Ezequiel Di Paolo


Ezequiel Di Paolo is a full-time Research Professor working at Ikerbasque, the Basque Science Foundation, in San Sebastián, Spain. He received his MSc from the Instituto Balseiro in Argentina and his DPhil from the University of Sussex. He was Reader in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems at the University of Sussex where he has also been co-director of the Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems MSc programme. He remains a member of the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics (CCNR) and the Centre for Research in Cognitive Science at Sussex (COGS). His interdisciplinary work on the enactive approach to life, mind and society integrates insights from cognitive science, phenomenology, philosophy of mind and computational modelling. His recent research focus is on embodied intersubjectivity and participatory sense-making. His other research interests include embodied cognition, dynamical systems, adaptive behaviour in natural and artificial systems, biological modelling, complex systems, evolutionary robotics, and philosophy of science.

Presentation title: Participatory sense-making and heteronomies

Abstract: Social cognition research has begun to shift away from a focus on the individual mind and towards embodied and participatory aspects of social understanding. In this talk, we discuss the enactive concept of participatory sense-making. It starts from the idea that embodied, situated action is basic to how we make sense of the world, and the findings that people in interaction coordinate their actions with each other. If this is true, then people can, literally, participate in each other’s sense-making: in coordinating embodied activity, people understand each other and the world together, by jointly forming and transforming their intentions.

We argue that the interaction process can take on a form of autonomy, as self-sustaining patterns of embodied coordination. This allows us to reframe the problem of social cognition as that of how meaning is generated and transformed in the interplay between the unfolding interaction process and the individuals engaged in it. We show that interactive processes are more than a context for social cognition: they can complement and even replace individual mechanisms. According to this view, all social interactions involve an element of heteronomy, which is  related to the autonomy of others, but also to the autonomy of the interaction process as a dynamical self-sustaining pattern. To interact is to manage the primordial tension between personal intentions and interactive normativity.