IAS-seminar, talk by Charles Wolfe: “Taking the side of things, with a side order of agency: on some ontological aporias of New Materialism”

The Philosophy Master’s Programme: Ciencia, Sociedad, Tecnología is organizing the event ‘Inteligencia Artificial y Materialismos’. As part of this event, IAS is organizing the talk by Charles Wolfe. The event will take place at the Sala de Juntas on Thursday May 30th starting at 11.00

11:00 Jorge Linares (UNAM) Los desafios de la inteligencia artificial. (Seminario Abierto)
13:00 Cat Moir (University of Sydney) Freudo-Marxist materialism. (Seminario Abierto)
16:00 Charles Wolfe (University of Toulouse) Taking the side of things, with a side order of agency: on some ontological aporias of New Materialism. (IAS-Seminar)

Abstract from Charles Wolfe’s talk:
The theoretical movement known as New Materialism, which emerged in the early 2000s, saw not only the return of ontology, but also the affirmation of a materialism in which all oppositions and contradictions would dissolve. New Materialist trends take the agency of non-humans, as suggested by Haraway and Latour in particular, a step further, and come to regard all the material components of our societies as active agents endowed, to varying degrees, with a form of vitality. (Traditional terms like ‘animism’ and ‘vitalism’ are of limited use here as they seem to confuse the issue further without adding precision.) In this paper I return to what I call the ‘ontologism’ of New Materialism in relation to vital, mechanistic and dialectical forms of materialism, commenting on authors such as Jane Bennett, Karen Barad, and Elizabeth Grosz.

IAS-Research Seminar by Andrea Gambarotto: “Nature and Agency: Towards a Post-Kantian Naturalism”

Thursday 26th October 2023 at 14:30, Centro Carlo Santamaria, room 4

The talk will be hybrid, to participate remotely please contact andrea.gambarotto@uclouvain.be


We outline an alternative to both scientific and liberal naturalism which attempts to reconcile Sellars’ apparently conflicting commitments to the scientific accountability of human nature and the autonomy of the space of reasons. Scientific natu- ralism holds that agency and associated concepts are a mechanical product of the realm of laws, while liberal naturalism contends that the autonomy of the space of reason requires that we leave nature behind. The third way we present follows in the footsteps of German Idealism, which attempted to overcome the Kantian chasm between nature and agency, and is thus dubbed ‘post-Kantian.’ We point to an overlooked group of scholars in the naturalism debate who, along with recent work in biology and cognitive science, offer a path to overcome the reductive tendencies of empiricism while avoiding the dichotomy of logical spaces. We then bring together these different streams of research, by foregrounding and expanding on what they share: the idea of organisms as living agents and that of a continuity without identity between life and mind. We qualify this as a bottom-up transformative approach to rational agency, which grounds cognition in the intrinsically purposive nature of organisms, while emphasizing the distinction between biological agency and full-fledged mindedness.

IAS-Research Seminar by Enara Garcia (EHU/UPV), “Towards a process perspective of psychopathology “

The next meeting of the IAS Seminar will take place next Thursday, March 16th, with a talk by Enara Garcia:

Towards a process perspective of psychopathology 
“One of the aspects generally neglected by the DSM categorical system is the temporal variability of mental disorders and their symptoms. Not only individual differences apply to mental disorder categories, but also temporal differences in phases of certain pathologies. For instance, schizophrenic hallucinations are typically preceded by a prodromal phase followed by a post-hallucinatory depression. The dynamics of emergence, persistence and decay of diverse psychopathologies diverge considerably as well. While panic attacks in anxiety disorders are acute and intense phenomena followed by low-intensity chronic stress, depression onsets follow a more inconspicuous and extended-in-time trajectory. Understanding these dynamic differences is relevant for selecting interventions in therapeutic processes. With the aim of elaborating on the process perspective of psychopathology, I will critically review some recent works in complex and dynamical system models of mental disorders, such as network theories, attractor models and time-series analysis on affects.”

