conference webpage


13th Herbstakademie

October 5th - 8th, 2006 in Ascona / Monte Verità, Switzerland

List of Participants

Cultural history of Monte Verità (German / English)

Information on the region, accommodations Programme


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This symposium was 13th in the series of Herbstakademie meetings dedicated to the topic of complex systems in psychology and related disciplines. Information on previous meetings of the Herbstakademie community is provided here. In continuation of the Gstaad Herbstakademie of March 1997 and the Ascona Herbstakademies of October 2000 and 2003, the topics of this meeting will focus on dynamical systems concepts of cognition and action.

This symposium presented approaches to cognition on the basis of a dynamical systems framework with a special consideration of "embodiment". Embodiment means that, in order to be adaptive and "intelligent", cognition must be embedded both in a body and a physical context. This concept goes beyond the neurocognitive truism "cognition needs a body (i.e. a brain)". Cognition is viewed to critically depend on external parameters that drive and constrain mental processing. In synergetics, such parameters are labelled control parameters which initiate the formation of emergent patterns in complex systems. Examples are found in various fields:

Thus, in many fields of research there is converging agreement that cognition is best understood as embodied cognition. The embodiment of cognitive processes is provided by motor activity, affective bodily states and further parameters external to cognition per se.

In this symposium, we set out to view the mind in its context. The phenomenon of self-organization in complex systems, a core theme of all Herbstakademie meetings, served as a background theory for this embodiment approach.


Prof. Dr. Hermann Haken (synergetics/physics, University of Stuttgart, Germany)
Prof. Dr. Karl Grammer (ethology, Boltzmann Institute, University of Vienna, Austria)
Prof. Dr. Thomas Metzinger (philosophy of mind, University of Mainz, Germany)
Prof. Rafael Núñez, Ph.D. (cognitive science, University of California at San Diego, USA)
Prof. Dr. Rolf Pfeifer (robotics, University of Zürich, Switzerland, University of Tokyo, Japan)
Benita Cantieni (anatomical consultant, CANTIENICA® – Method for Bodyshape & Posture, Zürich, Switzerland)


Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Tschacher
Psychiatry, University of Bern,
Laupenstrasse 49, CH-3010 Bern

Prof. Dr. Jean-Pierre Dauwalder
Department of psychology, University of Lausanne,
BFSH 2, CH-1015 Lausanne

additional Herbstakademie series organizers: Prof. Dr. E. J. Brunner (Jena, Germany), Prof. Dr. G. Schiepek (Aachen, Germany)

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