Forthcoming in October 2018.
Di Paolo, E. A., Cuffari, E. C., and De Jaegher, H. (2018). Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity between Life and Language. MIT Press.
A novel theoretical framework for an embodied, non-representational approach to language that extends and deepens enactive theory, bridging the gap between sensorimotor skills and language.
Linguistic Bodies offers a fully embodied and fully social treatment of human language without positing mental representations. The authors present the first coherent, overarching theory that connects dynamical explanations of action and perception with language. Arguing from the assumption of a deep continuity between life and mind, they show that this continuity extends to language. Expanding and deepening enactive theory, they offer a constitutive account of language and the co-emergent phenomena of personhood, reflexivity, social normativity, and ideality. Language, they argue, is not something we add to a range of existing cognitive capacities but a new way of being embodied. Each of us is a linguistic body in a community of other linguistic bodies. The book describes three distinct yet entangled kinds of human embodiment, organic, sensorimotor, and intersubjective; it traces the emergence of linguistic sensitivities and introduces the novel concept of linguistic bodies; and it explores the implications of living as linguistic bodies in perpetual becoming, applying the concept of linguistic bodies to questions of language acquisition, parenting, autism, grammar, symbol, narrative, and gesture, and to such ethical concerns as microaggression, institutional speech, and pedagogy.
Here’s a conversation on AI, machines, embodiment, mind and life with Tom Froese for the program Entrevistas (im)posibles, broadcast by UNAM TV, Mexico on 13 September 2016. The chat is in Spanish.
Also available here.
Some interviews made during my short visit to the IIMAS institute at UNAM (Mexico City) and the XV Alife conference (Cancun).
“Ciencia, práctica y filosofía, pilares para entender la Naturaleza y sus complejidades”: Ezequiel Di Paolo. Interview in Crónica (México), 7/7/2016. (pdf)
Claves para entender la vida artificial. Interview in El Economista (México), 5/7/2016. (pdf)
Ciencia debe tener balance con filosofía y práctica. Interview in Terra (México), 5/7/2016. (pdf)
Insta Di Paolo a mejorar humanoides. Interview in La Reforma (México), 4/7/2016. (pdf)
An article in Spanish of recent developments in enactive theory.
Un artículo en castellano sobre los recientes avances en teoría enactiva.
Di Paolo, Ezequiel. (2016). “Enactivismo”. En Diccionario Interdisciplinar Austral, editado por Claudia E. Vanney, Ignacio Silva y Juan F. Franck.
A new open access paper discussing the enactive notion of sensorimotor agency and how it helps explain the phenomenology of the sense of agency in a non-representational manner.
Buhrmann, T., and Di Paolo, E. (2015) The sense of agency – a phenomenological consequence of enacting sensorimotor schemes, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, doi: 10.1007/s11097-015-9446-7. (online first).
Abstract. The sensorimotor approach to perception addresses various aspects of perceptual experience, but not the subjectivity of intentional action. Conversely, the problem that current accounts of the sense of agency deal with is primarily one of subjectivity. But the proposed models, based on internal signal comparisons, arguably fail to make the transition from subpersonal computations to personal experience. In this paper we suggest an alternative direction towards explaining the sense of agency by braiding three theoretical strands: a world-involving, dynamical interpretation of the sensorimotor approach, an enactive description of sensorimotor agency as contrasted with organic agency in general, and a dynamical theory of equilibration within and between sensorimotor schemes. On this new account, the sense of oneself as the author of one’s own actions corresponds to what we experience during the ongoing adventure of establishing, losing, and re-establishing meaningful interactions with the world. The meaningful relation between agent and world is given by the precarious constitution of sensorimotor agency as a self-asserting network of schemes and dispositions. Acts are owned as they adaptively assert the constitution of the agent. Thus, awareness for different aspects of agency experience, such as the initiation of action, the effort exerted in controlling it, or the achievement of the desired effect, can be accounted for by processes involved in maintaining the sensorimotor organization that enables these interactions with the world. We discuss these processes in detail from a non-representational, dynamical perspective and show how they cohere with the personal experience of agency.
