About this topic

Embodied and situated approaches have become increasingly popular in contemporary philosophy of mind and cognition. They tend to be scientifically informed responses to the cognitivism predominant in mid-twentieth century analytic philosophy of mind and psychology. Cognitivism in philosophy assumed - either explicitly or implicitly - that the non-neural body and the environment in which we live and act are best factored out in our investigations of mind and cognition. Embodied and situated approaches along with other related responses to philosophical cognitivism have collectively come to be known as “4EA”: Embodied, Embedded, Enactive, Extended, and Affective. While 4EA approaches are united in rejecting the conception of mind and cognition as supervenient only upon internal brain processes they each take a slightly different focus on the reasons why internalism should be rejected and the positions may be held independently. For example, what we might think of as orthodox embodied cognitive science makes little or no mention of the affective domain and it does not imply biological enactivism, which - by its very nature - is itself an inherently embodied approach to cognition. In a similar vein, some of these approaches may be thought to be extensions to twentieth century functionalist philosophy of mind and cognitive science, while in others there is a strong historical connection to the Phenomenologists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (in particular Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty) and/or the American Pragmatists such as William James and John Dewey. 

Key works

Clark 1996 captured the imagination of a generation of researchers in philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences by drawing on research from robotics to argue that the mind is embodied and embedded in important ways. Gallagher 2005 integrates phenomenology and neuroscience with artificial cognitive systems research to argue that the body shapes the mind. Haugeland 1993 is an early - but classic - paper introducing embodiment and situatedness to philosophy of mind, and Brooks 1991 is the key reference from robotics in the field. Hutchins 1995 is the go-to book on embeddedness, and Dreyfus 1972 still stands as one of the main critiques of traditional artificial intelligence approaches. Enactivism was introduced to the world through Varela et al 1991, developed in detail in regard to what might be thought of as ‘biological’ enactivism in Thompson 2007, in regard to ‘perceptual’ enactivism in Noë 2005, and in regard to perception, agency and consciousness in Hurley 1998. Affective cognition is still underrepresented in the embodiment paradigm but Damasio 1994 and Damasio 1999 have been strong influences on philosophers in this area, Griffiths & Scarantino 2005 presents a strongly situated theory of emotions, and Colombetti 2013 provides an in-depth consideration of affective and emotional embodiment.


An overview of most of the 4E approaches is presented in the second edition of Clark's Mindware, an introductory textbook for the philosophy of cognitive science. Clark's Natural Born Cyborgs is a very readable lay-introduction to embodiment and the extended mind, but for a more thorough investigation see Supersizing the Mind. A scientifically informed introduction to the phenomenological approach to these issues is presented in Gallagher and Zahavi's The Phenomenological Mind and Noe's Out of our Heads provides an accessible introduction to perceptual enactivism. A thorough consideration of embodied approaches and their relevance to philosophy of mind can be found in Shapiro's Embodied Cognition and his (2014) edited collection The Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition collates cutting-edge articles from many of the key players in the discipline.

Related categories

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  1. Situated Bodies.Throwing Like A. Girl - 1998 - In Donn Welton (ed.), Body and Flesh: A Philosophical Reader. Blackwell.
  2. A Speech-Motor-System Perspective on Nervous-System-Control Variables.James H. Abbs - 1982 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 5 (4):541.
  3. Eigenfeatures as Intermediate-Level Representations: The Case for PCA Models.Hervé Abdi, Dominique Valentin & Betty G. Edelman - 1998 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1):17-18.
    Eigenfeatures are created by the principal component approach (PCA) used on objects described by a low-level code (i.e., pixels, Gabor jets). We suggest that eigenfeatures act like the flexible features described by Schyns et al. They are particularly suited for face processing and give rise to class-specific effects such as the other-race effect. The PCA approach can be modified to accommodate top-down constraints.
