The Individualized Program, at Concordia University in Montreal, is a multidisciplinary program for Masters and PhD level students. As a Phd Student who positions himself as a philosopher who makes things, it is a natural fit, for a rather oddly shaped intellect searching for an appropriate discipline. My supervisor’s disciplinary backgrounds, in Studio Arts, In Philosophy and in Intermedia and Design, reflect my interests. But at the core, I’m interested in art and games, as an expression of technology and play and how that let us conceptualize theories of mind. The questions that draw my attention is the problem of other minds and how we can have ‘mind’ in a material world. So if the existence of mind, or intentionality, is a hard nut to crack, I would rather use a playful set of tools, than the exquisitely focussed methods of neuroscience. hence, my interest in developing techniques out of artistic and craft practices. Yet any theory I develop I think must respond to and accommodate modern science without reducing itself to the ontological assumptions that are generally ignored by scientific principles.

In a recent article, Galen Strawson quotes Bertrand Russell:

“Physics is mathematical, not because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little: it is only its mathematical properties that we can discover. For the rest, our knowledge is negative”

This is not to deny physics or maths, but to understand they are very good at explaining much phenomena but rather less successful at others. Earlier in his article, Strawson observes the conceptual problem is enunciated by Leibniz ““consciousness . . . is inexplicable on mechanical principles” and concludes his article by arguing that there are no good reasons to think that things can’t have thoughts.

My notions, which have developed considerably over the past three years, still focus on making(hence Research/Creation) especially with playful digital interfaces, and analyzing them from a phenomenological perspective. Perhaps my primary question is how do we differentiate responses from reactions(Sha 2013, p79) and explore intentionality and agency in the second person(myself and you, as opposed to myself and her/him). The implicit inclusion of empathy in these relationships has bearing on the playful elements of how we respond to one another, but also has methodological significance, which I intend to touch on in a future post. For now I’m just going to nod to it in this outline.

This is theorized by contemporary philosophers who explore the enactive approach to cognition: scholars such as Alva Noe argue, partially from neuroscience, partially from phenomenological accounts of perception, that rather than passive sensors, our eyes, ears, skin, tongue and nose actively seek and interpret some phenomena. Moreover, philosophers of biology such as Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela argue from scientific evidence, that the boundaries of the body and the world are much more porous than we normally consider them(1998). So rather than longing to reach the moon by trying to climb ever higher trees, I decided that I should look elsewhere for methods of how we can can of our own mind and others.

Pierce’s discussions of abductive logic, and how this can generate new and interesting questions underlies my research focus on research creation. To be clear, abductive logic doesn’t guarantee results, but it does generate questions that can exceed existing paradigms(Magnani 2013, Oh 2012, Hoffman 1999). This is why as a philosopher (whose discipline generally prizes deductive logic) who appreciates the success of the STEM disciplines (which favour deductive logic) I look to the Arts Plastiques(which I argue utilize abductive logic) to help develop new paradigms in other disciplines. This is a research goal unto itself, but partially arises as a way to theorise my philosophical work on philosophy of mind, by means of playful interfaces, and why I would make devices (electronic toys) rather than deploy FmRI machines, or simply conduct thought experiments.

IMG_3033My specific questions arose from a tug o’ war game controller I constructed with Leif Penzendorfer and Dr. Amanda Williams in 2011(with a big shout out to Prof. Cindy Poremba, who organised the Bizarro Game Controllers workshop along with Amanda). We built the device, to see what happens. it was from there that I began to think about the role of intentionality between two players, and the assumptions that are implied in the relatively simple rules of tug o’war. My question was how do we respond to tug o’ war with a human, versus the anthropomorphism we intend toward say, a stubborn tree stump we are trying to extract from a field?


Hoffmann, Michael. “Problems with Peirce’s concept of abduction.” Foundations of Science 4.3 (1999): 271-305.

Maturana, Humburto, and Francisco Varela. “The tree of knowledge, revised edition.” Shambala, Boston (1998).

Magnani, Lorenzo. Model-based Reasoning in Science and Technology: Theoretical and Cognitive Issues. Vol. 8. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.

Oh, Jun-young. “Understanding scientific inference in the natural sciences based on abductive inference strategies.” Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2012. 221-237.

Sha, Xin Wei. Poiesis and Enchantment in Topological Matter. MIT Press, 2013.

Strawson,Galen. “Consciousness myth”. The Times Literary Supplement, 25 February 2015 online accessed6 April 2015