Christian Tewes, Giovanni Stanghellini (Eds.): Time and Body: Phenomenological and Psychopathological Approaches

Time and Body: Phenomenological and Psychopathological Approaches Couverture du livre Time and Body: Phenomenological and Psychopathological Approaches
Christian Tewes, Giovanni Stanghellini (Eds.)
Cambridge University Press
Hardback 103,99 €

Reviewed by: Emilia Barile  (Alexander von Humboldt fellow – A. von Humboldt Stiftung, Bonn (DE) - Italian Section)

Edited by C. Tewes and G. Stanghellini, Time and Body. Phenomenological and Psychopathological approaches (2021) is concerned with working out the role of phenomenology and embodiment research methodologies and insights in order to explore the interrelation between psychopathology, temporality and the embodied mind. The volume’s emphasis lies in investigating the temporal and intersubjective constitution of the body in phenomenological and psychopathological approaches.

An introductory essay by Tewes and Stanghellini (2021) and a preliminary paper by Fuchs (2021)  ̶  to whose enduring work the book is also dedicated  ̶ open this interdisciplinary collection. Fuchs’s seminal influence over the subsequent researches presented in the volume is thus recognized right from the start. His own hypothesis is that a desynchronization of the intersubjective time experience causing a loss of bodily resonance (2013, 99) lies at the heart of several psychopathologies, such as autism, schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia nervosa (2021). The remaining essays are grouped by pathologies into 4 sections: I. Body and Time (Legrand, 2021; Stanghellini, 2021; Depraz, 2021; Tschacher, 2021); II. Grief and Anxiety (Køster, 2021; Tanaka, 2021); III. Borderline Personality and Eating Disorders (Ratcliffe & Bortolan, 2021; Schmidt, 2021; Rodemeyer, 2021; Doerr-Zegers & Pelegrina-Cetran, 2021); IV. Depression, Schizophrenia and Dementia (Lenzo & Gallagher, 2021; Froese & Krueger, 2021; Van Duppen & Sienaert, 2021; Tewes, 2021). Interesting commentaries follow each article, discussing the item at issue. The book shows how insights and methodologies from phenomenology and enactivism can be applied in clinics (p. 5), especially in suggesting alternative treatments: Dance therapy or music therapy, for example, can induce a re-synchronization, restoring co-temporality in the therapeutic relationship.

Since Gibson’s (1979) and Varela’s (1991) seminal works on the ecological approach to mind and consciousness, embodiment and enactivism have gained an increased following in the cultural (intersubjective) domain too (Durt, Fuchs & Tewes, 2017; Etzelmüller & Tewes, 2016). What is still missing, however, is an investigation into the interconnection between temporality, embodiment and intersubjectivity (Fuchs, 2013, 2017, 2018) and its significance for psychopathology (Fuchs, 2021): This is the novel contribution the book aims to provide. The main goals of the volume include increasing understanding of the intertwinement of time and bodily experience as well as in the development of an embodied-based phenomenological psychopathology. Some fundamental phenomenological insights can enlighten the several psychopathologies analyzed: The distinction (and shift) between the body as subject / as object (Merleau-Ponty, 1945); time, as an implicit/explicit feature (Husserl, 1952); intersubjectivity, and the related self/other demarcation (as disrupted in pathologies (Sacks, 1987; Sass, 2003; Tsakiris, Prabhu & Haggard, 2006)) as well as the debates about ‘minimal self’ (Lane, 2020; Zahavi, 2017; Nelson, Parnas & Sass, 2014).

With this in mind, another useful way of carving up the conceptual space of the book is by a further thematic (phenomenological) grouping of the several contributions to the volume. Each essay is concerned with the interrelation between temporality and the embodied/embedded mind in psychopathology. However, it is also possible to recognize a particular focus on some of these fundamental phenomenological insights.

