Dynamical Explanation

What exactly do dynamical systems models in the special sciences provide us with – are they merely mathematical descriptions of physical systems, or are they sufficient to explain the complex, non-linear behaviour common to phenomena in the special sciences?

I have argued contra the received view that many dynamical models used in fields like systems biology and cognitive science do in fact provide explanations of how and why complex natural systems behave the way they do, even when those models abstract away from the mechanistic details underlying the system’s behaviour.

Bi-manual coordination as explained by the HKB model. From Meyer (2020).

Multi-Scale Explanatory Framework for Organisms

I am interested in foundational scientific and philosophical questions about the emergence of biological and cognitive phenomena from physical processes. What influences do microscopic dynamics and structures have on meso- and macro-scale phenomena, and can we develop an explanation of these dependencies?

The research programs of active matter, basal cognition and minimal cognition are currently at the cutting edge of answering how physical processes at the molecular level give rise to minimal life, and how in turn those self-organising biological structures become cognitive agents.

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

My project focuses on scientific explanation, namely producing a framework for multi-scale explanations of organismic phenomena from the level of physical processes to the dynamics of life and mind. Determining the right explanatia, and what standards of explanation will be satisfactory for completed explanations building on my account of dynamical explanation to provide an account of the explanatory goals and standards of these allied research programs.

Enactivism as a Philosophy of Nature

Enactivism proposes that cognition is something co-constituted by an organism and its environment rather than being a matter of brain-based processing. An ongoing debate concerns whether enactivism is the paradigmatic successor to traditional cognitive science, including whether it even counts as a proper account of cognition. Rather than a paradigmatic successor, I am interested in investigating enactivism’s role as a philosophy of nature – an overarching lens of background assumptions and investigative goals – instead of a particular set of theories.

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