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The Minimal Intelligence Lab (MINT Lab) is the first laboratory in the Philosophy of Plant Neurobiology... Read more

Ever wondered…

Interested in Plant Cognition? Here’s a list of some recent publications:

Calvo P, Friston K. 2017 Predicting Green: Really Radical (Plant) Predictive Processing. Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Calvo P, Sahi, V, Trewavas, A. 2017 Are plants sentient? Plant, Cell & Environment.

Calvo, P. 2017 What is it like to be a plant? Journal of Consciousness Studies.

Calvo P, Raja V., Lee, D.N. 2017 Guidance of circumnutation of climbing bean stems: An ecological exploration. bioRxiv.

Calvo P. 2016 The philosophy of plant neurobiology: a manifesto. Synthese 193, 1323–1343.

Calvo P, Baluška F, Sims A. 2016 ‘Feature detection’ versus ‘predictive coding’ models of plant behavior. Frontiers in Psychology 7,1505.

Calvo P, Baluška, F. 2015 Conditions for minimal intelligence across eukaryota: A cognitive science perspective. Frontiers in Psychology 6, 1329.

Calvo P, Martín E, Symons J. 2014 The emergence of systematicity in minimally cognitive agents. In The architecture of cognition: Rethinking Fodor and Pylyshyn’s systematicity challenge (eds P Calvo, J Symons), pp. 397–434. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Calvo P, Keijzer F. 2011 Plants: Adaptive behavior, root brains and minimal cognition. Adaptive Behavior 19, 155–171.

García A, Calvo, P. 2010 Is cognition a matter of representations?: Emulation, teleology, and time-keeping in biological systems. Adaptive Behavior 18: 400-415.

Calvo P. 2007 The quest for cognition in plant neurobiology. Plant Signaling and Behavior 2, 208– 211.

De-Intellectualizing the mind

*A workshop on uncomplicated cognition and the history of intellectualism*

De-Intellectualizing the mind



The Architecture of Cognition

Rethinking Fodor and Pylyshyn’s Systematicity Challenge

Edited by Paco Calvo and John Symons

Overview In 1988, Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn challenged connectionist theorists to explain the systematicity of cognition. In a highly influential critical analysis of connectionism, they argued that connectionist explanations, at best, can only inform us about details of the neural substrate; explanations at the cognitive level must be classical insofar as adult human cognition is essentially systematic. More than twenty-five years later, however, conflicting explanations of cognition do not divide along classicist-connectionist lines, but oppose cognitivism (both classicist and connectionist) with a range of other methodologies, including distributed and embodied cognition, ecological psychology, enactivism, adaptive behavior, and biologically based neural network theory. This volume reassesses Fodor and Pylyshyn’s “systematicity challenge” for a post-connectionist era.

The contributors consider such questions as how post-connectionist approaches meet Fodor and Pylyshyn’s conceptual challenges; whether there is empirical evidence for or against the systematicity of thought; and how the systematicity of human thought relates to behavior. The chapters offer a representative sample and an overview of the most important recent developments in the systematicity debate.

Contributors Ken Aizawa, William Bechtel, Gideon Borensztajn, Paco Calvo, Anthony Chemero, Jonathan D. Cohen, Alicia Coram, Jeffrey L. Elman, Stefan L. Frank, Antoni Gomila, Seth A. Herd, Trent Kriete, Christian J. Lebiere, Lorena Lobo, Edouard Machery, Gary Marcus, Emma Martín, Fernando Martínez-Manrique, Brian P. McLaughlin, Randall C. O’Reilly, Alex A. Petrov, Steven Phillips, William Ramsey, Michael Silberstein, John Symons, David Travieso, William H. Wilson, Willem Zuidema

Enacting the bridge between Science and Humanities

Following the success of the Systematicity and the post-connectionist era workshop (2011), and the Root-Brainstorming Meeting on plant adaptive behavior and general tau theory (2012), the theme of this year’s meeting is:

Enacting the bridge between Science and Humanities

We’ll bring together cognitive scientists and philosophers to exchange their Brainstorming Ideas in a Really Relaxed Atmosphere (ooops, nice acronym!).