Most of the essays are committed to the grounding role of the body. Section I includes papers focussed on the shift from the subject-body [Leib] to the object-body [Körper] in psychopathology. Stanghellini (2021) points out this shift to an ‘objectified body’ in schizophrenia. The Leib profile, meanwhile, is recognized as related to the borderline disorder  ̶  especially under the outlined profile of the ‘sheer flesh’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1945, 1968; Henry, 1965). Moreover, Stanghellini identifies the ‘body-for-others’  ̶  i.e., the body under the others’ gaze (Sartre, 1956)  ̶  as being particularly impaired in eating disorders. Beyond the traditional Körper/Leib distinction, he also works out multiple layers of Leib (the ‘lived’ body) as distinct from the ‘living’ body: A crucial difference (but also an intimate relationship between living/lived body), that is further recognizable between just ‘living’ and ‘feeling’ of being alive, Leben and Erleben (Fingerhut & Marienberg – Eds., 2012; Fuchs, 2012; Engelen, 2014, 2012; Barile, forthcoming). In the following sections of the volume, Tanaka (2021) also investigates the role of the body-as-a-object ‘for others’, but in the context of social anxiety. Doerr-Zegers and Pelegrina-Cetran (2021) are concerned with the shift from the body-subject and the body-object in anorexia, as related to implicit/explicit temporality. Van Duppen and Sienaert (2021) examine catatonia  ̶ a psychopathology that is underinvestigated  ̶  particularly body freezing, as ‘objectifying’ the body. Finally, Tewes’s (2021) contribution on dementia offers an embodied approach to selfhood and personal identity over time. Specifically, he assigns a constitutive role of bodily continuity to personhood, in line with other kinds of approaches also in opposition to the brain- and cognitive-centred mainstream view (Damasio, 2021, 2010; Barile, 2016).

A minor part of the essays collected in the volume focuses on the other grounding phenomenological insights of the book: Time (as implicit/explicit temporality), and intersubjectivity. Tschacher (2021) emphasizes the role of time and body in psychotherapy, offering a quantitative approach based on dynamical systems theory. Adopting a microphenomenological methodology, Depraz (2021) instead investigates psychosomatic diseases as related to chronic time. On his side, Rodemeyer (2021) deals with temporality and body involvement in gendered experiences in the context of eating disorders. Lenzo and Gallagher (2021) underline the role of intrinsic temporality and its disruption in depression, schizophrenia and dementia.

As concerning intersubjectivity, Tewes and Stanghellini’s (2021) and Fuchs’s opening articles (2021) on embodiment, temporality and intersubjectivity in phenomenology and psychopathology are seminal contributions. Among the others, Legrand (2021) is the most committed to the very intertwinement of intersubjectivity, time and body in psychopathology. From a phenomenological (Merleau-Ponty, 1945) and a psychoanalytical perspective (Lacan, 1981), she focuses on the fundamental role of body and time (synchronization) for clinics. As concerning body, ‘otherness’ and the self/other demarcation, Legrand argues against Nancy (2000) for the existence of ‘fluctuating’ boundaries between bodies, recognized as at the basis of both singularity and alterity. Also committed to the ‘being-with’ feature, Køster (2021) provides an existential-phenomenological analysis of the feeling of ‘emptiness’. Ratcliffe and Bortolan (2021) deal with borderline disorder (BDP) as related to emotion dysregulation and unstable interpersonal relationships. On his side, Schmidt (2021) offers a holistic account and a multifactor description of BDP. He focusses on self-experience (which all other factors amount to) rather than on interpersonal relationships only. Froese and Krueger (2021) also concentrate their attention on intersubjectivity and the disturbed self/other demarcation, particularly in schizophrenia.

In sum, the volume turns out to be an interdisciplinary collection of essays accomplishing the goals «to sharpen and deepen an understanding of the intertwinement of time and bodily experience» and «to contribute to the further development of an embodied-based phenomenological psychopathology» (p. 4). Furthermore, the book offers some important contributions (particularly, Tewes & Stanghellini, 2021; Fuchs, 2021; Legrand, 2021; Køster, 2021; Ratcliffe & Bortolan, 2021; Schmidt, 2021; Froese & Krueger, 2021) to enlightening the interconnection between temporality, embodiment and intersubjectivity (Fuchs, 2013b, 2017, 2018b) and its significance for psychopathology (Fuchs, 2021). This aspect is recognized as «still missing» in embodiment and enactivist researches in the introductory paper by Fuchs (p. 12): Some steps on this direction can be traced back to Fuchs’s seminal work (2013b, 2017, 2018b) as well as a number of others (Durt, Fuchs & Tewes, 2017; Etzelmüller & Tewes, 2016; De Jaegher & Di Paolo, 2007; Koole & Tschacher, 2016). Disclosing the interconnection of time, body and intersubjectivity in psychopathologies constitutes a key ‘inspiration’ of the volume. However, the innovative approach to the clinical practice, considered in the light of phenomenology and embodiment research methodologies and insights, is where this volume’s main contribution lies.


