The Future of the Embodied Mind
by Adam Robbert
HT Archive Fire for the heads up. The following talks were part of eSMCs Summer School series “The Future of the Embodied Mind.” Full details can be found HERE. Below I have embedded talks from John Protevi on “Deleuze’s Contribution to an Enactive Approach to Biology,” Evan Thompson’s talk “Mind in Life and Life in Mind,” and Susan Oyama on “Development and Evolution in a World Without Labels.” Check out the site for more great talks, as the below certainly don’t exhaust the interesting discussions happening as part of this event. These talks also make a great compliment to Steven Shaviro’s recent presentation at OOOIII on Eliminativism and Panpsychism, as well as my own recent musings on the same topics.
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.”
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.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
The Graduate School and University Center, CUNY,
Accounts of development and evolution typically involve complementary notions of prespecification–organismic and environmental ‘labeling,’ if you will. In the case of development these can take the form of genetic programs or instructions and the like, while descriptions of evolution often invoke preexisting environmental demands or problems that organisms must meet.
The traditions of thought informing The Embodied Mind and Developmental Systems Theory (DST) both challenge such ways of conceiving life processes. Yet these traditions sprang from different grounds, and they bring distinctive sensibilities to their overlapping projects. I describe the systemic contingencies of self-organizing systems in DST, pointing out the importance of alternative pathways, both in biological processes and the theorizing they inspire.