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
ABSTRACT:

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


ABSTRACT:
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.

IAS-Research Seminars by Juli Peretó (University of Valencia) “Transmetabolism: Pushing the Limits of Biological Autonomy”

On Thursday, Dec 2nd, 2021 at 11:30

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

Abstract: 

Living beings are the result of a cocktail made with unknown doses of chance and necessity. Consider a thought experiment, in which we could rewind the ‘tape of life’ starting from the same initial conditions, what biochemical traits and cellular features would finally be the same as those we observe today? It is clear that what is real in biology is a subset of what is possible, and this issue has been discussed at different scales. Thus, structural and dynamic developmental constraints limit the space of solutions for animal bodies (Alberch, 1989), whereas physicochemical restrictions and historical contingencies shape the possible at the molecular level (Jacob, 1981). Meteorite analysis and many organic syntheses performed under prebiotic conditions indicate that the primitive Earth was home of a moderately complicated chemodiversity, including the most common biological building blocks – sugars, fatty acids, amino acids, nucleobases, etc. (Lazcano, 2018). In this period of chemical evolution, physicochemical constraints (i.e. thermodynamics and kinetics in a given environment) determined the origin and maintenance of the abiotic chemical landscape. The chemically possible was the scenario for the organization of the most simple and primitive biochemical systems: autocatalytic cycles for self-maintenance of a set of building blocks, self-reproduction of lipid vesicles, and self-replication of genetic templates (Peretó, 2012). Presumably, all these cycles kicked off in the absence of catalysts or with the involvement of very simple and unspecific facilitators (e.g. mineral surfaces). The emergence of optimizable catalysts through natural selection (e.g. ribozymes) was a phase transition to a period of a more efficient and creative functional screening of the possible (de Duve, 2005). Diverse lines of evidence indicate that metabolic surveys of alternative sources of matter and energy were rapid and explosive, performed by the first microbial communities. Biogeochemical closing of the recycling of bioelements was a vital step for a sustainable and long-term continuity of terrestrial life (Falkowski et al., 2008). Thus, the boundaries of the metabolically possible were expanding in parallel to the coevolution of life and the planet. For instance, after the emergence in some cyanobacterial ancestors of the enzymatic machinery able to extract electrons from water to feed the photoelectronic chain, molecular oxygen accumulated in oceans and afterwards in the atmosphere. Those microorganisms able to cope with this new-to-life compound took advantage of its reactivity and dramatically expanded the world of the metabolically possible: many new metabolites, including steroids, and processes (e.g. oxygen respiration) became available to life. Thus, recurrent patterns in actual cell metabolisms are the result of a long evolutionary exploration within the chemically constrained space of the possible solutions under specific yet changing conditions (de Lorenzo et al., 2014).

Full text: https://sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1751-7915.13691

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

Abstract:

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)

IAS-Research Seminar by Marta Pérez Verdugo (EHU/UPV), “Situating transparency: an extended cognition approach”

On Nov 9th, 2021, at 11:30.

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

ABSTRACT:

From the starting point of the Hypothesis of the Extended Mind (Clark & Chalmers, 1998), the last two decades of research in situated cognition have seen efforts to further characterize how cognition extends to our environment, and particularly to tools and artifacts. In this vein, proposals have been made to describe different dimensions of integration of artifacts in systems of extended cognition (Heersmink, 2015). Amongst these dimensions -and arguably as the main phenomenological marker of integration- appears the controversial concept of transparency, understood as the automaticity and lack of effort and conscious reflection with which we deploy an artifact (Heersmink, 2015). This notion, which we will call transparency-as-automaticity, seems however incomplete upon closer examination: it is not always the best characterization of extended experience (Andrada, 2020) and it can sometimes be insufficient, particularly when looking at examples of algorithm-based technologies where another kind of transparency (reflexive transparency) -more focused on access to regulative mechanisms- might be needed (Clowes, 2020).

With the aim of providing a better characterization of the ambivalent concept of transparency in the context of extended cognition, we will explore the theories of action control that are behind the notion of transparency-as-automaticity. We will review automatic views of skilled action, such as those defended by Hubert L. Dreyfus (2005, 2007), that focus on the “mindless” flow of expert performance and explore their limitations. We will then turn to hybrid theories that claim that both automaticity and control are needed for skilled performance (Christensen et al., 2016), which from our point of view provide a more detailed and situated picture of action, and use them to propose a revised concept of transparency: situated transparency. This hybrid notion of transparency allows to accommodate the experience of flow in our use of artifacts with the need for flexible control and situational awareness of a dynamic and ever changing environment in which (extended) cognition takes place. 