The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and has approved it for publication.


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Durt, C., Fuchs, T. & Tewes, C. (Eds.). (2017). Embodiment, Enaction, and Culture: Investigating the Constitution of the Shared World. MIT Press: Cambridge (MA).

Engelen, M.E. (2014). Das Gefühl des Lebendigseins. In: Vom Leben zur Bedeutung. Philosophische Studien zum Verhältnis Von Gefühl, Bewusstsein und Sprache. De Gruyter: Berlin (5-42); first in: Marienberg, S. & Fingerhut, J. – Eds. (2012). Feelings of Being Alive. De Gruyter: Berlin (239-56).

Etzelmüller, G., & Tewes, C. (Eds.). (2016). Embodiment in evolution and culture. Mohr Siebeck: Heidelberg (DE).

Fingerhut, J. & Marienberg, S. (Eds.). (2012). Feelings of Being Alive. De Gruyter: Berlin.

Fuchs, T. (2012). The Feeling of Being Alive. In Marienberg, S. & Fingerhut, J. – Eds. (2012). Feelings of Being Alive. De Gruyter: Berlin.

Fuchs, T. (2013b). Temporality and psychopathology. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 12 (1), 75–104. doi:10.1007/s11097-010-9189-4.

Fuchs, T. (2017). Self across time: The diachronic unity of bodily existence. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 16 (2), 291–315. doi:10.1007/ s11097-015-9449-4.

Fuchs, T. (2018a). Ecology of the brain: The phenomenology and biology of the embodied mind. Oxford University Press: Oxford (UK).

Fuchs, T. (2018b). The cyclical time of the body and its relation to linear time. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25 (7–8), 47–65.

Gibson, J.J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Huoghton-Mifflin: Boston.

Henry, M. (1965) Philosophie et phénoménologie du corps. Presses Universitaire de France: Paris.

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Koole, S. L. & Tschacher, W. (2016). Synchrony in psychotherapy: A review and an integrative framework for the therapeutic alliance. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1–17. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00862.

Lacan, J. (1981). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. The Seminar, Book XI, 1964 (A. Sheridan, Trans.). W. W. Norton & Company: New York, London.

Lane, T.J. (2020). The minimal self hypothesis, Consciousness and Cognition, 85, 103029.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964/1968). The visible and the invisible (A. Lingis, Trans.). Northwestern University Press: Evanston (IL).

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Nelson, B., Parnas, J. & Sass, L.A. (2014). Disturbance of Minimal Self (Ipseity) in Schizophrenia: Clarification and Current Status, Schizophrenia Bulletin, 40 (3), May: 479–482,

Sacks, O. (1987). The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Other Clinical Tales. Harper and Row: New York.

Sartre, J.-P. (1956). Being and Nothingness. (H. E. Barnes, Trans.). Philosophical Library: New York, NY. (Original work published 1943).

Sass, L.A. (2003). Negative symptoms, schizophrenia, and the self. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 3 (2), December: 153-180.

Tewes, C. (2018). The phenomenology of habits: Integrating first-person and neuropsychological studies of memory. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1–6.

Tewes, C. & Fuchs, T. (2018). Editorial introduction: The formation of body memory. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25 (7–8), 8–19.

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Zahavi, D. (2017). Thin, thinner, thinnest: Defining the minimal self. In C. Durt, T. Fuchs & C. Tewes (Eds.), Embodiment, enaction, and culture: Investigating the constitution of the shared world (pp. 193–199). MIT Press: Cambridge (MA).

