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 Talk by Manuel Heras-Escribano (University of Granada) “Social normativity, fields of promoted action, and affordances: An integrative view”

On Nov 23rd, 2021, at 11:30.

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


In this talk, I will show how social normativity, the field of promoted action, and canonical affordances are related. The field of promoted action is a concept proposed by Reed (1996), which is based on the idea that there are affordances emphasized by other people (Reed 1996: 130). Although proposed for the field of developmental psychology and experimentation, I think it is a rich concept to be applied to other fields (like philosophy of mind) to make sense of our everyday experience. But how could we articulate this idea? I propose that my ideas on social normativity (Heras-Escribano 2019) could serve as a framework for showing how the field of promoted action is constituted and present in everyone’s cognitive life. Also, I think the combination of the ideas of social normativity and the field of promoted action can help articulating the origins and nature of canonical affordances from a social perspective.

Bio: Manuel Heras-Escribano (University of Granada)

New (6-month) post-doc position

A new position is open for a 6-month full-time post-doc contract at IAS-Research.

Deadine for application: June 11th (2021).

The contract will extend from July 1st to December 31st (2021).

Among other documents, the interested candidates should present:

  1. PhD title
  2. Updated CV
  3. Motivation letter (max. 2p.)
  4. Language titles (English & Basque) — if you have any.

More details on the application procedure (please, read carefully and follow the instructions):


In additon, please, let us know that you are applying through an e-mail message to kepa.ruiz-mirazo@ehu.eus, including the CV and the motivation letter presented.

IAS-Research Seminar by Izar Agirresarobe-Pineda (EHU/UPV) and Iñigo R. Arandia (EHU/UPV)

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

On May 18, 2021, at 11:30. This session consists of three small talks:


Izar Agirresarobe-Pineda (EHU/UPV) and Iñigo R. Arandia (EHU/UPV)

  1. “Placebo, addictions, and the interplay between pre-reflective and reflective activity”

Background: Placebo and addictive phenomena share a controversy between reflective volition and uncontrollable bodily responses. Motivated by the conscious/nonconscious divide, they also share explanations in terms of (conscious) expectations and (nonconscious) conditioning. However, this dichotomy is problematic: it assumes a passive mechanistic account of bodies difficult to extrapolate beyond controlled experimental settings, and it renders the nonconscious as an almost inaccessible black-box.

Methods: We assess empirical evidence and theoretical explanations on placebo and addictive phenomena employing the dynamic interplay between pre-reflective (more implicit and automatized) and reflective (more explicit and controllable) aspects of agency derived from embodied cognitive science. We take the intersubjective domain as constitutive of experience, following the notion of “ontological intimacy” developed by philosopher Kym Maclaren.

Results: The pre-reflective/reflective interplay allows to investigate the influence of habits and other interrelated behavioral patterns, personal narratives, and a variety of tacit interactive elements (body language, speech tone, moods, atmospheres) that are fundamental to understand placebo phenomena and addictive behavior. Social interactions, including therapeutic encounters, cannot be reduced to exchanges of information that shape expectations only in a reflective manner. Social encounters always affect (positively or negatively) the ongoing constitution of our personhood in pre-reflective and reflective ways.

Conclusions: We suggest placebo and addictive phenomena should be investigated as meaningful interactive experiences involving a dynamic interplay between pre-reflective and reflective activity. This interplay, capturing essential sensorimotor and intersubjective influences, offers more flexibility than the conscious/nonconscious dichotomy. These categories might also provide insights for other conditions such as phobias or traumas.

