Workshop: Varieties of norms

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On the 13th of June in 2024, IAS-research is organizing the workshop Varieties of norms.
It lasts from 09.30 – 19.30 with dinner afterwards.
It takes place at the Sala de Juntas, Facultad de Educación, Filosofía y Antropología (HEFA-I), UPV/EHU.
If you plan to attend, please send a quick message to Mirko (mirkoalexander.prokop@ehu.eus) to confirm

Topic
For a long time, philosophers have regarded normative phenomena as belonging chiefly to the social and moral dimension of human thought and action. Today, however, different conceptions of norms and normativity play an increasingly important explanatory role in many disciplines, ranging from cognitive science and biology to comparative psychology and psychiatry. Against the background of recent developments in these fields, the aim of this workshop is to explore the variety in these different conceptions of norms as well as the continuity between them. In which sense are the relevant norms to be understood? Why is recognising their normativity important to explaining certain phenomena? What are the benefits and downsides of acknowledging a variety of different kinds of norms? Is there any fundamental principle underlying the diversity of norms?

Speakers
Miguel Segundo-Ortín, University of Murcia
Laura Mojica, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
Ezequiel Di Paolo, Ikerbasque / University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
Matthew Egbert, University of Auckland
Tiago Rama, University of the Republic of Uruguay (Udelar)
Enara Garcia, University of Granada

Schedule
09:30 – 10:00 Arrival and Welcome
10:00 – 11:00 Miguel Segundo-Ortín
11:00 – 12:00 Laura Mojica
12:00 – 12:30 Coffee Break
12:30 – 13:30 Ezequiel Di Paolo
13:30 – 15:00 Lunch
15:00 – 16:00 Matthew Egbert
16:00 – 17:00 Tiago Rama
17:00 – 18:30 Coffee Break
18:30 – 19:30 Enara Garcia
20:30 Dinner

IAS-research talk by Xabier E. Barandiaran and Lola S. Almendros: “Transforming agency: on the mode of existence of Large Language Models”

Thursday May 23 at 16:00 in Centro Carlos Santamaria Room 4.

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the different characterizations and understanding that have been given to ChatGPT and similar generative forms of AI technologies based on transformer architectures for Large Language Models (LLMs). We pay special attention to their characterization as agents. We next explain in detail the architecture, processing and training procedures of GPT to provide a proper understanding of its working. A critical evaluation of LLMs agentive capacities is provided in the light of phenomenological and enactive theories of life and mind. According to this view, ChatGPT fails to meet the individuality criteria (it is not the product of its own activity, it is not even directly affected by it), the normativity criteria (it does not generate its own norms or goals), and, partially the interactional asymmetry criteria (it is not the origin and sustained source of its interaction with the environment), all three required for autonomous agency. We finally discuss the mode of existence of ChatGPT under the light of enactive and embodied  approaches to cognition. We suggest that ChatGPT should be thought of as an interlocutor or linguistic automaton, a library-that-talks, devoid of (autonomous) agency, but capable to engage performatively in non-purposeful yet purpose-structured and purpose-bounded tasks on our digital linguistic environments. Finally, we explore how LLMs hold the expanding potential to deeply transform human agency and digital environments.
KEYWORDS: Transformers, enactivism, agency, LLMs, ChatGPT, philosophy of mind, philosophy of technology, autonomy, automatism.

IAS-research talk by Guilherme Sanches de Oliveira: “William James was not a Jamesian: James’s legacy and the boundaries of mind”

Thursday May 16 at 16:00 in Centro Carlos Santamaria Room 5. The talk will be hybrid. If you want to participate, please contact
amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: William James (1842-1910) is widely acknowledged for his pioneering role in modern psychology and philosophy. His great influence and popularity have, however, resulted in a complicated legacy, with critics and supporters alike sometimes applying the label “Jamesian” to views that are in tension with the spirit of James’s ideas in their original context. In this talk I examine these tensions and James’s complicated legacy by discussing two cases, one concerning the boundaries of emotion, cognition and perception, and the other concerning the boundaries of habit and mind in intellectual, scientific expertise. Besides motivating a more nuanced appreciation of James’s place in the history of psychology and philosophy, this exercise also reveals the contributions that James’s thought can still make as a source of inspiration and new insights for understanding mind, life, and knowledge.