Conflict of Interest Statement: The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Frank Chouraqui: The Body and Embodiment: A Philosophical Guide, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2021

The Body and Embodiment: A Philosophical Guide Couverture du livre The Body and Embodiment: A Philosophical Guide
Frank Chouraqui:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Paperback $31.95

Shaun Gallagher: Enactivist Interventions: Rethinking the Mind

Enactivist Interventions: Rethinking the Mind Couverture du livre Enactivist Interventions: Rethinking the Mind
Shaun Gallagher
Oxford University Press
Hardback £30.00

Reviewed by: Maxime Doyon (Université de Montréal)

In Enactivist Interventions: Rethinking the Mind, Shaun Gallagher offers a strong defense of enactivism against what he calls ‘cognition-in-the-head’ (1) approaches to mind such as those of contemporary neuroscience and classical cognitivism. Throughout the book, Gallagher develops his own enactive view by engaging in a series of critical debates with more recent version of these and related models such as Theory of Mind (ToM), Predictive Coding (PC), Action-Oriented Representationalism (AOR), B-formatted Representationalism, and the Extended Mind approach, etc. Even when they positively refer to bodily action and to interactions with other people, or build into their theory contextual elements and somatic factors, these theories all fail to provide a coherent and holistic account of cognition because they all end up making the fatal mistake of buying into representationalism. From an enactivist point of view, cognition is a complex affair that has more to do with doing or transacting with one’s environment than with representing it. Cognition, as Gallagher puts it, is “a kind of dynamic adjustment process in which the brain, as part of and along with the larger organism, settles into the right kind of attunement with the environment – an environment that is physical but also social and cultural” (160; emphasis in original). In a sense, the book reads as a detailed explanation and justification of this claim.

Gallagher proceeds thematically, unpacking the details of his enactive model to cognition peu à peu as he guides us through some of the current debates in contemporary philosophy of mind. The scope of the topics discussed is broad and impressive. Gallagher deals successively with questions and problems that bear on action and representation (Chapter 1, 2 and 5), social cognition and intentionality (Chapter 4), perception (Chapter 6), free will (Chapter 7), affects and emotions (Chapter 8), posture and rationality (Chapter 9), and the various practices of thinking (Chapter 10). Scattered throughout the book, but laid out in a more systematic fashion in Chapter 3, Gallagher also provides the historical background of the enactivist position, which he situates (as we could expect) in phenomenology, in Gibson’s ecological psychology, and perhaps more surprisingly in pragmatism.

The strength and the originality of Gallagher’s position lie in his radically embodied and truly holistic conception of cognition. Not only does he, like other enactivists, emphasize the ‘unsurpassability’ of the brain-body-environment triad as the basic explanatory unit of mind, but he also stresses like no one else the profound impact of affects, culture and environmental factors on cognition without falling into the trap of representationalism. As Gallagher himself recognizes, however, this approach represents a real challenge and “often comes with strong calls to radically change our ways of thinking about the mind and about how to do cognitive science.” (40) The envisaged change might in fact be so radical that Gallagher entertains (but does not develop) the idea that enactivism may in the end “be better thought as a philosophy of nature than as a scientific research agenda.” (22) This does not mean that we should turn our back on science, or stop collecting empirical data about the functioning of the mind; it rather means that it may be necessary to revise a certain number of assumptions about the mind, and to redefine the relation between science and philosophy.

In the remaining space at my disposal, I will engage in a rapid survey of what I take to be the most interesting ideas and claims to be found in this excellent book. I will draw special attention to Gallagher’s specifically normative conception of intentionality, for although it is not by any means an explicitly developed concept, it is nevertheless powerfully operative throughout.