Our aim is to explore empirical and theoretical ways in which ecological psychology and aesthetics can influence each other.

Where: San José (Almería, Spain) When: November 21st-24th, 2013.

PROGRAM (provisional):

Pilar Aivar: “Where did you see it? Gaze fixations and memory in a dynamic visual search task”

María José Alcaraz and Paco Calvo: “Ecoaesthetics and the prospects of a cognitive science of art”

Inma Álvarez: “Processing movement in dance”

Alex Díaz: “On exploitable sources of information for motor control in guitar playing”

Toni Gomila: “Emotions in Theater: why do we engage with a representation?“; “Bodily movement as an art”

Jorge Ibáñez: “An ecological-dynamical approach to behavioral adaptation scales”

David Jacobs: “From Boesch to Bernstein: approaches to violin technique from different levels” (with Andrés Rodríguez, Lorena Lobo, and Florentino Blanco”

María Muñoz: “Material culture from an ecological perspective: Artifacts, niches and practices”

Paca Pérez Carreño: “Understanding Theatre”

Vicente Raja: “The design of ecologically augmented reality”

David Travieso: “Body scaled affordances and pi numbers in sensory substitution”

Javier Valenzuela: “Understanding time in poetry comprehension: from cognitive habits to creativity”


Pilar Aivar (UAM) María José Alcaraz (UMU) Inma Álvarez (Open Univ., London) Paco Calvo (UMU) Matilde Carrasco (UMU) Alex Díaz (UAM) Toni Gomila (UIB) Jorge Ibáñez (UAM) David Jacobs (UAM) Emma Martín (UMU) María Muñoz (UAM) Paca Pérez Carreño (UMU) Vicente Raja (UMU) Salvador Rubio (UMU) David Travieso (UAM) Javier Valenzuela (UMU)

And the star performance coming from Patty and the Sharks


The honeybee bounces against the pane of glass, the moth circles the light bulb, and the dog chases its tail. Honeybees, moths, and dogs are each capable of a complex and interesting set of behaviors. But sometimes we notice animals failing to accomplish their goals and being unable to adapt their behavior successfully in light of their failures. At moments like these it is natural to think less of the family dog, the honeybee, or the moth. This is not one of our dog’s more impressive moments and while the dog is not a stupid creature, chasing its tail certainly appears to be a stupid behavior.

When a behavior is obviously automatic, repetitive, or arbitrary, we tend to downgrade the level of agency we ascribe to the animal or system in question. By contrast, when a system adapts to changing environmental conditions, contributes to the pursuit of some identifiable goal, can be combined in flexible ways with other behaviors, and has a variety of other systematic features, we are inclined to judge that the behavior is the result of some underlying intelligence or agency.

This chapter suggests that our intuitive judgments about the underlying intelligence or agency of non-linguistic cognitive agents are prompted by a set of systematic features that mark what we will call intelligent behavior. These systematic features of intelligent behaviors do not necessarily license the claim that there is any single coordinating or governing intelligence in the agent. However, we will argue that intelligent behavior is indicative of meaningful engagement with the environment. This meaningful engagement is phylogenetically and ontogenetically prior to the kinds of intellectual and cognitive capacities that we expect from adult humans.

In the pages that follow, we will explain what it means to locate systematicity in the behavior of infra-linguistic and minimally cognitive agents. Along the way, we will unpack the idea of meaningful engagement with the environment and will offer some ideas as to how such engagement might serve as the basis for the emergence of more sophisticated forms of cognition and agency.

Keep reading: The emergence of systematicity in minimally cognitive agents

Final version to appear in:

P. Calvo & J. Symons (Eds.), The Architecture of Cognition: Rethinking Fodor and Pylyshyn’s Systematicity Challenge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Open Post-Doc Researcher position

We are looking for a post-doc researcher to strengthen our Philosophy & Cognitive Science research group at the University of Murcia (Spain).

