Nancy Salay


I am an associate professor in the philosophy department and school of computing at Queen’s University, Canada, specialising in cognitive science with a focus on language and representation. My work over the past ten years has been informed by key insights from the embodied cognitive science tradition, especially Varela, Rosch, and Thompson’s seminal work, The Embodied Mind and Thompson’s continued work in the field. Recently my own direction has become clear and I’ve begun work on the project of investigating how language/symbol-use expands and extends key cognitive capacities such as reflective consciousness.

My other professional role is as editor of Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review, an established, generalist journal of philosophy. I am always looking for potential guest editors for themed issues, so if you have something to propose, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

A few years back I founded ESC (Embodiment, Systems, and Complexity), an inter-disciplinary research institute of embodied cognition, with the hope that it would become an inter-discplinary hub and resource for current papers in the field. Unfortunately work on it generally falls to the very bottom of my todo list and so it hasn’t changed much since then, but one day …. In the meantime, I encourage people who are interested in enactivism to subscribe, add a post, or let us know about interesting events or papers.

In my personal life, I have a daily meditation practice that has deepened over the past two years and has transformed in many ways from a strict head practice to include heart and body. I have long been reading a wide range of Buddhist texts, but recently have found a deep connection with the Shambhala lineage through the writings and recordings of Pema Chödrön and her mentor, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I anticipate that soon I will be trying to fit these insights into my scholarly work, but the time does not seem ripe for that just yet.

Recent Work

  • (Under contract with Bloomsbury Press, to be completed by Aug. 2022). A Pragmatic Account of Cognition: Rethinking Externalism and Intentionality. [The book develops an externalist (enactive and extended) account of intentionality, clarifies the role of consciousness in cognition, and provides a comprehensive, inter-disciplinary survey of the empirical support for externalism.]
  • (Forthcoming). Accepting the Povinelli-Henley Challenge. Animal Behavior and Cognition.
  • (In Press). How Reductive Analyses of Content are Confused and How to Fix Them: A Critique of Varitel Semantics. The Journal of Mind and Behavior.
  • (2020). An Unconventional Look at AI: Why Today’s Machine Learning Systems are not Intelligent. In A. Adamatzky (Ed.), LINKs: The Art of Linking, an Annual Transdisciplinary Review, Special Edition 1, Unconventional Computing, pp. 62-67
  • (2019). Learning How to Represent: An Associationist Account. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Vol. 40(2), pp. 121-145.
  • S. Akl, N. Salay. (2019). Artificial Intelligence: A Promising Future? Queen’s Quarterly.
  • (2018). Searching for Wisdom in the Age of Digital Distraction. The Futuristic Past: Technology, Memory and History in the Age of AI: Canadian Issues/ACS (Fall/Winter), pp. 44-46.
  • S. Akl, N. Salay. (2017). On Computable Numbers, Non-Universality, and the Genuine Power of Parallelism.  In A. Adamatsky (Ed.) Emergent Computation: A Festschrift for Selim G. Akl. Emergence, Complexity, and Computation, Vol. 24. Cham: Switzerland. Springer International Publishing.
  • (2017). Dissolving the Grounding Problem: How the Pen is Mightier than the Sword. In S. Ohlsson & R. Catrambone (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
  • (2016). Old Directions, New Minds.  In D. Bakhurst and P. Fairfield (Eds.) Education and Conversation: Exploring Oakeshott’s Metaphor. London: UK. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.