The idea of organic “progress” and evolutionary theory: an epistemological perspective
Silvia de Cesare (Université de Genève)
Tuesday 28 January at 11.30 Centro Carlos Santamaria (B14)
The notion of “progress” can be defined as a directional change towards the better, implying a descriptive and an axiological element. “Organic progress” is the idea that, in the history of life, there has been a change towards organic forms which are “better” than the ancient forms. Several scholars have shown that this idea can be found in Charles Darwin’s thought and continues to provoke debate today. My presentation aims to disentangle conceptual questions about the notion of organic progress. Can we identify a precise notion of progress that would be implied by evolutionary theory? To answer this, it is necessary to make explicit how this notion is related to two concepts: adaptation and function. Following the reasoning of Darwin, Richard Dawkins and George G. Simpson, I clarify the concept of functional improvement of organic traits. I argue that there is an analogy between organic traits and technological objects, explicit in the notion of “arms race” proposed by Dawkins. Analyzing this analogy, I propose a distinction between two levels of axiology, often neglected both in organic and technological domain. I also suggest the hypothesis that the technological analogy may influence the significance that evolutionary biologists attribute to functional improvement.
Do Bacteria Really Talk to Each Other?
Marc Artiga (Universitat de València)
Tuesday January 14 at at 11:30 (Centro Carlos Santamaria, B14)
In the last two decades, there has been a growing interest in bacteria and other microorganisms. This research has provided interested insights into the nature of life (Parke, 2013), cooperation (Lyon, 2007), individuality (Clarke, 2016), species (Franklin, 2007) and other issues in philosophy of science (O’Malley, 2014). In this talk, I will focus on the capacity of some bacteria to produce molecules that are usually classified as ‘signals’ and I would like to defend two claims. First of all, I will argue that in this context expressions such as ‘signalling’ should be taken at face value and that certain interactions between bacteria actually qualify as genuine forms of communication. The second goal is to use this case study to revise our general theories of signalling. In particular, I will argue that there are some aspects of bacterial signalling that do not fit the standard model; some features that usually included in the definition of communication are probably not necessary (e.g. response flexibility) and others that are not included are crucial (e.g. being a minimal cause). Finally, I will discuss the relationship between my proposal and other accounts, such as the ‘influence’ approach and the Organizational Approach to Biological Communication (Frick, Bich and Moreno, 2019).
Enactive and Simondonian reflections on placebo phenomena
Iñigo Arandia-Romero (UPV/EHU)
Tuesday 21 January 2019 at 11:30 (Centro Carlos Santamaria, B14)
Placebo effects have played a key role in the history of medicine, and they are still nowadays extremely useful as the gold standard to test the efficacy of many treatments through Randomized Control Trials (RCT). Despite its importance, they did not receive much research attention until the last two decades or so, and we are still far from a complete understanding of the phenomena related to the umbrella-term placebo. We will show that part of the problems and limitations to understand the placebo effects is related to theoretical assumptions that are often implicit in the current biomedical paradigm: the mind-body dualism, the predominance of individualism, the reductionist tendency to study isolated factors, and neglecting the dynamic nature of human beings (i.e, their history and evolution process). By taking advantage of the distinction between pre-reflective and reflective consciousness employed in the phenomenological tradition, the theoretical framework of the enactive perspective, and the philosophy of individuation developed by Gilbert Simondon, we will propose a novel way to analyze placebo interventions that overcomes some of the limitations of current approaches, and is able to explain part of the huge variability of placebo responses, across subjects and across conditions. Instead of offering a full account of placebo phenomena, we will provide insights to better analyze different experimental paradigms employed in placebo research considering that each subject is an embodied agent situated in a social environment with concrete problems that can be interpreted as a sense-making challenge or a search for meaning. Then, the placebo intervention can be understood as just the last step that triggers a large response but that would be impossible without the history of the subject, all her previous attempts to cope with her condition in her social context, the patient-practitioner interaction and other features that are often neglected or labelled as non-specific in the placebo literature.