  4. An Investigation on the Fundamental Cognition of Theoretical Understanding Concerned with Human Being in the Academic Cognition of Physical Education: Searching for the Theoretical Moment of It.Goro Abe - 1999 - Journal of the Philosophy of Sport and Physical Education 21 (2):11-24.
  5. The Multiple Obstacles to Encephalization.M. Maurice Abitbol - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (2):344-345.
  6. Does Visual-Field Specialization Really Have Implications for Coordinated Visual-Motor Behavior?Richard A. Abrams - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (3):542-543.
  7. Altered Vision Near the Hands.Richard A. Abrams, Christopher C. Davoli, Feng Du, William H. Knapp & Daniel Paull - 2008 - Cognition 107 (3):1035-1047.
  8. Book Review: "Supersizing the Mind" by Andy Clark. [REVIEW]Darren Abramson - 2009 - International Journal of Machine Consciousness 1 (2):299-304.
  9. Cognition and Culture.Ana Margarida Abrantes - 2009 - Semiotics:480-486.
  10. Embodied Cognition and the Extended Mind.F. Adams & K. Aizawa - 2009 - In John Symons Paco Calvo (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Psychology. Routledge. pp. 193--213.
  11. What is a Cognitive Process?Fred Adams - 2014 - Foundations of Science 19 (2):133-135.
    In this commentary to Serrano et al. (2013), I applaud this foundation article for being a breath of fresh air because it addresses the question “What is cognition?” Too often in the cognitive sciences, we leave that question unanswered or worse, unasked. I come not to criticize but to offer a helpful suggestion aimed a pulling together some of the separate strands weaved throughout this article.
  12. Embodied Cognition.Fred Adams - 2010 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (4):619-628.
    Embodied cognition is sweeping the planet. On a non-embodied approach, the sensory system informs the cognitive system and the motor system does the cognitive system’s bidding. There are causal relations between the systems but the sensory and motor systems are not constitutive of cognition. For embodied views, the relation to the sensori-motor system to cognition is constitutive, not just causal. This paper examines some recent empirical evidence used to support the view that cognition is embodied and raises questions about some (...)
  13. The Bounds of Cognition.Fred Adams, Ken Aizawa & Frederick R. Adams - 2001 - Philosophical Psychology 14 (1):43-64.
    An alarming number of philosophers and cognitive scientists have argued that mind extends beyond the brain and body. This book evaluates these arguments and suggests that, typically, it does not. A timely and relevant study that exposes the need to develop a more sophisticated theory of cognition, while pointing to a bold new direction in exploring the nature of cognition Articulates and defends the “mark of the cognitive”, a common sense theory used to distinguish between cognitive and non-cognitive processes Challenges (...)
  14. Machine Persons.Frederick Adams - 1992 - The Personalist Forum 8 (Supplement):47-55.
  15. The Bounds of Cognition.Frederick Adams & Kenneth Aizawa - 2008 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  16. Emotion and Memory: A Recognition Advantage for Positive and Negative Words Independent of Arousal.James S. Adelman & Zachary Estes - 2013 - Cognition 129 (3):530-535.
  17. What is Iconic Storage Good For?Edward H. Adelson - 1983 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 6 (1):11.
  18. A Cognitivist In The Supermarket.Lukasz Afeltowicz - 2012 - Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 3 (T):149-160.
    The central area of David Kirsh’s interest is the various ways in which humans use elements of their environment as external components of computation processes or means enabling them to reduce the complexity of cognitive problems they face. in his research he performs field observations as well as laboratory experiments. Kirsh skillfully blends concepts developed in contemporary cognitive science, such as situated cognition or extended mind, with classic concepts including problem solving. A number of his theses seam to derive from (...)
  19. (Co robi) kognitywista w supermarkecie.Łukasz Afeltowicz - 2012 - Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 3 (T).
