International Colloquium of Philosophy and Psychiatry

I have been invited as a plenary speaker to the International Colloquium of Philosophy and Psychiatry, which will take place August 31 – September 2 in Bogota, Colombia. The title and abstract of my talk are as follows:

Integrating phenomenology and systems theory: The case of embodied memory

I will give an introduction to dynamical systems analysis and use it to formalize and ground the phenomenology of embodied memory. Three kinds of extra- neural processes will be considered: 1) physiological dynamics, 2) movement dynamics, and 2) social interaction dynamics. Their potential to serve as forms of memory will be illustrated on the basis of three simple agent-based models. These computational thought experiments help to demonstrate the problems faced by a purely brain-based account of the self and its capacities. They also support the adoption of a broader notion of psychopathology that takes into account the cognitive effects of undergoing changes in one’s body and in one’s relationship to the spatial and social environment.


Download the full program


The shaman as cybernetician: Explaining the efficacy of shamanic healing

I was kindly invited to give a talk by the Cognitive Science research group at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The talk will take place at 1pm on the 6th of December in the Sala de Conferencias.

The title and abstract of the talk are as follows:

The shaman as cybernetician: Explaining the efficacy of shamanic healing

The structure of experience during shamanic initiation and healing is typically characterized by various kinds of transformations of personal identity: the self is experienced as being capable of new abilities such as flight, moving underground or breathing under water; as being situated in other worlds, places and times; as being embodied as other persons, spirit entities, animals and inanimate things; as dying, being decomposed, and then reassembled and reborn afresh.

Are these transformations of identity merely anomalous products of altered consciousness, or do they perhaps constitute an important element of the efficacy of shamanic rituals? In this talk I will argue that transformations of identity play a functional role. By drawing on the conceptual and practical relationship between the first wave of cybernetics and psychiatry, I will outline a possible mechanism that can help to explain why changes in identity can lead to increased adaptation to the challenges and demands of life.