Applications are invited for one full-time research position starting in May 2013. Applicants must have completed their PhDs prior to joining the group.

Duration: 6-months.

The ideal candidate will have working knowledge of neural network modeling, and preferably, philosophy of cognitive science, and communication skills in English (written and oral). He/she is expected to carry out research in modeling with simple recurrent networks (SRNs) in the field of Language Acquisition, and theoretical research in Philosophy of Embodied Cognitive Science. Candidates are expected to participate actively in publications and conference presentations derived from the research project that funds this position.

Please send a cover letter, together with a CV, one writing sample (journal article, book chapter, or equivalent), and the names/email addresses of two references, to:

Dr. Paco Calvo email:

Application Deadline: February 15, 2013.

Estimated net salary: 1,500 €/month

Office location: Edificio Luis Vives, Campus de Espinardo, University of Murcia Murcia (Spain)

2013 ReteCog INTERACTION workshop

17-18 January 2013 Zaragoza (Spain)


The ReteCog workshop in 2013 will be articulated through two main symposia, one on “The dynamics of agent-environment interaction” and one on “Social and emotional interaction” while the question of how to relate the two topics will also be raised.

ReteCog 13

Frontiers in Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology

special Research Topic:

Forethought as an evolutionary doorway to emotions and consciousness

(Axel Cleeremans, Shimon Edelman, Topic Editors): “Description: Foresight or forethought is, arguably, the ultimate general-purpose cognitive tool that embodied agents may acquire through continued evolutionary pressure of being situated in an environment that is often enough partially predictable. For forethought to be fully effective, it is not enough that the agent be able to predict various developments in the environment: it must also care about them, desiring certain types of outcomes and shunning others. The capacity for forethought thus seems to be entangled with the capacity for emotions (which can be seen as computational tags and shortcuts that subserve and facilitate cognition, and in particular decision making). Moreover, when extended to encompass the agent’s own representational activity, forethought becomes the basis for consciousness, construed as an experiential (emotional) attitude towards the state of affairs in the universe, which is centered on, and includes, the agent itself. By this account, the brain continuously and unconsciously learns to redescribe its own activity to itself, thus developing systems of predictive metarepresentations that characterize and qualify their target representations.”

View the online publication of my commentary Beyond “error-correction” (with John Symons & Emma Martín) on the target paper by Andy Clark:

Whatever Next? Predictive Brains, Situated Agents, and the Future of Cognitive Science

12th European Workshop on Ecological Psychology EWEP12

27-30 June 2012 Madrid

The 2012 EWEP will bring together researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds that are inspired by the theoretical concepts and experimental programs of the ecological approach to perception and action and, more broadly, to psychology. The goal of the workshop is to discuss recent developments in the large domain of perception and action, including issues in system dynamics, motor control, theory of affordances, coordination, learning, development, driving and flying, tool use, sports skills, and more.

EWEP 12 Program

12th European Workshop on Ecological Psychology EWEP12

San José Root-Brainstorming Meeting on Plant Adaptive Behavior and General Tau Theory

25-27 May 2012 San José Root-Brainstorming Meeting

  • František Baluška (University of Bonn)
  • Paco Calvo (University of Murcia)
  • Dave Lee (University of Edinburgh)
  • Stefano Mancuso (University of Florence)
  • Emma Martín Álvarez (University of Murcia)

During this ‘root-brainstorming’ meeting we have explored a number of ways to apply ‘general tau theory’ (Lee, 2009) to the control processes of non-neural systems such as the root-brains of plants (Baluška, Mancuso et al.). Results to be reported in due course.

  • Baluška, Mancuso, Volkmann, Barlow. 2010. Root apex transition zone: a signalling–response nexus in the root. Trends in Plant Science, 15(7), 402-408.
  • Calvo, Keijzer. 2011. Plants: Adaptive behavior, root-brains, and minimal cognition. Adaptive Behavior, 19(3), 155-171.
  • Lee. 2009. General Tau Theory: evolution to date. Special Issue: Landmarks in Perception. Perception, 38, 837-858.

