The Life & Mind Seminar Network

Seminar #21: MENTAL LIFE: Beyond autopoietically adaptive behaviour

Posted in Seminars by Tom Froese on June 10, 2007

We are happy to welcome Xabier Barandiaran from the University of the Basque Country for the Life and Mind seminars. The seminar will take place: 13.06.2007 at 3 pm in Pev. 2A2

MENTAL LIFE: Beyond autopoietically adaptive behaviour

Xabier will be happy to facilitate a discussion about the relationship between life and mind taking as a departure point two statements:

1. Metabolically driven agency (adaptive behaviour serving autopoietic values) is insufficient even unnecessary, for mindfulness;
2. What intentionality requires is life-like self-sustaining closure AT THE LEVEL OF BEHAVIOURAL ORGANISATION (not metabolic): Mental Life.

As regards to claim 1 we can take the example of a mutated e-coli bacteria that moves down the sugar gradient as intentionally and meaningfully as a “normal” bacteria goes up. As for 2 there remain many open questions: how to model self-maintenance with dynamical systems? What constitutes a genuine minimal example? What kind of empirical evidence do we have to sustain the existence of mental life? Where is phylogenetic history does it appear?

Readings:

Barandiaran, X. (2007), “Mental Life. Conceptual models and synthetic methodologies”. In: B. Wallace (Ed.), The World, the Mind and the Body: Psychology after cognitivism. Imprint Academic, in press. (pdf)

Di Paolo, E. & Iiyuka, H. (2007), “How (not) to model autonomous behaviour”, BioSystems, forthcoming. (pdf)

All welcome!

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2 Responses

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  1. tomfroese said, on June 10, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Hi Xabier,

    Sounds interesting! Too bad I won’t be able to make it to your seminar…

    I was thinking about your two claims with regard to Jonas (1966), which I’ve recently been re-reading. I think Jonas would agree with your 2nd claim, because for him selfhood and worldhood only really manifest themselves as such in animality (which coincides with an increased mediacy from metabolism), but I don’t think he would accept your claim that metabolically driven agency is unnecessary for mindfulness.

    To support this claim we would have to show that 1) metabolism-like closure pertains to the behavioral domain, and 2) that the dynamics of the material substrate (metabolism) doesn’t get us anything extra when compared to the dynamics instantiated by relational phenomena (behavior) alone. I’d be interested to hear your reasons for point 2).

    In any case, would you at least say that metabolically driven agency is necessary and sufficient for sense-making as such?

    Cheers,
    Tom

  2. xabier said, on July 17, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Dear Tom,

    Sorry it took me so long to answer, as usual ;)

    Regarding you remarks:

    1) metabolism-like closure pertains to the behavioral domain

    Well, this is my hypothesis, I will be working soon to give some more detailes “evidence” of similar dynamics at the neurodynamic level. However it will be NOT metabolism-like closure since this closure, let me put it this way, is open-to the environment, whereas neurodynamic closure is closed-through the environment. This is an important distincion. Following Ezequiel on that autopoiesis alone does not imply agency (that requires adaptivity and adaptivity requires additional mechanisms), metabolic closure on itself does not provide sense-making. So the domain of the mental need to be defined by a different type of closure. And this brings us to the second claim:

    2) that the dynamics of the material substrate (metabolism) doesn’t get us anything extra when compared to the dynamics instantiated by relational phenomena (behavior) alone

    The problem here lies on … what does the metabolic substrate dynamics really add to the behavioural? If it is just a number of viability constraints that are external to the dynamic-causal-organization of behaviour then it does not add anything that a machine body could add. If it adds something else… what is it?

    Regarding your last question would you at least say that metabolically driven agency is necessary and sufficient for sense-making as such? Well, that all depends on what you mean by “sense-making”… it brings adaptive behaviour. But I am not sure what sense-making really means if, for instance, a system is responding to the environments driven by just a neural architecture that is genetically defined and a set of signals from its gut.


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