Modelling Consciousness

A workshop on formal approaches to the mind-body problem

This workshop brings together researchers from all disciplines who have a deep interest in questions related to the scientific study of consciousness as well as a background in mathematics or physics in order to discuss and develop formal models of the mind-matter relation.

In contrast to typical conferences, the workshop centers on discussions in small groups to bridge the gap between critical thinking and creative brainstorming. Each discussion session is dedicated to a specific topic centered around:

Discussing existing models of consciousness, evaluating merits as well as drawbacks on a philosophical and on a technical level

Working out possible applications or variations of these models, both concerning theoretical and experimental notions

Offering creative space so as to invite ideas and intuitions which are directed at developing new models of consciousness

Exploring new ways of thinking about the mind-matter relation more generally

To lay the ground for these sessions, there will be talks given by the participants.

Date: Saturday, March 23 - Saturday, March 30, 2019
Place: Mountain Cabin, Dorfgastein, Austria
Participants: 18
Workshop fee: 350 Euros (includes accommodation, shuttle to the cabin, all meals, and nonalcoholic beverages; financial support for both workshop fee and travel expenses is available**)

The deadline for applications is Sunday, January 13, 2019 AoE.


Xerxes Arsiwalla, Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia Barcelona, Spain
Christine Asjoma, Chair of Public Economics, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
Joaquín Díaz Boils, Escuela de Física y Matemáticas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador
Ian Durham, Department of Physics, Saint Anselm College, USA
Dan Goldwater, School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Nottingham, UK
Johannes Kleiner, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Leibniz University of Hanover, Germany
Moritz Kriegleder, Cognitive Science, University of Vienna, Austria
Daniel Meling, Cognitive Science, University of Vienna, Austria
Julian Möhlen, Cognitive Science, University of Vienna, Austria
Kate Nave, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK
Robert Prentner, Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California, Irvine, USA
Giovanni Rabuffo, Institut de Neurosciences des Systèmes, Aix-Marseille University, France
Sofiia Rappe, Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition, University of Edinburgh, UK
Camilo Miguel Signorelli, Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford and UNICOG, Sorbonne Université, France
Ishan Singhal, Centre of Behavioral and Cognitive Science, University of Allahabad, India
Joanna Szczotka, Jagiellonian University, Poland and Center for Sleep and Consciousness, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Sean Tull, Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford


  1. Groundings of the Scientific Study of Consciousness, Johannes Kleiner
  2. What should be the structure of a formal theory of consciousness?, Sean Tull
  3. Can Consciousness be Formulated as a Formal Language?, Xerxes Arsiwalla
  4. Overcoming the duality of inside and outside and the possibility of explaining the world in models, Christine Asjoma
  5. How can we model consciousness (noesis) without making it just another object (noema) of observation?, Daniel Meling
  6. The Conscious Agent Framework, Robert Prentner
  7. Causation, Supervenience and Mind, Dan Goldwater
  8. Qualia formalism - redefining the notions of causality and information in consciousness studies, Joanna Szczotka
  9. Causality, Free Will and Consciousness, Ian Durham
  10. Predictive processing as an emerging framework of perception, cognition, and action, Sofiia Rappe
  11. Predictive Coding and the Problem of Implementation, Moritz Kriegleder
  12. Can Predictive Processing provide the framework for an enactivist model of consciousness?, Kate Nave
  13. Temporal properties of consciousness, Ishan Singhal
  14. Signal Detection analysis of perceptual awareness, Julian Möhlen
  15. Category Theoretical Structure of Consciousness, Joaquín Díaz Boils
  16. The Mathematics of Consciousness, Camilo Miguel Signorelli

Discussion sessions

Based on the questions and ideas put forward during the talks, 41 discussion sessions were held, each between 60 and 90 minutes long. A selection of discussion titles is the following.

Neuroscientific discussion sessions

  1. Neural Measures of Consciousness
  2. Non-Linear Systems and Consciousness
  3. Discussion and Criticism of Friston's Free Energy Principle
  4. Interaction between Perception and Cognition in Predictive Processing
  5. How to Integrate Predictive Processing and Enactive Cognitive Science
  6. The Role of Information in Predictive Processing
  7. Discussion and Criticism of Integrated Information Theory

Mathematical discussion sessions

  1. Mathematization of Integrated Information Theory
  2. Mathematical Structure of Qualia Space
  3. Mathematical Structure of Neutral Domain
  4. Category Theory in Models of Consciousness

