IAS-Research Talk by Gillian Barker (University of Pittsburgh) “Geofunctions: A pragmatic approach to purposes, norms and agency at the planetary scale”


As a follow up to the Gaia and Philosophy Seminar, Dr. Gillian Barker will give an online talk on Thursday the 12th January, at 16h, for the first IAS-Research Talk of 2023.

To participate, please contact Andrea Gambarotto andrea.gambarotto@gmail.com

Many scientists working on global environmental patterns and their disruption are caught in a conceptual double-bind: they find that they need to see Earth as a functional system with normative and teleological dimensions, but long-standing assumptions about science, values, and purposes imply that such thinking is scientifically illegitimate. As a result, functional thinking about global-scale phenomena is expressed vaguely and inconsistently in the form of metaphors and applied frameworks. Similar problems affect thinking that draws on concepts of agency. The costs of this impasse may be high. Where there are patterns in the phenomena that are effectively captured using concepts of function or agency, failure to apply those concepts may lead to avoidable errors in prediction. A pragmatic reorientation, supported by recent developments in philosophy, could enable scientists to overcome this impasse and develop a useful conceptual framework for global-scale functions and agency.

Bio: Gillian Barker (University of Pittsburgh)

IAS-Research Talk by Bruce Clarke (Texas Tech University) “Planetary Intelligence: A Gaian Critique”


On Thursday the 1st December 2022, 16h-18h, Biblioteka Carlos Santamaría, Room 8.
This talk will be part of the two-day seminar “Gaia and Philosophy”, organised by the Outonomy project. See full program and registration form here.


Gaia now confronts us with states of operation and response that threaten long-term habitability for many species. Authored by a strong team of accomplished scholars—astrophysicist Adam Frank, planetary scientist David Grinspoon, and astrobiologist Sara Walker—the recent article “Intelligence as a Planetary Scale Process” probes ideas concerning a viable planetary integration of the technosphere with the biosphere. However, to my mind, the concept of intelligence comes up short in their efforts to integrate planetary biology and technological society. The authors inherit conceptual problems rooted in early SETI discourse, which centers the search for extraterrestrial intelligence on obsolete notions of technological advancement. Also, the discourse of intelligence is not well suited to the dialects of systems theory toward which they turn their enquiry. Their description of planetary intelligence wavers between a control regime and an autonomous process. Moreover, while bringing the idea of planetary intelligence toward the discourse of autopoiesis is a promising move, in this instance it leads to an equivocal blurring of the concept of cognition. Intelligent awareness is certainly one form cognition can take, but cognition also occurs both above and below the level of thought. As I hope to explain in some detail, the conceptual strains of “Intelligence as a Planetary Scale Process” indicate that the preferable, properly Gaian formulation is planetary cognition, a theoretical framing that embeds the technosphere within its biospheric conditions of possibility.


Bruce Clarke, Gaian Systems: Lynn Margulis, Neocybernetics, and the End of the Anthropocene (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020).

Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, “Overcoming Autopoiesis: An Enactive Detour on the Way from Life to Society,” in Advanced Series in Management, eds. R. Magalhães and R. Sanchez (Bingley: Emerald Group, 2010), 43-68.

Adam Frank, David Grinspoon, and Sara Walker, “Intelligence as a Planetary Scale Process” International Journal of Astrobiology 21 (2022): 47–61.

David Grinspoon, Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016).

Chris Otter, “Socializing the Technosphere,” Technology and Culture 63:4 (2022): 953–78.

I. S. Shklovskii and Carl Sagan, Intelligent Life in the Universe (San Francisco: Holden-Day, 1966)

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 Talk by Sergio Rubín (Earth and Life Institute, UCLouvain), “Biological Autonomy and Gaian Systems”

ABSTRACT: In this presentation it is assumed that the Earth system is autopoietically organized and that therefore the system is constituted as an autonomous system. That is assumed from chemical atmospheric and geological evidence and from how the organization of the Earth system as autopoietic satisfies relations of formal systems such as the (M,R)-system, chemical organization theory, and variational free energy minimization. This implies that the autonomy of the internal biological unities of the Gaian system, such as prokaryotes and unicellular or metacellular eukaryotes, although they are structurally coupled and therefore participate in planetary self-production, their autonomy and their ecology and evolution depend largely on the Gaian system biology of cognition and enaction with its outer solar space. This point of view, however, poses a fundamental problem. To what extent the biological unities internal to the Gaian system can or can’t affect its autonomy. This presentation will discuss this problem, but by no means will it come to a final conclusion. 