Keywords Enactive cognitive science. Agency. Sense of agency. Sensorimotor contingencies. Equilibration. Metastability
Towards an Embodied Science of Intersubjectivity: Widening the Scope of Social Understanding Research, edited by Ezequiel A. Di Paolo and Hanne De Jaegher, Lausanne: Frontiers Media, 2015.
A Frontiers in Psychology open access ebook based on the 42 contributions to a Research Topic.
An important amount of research effort in psychology and neuroscience over the past decades has focused on the problem of social cognition. This problem is understood as how we figure out other minds, relying only on indirect manifestations of other people’s intentional states, which are assumed to be hidden, private and internal. Research on this question has mostly investigated how individual cognitive mechanisms achieve this task. A shift in the internalist assumptions regarding intentional states has expanded the research focus with hypotheses that explore the role of interactive phenomena and interpersonal histories and their implications for understanding individual cognitive processes.
This interactive expansion of the conceptual and methodological toolkit for investigating social cognition, we now propose, can be followed by an expansion into wider and deeply-related research questions, beyond (but including) that of social cognition narrowly construed.
Our social lives are populated by different kinds of cognitive and affective phenomena that are related to but not exhausted by the question of how we figure out other minds. These phenomena include acting and perceiving together, verbal and non-verbal engagement, experiences of (dis-)connection, management of relations in a group, joint meaning- making, intimacy, trust, conflict, negotiation, asymmetric relations, material mediation of social interaction, collective action, contextual engagement with socio-cultural norms, structures and roles, etc. These phenomena are often characterized by a strong participation by the cognitive agent in contrast with the spectatorial stance typical of social cognition research. We use the broader notion of embodied intersubjectivity to refer to this wider set of phenomena.
This Research Topic aims to investigate relations between these different issues, to help lay strong foundations for a science of intersubjectivity – the social mind writ large.
To contribute to this goal, we encouraged contributions in psychology, neuroscience, psychopathology, philosophy, and cognitive science that address this wider scope of intersubjectivity by extending the range of explanatory factors from purely individual to interactive, from observational to participatory.
The project eSMCs: Extending SensoriMotor Contingencies to Cognition (1/2011-12/2014, EU FP7-ICT-2009-6 no: 270212) has recently come to an end. You can find more information on the project website. Here I include the reports delivered by our research team. They summarize what was work-in-progress at the time of writing, most of which was later published. But also some bits that have not yet been published.
Barandiaran, X., Buhrmann, T. and Di Paolo, E. (2012). Deliverable D1.1: Interim report on eSMCs and embodiment.
Barandiaran, X., Beaton, M., Buhrmann, T. and Di Paolo, E. (2013). Deliverable D1.2: eSMCs and embodied cognition.
Beaton, M., Barandiaran, X., Buhrmann, T. and Di Paolo, E. (2014). Deliverable D1.5: Cognitive organisation for sustaining eSMCs.
Buhrmann, T., Di Paolo, E., Barandiaran, X., De Jaegher, H. (2015). Deliverable D1.6: Agency and eSMCs.
Beaton, M. and Di Paolo, E. (2015). Deliverable D1.7 Virtual Actions and eSMCs.
A conversation about enaction, sports and embodiment with sport science researchers for issue 362 of the Revue de Éducation Physique et Sport. (Click image for full pdf).
After more than one and a half years, our work on enactivism and language (co-authored with Elena Cuffari and Hanne De Jaegher) has finally been published.
The enactive approach has often been criticised for not offering a clear story about high-level human cognition. It’s been said that it is often ok to think in enactive terms for simple, environmentally-guided performances (such as walking, even dancing) but that traditional computational stories will be necessary to bridge such “low-level” performances with “high-level” mental function, such as human linguistic capability. The endgame of such stories is a return to some form of representationalism.
We show in this paper that there are concrete alternatives to this way of thinking and that dichotomies such as high and low-level cognition, “online”/”offline” performance, etc. are the first to go when we consider the activity of languaging enactively.
We offer two models linking participatory sense-making and languaging. One is dialectical (figure below), the other describes the development of linguistic sensitivities and linguistic bodies diachronically.
Find the open-access article here:
Cuffari, E. Di Paolo, E., De Jaegher, H. (2014) From participatory sense-making to language: There and back again, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, doi 10.1007/s11097-014-9404-9.