Evolution and the embodied mind: The biological roots of 4E cognition

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This workshop aims to gather researchers in Evolution and 4E Cognition in order to evaluate which are the complementarities and tensions between these two approaches.
The topics of the workshop will include (although will not be restricted to) the following ones:
  1. Minimal cognition from a 4E perspective,
  2.  Embodied and situated approaches to the evolution of cognition,
  3.  The role of sociality in cognitive evolution from a 4E perspective

VENUE

City: Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain).

Date: 12, 13 & 14 July, 2019.

Venue: Ignacio María Barriola Building ( Elhuyar Square, 1), University of the Basque Country. 3rd Floor, Room 3.2.

PROGRAM

Download the program here with this link: Program2

SPEAKERS

Glenda Satne, Daniel D. Hutto, Tony Chemero, Paco Calvo, Xabier Barandiaran, Tom Froese, Jim Clavel, Vicente Raja, Miguel Segundo.
The workshop is organized by Manuel Heras-Escribano and Ezequiel Di Paolo (IAS Research Centre for Life, Mind, and Society, EHU-UPV) and generously funded by the BBVA Foundation through the 2018 Leonardo Grant for Researchers and Cultural Creators entitled “The philosophy of affordances: The ecological, evolutionary, and social origins of cognition [AFFORDEVOCOG]”

IAS-Research Talk by Miguel A. Sepúlveda-Pedro (Université de Montréal): “Opening the ecological dimension of the enactive approach: Umwelt, normativity, and form”

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Date and time: July 16, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Miguel A. Sepúlveda-Pedro (Université de Montréal)

Title: Opening the ecological dimension of the enactive approach: Umwelt, normativity, and form

Abstract:

The enactive approach is an alternative approach to cognition that challenges many fundamental assumptions of mainstream cognitive science. One of the most fundamental assumptions of traditional cognitive science is that the objective World is a ready-made reality that we access via our cognitive capacities, thus cognition essentially consist in getting information about this objective reality. In this classical picture, we need to reconstruct or represent the outside world in our heads, given the limited capacities of our senses. From the beginning, the enactive approach has challenged this conception of cognition by positing that the world we live, in our cognitive lives, is enacted thanks to the interactions of a living agent and its surroundings. Therefore, it is suggested that the world that a cognitive agent experience is not an objective reality but a dimension that acquires meaning and value according to the skills and concerns of living agents. Thompson, in his Mind in Life, loosely refer to this enactment of a meaningful world as an Umwelt. Uexküll coined the concept of Umwelt to define the world as it is lived by animals, according to their biological needs. However, Uexküll statements was sometimes explicitly linked to Kant’s transcendental philosophy. One of the problems of Kant’s transcendental philosophy is that it encloses the subject in its own domain, meanwhile an objective unknowable reality remains the source of materials that acquire form thanks to the mental capacities of the subject. In this Kantian background, the enactment of an Umwelt will be analogous to the constitution of a meaningful world by the capacities of the subject alone. This interpretation of the Umwelt is deeply problematic, and it does not reflect the claims of the enactive approach. This approach, like phenomenology, offers an account that entails a deep entanglement between the body and the environment, not an enclosed form of subjectivity. Nevertheless, many criticisms on the enactive approach seems to interpret the enactment of an Umwelt in the Kantian sense, so they claim that the enactive approach entails some form of subjectivism. In my view, many of these criticism are unfounded due to misinterpretations of the claims of the enactive approach, nonetheless, their criticisms push us to have a more specific account of the Umwelt, one that remains coherent with the claims of the enactive approach, but that also avoids the problems that have been usually attributed to the enactive approach. Thus, I will suggest that conceptually the notion of interanimality and the metaphor of animal melodies, in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of nature, offer us a better way to understand the characteristics of the Umwelt, from the perspective of the enactive approach. Moreover, I will also suggest that an account of what I call structural emergence needs to be also explicitly added to the theory of biological autonomy, to open the domain of embodied subjectivity to a deeper ecological dimension of emplaced intercorporeality.

