IAS-Research Fundamentals

Seminars 2018

Start date: 6 March 2018. Frequency: bi-weekly.

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

Six fortnightly 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. The organizational approach to minimal living systems

6 March 2018

Run by: Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo

Keywords: autopoiesis, autonomy, self-organization (in physics/chemistry/biology), minimal function and agency, functional differentiation and integration, metabolism, biological boundaries and individuality, protocells, origins of life, enabling constraints, regulation and hierarchical organization, (open-ended) evolution; H. Maturana & F. Varela, R. Rosen, T. Ganti, S. Kaufmann, H. Morowitz, H. Jonas.


Ruiz-Mirazo, K. and Moreno, A. (2012). Autonomy in evolution. From minimal to complex life. Synthese, 185(1), 21–52.

Further Readings:

Etxeberria, A. and Umerez, J. (2013). Organization. In Dubitzky, W., Wolkenhauer, O., Cho, K-H. and Yokota, H. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Systems Biology. New York: Springer: 1612–1615.

Karsenti, E. (2008). Self-organization in cell biology: A brief history. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, 9, 255–262.

Letelier, J. C. et al. (2003). Autopoietic and (M,R) systems. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 222, 261–272.

Mossio, M., Bich, L. and Moreno, A. (2013). Emergence, closure and inter-level causation in biological systems. Erkenntnis, 78(2), 153–178.

Ruiz-Mirazo, K., Peretó, J. and Moreno, A. (2004). A universal definition of life: autonomy and open-ended evolution. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, 34 (3), 323–346.


Seminar 2. Concepts of the organism, individuality, and identity

20 March 2018

Run by: Arantza Etxeberria

Keywords: identity, self-production, self-distinction, organism-environment interactions, evo-devo, concepts of organismic individuality, developmental systems, inheritance, reproduction, E. Jablonka, S. Oyama, P. Alberch, T. Pradeau.


Weber A. and Varela F. J. (2002). Life after Kant: Natural purposes and the autopoietic foundations of biological individuality. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1 (2), 97–125.

Further Readings:

Etxeberria, A. (2004). Autopoiesis and natural drift: Genetic information, reproduction, and evolution revisited. Artificial Life, 10(3), 347–360.

Etxeberria, A. and Ruiz-Mirazo, K. (2009). The challenging biology of transients. A view from the perspective of autonomy. EMBO Reports, 10, S33–S36.

Godfrey-Smith, P. (2014). Chapter 5 of Philosophy of Biology. Princeton University Press.

Jonas, H. (1968). Biological foundations of individuality. International Philosophical Quarterly 8(2), 231–251.

Pradeu, T. (2016). Organisms or biological individuals? Combining physiological and evolutionary individuality. Biology & Philosophy, 31(6), 797–817.

Ruíz-Mirazo, K., Etxeberria, A., Moreno, A., and Ibáñez, J. (2000). Organisms and their place in biology. Theory in Biosciences, 119 (3-4), 209-233.

Varela F. J. (1997). Patterns of Life: Intertwining identity and cognition. Brain and Cognition 34, 72–87.


Seminar 3. Emergence, hierarchies, constraints

10 April 2018

Run by: Jon Umerez

Keywords: forms of biological explanation, dynamics and constraints, ways of describing complex systems, emergence, hierarchical systems, inter-level interactions, forms of causation, mechanicism, emergent control, symbols, H. Pattee, R. Rosen, H. Simon


Pattee, H. H. (1969). Physical conditions for primitive functional hierarchies. In Hierarchical Structures, edited by L. L. Whyte, A. G. Wilson, and D. Wilson, pp. 161–177. New York: Elsevier.

Further Readings:

Umerez, J. (2016). Biological organization from a hierarchical perspective. Articulation of Concepts and Interlevel Relation. In Pievani, T., Serrelli, E. and Tëmkin, I. (eds.) Evolutionary theory: A hierarchical perspective, pp. 63–85. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Umerez, J. and Mossio, M. (2013). Constraint. In Dubitzky, W., Wolkenhauer, O., Cho, K-H. and Yokota, H. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Systems Biology. New York: Springer.

Wimsatt, W. (1994). The ontology of complex systems: Levels of organization, perspectives, and causal thickets. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 20, 207–274.


