Summer Schools / Ecoles thématiques
Enaction and Cognitive Science / Enaction et sciences cognitives
Ecole 2006 : du 29 mai au 3 juin 2006 - Ile d'Oléron (France)
Constructivism and Enaction
A new paradigm for Cognitive Science
CNRS Summer School
Organized by the Association pour la Recherche Cognitive (ARCo)
29 May to 03 June 2006 - Ile d'Oléron, France
The term « enaction » was proposed by Francisco Varela in order to designate a new paradigm in cognitive science, based not on the metaphor of the computer as in classical cognitivism, but instead on the metaphor of living organisms. The aim of this summer school is to contribute to the maturation of this new paradigm and to the formation of an identifiable scientific community.
The scientific situation
Any paradigm in cognitive science must meet two main requirements : the theoretical core must provide a principled answer to the enigma of the relation between matter and mind ; and the paradigm must provide for transdisciplinary articulation, notably between the domains of philosophy, psychology, linguistics, neurosciences and Artificial Intelligence. The initial proposals of Maturana and Varela (Cognition = Life = Autopoiesis) will be critically examined, in order to identify their limitations with a view to overcoming them. In particular, it will be crucial to avoid the trap of a restriction to "low-level" sensori-motor cognition, by ensuring the passage to "high-level cognition" such as language, consciousness and culture.
Two other fundamental questions will be addressed: the subject-object relation (objectivism versus constructivism); and the relation between first-person lived experience and third-person scientific explanation.
Finally, it will be important to clarify the relation between the paradigm of enaction, and other related approaches: in particular phenomenology; the philosophy of life and individuation (Jonas, Simondon); constructivism (Piaget, Latour); Gestalt psychology; the ecological approach (Gibson); autonomous robotics, etc. this list is not exclusive.
The expected main result is a boost towards the formation of a scientific community in the field of cognitive science (in France but also internationally, and in particular at the level of young scientists) endowed with a real intellectual cohesion centred on the theme of enaction.
A complementary aim is the publication of a book, in English and in French. This book will regroup the contributions of the invited speakers (revised in the light of discussions during the school, and the comments of an editorial committee), and if necessary complementary contributions which will also be carefully examined.
The principle of the school is to invite 5 confirmed scientists covering the main domains of cognitive science. The invited speakers are :
- Andreas Engel (Neurosciences)
- Edwin Hutchins (Anthropology, Culture and Technology)
- Ezequiel Di Paolo (Robotics, Artificial Life, Philosophy)
- Benny Shanon (Psychology)
- John Stewart (Biology, Epistmology of Cognitive Science)
The duration of the school is fixed at 1 week. Each of the first 5 days will be devoted to one of the invited speakers, and will combine presentations and discussions formatted as follows :
- Morning sessions (2 hours): presentation of the main lines proposed by the speaker, including answers to written questions formulated by participants on the basis of 2 or 3 existing texts which will have been circulated in advance by posting on the Website ( http://liris.cnrs.fr/enaction ) .
- Session 1 in the afternoon (2 hours): Presentation of an empirical research programme by the invited speaker, explaining what the "enactive" perspective contributes to the domain in question, and conversely how this domain is articulated with other areas in cognitive science. Particular attention will be given to concrete examples of how the shift in paradigm corresponds to a shift in the questions that are asked and the experiments that are performed. This session should already give rise to questions which will be organized by a discussion leader from the domain.
- Session 2 in the afternoon (2 hours): a daily « workshop » session in 5 or 6 subgroups, centred around the personal research of each participant. The aim is to discuss how this research could be inscribed in the framework of the paradigm of enaction, and what would be the consequences for the future of this research. Each day, particular attention will be paid to those participants whose field of research corresponds to that of the invited speaker of the day ; at the same time, the group leaders will ensure that the transdisciplinary dimension will be emphasized. These groups will be defined before the start of the Summer School, care being taken to ensure a multidisciplinary composition of each group; the appointed group-leader will be a member of the teaching staff of the School. Each group will prepare a synthetic document (2-3 pages) summarizing the main results of these workshop sessions, to be presented by an elected spokes(wo)man on the final day of the School.
The last day will be devoted to a synthesis aimed at:
The evaluation will be completed by a more conventional questionnaire on the conditions of the School.
- Recalling the axiomatics of the paradigm of enaction
- For each workshop group, an oral presentation (20 minutes with 10 minutes questions per group) of the main results of their working sessions, both as concerns the appropriation of the paradigm of enaction (and the new perspectives for the research of each participant), but also concerning the difficulties and obstacles that may have arisen. These presentations form the centrepiece of the evaluation of the work accomplished during the School.