Universität Wien FIND
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180147 SE MEi:CogSci Topic-Seminar (2016S)

Sense making on shaky grounds - the pleasures of instability in body and mind

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie
Continuous assessment of course work

Prep. Meeting: Tuesday 1.3.2016, 9:00 - 11:00

HS 2G d. Inst. f. Philosophie, NIG, 2. Stock


max. 25 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Tuesday 15.03. 09:45 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3C, NIG Universitätsstraße 7/Stg. II/3. Stock, 1010 Wien
Wednesday 16.03. 16:45 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3C, NIG Universitätsstraße 7/Stg. II/3. Stock, 1010 Wien
Monday 04.04. 16:45 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3E NIG 3.Stock
Tuesday 05.04. 09:00 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3C, NIG Universitätsstraße 7/Stg. II/3. Stock, 1010 Wien
Wednesday 06.04. 16:45 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3C, NIG Universitätsstraße 7/Stg. II/3. Stock, 1010 Wien
Friday 03.06. 09:00 - 19:00 Hörsaal 3C, NIG Universitätsstraße 7/Stg. II/3. Stock, 1010 Wien


Aims, contents and method of the course

In this seminar we will explore how we make sense of the world and the role that surprise or instability play in such processes. We will investigate situations, where we deliberately expose ourselves to uncertainty and maybe even experience it as pleasurable. The seminar will be structured along three parts. In each of these blocks of two or three days, we will provide interactive settings to experience relevant phenomena in an interactive way (e.g., art exhibition, dance improvisation, and playing) to then relate them to current theories in cognitive science (e.g., predictive coding, enactive cognition,...).

Part I: "Unstable Systems" deals with the question why and when we seek openness of meaning. Based on the idea that cognitive systems aim at stability or homeostasis, the question arises why humans explore and play at all instead of avoiding novelty and surprise ("Dark-Room-Problem"). Here, we will discuss accounts of predictive coding as well as of autopoiesis and reflect on possible explanations for a system's drive for instability.

Part II "Unstable Structures" focuses on the questions if and how we are able to change perceptual, cognitive, physical, and social habits. We will experience multimodal illusions and explore the (im-)possibility of "overwriting"; the basic cognitive patterns inducing them. Based on embodied and enactive approaches (body-schema, sensory-motor contingencies,...) we will investigate and reflect on the changeability of habits and models.

Part III "Unstable Experience" explores how experience changes when we extend or constrain our senses. We will experiment with focusing on different sensory modalities (by deliberately attending or by blocking one of them) to investigate the interchangeability of the senses and discuss how closely sensory modes are bound to each other.

Learning Outcomes:
- Advanced knowledge and understanding of a phenomenon from a cognitive science perspective
- Ability to apply core terminology of cognitive science
- Ability to reflect upon, compare, and relate different disciplinary approaches in terms of their respective aims, key-concepts, and methods
- Ability to read, present, and discuss primary scientific literature
- Ability to organise work in physical and virtual environments
- Ability to sharpen/focus/channel analytical and critical thinking
- Ability to solve problems in an interdisciplinary team
- Ability to organise project work in an interdisciplinary team
- Ability to reflect upon personal competences and develop individual motivation and interests

Assessment and permitted materials

seminar paper, presentation, teamwork, participation in discussions.
presence in seminar sessions is required.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

- reading & preparing compulsory literature for each session (summarise main points/theses of each text and your open questions on max. one page (A4) and post them on moodle two days before the session (for session I: 13.3., for session II: 2.4., for session III: 1.6.)
- present/moderate a (part of a) session (interactive part + theoretical background based on literature you found) individually or in a group (depends on number of students)
- suggestion for topic/phenomenon by March 15
- attendance & active participation in the seminar
- write-up/seminar report (6-8 pages)

Examination topics

Reading list

Compulsory Reading for all:

Session I:
1. Di Paolo, E. & Thompson, E. (2014). The Enactive Approach. In L. Shapiro (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition (pp. 68-78). New York: Routledge Press.

2. Friston, K., Thornton, C., & Clark, A. (2012). Free-energy minimization and the dark-room problem. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(130). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00130

3. Maturana, H. R. (1999). The Organization of the Living: A Theory of the Living Organization. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 51, 149-158.

Session II:
1. Boden, M. A. (1998). Creativity and artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence, 103(1-2). 347-356. doi: 10.1016/S0004-3702(98)00055-1

2. Talero, M. (2006). Merleau-Ponty and the Bodily Subject of Learning. International Philosophical Quarterly, 46(2), 191-203. doi: 10.5840/ipq20064622

Session III:
1. Clark (2006). Vision as dance? Three Challenges for Sensorimotor Contingency Theory. Psyche, 12(1).

2. Gapenne, O. (2010). Kinesthesia and the Construction of Perceptual Objects. In: J. Stewart, O. Gapenne, E. Di Paolo (Eds.), Enaction: toward a new paradigm for cognitive science(pp. 183–218). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

3. O'Regan, J. K. & Noë, A. (2001). What it is like to see: A sensorimotor theory of perceptual experience. Synthese, 129(1), 79-103. doi: 10.1023/A:1012699224677

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:36