    [(What does) a cognitivist in the supermarket] The central area of David Kirsh’s interest is the various ways in which humans use elements of their environment as external components of computation processes or means enabling them to reduce the complexity of cognitive problems they face. in his research he performs field observations as well as laboratory experiments. Kirsh skillfully blends concepts developed in contemporary cognitive science, such as situated cognition or extended mind, with classic concepts including problem solving. A number (...)
  20. Computation and Embodied Agency.Philip E. Agre - 1995 - Informatica 19:527-35.
  21. Neurological Disorders of Embodied Communication.Elisabeth Ahlsén - 2008 - In Ipke Wachsmuth, Manuela Lenzen & Günther Knoblich (eds.), Embodied Communication in Humans and Machines. Oxford University Press. pp. 285.
  22. John Haugeland: Dasein Disclosed: John Haugeland’s Heidegger. Edited by Joseph Rouse.Bernardo Ainbinder - 2015 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 14 (4):1171-1177.
  23. Cognition and Behavior.Ken Aizawa - 2017 - Synthese 194 (11):4269-4288.
    An important question in the debate over embodied, enactive, and extended cognition has been what has been meant by “cognition”. What is this cognition that is supposed to be embodied, enactive, or extended? Rather than undertake a frontal assault on this question, however, this paper will take a different approach. In particular, we may ask how cognition is supposed to be related to behavior. First, we could ask whether cognition is supposed to be behavior. Second, we could ask whether we (...)
  24. What is This Cognition That is Supposed to Be Embodied?Ken Aizawa - 2015 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (6):755-775.
    Many cognitive scientists have recently championed the thesis that cognition is embodied. In principle, explicating this thesis should be relatively simple. There are, essentially, only two concepts involved: cognition and embodiment. After articulating what will here be meant by ‘embodiment’, this paper will draw attention to cases in which some advocates of embodied cognition apparently do not mean by ‘cognition’ what has typically been meant by ‘cognition’. Some advocates apparently mean to use ‘cognition’ not as a term for one, among (...)
  25. Introduction to “The Material Bases of Cognition”.Kenneth Aizawa - 2013 - Minds and Machines 23 (3):277-286.
  26. The Value of Cognitivism in Thinking About Extended Cognition.Kenneth Aizawa - 2010 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (4):579-603.
    This paper will defend the cognitivist view of cognition against recent challenges from Andy Clark and Richard Menary. It will also indicate the important theoretical role that cognitivism plays in understanding some of the core issues surrounding the hypothesis of extended cognition.
  27. Rethinking the Problem of Cognition.Mikio Akagi - 2018 - Synthese 195 (8):3547-3570.
    The present century has seen renewed interest in characterizing cognition, the object of inquiry of the cognitive sciences. In this paper, I describe the problem of cognition—the absence of a positive characterization of cognition despite a felt need for one. It is widely recognized that the problem is motivated by decades of controversy among cognitive scientists over foundational questions, such as whether non-neural parts of the body or environment can realize cognitive processes, or whether plants and microbes have cognitive processes. (...)
  28. Situated Semantics.Varol Akman - 2009 - In Murat Aydede & P. Robbins (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 401--418.
  29. Guest Editor's Introduction.Varol Akman - 1998 - Minds and Machines 8 (4):475-477.
    In this special issue of Minds and Machines ("Situations and Artificial Intelligence") we take a close look at recent situation-theoretic research which has mostly originated within a philosophical framework but promises to have strong connotations for Artificial Intelligence workers. The seven papers which make up this special issue (three of the papers appear in Minds and Machines 9(1)) demonstrate the advantages of the situation-based approach towards problems with a definite AI flavor.
  30. Towards a Phenomenology of Racial Embodiment.Linda Martín Alcoff - 1999 - Radical Philosophy 95:15-26.
  31. From Cognitivism to Autopoiesis: Towards a Computational Framework for the Embodied Mind.Micah Allen & Karl J. Friston - 2018 - Synthese 195 (6):2459-2482.