La patología en la filosofía de la individuación de Gilbert Simondon
Enara García and Iñigo Arandia-Romero (UPV/EHU)
Tuesday 19 November 2019 at 11:30 (Centro Carlos Santamaria, B14)
En este trabajo, proponemos mirar en la filosofía de la individuación de Gilbert Simondon para ofrecer un entendimiento de lo patológico desde una ontología procesual y relacional que diluye tanto la discontinuidad entre procesos vitales y psíquicos como la dicotomía entre individuo y sociedad. Simondon propone estudiar, no tanto los individuos ya constituidos, sino el proceso de ontogénesis del individuo que, en el caso del ser humano, está mediado por su participación en lo colectivo. En este proceso, la afectividad juega un papel central, ya que atraviesa tanto la individuación vital, como la psíquica y la colectiva, conectando el conjunto de tensiones y potencialidades existentes previas al proceso de individuación (lo pre-individual) con el individuo constituido. Este cambio de perspectiva permite entender la patología, no en términos normativos, sino como el estudio de la dinámica de la afección, con su historia previa y sus posibilidades de evolución, e influyendo también en nuestra comprensión de los procesos terapéuticos.
Autopoiesis in the Game of Life
Manuel Heras-Escribano and Miguel Aguilera (UPV/EHU)
Tuesday 3 December 2019 at 11:30 (Centro Carlos Santamaria, B14)
In this talk, we will review a series of papers by Randall Beer. In these work he uses the Game of Life to exemplify different aspects and concepts autopoiesis and enactivism, using the model as a laboratory in which theoretical concepts can be developed to the point where they can be used to actually calculate things (autopoietic networks and operational closure, destructive/non-destructive perturbations, structural coupling…). Reviewing the work in this minimal world we will discuss 1) how different aspects of autopoiesis and autonomy can or cannot be displayed by minimal agents in a cellular automata, 2) how this type of study may be useful for concretizing ongoing debates on the foundations of enaction.
Revisiting the “organism/environment interaction” category
Arantza Etxeberria (UPV/EHU)
Tuesday 12 November 2019 at 11:30 (Centro Carlos Santamaria, B14)
The “organism/environment interaction” has been an important category in biomedical sciences since the end of the 19th century. It brings forward the view of the organism as an autonomous biological entity, with an internally controlled and regulated physiology, interacting with an environment providing opportunities and viability constraints for its living activities. It is often remarked that organisms can transform or construct these environments according to their needs (dialectical views of development and evolution; niche construction; technologies), or that they need to accommodate their lives and norms to restricted environments in case of disease. This presentation will introduce work in progress intending to examine and discuss the current scientific role of this category in biomedicine. On the grounds of some conceptual and empirical challenges, proposals tending to privilege deeper interconnectivities will be considered. This research is integrated within the Inter-identity Project (Mineco FFI2014-52173-P Research Project on Identities in interaction).
This reading group will be devoted to the work “L’individuation a la lumiere des notions de forme et d’information” of Gilbert Simondon. The aim is to understand the basic concepts of the philosophy of individuation, such as the pre-individual, transduction and physical, vital, psychic and collective individuations in order to analyze its compatibility with and contributions to the enactive conception of cognition. Although most of the readings will be in Spanish, the sessions will run in English.
Time and Location:
Tuesdays at 14h at the room B14 of Santamaría Center
- Simondon and Enactivism
- I. vital, I.2. Niveles sucesivos de individuación: vital, psíquico y transindividual (p.200-204)
- About vital individuation, interiority and transduction in living beings.
- I. vital, IV.5. Topología y ontogénesis (p.285-292).
- I. vital IV.1. Noción de una problemática ontogenética (p.256-262)
- I. vital, II.2. El individuo como polaridad. Individuo y reproducción. Indiferenciación y desdiferenciación… (p.210-236)
- About the colective individuation: p273-278
- Perception in vital individuation: p.265-266
- Perception in psychic individuation: p.305-310
- I. Psíquica.II.4. Lo transindividual (p.316-322)
- I. Psíquica.II.6. La problemática afectiva. (p.325-332)
- Heredia (2015)
- The body:
- I. Psíquica, III.3. Individuación, individualización y personalización. El bisustancialismo (p. 338-346)
- I. Psíquica. III.6. Necesidad de ontogénesis psiquica (p.363)
- The transindividual:
- Section I and II of the transindividual (p.371-p.403)
- Problematica de la reflexividad en la individuacion (p.350-363)
- Knowledge and epistemology:
- Bardin (2012) Chapter 4. Subject and method of a philosophy of individuation
- Bardin (2012) Chapter 2. Reforming the concepts of Form and Information
Simondon, G. (2014). La individuación a la luz de las nociones de forma y de información. Cactus.
