Towards integrative compartmentalized chemical systems: a lipid-peptide rendez-vous.

Sara Murillo Sanchez1,2, Damien Beaufils,3 Robert Pascal,3  Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo1,2,


1Biophysics Unit (CSIC, UPV/EHU), Leioa, Spain; 2Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science, UPV, Donostia−San Sebastián, Spain; 3IBMM, CNRS – Université de Montpellier, Place E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France

Maturana and Varela’s work on the theory of autopoiesis in the seventies and eighties led to a conception of life as a form of organization, by which each living entity recursively produces itself, including the boundary with its local environment (i.e., the cellular compartment). In more recent times, we have applied a similar idea, ‘basic autonomy’ [1], to design a research agenda in the field of origins of life, proposing it as an intermediate bridge between complex self-organizing phenomena and ‘genetically-instructed metabolisms’ – i.e., minimal but already full-fledged living organisms, capable of open-ended evolution [2].

This systems view for the origin of life is grounded on the idea that biological organization should result from the functional integration of diverse autocatalytic subsystems maintained in far-from-equilibrium conditions. The authors of this work come from two different fields of research, prebiotic peptide synthesis [3, 4] and fatty acid compartment self-assembly [5], but share the aim of investigating the relevance of coupled processes that could connect both fields.

The membrane-assisted formation of oligo-peptides [6,7] or more recent endogenous synthesis of a hydrophobic peptide that gets inserted in the lipid bilayer of a protocell  [8] have opened new research pathways into the possibility that peptides could be helpful for the growth and stability of lipid vesicles.

We present here the first results of a collaborative work in which the presence of fatty acid vesicles has been demonstrated to favor the peptide bond formation, potentially leading to a prebiotic process of selection and amplification of peptide residues. In turn, the insertion of the type of peptides synthesized here into fatty acid membranes could also contribute to their stability, representing a positive feedback for vesicle self-assembly and potential growth and reproduction.


[1] K. Ruiz-Mirazo, A. Moreno, 2004, Artificial Life, 10(3), 235–2597

[2] K. Ruiz-Mirazo, J. Umerez & A. Moreno, 2008, Biology and Philosophy, 23(1), 67–85

[3] D. Beaufils, G. Danger, L. Boiteau, R. Pascal, 2014. Chem. Commun, 50 :3100–3102

[4] G. Danger, R. Plasson, R. Pascal, 2012, Chemical Society Reviews, 41:5416–29.

[5] A. Rendón, D. Gil Carton, J. Sot, M. García-Palacios, R. Montes, M. Valle, J-L. Arrondo, F.M. Goñi, K. Ruiz-Mirazo, 2012, Biophysical Journal, 102: 278-286.

[6] M. Blocher, D. Liu, P. L. Luisi, 2000, Macromolecules, 33:5787-5796

[7] H. H. Zepik, S. Rajamani, M.-C. Maurel, D. Deamer, 2007, Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 37, 495-505.

[8] K. Adamala, J. W. Szostak, 2013, Nat. Chem. 5, 495–501


10th Nov., talk by Oier Etxeberria: AITA LABURU Imágenes y palabras sobre magia y locura en el País Vasco (1933-1935)

TITLE: AITA LABURU Imágenes y palabras sobre magia y locura en el País Vasco (1933-1935)

LOCATION: Centro Carlos Santamaría Zentro B14

DATE: 10th Nov., 11:00

ABSTRACT: El padre Laburu fue uno de los primeros documentalistas del
cine vasco. Sus filmes en torno a los ritos mágicos en la medicina
popular, los experimentos perceptivos realizados con los animales, su
interes por los zoológicos y los centros de internamiento
psiquiátrico, constituyen un legado sustancial para la llamada
antropología visual y sin duda muestran a un intelectual (teologo,
medico) interesado en indagar en las zonas oscuras del pensamiento
racional y cientifico. La inclusion de estos materiales en el contexto
de Pure Data, un proyecto a la que recientemente he dedicado una
exposición[1], la presentación en el 33º festival de cine de NAFA y
ahora esta presentación ante un publico universitario constituye una
oportunidad para tratar de analizar hasta que punto la progresiva
tecnificación medica de la sociedad y su poder empirico-instumental
convive con la sacralizacion con la que paulatinamente se nos muestra
la gestión de la salud.

Prof. Alvaro Moreno: The Limits of Science as Biological Limits of Human Beings – CSM B14, 3 Nov., 11am


Alvaro Moreno

In this talk I will analyze the nature of Science considered as a specific form of human action. I will first analyze the epistemic dimension of science, its limits, and the role that philosophy could play in this domain. Second, I will consider science from a broader perspective, as a system embedded in the development of human society. From this perspective, science has caused an accelerated process of economic growth. But this process, which lacks a global regulatory control, is potentially self-destructive because it undermines the ecological logic, which is based on building sustainable cycles among species. As I will explain, a clash between the specific expansion of the human niche (as driven by science) and the induced transformations in the global ecosystem seems inevitable because the change in the forms of human interaction with other species is cultural, not genetic, and therefore its speed makes it virtually impossible a re-adaptation by most of the biological species.