The talk will take place at the centro Carlos Santamaria at 4pm, room 4

To participate online, please contact Andrea Gambarotto andrea.gambarotto@uclouvain.be

IAS-Research Seminar by Thomas van Es (EHU/UPV), “Reconceiving the perceptual mind-world relation for enactivism”

On Feb 16th, 2023, at 16:00

To participate, please contact andrea.gambarotto@uclouvain.be


Enactivism is an approach to cognition that centres embodiment and autonomy. In the philosophy of perception, there is a realism-idealism spectrum, with perception of the ‘objective world as it is’ on one end and perception of only internal constructs on the other end. Where enactivism lands on this spectrum continues to be contested. After all, an organism ‘bringing forth a world’ sounds constructivist. Yet this is in tension with enactivism’s anti-representationalist, anti-solipsistic ambitions which may suggest a realist commitment. Here I will argue that enactivism is not idealist, realist or even something in-between. In short, the ‘colouring’ of an organism’s perception through its own activity and interactional history is incompatible with objective realism; yet the sociomaterial understanding of perception as an organism-environment relation is incompatible with idealism. More fundamentally, I propose that the realism-idealism spectrum in perception itself is rooted in a categorical separation between a reified mind and the world. This separation is incompatible with enactivism altogether, thus also ruling out a potential in-between solution. Avoiding eliminativism, I submit that the notion of mind should be reconceived as relational between organism and environment, radically co-constitutive and co-constructivist.
I will proceed as follows. First, I shall provide a brief overview of enactivism, focusing on the notion of sensorimotor autonomy, which captures the self-enabling, self-individuating organisation of clusters of sensorimotor processes like habits. This allows me to say some general things about the notion of ‘mind’ in enactivism, which can be clarified by contrasting it with realism, idealism, and a potential in-between option. I can then contour a positive proposal. Given the autonomous nature of clusters of sensorimotor activities, the encounters of organism and environment — the relations themselves — can be taken to constitute the sensorimotor mind while avoiding the issues of reification. Simultaneously, it is through the plastic changes resulting from these encounters that the organism and environment are and continue to be constructed. Perceptual activity, encompassing organism-environment relations, then, is best understood as self-shaping. I will finish with some of the crucial questions that need more work, like a better understanding of sensorimotor individuation and the nature of the co-constructive processes.

IAS-Research Talk by Carl Sachs (Marymont University), “Strongly Embodied Functionalism: Between Enaction and Functionalism”

On Nov 17th, 2022, at 16:00
To participate, please contact andrea.gambarotto@uclouvain.be
On this occasion, Carl Sachs will present a novel view of functionalism (“strongly embodied functionalism”) in a talk that intersects organizational and enactive approaches, and engages with work by IAS-Research members..

Bio: Carl Sachs (Marymont University)

IAS-Research Seminar by Unai Bayon Aranburu (EHU/UPV), “La contracción epistémica: una cara desconocida de la pobreza”

To participate please contact: perezverdugo.marta@gmail.com

On April 5th, 2022, at 11:30


Numerosos estudios señalan que entornos pobres obstruyen el desarrollo de capacidades epistémicas (entre otras). La urgencia de análisis de dicho fenómeno se deriva del hecho de que en las tendencias macroeconómicas actuales en Occidente hacen que las capacidades afectadas sean cada vez más importantes económica y socialmente. Ello implica que esa obstrucción en el desarrollo de capacidades (la contracción epistémica) puede jugar un rol cada vez más importante en la reproducción de la pobreza.

En esta presentación voy a mostrar el camino y los cimientos que ha conducido a la propuesta de este proyecto, el cual está todavía definiéndose. Para ello recorreremos las injusticias epistémicas de Miranda Fricker, parte de la ontología social de Sally Haslanger, y literatura filosófica sobre la pobreza como el Capability Approach de Amartya Sen y Martha Nussbaum. Todo ello con el objetivo de terminar apuntando, por una parte, al fenómeno de la contracción epistémica, sus características más distintivas y su relevancia en el contexto socioeconómico actual, y por otra, al futuro de este proyecto.

Bio: Unai Bayon Aranburu (Donostia, 1996). Investigador predoctoral en el programa de Filosofía, Ciencia y Valores en la UPV/EHU, misma universidad donde cursó el grado de Filosofía y el máster de investigación de Filosofía, Ciencia y Valores. Su proyecto trata de investigar cómo afecta la pobreza en el desarrollo de capacidades cognitivas y qué repercusiones tiene en el contexto socioeconómico actual. Para ello, en su investigación convergen diferentes tradiciones filosóficas: las injusticias epistémicas, el enfoque de las capacidades, el florecimiento humano, ontología social y teorías de capitalismo cognitivo y aceleración social. Los directores de su tesis son Ekai Txapartegi Zumeta y Jon Umerez Urrezola.

IAS-Research Seminar by Guglielmo Militello (EHU/UPV), “The Complexity of Tumor Heterogeneity: Limitations and Challenges of the Pharmacogenomics in Cancer Treatment”

On March 15th, 2022, at 11:30
To participate, please contact perezverdugo.marta@gmail.com


One of the most important current applications of personalized medicine is the study of the correlations between genetic variations and the emergence of tumor phenotypes in specific human groups in order to provide more personalized treatments. In particular, pharmacogenomics aims at studying the relationship between drug response and individual genomic variations. In cancer treatment, however, the overall effectiveness of this gene-based approach is impaired by the genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity of tumor cells, thus making the pharmacogenomics in cancer treatment problematic. The purpose of this talk is threefold: first, to analyze the levels of organization of tumor heterogeneity; secondly, to explore the complexity of tumor heterogeneity; finally, to estimate the epistemological and practical consequences of such a complexity for the pharmacogenomics in the personalized cancer treatment.

