A former student at the University of Lyon 3 in France, Valentine Reynaud was admitted to the agrégation in philosophy in 2005 (competitive examination for the recruitment of French high school teachers). She worked as research and teaching assistant at the University of Lyon 3 (Department of Philosophy), from 2006 to 2013. Her PhD (2011) was dedicated to the question of innateness regarding in particular the mind (both in the classical debate on innate ideas initiated by Descartes and in the contemporary debate on innate cognitive faculties initiated by Chomsky).

It proposed a redefinition of innateness and then a way to justify innateness ascriptions. These concerns centre on the intersection of several domains, like developmental biology, ethology, evolution theory, neuroscience, and cognitive science. Her wider interests concern explanations of organismic capacities and notions like complexity and emergence in different sciences.

Are Biological Organisms
Dynamical Systems?

Terms from dynamical systems theory (like self-organization, emergence, attractors) are widely used to describe biological (and cognitive) phenomena. Since these notions imply a process of increasing robustness despite massive change, a process in which patterns at a global order arise from interactions between components at a low level, they can help to understand the appearance of phenotypes both in evolution and development. But do ‘self-organization’ or ‘emergence’ have the same meaning in physics and in biology or cognitive science?

In what sense can phenotypes or organisms be viewed as ‘biological attractors’? My project aims at interrogating the conditions in which borrowing notions (describing the constitution of wholes) from some disciplines (mathematics, physics) to understand others (biology, cognitive science) is legitimate.