CFP: Consciousness Without Inner Models – A Sensorimotor Account

Submission deadline: January 3, 2014

Conference date(s):
April 1, 2014 - April 4, 2014

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Goldsmiths, University of London
London, United Kingdom

Topic areas


Consciousness without inner models:
A sensorimotor account of what IS going on in our heads

A one-day symposium (exact date TBA), taking place as part of the convention
of the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation
of Behaviour (Goldsmiths, University of London, 1-4 April 2014).

Submission deadline: 3 January 2014.

There has been much criticism over the years of the idea that conscious
experience depends on inner representational models of the environment.
Enactive accounts (e.g. Thompson 2007) and the sensorimotor account more
particularly (O’Regan & Noë 2001; O’Regan 2011) have prominently criticized
the reliance on inner models and they have offered an alternative way of
thinking about experience. The idea of sensorimotor approaches is that
experience involves the perceiver’s attunement to the way in which sensory
stimulation depends on action. But how then should we conceive of what
happens in the agent’s head to allow for this attunement? In this symposium
we focus on two questions. First, how does an enactive sensorimotor theory
offer guidance for the interpretation of neurophysiological findings?
Second, how are its predictions about neural processes different from the
predictions of representationalist accounts?

The first question, concerning the philosophical interpretation of
neurophysiological findings, may be addressed by focusing on key processes
such as corollary discharge or ‘efference copy’ and notions like
‘expectation error’ and ‘forward models’ in relation to the sensorimotor
account or enactive accounts more generally. Here the main question is how
to get the brain into view from an enactive/sensorimotor perspective. Where
classical approaches speak of neural computation of properties of the
environment, or the build-up of representations in the brain, what specific
analysis can a sensorimotor account offer in its place? Addressing this
question is urgently needed, for there seem to be no accepted alternatives
to representational interpretations of the inner processes. Also robotic
models of perceptual processes are often interpreted as mimicking the
allegedly representational nature of neural processes. A sensorimotor
account could help to avoid this bias towards interpretations based on the
notion of inner models.

The second question, concerning the predictions following from an
enactive/sensorimotor account, requires contrasting the neural processes
that are postulated in representational theories, with the processes
required by the enactive/sensorimotor account. Which processes postulated by
representational accounts are rejected by the sensorimotor account or
enactive accounts more generally? For example, why and when can neural
‘binding’ or ‘filling in’ be rejected? And are there processes that are
specifically required by sensorimotor theory, which are not required by
representational theories? In the part of the symposium addressing these
questions we aim to clarify which constraints on inner processes are
proposed by the sensorimotor account. If the sensorimotor account is right,
these constraints will of course apply to neural processes as well as to
robotic models of perception.

Call for papers: Abstracts of 700-1000 words, prepared for blind reviewing,
can be submitted to Jan Degenaar at: Degenaar.jan at gmail dot com. Please
include “Sensorimotor Symposium” in the subject line. Talks will be 30
minutes including discussion. The submission deadline is 3 January 2014.
Notifications of acceptance will be sent before the end of February.

A Sequel: The symposium can be considered a sequel to the AISB ‘Sensorimotor
Theory Workshop,’ held September 26, 2012, at Goldsmiths, University of
London. The present workshop is focused particularly on inner processes from
the perspective of sensorimotor theory.

Symposium organizers:
Jan Degenaar
(Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris Descartes,
Paris, France)

J. Kevin O’Regan
(Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris Descartes,
Paris, France)

Symposium website:
AISB website:

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