    Predictive processing approaches to the mind are increasingly popular in the cognitive sciences. This surge of interest is accompanied by a proliferation of philosophical arguments, which seek to either extend or oppose various aspects of the emerging framework. In particular, the question of how to position predictive processing with respect to enactive and embodied cognition has become a topic of intense debate. While these arguments are certainly of valuable scientific and philosophical merit, they risk underestimating the variety of approaches gathered (...)
  32. How is Freedom Distributed Across the Earth?Jüri Allik & Anu Realo - 2013 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (5):482-483.
    Although Van de Vliert presented an entertaining story containing several original observations, an implicit assumption that climate affects human society identically through the history is not realistic. If almost everything is explained by cold winters or hot summers, then nothing is explained. Ignoring rival explanations does not make the proposed theory more convincing.
  33. Flected Bodies: On the Relationship Between Body and Language.Emmanuel Alloa - 2014 - Eidos: Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad Del Norte 21:200-220.
    Although in the modern age there were plenty of attempts to overcome the mind-body dualism, its philosophical theories of language reintroduced it in a subtle but not less effective way.In this article several theorems to think on the materiality of the sign are discussed, and, from Kierkegaard to the post-Saussurean structuralism, the prominent role of thinking the materialization as something necessary but arbitrary in its modality is shown. The body of language under this understanding is not only that which can (...)
  34. The Theatre of the Virtual. How to Stage Potentialities with Merleau-Ponty.Emmanuel Alloa - 2014 - In Laura Cull & Alice Lagaay (eds.), Encounters in Performance Philosophy. PalgraveMacmillan. pp. 147-170.
  35. La chair comme diacritique incarné.Emmanuel Alloa - 2009 - Chiasmi International 11:249-262.
    In 20th century thinking, few concepts have provoked as many misunderstandings as Merleau-Ponty’s notion of ‘Flesh’. Such misunderstandings (of which the article sketches the outline of an archaeology) rest on the initial assumption that the Flesh has to be derived from the body. The article suggests that the dominant readings of the Flesh can be organized along what could respectively be called the scenario of propriety and the scenario of expansion, beyond which a third way comes into view which does (...)
  36. Dimensions of Embodied Communication—Towards a Typology of Embodied Communication.Jens Allvvood - 2008 - In Ipke Wachsmuth, Manuela Lenzen & Günther Knoblich (eds.), Embodied Communication in Humans and Machines. Oxford University Press. pp. 257.
  37. Dimensions of Embodied Communication - Towards a Typology of Embodied Communication.Jens Allwood - 2008 - In Ipke Wachsmuth, Manuela Lenzen & Günther Knoblich (eds.), Embodied Communication in Humans and Machines. Oxford University Press.
  38. Communication, Autopoiesis and Semiosis.H. F. Alrøe & E. Noe - 2014 - Constructivist Foundations 9 (2):183-185.
    Open peer commentary on the article “Social Autopoiesis?” by Hugo Urrestarazu. Upshot: We agree on the need to explore a concept of social autopoiesis that goes beyond a strictly human-centered concept of social systems as autopoietic communicative systems. But both Hugo Urrestarazu and Niklas Luhmann neglect the importance of semiosis in understanding communication, and this has important implications for the question of a more general approach to social systems.
  39. Authors' Response: Systems, Environments, and the Body.H. F. Alrøe & E. Noe - 2012 - Constructivist Foundations 8 (1):58-60.
    Upshot: In our response we focus on how different types of systems are related from a constructivist perspective, and specifically on the relation between communicational social systems and embodied agency.
  40. Embodying the Mind and Representing the Body.Adrian John Tetteh Alsmith & Frédérique Vignemont - 2012 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (1):1-13.
    Does the existence of body representations undermine the explanatory role of the body? Or do certain types of representation depend so closely upon the body that their involvement in a cognitive task implicates the body itself? In the introduction of this special issue we explore lines of tension and complement that might hold between the notions of embodiment and body representations, which remain too often neglected or obscure. To do so, we distinguish two conceptions of embodiment that either put weight (...)