IAS-Research talk by Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo: “Protocell modelling as a way to investigate minimal autonomy”

Thursday May 2 at 18:00 in Centro Carlos Santamaria (room to be
announced). The talk will be hybrid. If you want to participate, please
contact amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: In this seminar I will introduce my conception of ‘minimal autonomous system‘ — which is significantly different from ‘minimal living being‘ — and explain how we have approached its natural emergence, during the last 20 years or so, through the elaboration of both ‘in vitro’ and ‘in silico’ protocell models. I will conclude with a few remarks on the limitations of our approach and the — huge — gap still remaining between those elementary versions of autonomy and full-fledged biological autonomy. 

IAS-Research talk by Jonathan Sholl “On nutritional reductionism and evaluating nutrition frameworks”

Thursday April 18 at 16:00 in the Sala de Juntas. The talk will be
hybrid. If you want to participate, please contact amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: The nutrition sciences aim to identify factors that make a difference for health outcomes and thereby explain how foods impact our health. Some critics have condemned a supposedly excessive reliance on “reductive” explanations and interpretations, and have raised the issue of discordant evidence. This talk builds on two projects. First, distinguishing critiques of “reductionism” enables a constructive defense of those reductions to food components, e.g., macronutrient ratios, which generate integrative explanations. What we call ‘synthetic reductionism’ can help identify the limits of useful reductionism. Second, we consider a broader issue of how the framework researchers use plays an important, and often unacknowledged, role in identifying the causal factor(s) of interest. Focusing on debates around nutritional causes of obesity (e.g., nutrient-based vs. food-based frameworks), we analyze how competing frameworks use distinct principles to select causal factors based on their explanatory and operational relevance, and we show how these selection principles diverge, especially concerning the role of mechanistic evidence. To move forward, we propose a scheme to evaluate the explanatory and practical utility of nutrition frameworks.

IAS-Research Talk by Alberto Monterde Fuertes: The Methodology and Normativity of Engaged and Relevant Philosophy of Science

Thursday March 14 at 16:00 in the Sala de Juntas. The talk will be hybrid. If you want to participate, please contact amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT

Philosophers of science have grown increasingly worried about the field’s lost opportunities to make an impact in science and society. Many believe that the field’s institutionalization in the mid-twentieth century sidelined social concerns as irrelevant to philosophical theorization about science. This led to a focus on internal debates over philosophical notions within science. To address this, many have advocated for a philosophy of science that is engaged and relevant to both science and society. This is a pressing issue, as the field’s funding from public governments may depend on its ability to make an impact. However, developing an engaged and relevant philosophy of science should force philosophers to ask two interrelated questions. Firstly, what is the methodology of those philosophical projects? In other words, how should they be done? Lastly, what differentiates engaged and relevant philosophy of science projects from other approaches to philosophy of science?

In this seminar, I will address the relationship between both questions. I will first focus on providing an answer to the second question by analyzing engaged and relevant philosophy of science projects and theories via the notion of normativity. The notion of normativity is present in philosophy of science theories when gathering evidence, analyzing/interpreting, and making evaluations/prescriptions about elements of science. Marie Kaiser has recently argued that ‘philosophy of science in practice’ approaches, which rely on scientific evidence for philosophical theorizing, differ from ‘ex-cathedra’ philosophy of science, which proceeds without considering scientific evidence. The differences are made clear by shifts in their normativity about gathering evidence and making evaluative/prescriptive statements about science. I will show that engaged and relevant projects in philosophy of science also present changes in their normativity regarding similar topics. Those changes in normativity help to conform a general methodology for those kinds of projects. Furthermore, I will consider how these normative shifts, which shape the overall methodology of philosophy of science, are influenced by meta-normative considerations regarding the role of philosophy and of the philosophers.