* * *

Expectedly, Chapter 4 (“Enactive Intentionality”) opens with a critique of the “Brentanian” or “neo-Cartesian concept of intentionality” (66), but Gallagher then quickly makes two interesting moves: first, he centers the discussion around a specific problem, namely that of understanding other minds, and criticizes in passing some of the dominant theories in social cognition (Theory-Theory, Simulation Theory, Mirror Neuron approach, etc.). Second, and in line with the preceding chapter (3. “Pragmatic Resources for Enactive and Extended Minds”), Gallagher positively elaborates his own enactive alternative by tracing its origins in both the phenomenological and pragmatist traditions. If the profound impact of Merleau-Ponty’s notions of intercorporeality and operative intentionality on the enactivist program should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the literature (cf. 77-79), the rapprochement with pragmatism is however quite original (even if not unique; cf. Menary 2007). But Gallagher is convincing, and shows with great acuity how both the first and second generations of pragmatists share some deep philosophical commitments with enactivism. Peirce “foreshadows the externalist turn” (50) taken by the enactivists and the extended mind advocates (cf. 52ff.); Dewey’s understanding of perception as based on the idea of sensori-motor coordination anticipates Noë’s and O’Regan’s talk of sensori-motor contingencies (cf. 50); Mead’s characterization of perceptual space as a “manipulatory area” (51) is close to Heidegger’s ready-to-hand (Zuhanden) and Gibson’s concept of affordances, while Dewey’s notion of “situation” is precisely the kind of concept that can serve both to “motivate a rapprochement between enactivist and extended mind theories” (54)[1], and address some of the most important objections levelled against both theories (cf. 60ff.). Clearly, the point of drawing conceptual resources in the pragmatist and neo-pragmatist traditions is not only of historical interest; it is also philosophically motivated.

Taking his cues from Robert Brandom’s normative account of intentionality (1994), Gallagher pursues this discussion in Ch. 4 by arguing that the enactive account of intentionality he is advocating is “consistent with a non-simulationist version of neo-pragmatism. Indeed, it shows us how to connect very basic operative intentionality with the neo-pragmatist emphasis on social/normative aspects of behavior.” (80) The key move to understand both how Gallagher connects with and moves beyond the neo-pragmatist framework lies in the expanded scope of the normative that informs his concept of intentionality. Intentionality is – pace Brandom – “already pervasive” (81) in a variety of normative, but still pre-social and pre-linguistic activities and behaviours. The idea, which is not formulated as such but which readers of How the Body Shapes the Mind (2005) must already be familiar with (see esp. Ch. 3 and 9), is that intentionality is originally normative in the sense that it is rooted in the neonate’s first encounters and interactions, which are meaningful experiences. The neonate sees the actions of the caretaker as calling forth certain responses on her part (not any response), thereby triggering an intentional dynamic of actions and behaviours guided and constrained by implicit normative cues. The actions of the neonate – which are properly speaking inter-actions – then show both how the mind is normatively attuned to its environment and “intersubjective from the very start” (81). Hence, “there is no mystery about where this non-derived intentionality comes from. It comes from the others with whom we interact, or more precisely, it is generated in our interaction.” (81) The same learning mechanisms and normative patterns of influence repeat in adulthood. Even at a mature age, perception remains strongly permeable to the influence of our social milieu: “we learn what objects are significant and valuable through our interactions with others, or even just our perception of what they are doing with objects in the environment. We learn to see the world along these lines of significance and value, and oftentimes objects that fall outside of such lines don’t even register.” (159)