Bio: Marta Pérez Verdugo (University of Basque Country, UPV/EHU)

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):

https://www.ehu.eus/es/web/iip/-/conv_pers_invest_01_06_2021

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 (Online) by Tiago Rama (UAB) and Xabier Barandiaran (UPV/EHU), “An organismic path for teleosemantics: from biological to cognitive autonomy”

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

On June 15, 2021, at 11:30.

ABSTRACT
The most widespread attempt to explain cognitive norms in naturalistic terms is etiological teleosemantics (Millikan, 1989; Neander, 1991). However, the neo-Darwinian bases on which etiology is hosted have been severely challenged in the philosophy of biology,  confronting the teleological account that departs from orthodox natural selection adaptationism. Organismic Biology (Camazine, 2003; Etxeberria & Umerez, 2006; Gilbert & Sarkar, 2000; Goodwin, 2001; Kauffman, 1995, 1995; Müller & Newman, 2003; Walsh, 2015) is an increasingly widespread alternative to this evolutionary adaptationist framework. There is, however, still little development of how organicism can contribute to teleosemantics and to transit from biological to cognitive norms. A prominent area to approach natural normativity within organismal biology is Autonomous System Theory (Barandiaran, 2008; Bechtel, 2007; Bickhard, 2000; Moreno et al., 2008; Moreno & Mossio, 2015; Ruiz-Mirazo et al., 2004). Within this approach normative behaviour has been conceptualized as that which operates in accordance with the viability conditions of a recursively self-sustaining system (Barandiaran et al., 2009; Barandiaran & Egbert, 2013; W. D. Christensen & Bickhard, 2002). Departing from different works on sensorimotor theory and the autonomy of cognition (Barandiaran, 2008; Barandiaran & Di Paolo, 2014; Barandiaran & Egbert, 2013; W. Christensen, 2012; W. D. Christensen & Bickhard, 2002; Di Paolo et al., 2017; Egbert & Barandiaran, 2014) we extend and discuss the notion of cognitive normativity from an organismic perspective that understands cognitive norms as emerging from interdependencies between sensorimotor habits. We attempt to refine the different sensorimotor layers that build cognitive norms, from the intrinsic normativity of a single habit to that of networks of habits up to the emergence of social habits. We identify minimal requirements for a system to be teleosemantic: 1. That its behaviour is goal directed (minimally pre-intentional), 2.  That its behaviour must potentially be judged (naturalistically) as erroneous, and 3. That its behaviour be (at least potentially) corrected by the organism as a result of it being detected as erroneous. Next we apply the organismic approach to cognitive normativity to a simple example of sensorimotor behavior that satisfies the minimal teleosemantic requirements. Finally, we discuss the advantages of an organismic path to teleosemantics by addressing core challenges in the literature: a) the Swampman scenario (and the Swampfrog variant we will suggest); b) the relation between normal and natural normativity c) the plasticity of cognitive norms.

Bio: Tiago Rama (Autonomous University of Barcelona, UAB) trama.folco@gmail.com and Xabier E. Barandiaran (University of Basque Country, UPV/EHU)

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 Seminar (Online) by Alejandro Merlo (EHU/UPV), “Life and thermodynamics: the contribution of Earth system science”

On May 11, 2021, at 11:30.

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

Abstract: The classic thermodynamic account of life describes organisms as open systems, which compensate their internal low entropy by an increased dissipation in their surroundings. An intuitive consequence of this account is that complex living systems would seem to necessarily decrease the potential for life in their environment by their increased entropy production.

Within this framework, some accounts have attempted to explain biological organisation as a manifestation of the second law and the tendency to increase entropy; others have rejected this position as reductionist and moved to an account of biological organisation in non-thermodynamic terms. However, even if thermodynamics cannnot give a full account of biological organisation, there is in all cases a thermodynamic background to biological phenomena which needs to be accounted for in an understanding of the materiality of life.

In this context, James Lovelock’s idea, according to which a planet with life could be distinguished because of a thermodynamic disequilibrium in its atmospheric composition, shifts the discussion to the planetary scale, where the presence of Life becomes the explanans of a certain thermodynamic configuration. This observation, which corresponds to the Gaïan principle according to which Life modifies its physical environment to improve and maintain its own conditions of existence, has been recently developed in a systematic way by German physicist Axel Kleidon.

From this planetary standpoint, it is Life together with its physical environment that has to be considered as the primordial open, far from equilibrium dissipative system. So, while individual organisms or complex organisations within the Earth can be described as dissipative systems if considered separately from the whole, a full thermodynamic account needs to integrate them in the planetary scale, where they might (or might not) function as part of the global material organisation that sustains a low entropy environment.

Bio: Alejandro Merlo Ote (EHU/UPV)