Iñigo R. Arandia (UPV/EHU)

2. “Placebo from an Enactive Perspective”

Background: A set of problematic assumptions pervades research into placebo effects. These include various kinds of dualisms (physiology/psychology, object/subject, known/knower), and tendencies towards reductive explanations based on passive individuals and mechanistic conceptions of the body.
Methods: We review an alternative theoretical framework in embodied cognitive science that rejects these assumptions—the enactive approach to life and mind—and evaluate the conceptual tools it offers for placebo research. We overview enactive concepts such as dimensions of embodiment, agency, and sense-making. We also introduce the ontology of individuation developed by Gilbert Simondon to offer a processual account of placebo phenomena.
Results: Based on empirical evidence, we interpret placebo interventions not as originating causal chains, but as triggers in the regulation of existing tensions between bodily and interpersonal processes. These processes involve looping effects through three intertwined dimensions of embodiment: organic, sensorimotor, and intersubjective. From this perspective, placebo responses are individuation processes triggered to regulate ongoing tensions in biopsychosocial processes. We defend the need to investigate therapeutic interactions in terms of participatory sense-making, going beyond the identification of individual social traits that modulate placebo effects to the investigation of patterns and kinds of social interaction.
Conclusions: We offer enactive proposals to overcome limiting assumptions common in placebo research and clinical practice, and discuss their resonances and differences with traditional explanations in terms of expectations and conditioning, and other approaches based on meaning responses and phenomenological/ecological ideas.

Iñigo R. Arandia (UPV/EHU)

3. “Social Interaction and Not Just Social Skills Affect Placebo Phenomena”

Background: Placebo effects are not predictable nor easily manipulable at an individual level. We suggest that a poor understanding of individual experiences and of social interactions contributes to discrepancies between placebo as robust group effects, and individual variability. Social influences on placebo are considered as external factors to be controlled for. The focus is on individual social traits, reducing the complex interactive experience to personal expectations, personality traits, motivational goals, or beliefs, downplaying interactive aspects such as patterns of coordination, asymmetries, and dissonances.
Methods: Following the enactive concept of participatory sense-making, we propose that a kind of interactive autonomy emerges in the therapeutic encounter, constituting a third element that depends on both patient and practitioner but is not controllable by either. Social interaction cannot be reduced to information transmission shaped by individual characteristics (empathy, trust, warmth).
Results: A successful encounter demands the capacity of relatedness from both sides in order to construct shared meaning and adequately modulate hopes and expectations. The few studies that gather data about interaction dynamics support the hypothesis that engaged forms of participation correlate with placebo effects. This perspective is compatible with the ‘placebo by proxy’ hypothesis and can account for evidence showing the impact of parental expectations on placebo effects in children.
Conclusions: Looking at phenomenological, anthropological and biomedical research, we show the necessity to investigate concrete situated and interactive experiences to gain generalization ability. Enactive theory bridges the gap between placebo effects measured at the group level and variability at the individual level.

Bio: Izar Agirresarobe-Pineda (EHU/UPV) and Iñigo R. Arandia (EHU/UPV)

IAS-Research Talk Jo Bervoets (University of Antwerp), “Making sense of Tourettic sensibility (the joy of being let be?) “

On April 27, 2021, at 11:30.

To participate, please contact: guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus

Abstract: Tourettic tics are typically socially received as problematic and nonsensical. But there is a tension between this fact, and how individuals with Tourette’s make sense of their world. I resolve this tension by bridging phenomenological and post-phenomenological thinking via the concept of participatory sense-making. In doing so, I interpret Gilbert Simondon’s becoming of the individual being as participatory sense-making between the human and the non-human. I propose to view the Tourettic difference as an example of a particular way of being that becomes problematic only if it is not ‘let be,’ and as a prototype of playfulness when it is ‘let be’. In line with Simondon, the ethical primacy of our relational openness to such difference is seen as prerequisite of knowledge creation. In fact, I – provocatively – argue that ‘being human entails being mentally ill’ insofar as a deviation from social norms forms the precondition for the continued becoming of human knowledge. I tie dogmatic blocking of this becoming to ‘arrogant perception’ as elaborated by María Lugones. My talk is an outcome of a ‘virtual’ research visit with Hanne De Jaegher & Diana Beljaars, specialists in enaction/participatory sense-making and in post-phenomenolog/Tourette’s respectively.

Bio: Jo Bervoets holds Masters in Philosophy, in Cognitive Sciences and in Sciences (Electronic Engineering). He worked for 25 years in the technology sector. After a burn-out, Jo was diagnosed with autism in 2017. To get back on track he pursued his lifelong obsession with philosophy graduating in ’18. Jo wrote his master’s thesis, published as “Going beyond the Catch-22 of autism diagnosis and research”, on the moral implications of asking “What is autism?”. He is currently a PhD researcher in the ERC project NeuroEpigenEthics with a specific focus on Tourette’s.

