IAS Fundamentals – 2019

Start date: 7 May 2019.

Location: Centro Santamaría, Sala de seminarios del grupo IAS (B14)

Time: 15:00 – 17:00

1. Motivation

Although research activities carried out in the IAS-Research group keep on diversifying into new questions, new topics and ideas, there exists a set of underlying concepts, themes, and background knowledge that is shared and that connects various research lines. These links may be clear to many members of the group, but it often involves an individual learning process for newly arriving members, particular new PhD students. The motivation of these seminars is to facilitate this learning process.

2. Objectives

  • Facilitating for participants an awareness of core aspects of the shared background knowledge of the group.
  • Contributing to the creation of common technical vocabularies.
  • Contributing to an awareness of basic items of literature.
  • Providing tools for collaboration with other group members.

While discussion of current, ongoing research may be covered in the seminars, this is not an objective per se. The emphasis is on covering background knowledge in a way that can be grasped by all participants, even those working in a different area.

3. Orientation

The seminars are oriented towards new arrivals to the group (PhDs and also postdocs) but also open to other PhD students in related areas who may have an interest, and any group member interested in participating. Possibly also open to interested Masters students.

4. Modality

Five seminars lasting 2 hours and focusing on the core background ideas behind selected research lines. Seminars will be run by an experienced researcher. Format may vary (reading group style, short lecture followed by discussion, etc.). Participants will be given 1 or 2 pieces of reading prior to the seminar, which will serve to focus the discussion. Seminars will cover aspects of the history and context of the core concepts, how they inform work carried out in the group, and how work in the group has contributed to the ongoing development of these ideas. A selection of references for further reading should be provided as well as any other orientation for those wishing to learn more.

5. Learning Outcomes

By the end of the seminars, participants should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a capability to use the basic terminology introduced in each seminar.
  • Provide examples of how different lines of research relate to a set of core ideas
  • Communicate their work using newly learned shared conceptual tools and vocabulary with other members of the group
  • Exemplify some of the above abilities by writing a short (1 page) collaborative research proposal/abstract/idea with other participants.

6. Schedule, topics, and readings

NB: “Readings” indicate the texts that must be read before the seminar. “Further Readings” are suggested as guidance for participants wishing to extend their knowledge of the seminar topics.


Seminar 1: On the chemical and thermodynamic roots of biological autonomy

Date: 7 May 2019

Seminar run by: Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo

Keywords: self-organization and self-assembly, systems chemistry, thermodynamic constraints, minimal function and agency, supra-molecular boundaries and individuality, (proto-)metabolism, self-production and self-re-production, control vs. regulation mechanisms, hierarchical organization, autonomy, (open-ended) evolution, origins of life; H. Maturana & F. Varela, R. Rosen, T. Ganti, S. Kaufmann, H. Morowitz, H. Jonas.


Kauffman, S. (2003). Molecular autonomous agents. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A, 361 (1807): 1089–1099.

Further Reading:

Ruiz-Mirazo, K., Briones, C. and de la Escosura, A. (2017). Chemical roots of biological evolution: The origins of life as a process of development of autonomous functional systems. Open Biology, 7, 170050.


Seminar 2: The organizational view of biological functions

Date: 21 May 2019

Seminar run by: Alvaro Moreno

Keywords: Far from equilibrium self-maintaining organization, Closure of constraints, Teleology, Normativity, Reproduction & Cross-generation


Mossio, M., Saborido C. and Moreno, A. (2009). An organizational account of biological functions. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 60, 813–841

Further Reading:

Saborido, C., Mossio, M. and Moreno, A. (2011). Biological organization and cross-generation functions. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 62, 583–606.


Seminar 3: Sense-making and participatory sense-making in autism

Date: 4 June 2019

Seminar run by: Hanne De Jaegher

Keywords: Autism, enaction, participatory sense-making, sensorimotor characteristics, stereotypical action, autistic linguistic bodies, enactive methodologies


De Jaegher H. (2013). Embodiment and sense-making in autism. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 7, 15.

Further Reading:

Di Paolo, E. A., Cuffari, E., and De Jaegher, H. (2018). Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity Between Life and Language. MIT Press. Ch 10.

De Jaegher, H., Pieper, B., Clénin, D., and Fuchs, T. (2017). Grasping intersubjectivity: an invitation to embody social interaction research. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 16(3), 491–523.


Seminar 4: Biological communication and the organisational account

Date: 11 June 2019

Seminar run by: Leonardo Bich

Keywords: functions; signals; information; influence; evolution; synthetic biology; autopoiesis; organisational closure; regulation.


Frick, R., Bich, L., and Moreno, A. (2019). An organisational approach to biological communication. Acta Biotheoretica. Doi: 10.1007/s10441-019-09342-2.

Further Reading:

Bich, L. and Frick, R. (2018). Synthetic modelling of biological communication: A theoretical and operational framework for the investigation of minimal life and cognition. Complex Systems, 27(3), 267–287.

Di Paolo, E. A. (1999). On the evolutionary and behavioral dynamics of social coordination: Models and theoretical aspects. Doctoral dissertation, University of Sussex (Chapter 2, especially pp. 31–35).


Seminar 5: Sensorimotor Agency

Date: 18 June 2019

Seminar run by: Ezequiel A. Di Paolo

Keywords: Enactive approach to agency, sense of agency, Piaget’s theory of equilibration, sensorimotor approaches to perception, sensorimotor contingency, habits, social constitution of perceptual skills.


Di Paolo, E. A. (2016). Participatory object perception. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23(5–6), 228–258.

Further Reading:

Buhrmann, T., and Di Paolo, E. (2017). The sense of agency – a phenomenological consequence of enacting sensorimotor schemes, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 16(2), 207–236.

Di Paolo, E. A. et al. (2017). Sensorimotor Life: An Enactive Proposal. Oxford University Press.