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Posts Tagged ‘Enaction’

Discussion: Brain, body and world

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Reply here to provide your challenge to the speakers of the fourth day’s general discussion. This should take the form of: i) a tweet-like question (maximum of 144 characters) and ii) a follow up explanation, abstract or set of bullet points with a minimum of 150 words and maximum of 300, in the following format:

Group Name
Short description of challenge in bold
Content of the summary or abstract or bullet points


Mind in life and life in mind

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Evan Thompson
Department of Philosophy,
University of Toronto,

The guiding idea of this talk is that living is sense-making in precarious conditions. The guiding question is whether living, so understood, is necessary for mind. Along the way I will review some of the main concepts of the enactive approach — autonomy, autopoiesis, sense-making, enaction — highlighting important advances and findings since the proposal of the enactive approach in The Embodied Mind (Varela, Thompson, and Rosch, 1991). Attention will also be given to related developments, such as neurophenomenology, and to the broad philosophical question about the relationship between lived experience and the scientific study of lived experience — the motivating and animating question of The Embodied Mind.

(Revised) presentation slides (ppt)

Evan Thompson: “Mind in life and life in mind” from eSMCs on Vimeo.

Cognition at the crossroads: from embodied minds to thinking bodies

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Michael Wheeler
Department of Philosophy,
University of Stirling,

Given the often impressive advances made by contemporary research within the embodied cognition paradigm, it is perhaps surprising that one of the most basic concepts that defines the field, namely that of embodiment itself, has not yet been articulated in a satisfactorily clear or precise manner. In an attempt to present the ‘state of the art’ with respect to this foundational issue, I shall begin by drawing a distinction between two broad notions of embodiment that are operative within embodied cognition research. According to the first notion, which I shall call implementational embodiment, the body is conceptualized as ‘no more than’ a bridge to new realizations of functionally specified cognitive architectures. To theorize in terms of implementational embodiment is to hold that the same mind might be embodied differently. According to the second notion of embodiment, which I shall call vital embodiment, bodily acts and structures make a nonsubstitutable contribution to cognition, with the precise nature of that contribution determined by certain local theoretical commitments and interests. To theorize in terms of vital embodiment is to hold that different bodies will think differently. Having positioned a number of alternative versions of embodied cognition research (e.g., enactivism, the extended mind) in relation to this distinction, I shall use the resulting analysis to say what kinds of considerations might lead us to choose between those alternatives. Finally, in a more speculative register, I shall endeavour to look to the future, by adapting and extending some work on embodiment from recent feminist phenomenological thinking in order to take us beyond the very distinction between implementational and vital materiality with which we began.

Presentation Slides [pptx]

Michael Wheeler: “Cognition at the crossroads: from embodied minds to thinking bodies” from eSMCs on Vimeo.

Embodiment and psychopathology

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Thomas Fuchs
Klinik für Allgemeine Psychiatrie, Zentrum für Psychosoziale Medizin,
Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg,

The talk first gives an overview on the phenomenological approach to embodiment in psychopathology, in particular on a polarity of ‘disembodiment’ and ‘hyperembodiment’ which is illustrated by the examples of schizophrenia and depression. Recent contributions to phenomenological accounts of these disorders are presented.

Second, the paper discusses the relationship of phenomenological and neuropsychiatric perspectives on embodiment. Embodied and ecological concepts of mental illness emphasize the circular interaction of altered subjective experience, disturbed social interactions and neurobiological dysfunctions in the development of the illness. Thus, phenomenological and enactive accounts of embodiment may be combined in order to overcome reductionist concepts that prevail in present psychiatry.

Thomas Fuchs: “Embodiment and psychopathology” from eSMCs on Vimeo.

Enactively extended intentionality

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Shaun Gallagher
Moss Chair of Excellence in Philosophy, University of Memphis, USA
Research Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science. University of Hertfordshire, UK

I argue that the extended mind hypothesis requires an enactive, neo-pragmatic concept of intentionality if it is to develop proper responses to a variety of objections.  This enactive concept of intentionality is based on the phenomenological concept of a bodily (or motor or operative) intentionality outlined by Husserl and Merleau-Ponty.  I explore the connections between this concept and recent embodied approaches to social cognition.

Shaun Gallagher: Enactively extended intentionality from eSMCs on Vimeo.

Deleuze’s contribution to an enactive approach to biology

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

John Protevi
Department of French Studies,
Lousiana State University,

I will preface my presentation with a brief outline of the three-fold ontology of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995). Deleuze’s formula is that (1) intensive morphogenetic processes follow the structures inherent in (2) virtual differential multiplicities to produce (3) actual localized and individuated substances with extensive properties and differenciated qualities. Simply put, the actualization of the virtual, that is, the production of the actual things of the world, proceeds by way of intensive processes. Various authors have shown how this scheme provides an ontology for dynamic systems theory.

I will then suggest three ways in which this schema can provide a conceptual framework for an enactive approach to biology, keeping in mind at all times the tradeoff between the effort necessary for learning a new vocabulary and new ontological scheme versus the benefits of adopting that new framework. My model here is the work of Hubert Dreyfus in making the vocabulary and ontological scheme of Martin Heidegger relevant for cognitive science.

First, I will discuss Deleuze’s notion of a “larval subject” accompanying “spatio-temporal dynamisms” (= intensive morphogenetic processes) in relation to the sense-making of autonomous systems, as laid out in Thompson’s synthesis of Varela’s notion of autopoiesis and Di Paolo’s notion of adaptivity.

Second, I will discuss Deleuze’s notion of “counter-effectuation” (roughly speaking the feedback from actual and intensive to the virtual) in relation to Mary Jane West-Eberhard’s notion of environmentally induced phenotypic variation (=  “developmental plasticity”) as the leader in evolution.

Finally, I will discuss two notions associated with Developmental Systems Theory in Deleuzean terms: a) the heterogenous nature of the developmental system (intra- and extra-somatic elements) in terms of Deleuze’s notion of “assemblage” and b) the notion of niche-construction in terms of Deleuze’s notion of “territorialization.”

Presentation Slides [pdf]


John Protevi: Deleuze’s contribution to an enactive approach to biology from eSMCs on Vimeo.