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.

Expected results

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.

Pedagogical modalities

The principle of the school is to invite 5 confirmed scientists covering the main domains of cognitive science. The invited speakers are :

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 :

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.