What am I working on / Who am I?

What am I working on?

April 2022

I’m examining the enactivist approach to cognition and its claims to be the harbinger of a radical paradigm shift for the cognitive sciences. It might (myself and my co-author Nick Brancazio argue) be better thought of as a new kind of interdisciplinary project – a philosophy of nature. More (critical?) commentaries on the enactive approach are in the pipeline.

Starting later in 2022 I’ll be beginning a new project (coinciding with my starting a new position at the Chinese Academy of Sciences) focussing on explanations derived from cutting edge science that potentially straddles biology and cognition (for instance, active matter and active materials research).

A huge missing link for cognitive science and biology (especially for theorists of the the non-representational persuasion) is how one turns into the other – how does the biological transition into the cognitive? What exactly is their ongoing relationship within a single organism? The goings-on of self-organising active materials seem to tell us something here, but we’re not yet sure exactly what…

Shear-induced gelation of self-yielding active networks. From Gagnon et al. (2020).

My specific interest is in figuring out what kinds of explanatory questions are raised by these systems, and hence what kinds of explanatory answers are required. Does a mechanistic story alone cut it, giving us a full understanding of the organising principles of cognitive organisms? Do other explanatory strategies – dynamical systems, for instance – need to enter the picture, and if so where and why? What picture of cognition and its development do they paint?

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher of science working as a research fellow at the University of Wollongong, Australia, where I completed my dissertation (accessible here) last year under the supervision of Dr. Patrick McGivern.

Starting in 2022, I’ll be beginning my term as a distinguished postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CASIP).

My work to date studies the nature and role of scientific explanation in the special sciences, engaging with the renaissance of dynamical systems research within systems biology, neuroscience and psychology. It builds an alternative account of dynamical explanation suited to investigating cognitive and biological phenomena where mechanistic models are occasionally insufficient.

My research has been published in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Biology & Philosophy, and Phenomenology & the Cognitive Sciences.

You can also find me and my research on Academia, PhilPeople, and Google Scholar.

Keywords: Philosophy of science; philosophy of biology; philosophy of cognitive science; dynamical systems explanations; mechanistic explanation; enactivism.