ENACTION AND ECOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY: OVERLAPS, TENSIONS, COMPLEMENTARITIES

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This workshop aims to gather researchers in Enaction and Ecological Psychology in order to evaluate which are the complementarities, tensions, and overlaps between these two approaches.
The topics of the workshop will be divided in three main sections:
  1. Methodological and scientific ontology: Ecological information, sensorimotor contingencies, and affordances.
  2.  Epistemic issues: Ecological meaning, phenomenology, and sense-making.
  3.  The social world within the enactive and the ecological approaches.

VENUE

City: Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain).

Date: 9 & 10 July, 2019.

Venue: Ignacio María Barriola Building ( Elhuyar Square, 1), University of the Basque Country.

PROGRAM

SPEAKERS

Tony Chemero, Ezequiel Di Paolo, Tom Froese, David Jacobs, David Travieso, Jorge Ibanez-Gijon, Lorena Lobo, Harry Heft, Julian Kiverstein, Erik Rietveld, Marek McGann, Vicente Raja and Miguel Segundo.
The workshop is organized by Manuel Heras-Escribano and Ezequiel Di Paolo (IAS Research Centre for Life, Mind, and Society, EHU-UPV) and generously funded by the BBVA Foundation through the 2018 Leonardo Grant for Researchers and Cultural Creators entitled “The philosophy of affordances: The ecological, evolutionary, and social origins of cognition [AFFORDEVOCOG]”
 

IAS-Research talk by Maria Jimena Clavel (University of St. Andrews): “Embodying imagination “

Date and time: July 2, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Maria Jimena Clavel (University of St. Andrews)

Title: Embodying imagination

Abstract:

This piece is part of a larger project that aims at showing that imagination is constrained as a consequence of its embodied character and that explores the consequences of that thesis in our engagement with art and in our social interactions. Traditionally, we think of imagination as a paradigmatic case of offline cognition, i.e. cognitive endeavors that do not directly involve real-time adaptive interactions with our surroundings. In this piece we challenge this more traditional understanding of imagination and argue that exercises of imagination are embodied. We examine two embodied approaches to imagination that can be found in the literature: a radical enactive approach (see Hutto 2006, Medina 2013) and a predictive approach to imagination (see Kirchhoff 2017); and what it means for imagination to be embodied from the perspective of these two approaches. From the perspective of the first approach, our imaginative engagements are a re-enactment of our interactions with the environment and are better understood by referring to agent-world dynamics. From the perspective of the second approach, imagination is supported by the same predictive mechanism that supports perception. Here we explore the possibility of a middle ground between these two positions in what concerns imagination, and the notion of embodiment that stems from it. Importantly, one consequence of this approach is that imagination is constrained by its embodied character.

Research Workshop Philosophy of Biology and Cognitive Sciences

Since its origins in 2011, the Research Workshop on Philosophy of Biology and Cognitive Science (PBCS) is an annual encounter of young scholars that aims at bringing together researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds: philosophers, cognitive scientists, and biologists working on issues of common interest. In this workshop, young researchers can present their ideas and participate in the discussions, as well as attend the conferences of keynote speakers. Its main purposes are to serve as a tool for enhancing research through discussion and to promote the interdisciplinary of the ideas presented. In its ninth edition, the organizers would like to keep encouraging young researchers to participate in this fresh and distinctive forum.

DATE:

9 & 10 May

VENUE:

Sala de Grados. Faculty of Education, Philosophy and Antropology (EFA).