Gallagher’s specifically normative conception of intentionality is also at the forefront of Chapter 5 (‘Action without Representation’), but this time more explicitly so. After introducing what he takes to be “the classic concept of representation” (83), the chapter brings us to the heart of one of the most heated debates in contemporary philosophy of mind and action, namely, whether there is any place for representation in action. Unsurprisingly, Gallagher answers in the negative, and develops a strong anti-representationalist argument that he sets against the background of various proposals (Action-Oriented Representations (AORs), Pre-Intentional Representations (PIAs), B-Formatted Representations, Minimal Robust Representations (MRRs), etc.) that have been put forward recently by advocates of the enactive program and/or the extended mind approach (Michael Wheeler, Mark Rowlands, Andy Clark, etc.). The discussion is detailed, at times difficult, but it gets to the bottom of things. One possibly useful way of understanding Gallagher’s argument against representationalism is to insist on the incompatibility between the ‘teleological/normative’ and the ‘decouplability’ constraints of representation. While the former characteristics say that something is representational iff it is also teleological or normatively turned towards something it tracks, the latter feature says that something is representational iff it is decouplable from what it represents. These are widely (but not universally) accepted characteristics of our concept of ‘representation’, but they are not easily compatible with one another when it comes to action. According to Gallagher, you can’t have it both ways: you cannot both track your goal and be ‘off-line:’ “But it is difficult to see how an aspect of motor control that is a constitutive part of the action can be considered decoupled from x, which it may be tracking, or, for that matter, from the context, or the action itself. Isn’t this kind of anticipation fully situated in the action context?” (92) Insofar as motor control is part of the action, it is situated; but then it is not decoupled from the movement and the proprioceptive/kinaesthetic feedback it generates. It is online, and it is precisely for this reason that it can keep track of its object or of the action itself. This is the problem predictive coding is facing: “To think that the anticipatory emulator involves a decoupled process is to think that such anticipations can be detached from perceptual and proprioceptive input, which they clearly cannot be. They are part of the online process of action; as such they register not simply some future state, but the trajectory of the action (from present to future).” (92) The problem is serious, for not only is the perceptual and proprioceptive input de facto part of the ‘online’ process of action (according to Gallagher), but they are also necessary to meet the requirements of the normative constraint (or so I would like to claim). For in order to act ‘intelligently’ or ‘adequately’ upon something, I need to know how things stand in relation to me. This knowledge is informed by the pervasive self-sensitivity generated by perceptual feedback (including, but not limited to, proprioceptive awareness). In this sense, going ‘off-line’ is equivalent to losing touch (even if only momentarily) with one’s own perceptual situation, and this can only mean that one also loses ‘grip’ on the normative orientation of the action. The point can be recast in the following manner: if predictions are in some ways ‘decoupled’ from the ongoing perceptual process, or if they come in succession, then the organism can’t continuously cast its own actions in evaluative terms, and make the required adjustments when they are needed. But this is nothing very special; it is rather something that any ‘smart living organism’ continually does.[2]

Since the elementary unit of explanation of this ‘online’ process of action is the brain-body-environment triad, “the true locus of normativity” is therefore, as Rowlands puts it, “to be found on the outside” (2012, 136), in the world. The consequence to draw from this is clear enough: “the problem of explaining our normative grip is no longer the problem of representation; it’s rather the problem of explaining how we are dynamically coupled to the world.” (105) What thus takes the place of representation in this non-representationalist account of action and perception is the complex dynamics of perceived affordances and motor responses. In this ongoing process of interaction and adjustments, intentional directedness depends crucially on “physically determined factors” (97) such as distance, lighting and position, and is bodily realized, not accomplished in representational processes.

This is a thought that Gallagher pursues in the next chapter (6. ‘Perception Without Inferences’), this time laying more emphasis on perception than on action, and criticizing in turn some of the most important inferential models currently debated in the literature (especially ToM and Predictive Coding). The core idea is nevertheless the same as in the preceding chapter, which it nicely complements: “Perception is enactive (…), but nonetheless epistemic and ‘smart’ because attuned to context” (112). Anticipating on some of the key ideas of Ch. 8 (‘Making Enactivism Even More Embodied’), Gallagher’s aim here is to argue (contra Bayesian inferentialism) for the directedness of perception, and to explain how the sources of our normative attunement are complex, rich and varied. In his descriptions, the radicality of Gallagher’s position becomes all the more apparent, even within the enactivist camp. While Noë’s and O’Regan’s “emphasis on sensori-motor contingencies and the role of action in perception” is certainly on the right track, it nevertheless “builds itself on a conception of embodiment that remains too narrow”, as “it leaves out important aspects of affectivity and intersubjectivity” (150). Perception is more complex and more embodied. Not only is it (non-inferentially) informed by culture and beliefs, but perception is also modulated by moods, practices, skills and “all kinds of affective processes” (118) and “somaesthetic factors” (151) such as hunger, fatigue, and sexual attraction. Evidently, these affective aspects “usually operate in a pre-noetic fashion” (151), but they still have a profound impact on our perceptual lives as they motivate “a sense of interest or investment” (153) captured by the notion of “perceptual interest” (Id.), which is said to be wider in scope than Husserl’s concept of the ‘I can’ (but which is not, I believe, significantly wider than Husserl’s own concept of ‘perceptual interest’[3]). But there’s more. “Even variations in circulation and heartbeat can influence perception” (Id.), just as does the whole repertoire of our “embodied practices and postures, behavioural habits, and intersubjective interactions” (125). These complex dynamics lead Gallagher to recognize very lucidly at the end of the chapter that “enactivism offers a holistic conception of cognition that is difficult to operationalize” (125) or test scientifically according to the current (mostly neuroscientific) standards. This is not a major concern though, for this is where the motivation to think of enactivism as a philosophy of nature instead of as a scientific research program comes from (cf. 125ff.).

