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CLEA SEMINAR. Why enactivism always and necessarily entails the acceptance of a form of cultural relativity - by Kato Van Roey

Location: VUB Etterbeek campus - room D.2.09 + online
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Both cultural relativists and enactivists oppose the same universalist view on mind and meaning and both appeal to context in their attempt to do so. In this presentation, Kato Van Roey sets out to clarify how enactivism and cultural relativism relate by carefully scrutinizing their similarities and differences. To do so, she will ease you into relativist concepts through the work of two notorious proponents of cultural relativity: Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Furthermore, (autopoietic) enactivism will be explained through its core concepts of structural coupling, interaction, (participatory) sense-making and normativity.

An analysis of Sapir’s and Whorf’s work through an enactive lens then shows that while enactivism may support most of their relativist conclusions, they depart from a different ontological premise: enactivism rejects the existence of representations in toto, while relativists only dismiss universal representations. Another difference becomes apparent in the comparison between enactivist and relativist assumptions: while relativists hold that there are no universal criteria to decide between different worldviews, enactivists claim that efficiency does the job. By reconceptualizing knowledge as know-how, knowledge no longer must be true to be relevant. Overall, Kato Van Roey will propose that enactivism necessarily entails a form of cultural relativism because of its focus on context, yet one that is rid of uncomfortable consequences.

About the speaker

Kato Van Roey recently graduated from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB). She attained her master’s degree in Philosophy and Moral Sciences with a master’s dissertation on the similarities and differences between cultural and linguistic relativity on the one hand, and (autopoietic) enactivism on the other. Her interest in the influence that culture and language exert on mind was mainly sparked through two international experiences: an AFS exchange in Croatia when she was 15 years old, and a year in Morocco during her bachelor. Currently, she is enrolled in the interuniversity Research Master of Philosophy (VUB, University of Ghent and University of Antwerp) with the aim of starting as a predoctoral researcher in 2023.


The CLEA seminars are taking place simultaneously at the VUB campus in Etterbeek, Brussels, and online (via Zoom) and are open to everyone interested!

When. Friday January 27, 2023 from 16:30 until 18:30h

Where. VUB campus Etterbeek, room D.1.07. 

Online. You can follow the seminar online via Zoom. You may need a Meeting ID and passcode to enter.

Zoom link: 
Meeting ID: 827 5779 8426
Passcode: 122127

Kato Van Roey seminar 27.01.23