Talk Announcement

25 May 2012 Skilled movement: the driving force in life and evolution

Prof. Dave Lee (U. Edinburgh) will be speaking about General Tau Theory on Friday, May 25 at 13:00h

(Sala de reuniones, Departamento de Psicología Básica y Metodología, Facultad de Psicología - Campus de Espinardo)

Abstract Of paramount importance for life is an animal’s skill in directing its movements purposefully with precision, as when courting a mate, finding food and avoiding being eaten. The skill is a major driving force in evolution: anatomical tools – claws, beaks, longer legs etc – evolve hand in hand with the skill to use them. Thus a central problem is understanding skill and how it develops in individuals and evolves across species. Acting skillfully involves finely tuned intrinsic neural processes that prescribe movements, and accurate perceptuo-motor processes to set up, monitor and regulate movements. In this talk I shall present a theory of these processes (General Tau Theory). The theory will be illustrated with experimental studies of skilled movement, e.g.: single cells moving to an electrical attractant; birds and bats flying to perches; human babies feeding and controlling posture; adults speaking, singing, playing music, and recovering from neural injury.

Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive (CNRS and Aix-Marseille University)

23 April 2012 - Just back from beautiful Marseille where I gave this talk at the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive (CNRS and Aix-Marseille University)

Check out this very interesting Science paper that just came out from their lab

Orthographic Processing in Baboons (Papio papio) Science 13 April 2012: 245-248. [DOI:10.1126/science.1218152] (J. Grainger, S. Dufau, M. Montant, J. Ziegler, and J. Fagot)

1st Symposium on Plant Signalling & Behaviour are due by MARCH 20th.


16-21 September 2012 Perth (Western Australia)

The Symposium will cover themes such as Plant Cell Biology & Signalling, Plant Sensory & Behavioural Ecology, and Theoretical Botany. The Theoretical Botany session is aimed at all philosophers and particularly biological and environmental philosophers who are interested in sharing their ideas and views on the evolution of embodied cognition, processes shaping intelligence and possibly consciousness in plants. We really look forward to having you with us!

1st Symposium on Plant Signalling & Behaviour

'Smart solutions from the Plant Kingdom' Workshop

24 October 2011 Florence (Italy)

You may get a somewhat more heterodox cognitive scientist/philosopher just by considering some really amazing smart solutions from the plant kingdom

More soon...

Kazimierz Dolny, Poland – September 5-9th, 2011

Next september, I will be participating in the Varieties of Representation: Kazimierz Naturalist Workshop 2011


The notion of representation is essential for the project of naturalizing the mind and meaning. One of the key issues regarding representation concerns the possible varieties of representation: what are various ways of representing? Are mental representations propositional or image-based, connectionist, analog or digital? How can one answer these questions in the case of natural cognitive systems? What consequences does a pluralist attitude to representation have for claims that animals and even plants are capable of representing?

For more information Varieties of Representation: Kazimierz Naturalist Workshop 2011

The topic of my talk is systematic behavior and the varieties of (representational) vehicles.

For a taste of some of these varieties:

Plants: Adaptive Behavior, Root Brains and Minimal Cognition Adaptive Behavior 19:155-171 (with F. Keijzer, 2011)

Systematicity Workshop

19-21 May 2011 San José (Andalucía, Spain)

2nd call for papers

Researchers are invited to submit full papers or long abstracts for 40-minute presentations on conceptual, empirical or modeling issues that arise in the treatment of the systematicity challenge from post-connectionist approaches such as behavior-based AI, ecological psychology, embodied and distributed cognition, dynamical systems theory, and non-classical forms of connectionism. The range of topics to be addressed in the workshop really cuts across cognitive science disciplines. We encourage submissions from philosophers, psychologists, and computational neuroscientists alike, among other related fields. Our aim is to keep the workshop relatively small (space limited to 40 participants) and informal with enough time for extended discussions. We hope that this relaxed atmosphere will provide the opportunity for informal interaction and discussion.

For more information Systematicity Workshop

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