Seminar 4. Embodied and enactive approaches to agency and cognition

24 April 2018

Run by: Ezequiel Di Paolo

Keywords: functionalism, embodied turn, dynamical systems, enaction, phenomenology, sensorimotor approaches to perception, agency, nonrepresentationalism, embodiment, sense-making, individuation, normativity, F. Varela, H. Jonas, M. Merleau-Ponty, H. Dreyfus, J. Dewey, J. Piaget, G. Simondon, E. Thompson, R. Beer.


Di Paolo, E. (2005). Autopoiesis, adaptivity, teleology, agency, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4(4), 429–452.

Further Readings:

Barandiaran, X., Rohde, M. and Di Paolo, E. A. (2009). Defining agency: individuality, normativity, asymmetry and spatio-temporality in action. Adaptive Behavior, 17, 367–386.

O’Regan, J. K., and Noë, A. (2001). A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(5), 883–917.

Thompson, E. (2011). Précis of Mind in Life, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 18, 10–22.

Thompson. E. and Cosmelli, D. (2011). Brain in a vat or body in a world? Brainbound versus enactive views of experience. Philosophical Topics, 39, 163–180.

Varela F. J. (1995). The re-enchantment of the concrete. Some biological ingredients for a nouvelle cognitive science. In: Steels L. and Brooks R. (eds.) The Artificial Life Route to Artificial Intelligence: Building Embodied, Situated Agents. Lawrence Erlbaum, New Haven. pp. 11–20.


Seminar 5. Intersubjectivity, social understanding, social normativity

8 May 2018

Run by: Hanne De Jaegher

Keywords: participatory sense-making, social cognition, social neuroscience, autism, social norms, primary and secondary intersubjectivity, linguistic bodies, ethnography, interpersonal coordination, C. Trevarthen, E. Goffman, V. Reddy, M. Bakhtin, L. Vygotsky, D. Stern, A. Kendon.


De Jaegher, H. and Di Paolo, E. (2007). Participatory Sense-Making: An enactive approach to social cognition. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6(4), 485–507.

Further Readings:

De Jaegher, H. (2013). Embodiment and sense-making in autism. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 7(15), doi: 10.3389/fnint.2013.00015.

De Jaegher, H., Di Paolo, E. and Gallagher, S. (2010). Does social interaction constitute social cognition? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14 (10): 441–447.

Fuchs T., and De Jaegher H. (2009). Enactive Intersubjectivity: Participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 8(4), 465­–486.

Gallagher, S. (2008). Understanding others: Embodied social cognition. In P. C. Garzón and T. Gomila (eds.), Elsevier Handbook of Embodied Cognitive Science. pp. 439-52. London: Elsevier.

Reddy, V. (2003). On being the object of attention: Implications for self–other consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(9), 397–402.


Seminar 6. Ethical Know-how, Participation, and Academic Responsibility

22 May 2018

Run by: Ezequiel Di Paolo

Keywords: Enaction and ethics, ethical know-how, ethical agency, participation, care, autonomy, dimensions of concrete embodiment, and ethical concern, implications for education, medicine, psychotherapy, research and academic responsibility, ethics of liberation, Alain Badiou, bell hooks, Hans Jonas, Enrique Dussel, Paulo Freire.


Seminar 6. Health and autonomy in medical and bioethical contexts CANCELLED

22 May 2018

Run by: Antonio Casado

Keywords: patient autonomies, concepts of health and disease, adherence to treatment, the normal and the pathological, doctor-patient interactions, healthcare institutions, (bio)ethics, G. Canguilhelm, A. Tauber, H. Carel.


Canguilhem, G. (2008). The normal and the pathological.  In: Knowledge of Life. New York: Fordham UP. pp. 121–­133.

Further Readings:

Carel, H. (2007). Can I be ill and happy? Philosophia, 35, 95–110.

Casado da Rocha, A. and Etxeberria, A. (2013). Towards autonomy-within-illness: Applying the triadic approach to the principles of bioethics. In Carel, H. and Cooper, R. (eds.) Health, Illness and Disease. Philosophical Essays. Durham: Acumen: pp. 57–74.

Etxeberria, A. (2015). Biological organization and pathology: Three views on normativity. In Lemoine, M. and Giroux, E. (eds.) Naturalism in Philosophy of Health: issues, limits and implications. Springer. pp. 121–142.

Mol, A., and Law, J. (2004). Embodied action, enacted bodies. The example of hypoglycaemia. Body & Society, 10(2-3), 43­–62.