CELab PhD Seminars

The Principle of Dynamic Holism

Guiding methodology for investigating cognition in non-neuronal organisms

Videoconferência

Por Matt Sims (Ruhr-University Bochum).

The research programme of basal cognition is a bottom-up approach to cognition which aims to investigate basal cognitive capacities and mechanisms in non-neuronal organisms. Being that basal cognition is committed to producing testable hypotheses that are subject to empirical investigation, this programme faces a formidable methodological challenge: when designing experiments, how can investigators avoid using zoo-centric assumptions that are insensitive to or even misrepresent how some non-neuronal model organism of interest makes its living within its econiche? The aim of this talk is to meet this challenge head-on by articulating and arguing for what I call the Principle of Dynamic Holism (PDH), a methodological principle for guiding research on non-neuronal cognition. In this talk I will spell out PDH and describe how it may be seen in relation to various holistic research programmes in human-focused cognitive science and psychology. The value of PDH will then be exemplified by comparing two different experiments on Physarum polycephalum and their use of extracellular slime to navigate their surrounds. The second of these experiments, I will argue implicitly deploys something like PDH and as a result, is able to uncover an otherwise difficult to recognise nuanced process of decision making that taking place. By providing an ecologically based methodology guiding principle that is aimed at improving hypothesis construction, experimental design, operationalisation, and behavioural (data) interpretation for studies of non-neuronal cognition, this talk contributes to the budding research programme of basal cognition.

Bio: Matt Sims received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Edinburgh. His thesis focused on identifying common principles and mechanisms underlying both living processes and cognitive processes. During a part of his PhD, Matt was a research assistant in the lab of Giovanni Pezzulo at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (Rome) where he was trained in designing behavioural experiments. Since then, he has been designing and running a series of experiments using acellular slime mould (P. polycephalum) to investigate behavioural decision-making in collaboration with Michael Levin (Tufts University). From 2021 to 2023 Matt was an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral fellow at Ruhr University Bochum, where he is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Philosophy II. His interdisciplinary research is located at the intersection of philosophy of biology and philosophy of cognitive science, focusing most recently on methodological issues surrounding holistic explanations in biology and cognitive science, the evolution of collective decision making, and anticipatory behaviour in both neuronal and non-neuronal organisms.


Transmissão via Zoom.

16h00-18h00
CFCUL - Centro de Filosofia das Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
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