Avda, Tolosa 70. 20018 (San Sebastian)

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:

Manuel Heras Escribano (UPV/EHU)

Gaëlle Pontarotti (Université Paris-Diderot)

PROGRAM:

WEBSITE:

https://pbcs9workshop.wixsite.com/pbcs9workshop/

IAS-Research Seminar by Iñigo Arandia. “Epistemic entanglement in the macroscopic world”

Date and time: April 9th, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Iñigo Arandia (UPV/EHU)

Title: “Epistemic entanglement in the macroscopic world”

Abstract

Scientific non-reductionism emphasizes that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Beyond metaphor, such holistic idea can be made concrete (namely, mathematically formulated and empirically testable) via the notion of entanglement, which is a foundational concept and an established phenomenon in quantum mechanics related to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (a fundamental limit to the precision of simultaneously measuring two complementary variables, like the position and momentum of an electron, which is not a consequence of experimental limitations). Here we present a classical analog of entanglement, where uncertainty relations arise from experimental commitments, like the selection of variables and/or subsystems, or ignorance about the context. Inspired by a theoretical work offering a definition of entanglement in a model of macroscopic brownian particles (Allahverdyan et al., 2005), we propose a general sufficient condition for epistemic entanglement that is valid for any underlying dynamics and any pair of macroscopic stochastic observables. Our bound reflects a trade-off between inter-vs-intra particle correlations, and only requires estimating dispersions. This makes it empirically accessible and also somewhat intuitive. We explored the origin of epistemic entanglement by taking advantage of analytical results available in brownian models and simulations of stochastic systems. Then, we applied our sufficient condition to behavioral data of fly courtship, and found entanglement between position and coarse-grained velocity. This result implies the existence of macroscopic correlations that cannot be effectively explained in causal terms, thus limiting the common cause principle. Our work also challenges the idea of pure objectivity, as our choice of measurement variables induced epistemic correlations that cannot be adjudicated to the observed system but that, through coarse-graining, belong to the observer.

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, 14:30 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”

Abstract

“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?”

IAS-Research Talk by Iñaki San Pedro: Degrees of Epistemic Opacity

Date and time: February 19, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Iñaki San Pedro (UPV/EHU)

Title: Degrees of Epistemic Opacity

Abstract:

The paper distinguishes two senses of “epistemic opacity” in computer simulations, namely a qualitative sense and a quantitative sense, and explores their relation to actual simulating and modelling practices.

From a qualitative point of view, the notion of “epistemic opacity“ in computer simulation seems to have the same significance and implications for any computer simulations. That is, from a qualitative point of view, computer simulations seem to be equally opaque —i.e. we open the black box, and find it (always) dark! In this sense “epistemic opacity” expresses the fact that when a computer simulation is performed there is an “epistemic leap” associated to it. This kind of epistemic leap is characteristic rather than of a specific model or simulation, of the fact that a simulation is performed.

On the other hand, “epistemic opacity” can also be approached from a quantitative point of view. The questions to be asked then are rather different, e.g. is the “epistemic leap” noted above always of the same size? or are all computer simulations equally opaque, i.e. when we open the back box and find it dark, is it always as dark? The paper argues that (from this quantitative point of view), computer simulations display degrees of “epistemic opacity” (with the limit of non-opacity set in analycity). I will not discuss here whether these degrees of “epistemic opacity” can be measured (i.e. exactly quantified), or attempt provide a method for doing that. I will claim nevertheless that actual degrees of “epistemic opacity” are tightly related to what we can call the “complexity of the computational process”, which is associated for instance to the particular design of the computing software at work, specific computer settings, or to hardware limitations. With this idea of complexity in mind, I will claim, the more complex a computational process is, the more (quantitatively) epistemically opaque will the simulation result.

I will note finally that a good deal of methodological decisions taken by scientist and modellers when performing computer simulations —i.e. typical tricks-of-the-trade such as parametrisation, use of expert knowledge, scaling, etc.—, which constitute an important part of current scientific practices in the field, are precisely aimed at reducing such complexity. I will conclude thus that actual scientific practices (or part of these, at least) in fact reduce (quantitative) “epistemic opacity.” This opens new and interesting questions such as whether actual scientific practices can manage to reduce “epistemic opacity” to the limit of analycity (thus eliminating “epistemic opacity” also in a qualitative sense), whether specific scientific practices can be said to reduce in some (qualitative) sense some of the uncertainties that computer simulations involve, or whether they have an impact on the reliability or confidence of specific computer simulations (possibly of the very same system).