Mark Canciani’s PhD defense

Title: “Biological altruism, eusociality and the superorganism: a critical analysis of the role of biological altruism within eusociality research”

Time: 12/03/2020, 11:00

Place: Sala de Grados, Facultad de Educación, Filosofía y Antropología

IAS-Talk by Çağlar Karaca (Kastamonu University): “Relational Basis of the Organism’s Self-organization”

Relational Basis of the Organism’s Self-organization

Çağlar Karaca 

Thursday 5 March at 11:15 Centro Carlos Santamaria (B14)


In this thesis, I discuss the organism’s self-organization from the perspective of relational ontology. I critically examine scientific and philosophical sources that appeal to the concept of self-organization. By doing this, I aim to carry out a thorough investigation into the underlying reasons of emergent order within the ontogeny of the organism. Moreover, I focus on the relation between universal dynamics of organization and the organization of living systems. I provide a historical review of the development of modern ideas related to self-organization. These ideas have been developed in relation to various research areas including thermodynamics, molecular biology, developmental biology, systems theory, and so on. In order to develop a systematic understanding of the concept, I propose a conceptual distinction between transitional self-organization and regulative self-organization. The former refers to the spontaneous emergence of order, whereas the latter refers to the self-maintaining characteristic of the living systems. I show the relation between these two types of organization within biological processes. I offer a critical analysis of various theories within the organizational approach. Several ideas and notions in these theories originate from the early studies in cybernetics. More recently, autopoiesis and the theory of biological autonomy asserted certain claims that were critical toward the ideas related to self-organization. I advocate a general theory of self-organization against these criticisms. I also examine the hierarchical nature of the organism’s organization, as this is essential to understand regulative self-organization. I consider the reciprocal relation between bottom-up and top-down dynamics of organization as the basis of the organism’s individuation. To prove this idea, I appeal to biological research on molecular self-assembly, pattern formation (including reaction-diffusion systems), and the self-organized characteristic of the immune system. Finally, I promote the idea of diachronic emergence by drawing support from biological self-organization. I discuss the ideas related to constraints, potentiality, and dynamic form in an attempt to reveal the emergent nature of the organism. To demonstrate the dynamicity of form, I examine research into biological oscillators. I draw the following conclusions: synchronic condition of the organism is irreducibly processual and relational, and this is the basis of the organism’s potentiality for various organizational states.

IAS-Research Talk by Tim Klaassen (Tilburg University): “Enactivism and the Foundations of Ethics: Some Suggestions on How to Bring the Two Together”

Enactivism and the Foundations of Ethics: Some Suggestions on How to Bring the Two Together

Tim Klaassen (Tilburg University)

Tuesday 4 February at 11.30 Centro Carlos Santamaria (B14)


Can we utilize enactivism as a framework for understanding the foundations of normativity in the moral and political domain? In this talk I suggest a broad outline of an affirmative answer. To begin with, I show, relying on Korsgaard’s “constitutivist” account of the principles of practical reason, that normative standards within the moral domain can be shown to have their source in a moral agent’s distinct mode of autopoiesis. A moral agent is an agent endowed with a specific type of self-consciousness. Because of this, they have a certain degree of freedom in deciding which sensorimotor contingencies they shall adopt to govern their interaction with the environment. As a corollary to this, the world that such agents bring forth, and the kinds of action it affords, comes to have a distinctively moral significance. In the second part of my talk I explore the question of whether, in addition to this kind of “moral enaction” there is also something like a distinctively political form of world-enactment. That is, is there something distinctive about the manner in which institutions are enacted? Relying on the ideas of Hans-Georg Gadamer, I formulate a provisional affirmative answer to this question via the notion of tradition. On this account, tradition is a distinctive and irreducibly social form of enaction through which a world of socio-political institutions is brought forth. Even if this can be established, however, the challenge remains to see whether any normative conclusions can be drawn from it.