Sergio is research fellow at the Earth and Life Institute of UC Louvain (Belgium), biologist by training he now works chiefly on Gaian systems from an organizational perspective inspired by biological autonomy and (M-R)-systems.

Workshop: Outonomy – Fleshing out autonomy beyond the individual, 22-24 June

The research project ‘Outonomy: Fleshing out autonomy beyond the individual’ is holding an international workshop in Donostia between the 22nd and the 24th of June. We are pleased to have Dr. William Bechtel and Dr. Glenda Satne as keynote speakers, and 20 communications by international researchers covering a wide range of relevant topics for the project. You can find the full information of the workshop, including the program and book of abstracts, in the outonomy.net website.

IAS-Research Talk by Eduardo Apodaka Ostaikoetxea (EHU/UPV) “Itinerarios del Sujeto: encarnación subjetiva, objetivación institucional, disolución y rearticulación relacional”.

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

June, 14th 2022, at 11:30


El Sujeto como protagonista de la filosofía moderna. La encarnación –cuerpo e individuo– teórica y práctica del sujeto: filosofías del yo creador y dispositivos de subjetivación del yo. La institucionalización del sujeto colectivo –estado y nación–: el nosotros, de substancia a utopía. El sujeto relacional: de la filosofía a las ciencias sociales, de la intersubjetividad a las subjetividades trans-individuales, de garantía del yo-sujeto a la liquidación de la deuda humanista.

IAS-Research Talk by Daniele De Martino (Biofisika Institutua, EHU/UPV), “Searching for principles ruling cell metabolism”

On May 31st, 2022, at 11:30
To participate, please contact perezverdugo.marta@gmail.com

Are there basic principles ruling cell metabolism beyond known physical laws? Is it possible to test them quantitatively? In this talk I will consider two of them: (1) the fact that cell metabolism could work in a “critical” state and (2) the notion that cell metabolism maximizes growth and/or in general has “objective functions” that are optimized under constrained resources. I will criticize these putative principles on the basis of my own work on the inference and measurements of metabolic fluxes. While the first is in contradiction with plain thermodynamics, the other is a useful working hypothesis that shall be revised in the light of unavoidable phenotypic heterogeneity within which a trade-off is established. Heterogeneity in fact endows inter-cellular interactions and in turn, means to control the environment. I will provide the experimental example of lactate shuttles among human cells in this respect.

Bio: Daniele De Martino (Biofisika Institutua, Ikerbasque, EHU/UPV)

IAS-Research Talk by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga (EHU/UPV), “La naturaleza participativa: Biología y neurología para recuperar el curso de la re-evolución”

On May 17th, 2022, at 11:30

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


Enfrentarse al neoliberalismo como un arte de gobierno fundamentado en la traslación de las lógicas económicas a las de la vida, obliga a desmontar los marcos interpretativos que desde la biología sitúan falsamente al egoísmo, la agresividad y la competencia como fundamentos de lo humano. Las ciencias naturales están mostrando desde hace dos décadas que en la naturaleza no hay un destino cerrado, que la cooperación es la base de la evolución, y quenuestro cerebro se asienta en la capacidad de ponerse en el lugar del otro, la otra y lo otro. La epigénesis, la etología y la neurología pueden aportar una mirada que muestre que estrategias como la Investigación-Acción-Participación y su apuesta por la activación de la agencia ciudadana no solo no es una “herejía” científica, como postula el positivismo. Al contrario, las propias ciencias “duras” confirman la pertinencia de un acercamiento situado en la realidad, atravesado por la empatía y orientado a la vertebración y la articulación cooperativa.

Así, los procesos participativos, y más concretamente la Investigación Acción Participación pueden interpretarse y defenderse como herramientas que permitan revertir la lógica desevolutiva actual. Encontrar en la naturaleza la ausencia de destino (frente una interpretación errónea de la genética falsamente cimentada en la lógica de la inmutabilidad, que cuestiona laepigénesis) permite negar el mantra del “no hay alternativa”. Comprender la sociabilidad desde la fragilidad de nuestra especie ayuda a trabajar desde los dolores para reconstruir el yo fragmentado por el neoliberalismo, convirtiendo la politización en el primer paso para la reconstrucción de las redes comunitarias. En fin, entender nuestra capacidad empática permite reforzar la búsqueda de un pensamiento colectivo que conforme nosotr@s con agencia.

Bio: Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga (EHU/UPV

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.