Finally, Gallagher addresses in the final 10th Chapter (‘The Practice of Thinking’) the so-called ‘scaling up’ problem (Chemero 2009), which is the challenge for the enactivists to explain in system-dynamical terms our higher-order cognitive aptitudes. For if enactivism seems to be rather well suited to deal with lower-order or basic types of processes such as those involved in action and perception, higher-order cognitive tasks such as memory, imagination, and mathematical reasoning seem to represent a more serious challenge for enactivists, as these are apparently “representation-hungry” capacities (Clark and Toribio 1994). As anyone can expect at this point, this is not how Gallagher sees things. After providing a brief overview of E. Thompson’s (cf. 188) and D. Hutto’s (188ff.) own enactivist ‘solutions’ to the problem, Gallagher proposes a series of brief “interventions” (191) on the questions of imagination, deliberation, and mathematical reasoning. In the case of imagination, Gallagher (somewhat surprisingly) takes his cues from Gilbert Ryle’s account in The Concept of Mind. Like Ryle, for whom “there is no one thing that the imagination is” (192), Gallagher argues that “imagining involves a variety of different practices – some of them actively embodied, some of them involving the manipulation of bits of the environment, some of them sitting still and picturing something by manipulating concepts or thoughts or images (re-enacted perceptions) – which in any case may still involve affective and kinaesthetic aspects of embodiment.” (195) Like playacting (which is Ryle’s favoured example), imagining often takes the form of an embodied practice that is closer to “pretending and simulating” (192) than to mental seeing or projecting. In all instances, however, imagination involves “dealing with affordances” (195), which may include “toys, props, artifacts, instruments” (193), and even concepts or thoughts. “Pragmatically considered, concepts and thoughts can be regarded as nothing other than affordances that offer (or solicit us to) possibilities to follow one path or another as we engage in thinking” (195). In this sense, Gallagher conceives of imagining as “a kind of active engagement with possibilities” (193). Even if it is quite clear that this is the route that the enactivists must take to address the worries of the so-called ‘scale up’ problems, I wonder whether this general characterization is sufficiently developed to fully convince its detractors. In any case, the same strategy is mutatis mutandis applied to ‘mathematical reasoning’ (cf. 204ff.), a thought that brings Gallagher to the conclusion that, on the enactive point of view, thinking practices in general are better regarded as enactive performances that depend, for their realization, on our embodied skills.

All in all, this book is a much welcome addition to the literature. It is thought provoking, engaging and original in many respects. It provides not only an excellent survey of the current literature on embodied cognition in general and enactivism especially, but it also formulates new arguments, forges new concepts and proposes ideas that will certainly animate interesting debates in the years to come.


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Doyon, M. (forthcoming). ‘Husserl on Perceptual Optimality’ (under review).

Gallagher, S. (2005). How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Husserl, E. (2004). Wahrnehmung und Aufmerksamkeit: Texte aus dem Nachlass (1893–1912). Ed. T. Vongehr and R. Giuliani. Dordrecht: Springer.

Menary, R. (2007). Cognitive Integration: Mind and Cognition Unbounded. London: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Ryle, G. (1949). The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson.

Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology and the Sciences of Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., and Rosch, E. (1991). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge: MIT Press.

[1] “As extended and enactive, the mind is situated in the way that Dewey defines this notion.” (59)

[2] This is a line of thought that Merleau-Ponty developed in great detail in the Phenomenology of Perception, when he shows how bodily postures and position are in a constant process of regulation and readjustment. In this book, Gallagher revisits this topic (Ch. 9) and expands on ideas first developed in How the Body Shapes the Mind. For a similar argument in a biological context, see Rosch, Thompson and Varela (1994) and Thompson (2007).

[3] See Husserl (2004)) and my Husserl on Perceptual Optimality’ (under review; forthcoming).