IAS-Research Talk by Arián Ferrero: Phenotypic plasticity, heterogeneity and evolvability in the microbial world

Thursday February 29 at 18:00 in Centro Carlos Santamaria (room to be announced). The talk will be hybrid. If you want to participate, please contact amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT Free-living microorganisms typically display a wide range of physiological and behavioral features, inhabiting very diverse environments where spontaneous mutations and strong selective pressure make rapid adaptation possible. The coexistence of different species and their interactions provide microbial populations with a great variety of properties and functions, broadening the space of possible phenotypes. Nevertheless, biological diversity can also be observed in less open conditions, where populations of genetically similar individuals thrive in much more homogeneous microenvironments, and still demonstrate a surprisingly high phenotypic variability. This phenomenon reflects the importance of individuality within a collective/multicellular context and has been extensively observed in different species and organizational contexts — not only in artificially cultured bacteria but also in more complex cases, like cancer cells grown in tissue. Microbial phenotypic heterogeneity manifests in different ways, including morphological changes, macromolecular composition, different growth rates, reproductive strategies, motility mechanisms or specific metabolic signatures. So far, analyses performed to study this variability have mostly focused on cell growth rates, which are not sufficient to develop a satisfactory (minimally comprehensive) interpretation of phenotypic heterogeneity.
My PhD project, which I will briefly introduce in this session, focuses on the theoretical modelling of microbial metabolisms, with the aim to compensate for this deficit: i.e., expanding the study of phenotypic diversity beyond growth rates, to include the choice of specific metabolic regimes (derived from fluxomics data analysis), which is at the basis of most additional biological processes. On these lines, a preliminary ‘conceptual map’ will be presented, where we distinguish between metabolic plasticity and metabolic heterogeneity, as properties to be ascribed, respectively, to an individual organism and to the population, which may include cross-feeding (ecological) as well as kinship (phylogenetic) relationships. In this context, the distinction between potential and actual (ontogenic, or developmental) plasticity/heterogeneity will be made, as a bridge to connect the issue with the problem of evolvability. It is important to emphasize here that phenotypic heterogeneity is an evolutionary trait and can, in turn, shape the phylogenetic trajectories within a population. Therefore, one of the main aims of my work would be to correlate phenotypic diversity (understood specifically in terms of metabolic plasticity/heterogeneity) with ecological and evolutionary aspects. Through this “eco-evo-meta” perspective, we will try to contribute to a better understanding of the role of individual organisms in the emergence of population phenotypes and its evolutionary implications at the most fundamental biological level: the microbial world.

IAS-Research Talk by Mikel Asteinza Arteche: Condicionantes Epistémicos De La Divulgación Científica Y Su Impacto En La Audiencia Lega: El Caso De La Des-extinción

Thursday February 15 at 18:00 in Centro Carlos Santamaria room 4. The talk will
be hybrid. If you want to participate, please contact amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT ES: Desde sus inicios, las técnicas de des-extinción han sido objeto de numerosos debates, entre ellos, el relativo a la terminología y formas de divulgación mediante las cuales estas se presentan. En 2016, un informe de evaluación de la IUCN advertía que la terminología utilizada resultaba engañosa, pues parecía prometer, en contraste con las capacidades reales de estas técnicas, la recuperación de especies extintas originales. A su vez, conservacionistas e investigadores críticos con la des-extinción, como Campagna et al. (2017), advertían de los peligros de la terminología y de la desinformación, ideas erróneas y expectativas irreales que podía suscitar. La investigación que llevamos a cabo participa en dicho debate y examina el impacto de la divulgación científica de la des-extinción y su terminología en el público lego, así como sobre los juicios e ideas que generan, destacando las implicaciones de estas en algunos de los temas que más preocupan a conservacionistas y expertos. Para ello, llevamos a cabo un experimento que contó con la participación de 200 sujetos divididos en 3 condiciones experimentales. Se diseñaron 3 textos susceptibles de ser comparados, uno para cada condición, entre los cuales la variable principal era la terminología utilizada. Algunos de los datos obtenidos indicaron (1)- que la terminología típicamente utilizada para presentar las técnicas de des-extinción tiende a desinformar a los sujetos e (2)- influir en el apoyo a la des-extinción; también descubrimos (3)- que existe un optimismo hipertrofiado sobre la des-extinción entre el público lego si comparamos sus opiniones con las de los expertos (Valdez et al., 2019). Finalmente, interpretamos los resultados obtenidos y sus implicaciones epistemológicas y planteamos las hipótesis por las que puedan discurrir futuras investigaciones.

