The Strange Loop of Creative Origination: Toward a Theory of Enactive Resonance


  • Christophe Novak University of Vienna


At the heart of enactivism lies the idea of a fundamental circularity of mind and world, which codependently originate through the mechanism of structural coupling. Conclusions strikingly similar to this mutually transformative mode of relation have emerged across various disciplines in terms of correspondence in ecological anthropology [2], resonance in social philosophy [3], and congruence in humanist psychology. The significant degree of isomorphism between these theories is what motivates their systematic triangulation within the context of this master thesis.

Guided by the central research question of how enactive theory can be enlightened by insights from other fields, the aim is to crystallise an integral conceptual framework of enactive resonance. Furthermore, the theory of strange loops [1], i.e. self-referential cyclic level-crossing processes, is explored as a unifying principle for establishing interdisciplinary common ground. The thesis is structured as a multi-vocal text which employs three distinct narrative styles in counterpoint: theoretical meta-synthesis, musical examples, and mathematical illustrations. Grounded in the premise of a life-mind continuum, special attention is afforded to the interwoven relation of epistêmê and technê, elaborating the argument for an epistemogenetic ordering principle at the core of self-organisation that drives morphogenesis via enactive resonance. Exemplified by the image of the loop station, a musical device to record cyclic patterns and polyrhythmic substrates, I argue that the phenomenology of real-time creative origination through autopoietic self-expression enables an embodied mind to enter into resonance with itself by attuning to the latent potentials arising from the affordance-scape of its lifeworld. Illustrated by the image of the Möbius strip, a mathematical object that transcends common sense dualities, I then develop the hypothesis of an enantiodromic homeostatic function that self-regulates dissonant energy gradients via dissipative structures.

Operationalising concrete decision-making strategies with hypersensitivity to critical cues could inspire novel resonance-based enactive approaches to complex problems such as neurocognitive, somatosensory, sociocultural and ecological alienation. A future musiconeurophenomenological research program is envisioned to explore the epistemogenetic potential of creative strange loops in autopoietic musical improvisation, i.e. musicopoiesis.


[1] D. Borgo, “Strange loops of attention, awareness, action, and affect in musical improvisation,” Music and Consciousness 2, pp. 113–124, 2019, doi: 10.1093/oso/9780198804352.003.0007.

[2] T. Ingold, “On human correspondence,” J Roy Anthropol Inst, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 9–27, 2017, doi: 10.1111/1467-9655.12541.

[3] S. Susen, “The Resonance of Resonance: Critical Theory as a Sociology of World-Relations?,” Int J Politics Cult Soc, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 309–344, 2020, doi: 10.1007/s10767-019-9313-6.

Author Biography

Christophe Novak, University of Vienna

I am a student of the interdisciplinary Master Programme in Cognitive Science at the University of Vienna. 

I wrote my Bachelor Thesis in Social and Cultural Anthropology on the topic of creative emergence, exploring ecological principles of pattern formation within processes of creative self-expression. I have a background in classical music education and I'm an active musician playing drums, marimba and piano, composing and producing my own music. 

My academic and musical interest are deeply intertwined and have led me to this study program. I intend to continue this line of interest in my Master thesis by exploring embodied music improvisation and the codependent arising of mind and music mediated through loop-based polyrhythmic substrates. 

“Minding through Music” affords itself as a powerful epistemic device that might contribute to a deeper understanding of ecological principles underlying creative processes and improvisation, with potential contributions to the theory of ontological design and the modeling of enabling spaces.