Bio: Guglielmo Militello (EHU/UPV)

IAS-Research Seminar (online) by Ezequiel Di Paolo (EHU/UPV, Ikerbasque, University of Sussex), “Laying down a forking path: Tensions between enaction and the free energy principle”

On Tuesday, Feb 1st, 2022, at 11:30.
To participate, please contact: perezverdugo.marta@gmail.com

Several authors have made claims about the compatibility between the Free Energy Principle (FEP) and theories of autopoiesis and enaction. Many see these theories as natural partners or as making similar statements about the nature of biological and cognitive systems. We critically examine these claims and identify a series of misreadings and misinterpretations of key enactive concepts. In particular, we notice a tendency to disregard the operational definition of autopoiesis and the distinction between a system’s structure and its organization. Other misreadings concern the conflation of processes of self-distinction in operationally closed systems and Markov blankets. Deeper theoretical tensions underlie some of these misinterpretations. FEP assumes systems that reach a non-equilibrium steady state and are enveloped by a Markov blanket. We argue that these assumptions contradict the historicity of sense-making that is explicit in the enactive approach. Enactive concepts such as adaptivity and agency are defined in terms of the modulation of parameters and constraints of the agent-environment coupling, which entail the possibility of changes in variable and parameter sets, constraints, and in the dynamical laws affecting the system. This allows enaction to address the path-dependent diversity of human bodies and minds. We argue that these ideas are incompatible with the time invariance of non-equilibrium steady states assumed by the FEP. In addition, the enactive perspective foregrounds the enabling and constitutive roles played by the world in sense-making, agency, development. We argue that this view of transactional and constitutive relations between organisms and environments is a challenge to the FEP. Once we move beyond superficial similarities, identify misreadings, and examine the theoretical commitments of the two approaches, we reach the conclusion that far from being easily integrated, the FEP, as it stands formulated today, is in tension with the theories of autopoiesis and enaction.

Full text: https://philosophymindscience.org/index.php/phimisci/article/view/9187

IAS-Research Seminar by Laura Menatti (UPV/EHU), “The relationship between health and environment: from adaptation to adaptivity”

On Dec 21st, 2021, at 13:00.

To participate, please contact: perezverdugo.marta@gmail.com

In this talk I address the relationship between health and environment which is of particular relevance in the current pandemic scenario. To do so I discuss and question the definition of health as provided by WHO (1948) and I propose an account of health which considers the role of the environment, from micro to macro level. This account is based on the concepts of adaptation used in public health and adaptivity in philosophy of biology. According to this perspective, the environment is not understood as a threat to health, but it may be characterized as a source of opportunities that require the organism to modify its activities and adopt new courses of action. I discuss two examples of adaptive mechanisms in the environment: community-based medicine and microbiologically healthier buildings.

Bio: Laura Menatti (UPV/EHU)

IAS-Research Seminars by Manuel G. Bedía (Universidad de Zaragoza) “Investigando sobre la investigación: Política científica basada en la evidencia”

Tuesday, Dec 14, 2021 at 13:00

To participate please contact alejandra.mtz.quintero@gmail.com

Resumen: La “Ciencia de la Ciencia” (SciSci en su acrónimo inglés) es
un campo en expansión que pretende entender de manera sistémica, y
apoyándose en analítica de datos, la compleja estructura de
interacciones y dinámicas de las comunidades científicas. Las
posibilidades que abre este campo nos ayuda a plantear cuestiones
novedosas en la gestión  de  la  investigación: ¿Qué  políticas
estimulan  la  ciencia  de  mayor impacto?, ¿cuál es el  tamaño
óptimo  de los equipos  que desarrollan  las ideas  más originales?,
¿Qué impacto real tienen los enfoques interdisciplinares? Estas
evidencias permiten explorar nuevas iniciativas de l+D -en materia de
financiación, evaluación o promoción- y reflexionar acerca de si los
indicadores con los que medimos el talento son los más adecuados o si
las formas de participación de los investigadores en el proceso
científico pueden ser diferentes a las actuales. En esta charla
mostraremos algunos de los resultados más relevantes en esta materia y
los conectaremos con nuevas perspectivas en la política científica.