Heredia, J. M. (2012). Los conceptos de afectividad y emoción en la filosofía de Gilbert Simondon. Revista de humanidades, (26), 51-75.
Bardin, A. (2015). Epistemology and political philosophy in gilbert simondon: Individuation, technics, social systems. Springer.
Motility Control of Symbionts and Organelles by the Eukaryotic Cell
Tuesday 29 at 11:30 (Centro Carlos Santamaria B14)
Motility occupies a decisive role in an organism’s ability to autonomously interact with its environment. However, collective biological organizations exhibit individual parts, which have temporally or definitively lost their motor capacities, but still able to autonomously interact with their host. Indeed, although the flagella of bacterial symbionts of eukaryotic cells are usually inhibited or lost, they autonomously modify the environment provided by their host. Furthermore, the eukaryotic organelles of endosymbiotic origin (i.e., mitochondria and plastids) are no longer able to move autonomously; nonetheless, they make a cytoskeletal-driven motion that allows them to communicate with other eukaryotic cells and to perform a considerable number of physiological functions. The purpose of this article is twofold: first, to investigate how changes in the motile capacities of the parts of a nested biological organization affect their interactive autonomy; second, to examine how the modification of the interactive autonomy of the individual parts influences the constitutive autonomy of the collective association as a whole. The article argues that the emergence and maintenance of collective biological identities involves a strict control of the motile abilities of their constituting members. This entails a restriction, but not necessarily a complete loss, of the agential capacities of the individual parts.
Date and time: October 15, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.
Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.
Speaker: Matthew Egbert (University of Auckland)
Title: Autonomous & Self-Sensitive Organisms, Behaviours and Ecological Systems
Abstract. The enactive concept of autonomy refers to a precarious, “operationally closed” network of interdependent components, where each constitutive component both depends upon and enables other components. Originally formulated as a description of the basic organization of living systems, the idea has been applied in a variety of domains.
In this talk, I will touch on three of these domains. First I will briefly review previous work that shows how autonomous biological individuals (such as bacterial cells) can respond to indicators of their own viability.
I will then present some recent investigations of autonomous sensorimotor dynamics, and highlight an open challenge concerning how autonomous patterns of sensorimotor behaviour might similarly adapt to their own viability.
Finally, I will consider autonomy in the context of ecological systems, and how these systems might be able to respond adaptively to their own viability. This final section of the talk outlines some very early-stage research I am engaged in that relates to Lovelock’s Gaia theory.
Date and time: September 27, Friday, 11:30 a.m.
Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.
Speaker: Neda Maki (University of Toronto)
Title: Autism in the Canadian Arctic
Limited data are available on how Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects Inuit families living in remote Arctic communities in Nunavut (NU). In Canada, 1 in 66 children is diagnosed with ASD. A neurodevelopmental condition, ASD is characterized by impediments in communication and social interaction. A significant primary health concern due to its life-altering impact on families and the high cost to society of providing supportive ASD services. While there are robust autism programs available in some Canadian jurisdictions, no specific programs exist in NU. Nunavummiut (inhabitants of Nunavut) living in remote communities must travel thousands of kilometers to southern hospitals (Ottawa, Edmonton, and Winnipeg) to receive pediatric assessment, therapies (physio, occupational, speech, and behaviour), and counselling. Emerging from concerns of Nunavummiut families, the proposed study aims to 1. gather family, education, and health service provider perspectives to outline the day to day challenges and obstacles faced by care providers for children with autistic behaviours in remote communities of NU; and 2. Support the development of ASD services and program objectives that reflect Inuit specific frameworks of child development, family and community support. By embracing Inuit methodology of Piliriqatigiinniq (working together for the common good), this study is a timely engagement that responds to Qikiqtani Truth Commission’s Call for immediate government action to provide people of NU equitable and accessible programs and services at a local-level. Building on community partnerships consistent with Inuit knowledge production and self-determination this study will truly service the needs of Nunavummiut by understanding what strategies and health services (if any) Inuit seek and value when caring for children who display ASD behaviours.