ABSTRACT EN: Since their inception, de-extinction techniques have been the subject of much debate, including the terminology and forms of communication through which they are presented. In 2016, an IUCN report warned that the terminology used was misleading, as it seemed to promise, in contrast to the actual capabilities of these techniques, that the recovery of the original extinct species was possible. At the same time, some conservationists and researchers critical of de-extinction, as Campagna et al. (2017), warned of the dangers of this form of communication and the misinformation, misconceptions and unrealistic expectations it could lead to. The research we are carrying out engages in this debate and examines the impact of scientific communication about de-extinction and its terminology on the lay public, as well as on the judgements they generate, highlighting and examining its epistemological aspects. To this end, we conducted a survey in which 200 subjects were divided into 3 experimental conditions and required to read a text about de-extinction and then answer a questionnaire. We designed 3 similar texts, one for each condition, among which the principal variable was the terminology used. Some of the data obtained indicated (1)- that terminology typically used to present de-extinction techniques tends to misinform subjects and (2)- encourage support for de-extinction; we also found out (3)- that there is a hypertrophied optimism about de-extinction among the lay public if we compare their opinions with those of the experts (Valdez et al., 2019). We will present these results and analyze their epistemological consequences.

IAS-Research Talk by Ulises Rodríguez Jordá: Minds, bodies and languages: linguistic relativity from an enactive perspective

Thursday February 8 at 18:00 in Centro Carlos Santamaria room 5. The talk will be hybrid. If you want to participate, please contact amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: The idea that the languages we speak exert a differential influence on our cognition and behaviour, also known as the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis, has experienced a remarkable resurgence in the last thirty years. There are compelling reasons to expect a theoretical convergence between these new findings and the enactive approach. However, some important theoretical obstacles remain. The argument explores these points of contact and divergence along the two premises into which linguistic relativity (LR) is usually divided: (a) the claim that language affects cognition and (b) the claim that the world’s languages differ in non-trivial ways. On the one hand, the enactive approach articulates an explicit theory of the first claim that goes beyond most contemporary research on LR, which remains highly tentative on this premise and anchored in classical cognitivist assumptions. On the other hand, the enactive approach is still to fully engage with the second claim of LR. Two difficulties are identified: the concept of ‘languaging’, central to post-cognitivist accounts of language, is in tension with the foundations of LR. At the same time, the bodily aspects of cognition have often been regarded as an antirelativistic constraint that seemingly diminishes the import of LR. Our proposal identifies the trade-offs required of both fields to further the interdisciplinary dialogue between them.

IAS-Research Talk by Inês Hipólito: “Cognition on the Edge of Chaos: The Free Energy Principle”

Thursday 18 January at 09:00. The event will be online. If you want to participate, please contact amontf94@gmail.com

ABSTRACT:

Cognition stands as one of the most formidable challenges in scientific inquiry. Living organisms exhibit behaviour teetering on the precipice of chaos. The Free Energy Principle (FEP) has been proposed as a pertinent approach to apprehending cognition. Conventional discourse on the FEP characterises the brain as a predictive apparatus. Instead, I posit that while predictive coding is a valuable tool for deciphering the conduct of complex systems, living systems do not function as detached computational prognosticators. Given their dual status as operationally closed and open systems, they exist in a state of delicacy, fostering an unbroken and pivotal interplay with their surroundings. This state of affairs, amenable to scientific explication through the FEP, provides a nuanced understanding of cognition within living systems.