Conceptual discussion sessions

  1. Neurophenomenology, Microphenomenology, Front-loaded Phenomenology and Mathematized Phenomenology
  2. Do Models of Consciousness have to be based on a Fundamental Physical Theory
  3. Neutal Monism vs. Dual Aspect Monism vs. Panpsychism
  4. Relationalist Ontologies
  5. Difference between Awareness and Attention
  6. Computers, Machines and Consciousness
  7. Idealism as a Basis for Construction of Theories and Process Ontologies
  8. What is Essentially Conscious in Conscious Agents Networks
  9. Neutral Monism and Causality


The workshop will take place in a beautiful, cosy mountain cabin which offers all necessary luxuries (a bath, showers, a sauna - and even a toilet). However, we want to point out that a mountain cabin is not a hotel: Accommodation will be in dorms with bunk beds, there are no single rooms and bathrooms have to be shared. Also, internet may not be available and possibilities for privacy are very limited. No catering is provided - all participants will be involved in preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as in keeping the cabin clean. Rooms separated by gender can be made available.

Further Details

In contrast to usual conferences and workshops, this workshop focuses on discussion sessions in small groups. These sessions are dedicated to specific topics or questions which belong to one of the four guiding questions described above. To lay the ground for these sessions, there will be kick-off talks given by the participants (45 minutes). Their goal is twofold: First, they should serve as introductions, drawing out the question or topic and clarifying any necessary background knowledge; second, they should present one existing approach or the speaker's own thoughts on the topic.

Discussion sessions will be held in parallel. During the six full days of the workshop, 45-50 discussion sessions will be held on topics in the context of formal approaches to the mind-body problem. These topics are fixed as the workshop proceeds based on the applications and on questions or ideas which are raised during the workshop. They resemble those aspects of the mind-matter relation which the participants hold to be most important to discuss.

The workshop is aimed at researchers of any age who are interested in the problems discussed in contemporary consciousness studies. Since 'models of consciousness' refer to a theoretical description, a background in mathematics, physics or other formal disciplines of sciences is appreciated.

Participants are not required to be active researchers in the field. We look forward to applications from people who are passionate about this problem, who appreciate formal approaches to the mind-matter relation, who are open to new ideas and, most importantly, eager to engage in deep discussions. This workshop is designed such as to offer an open-minded, non-dogmatic and respectful atmosphere.


Please apply via email to (Deadline is January 13, 2019 AoE.)
Your application should contain the following:

  1. A brief statement of motivation for attending the workshop (a few paragraphs).
  2. A proposal of at least one, maximum two questions or topics for discussion sessions. Please explain:
    • Why you consider these worth discussing.
    • How they fit the idea of the workshop as explained above.
    A selection of topics will be made according to the interest and expertise of the participants.
    Note that the proposal need not originate from your own work.
  3. For most discussion sessions, we will have kick-off talks given by the participants (45 minutes). Their goal should be twofold: First, they should serve as introductions, drawing out the question or topic and clarifying any necessary background knowledge; second, they should present one existing approach or the speaker's own Denkansatz (thoughts). Please specify:
    • For which of your discussion proposals you would be willing to give a talk.
    • An abstract of the introductory part of your talk.
    • An abstract or description of the part of your talk which focuses on your own thoughts or on the existing approach. (In case you choose to present an existing approach, please specify one specific work whose main idea you find particularly relevant/enlightening w.r.t. the proposed topic and upon which you would like to base the second part of your talk.)
  4. Furthermore, please include the following information about yourself:
    • Your current occupation and institution.
    • Your main area of work and further areas of interest.
    • Information about dietary requirements, allergies, etc.
    • Whether you would like to apply for funding (please roughly specify the required amount for traveling).**
    • Please confirm that you are okay with the sleeping conditions on a mountain cabin as described above (bunk beds, no personal rooms).
** Limited funding is available provided that your institution or any other third party cannot reimburse you for the workshop fee and/or travelling expenses. Since we need to plan how we can distribute our available, but limited, funding, it can only be provided if you apply for it at the time of your application.

In case of any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at

Statement of Inclusiveness

We affirm that scientific events have to be open to everybody, regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, pregnancy, immigration status, academic affiliation, social class, financial situation or any other aspect of identity. We believe that such events have to be supportive, inclusive, and safe environments for all participants. We believe that all participants are to be treated with dignity and respect. Discrimination and harassment cannot be tolerated. We are committed to ensuring that the scientific events in which we participate follow these principles. (This statement is part of a larger initiative among the scientific community which we invite you to discover here.)

We gratefully acknowledge support from:


Ian Durham (Saint Anselm College)
Johannes Kleiner (Leibniz University of Hanover)
Robert Prentner (UC Irvine)
Giovanni Rabuffo (DESY and University of Hamburg)