  41. Hybrid://Literature/Cognition/Design.Daniel Anderson - 1998 - Kairos 3 (2).
  42. How to Study the Mind: An Introduction to Embodied Cognition.Dr Michael Anderson - 2005 - In [Book Chapter] (in Press).
    Embodied Cognition (EC) is a comprehensive approach to, and framework for, the study of the mind. EC treats cognition as a coordinated set of tools evolved by organisms for coping with their environments. Each of the key terms in this characterization-tool, evolved, organism, coping, and environment-has a special significance for understanding the mind that is discussed in this article.
  43. Evolution, Embodiment and the Nature of the Mind.Michael Anderson - manuscript
    In: B. Hardy-Vallee & N. Payette, eds. Beyond the brain: embodied, situated & distributed cognition. (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar’s Press), in press. Abstract: In this article, I do three main things: 1. First, I introduce an approach to the mind motivated primarily by evolutionary considerations. I do that by laying out four principles for the study of the mind from an evolutionary perspective, and four predictions that they suggest. This evolutionary perspective is completely compatible with, although broader than, the embodied cognition (...)
  44. On the Grounds of (X)-Grounded Cognition.Michael Anderson - unknown
    For the least the last 10 years, there has been growing interest in, and grow- ing evidence for, the intimate relations between more abstract or higher order cognition—such as reasoning, planning, and language use—and the more con- crete, immediate, or lower order operations of the perceptual and motor sys- tems that support seeing, feeling, moving, and manipulating. A sub-field of the larger research program in embodied cognition (Clark, 1997, 1998; Wilson, 2001; Anderson, 2003, 2007d, 2008; Gibbs, 2006), this work has (...)
  45. Chapter Five.Michael Anderson - manuscript
    Basics of Embodied Cognition EC treats cognition as a set of tools evolved by organisms for coping with their environments. Each of the key terms in this characterization—tool, evolved, organisms, coping, and environment—has a special significance for, and casts a particular light on, the study of the mind. EC thereby foregrounds the following six facts.
  46. Reviews. [REVIEW]Michael Anderson - manuscript
    Embodied cognition (EC) is growing up, and How the Body Shapes the Mind is both a sign of, and substantive contributor to, this ongoing development. Born in or about 1991 (the year of publication of seminal works by Brooks, Dreyfus, and Varela, Thompson & Rosch), EC is only now emerging from a tumultuous but exciting childhood marked in particular by the size and breadth of the extended family hoping to have some impact on its early education and upbringing. As family (...)
  47. Embodied Cognition: The Teenage Years. A Review of Gallagher, S. (2005). How.Michael L. Anderson - unknown
    Embodied Cognition is growing up, and How the Body Shapes the Mind is both a sign of, and substantive contributor to this ongoing development. Born in or about 1991, EC is only now emerging from a tumultuous but exciting childhood marked in particular by the size and breadth of the extended family hoping to have some impact on its early education and upbringing. As family members include computer science, phenomenology, developmental and cognitive psychology, analytic philosophy of mind, linguistics, neuroscience, and (...)
  48. Embodied Cognition: The Teenage Years.Michael L. Anderson - manuscript
    A review of Gallagher, S. (2005). How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  49. Representation, Evolution and Embodiment.Michael L. Anderson - 2005 - Theoria Et Historia Scientarum.
    As part of the ongoing attempt to fully naturalize the concept of human being--and, more specifically, to re-center it around the notion of agency--this essay discusses an approach to defining the content of representations in terms ultimately derived from their central, evolved function of providing guidance for action. This 'guidance theory' of representation is discussed in the context of, and evaluated with respect to, two other biologically inspired theories of representation: Dan Lloyd's dialectical theory of representation and Ruth Millikan's biosemantics.
  50. Embodied Cognition: A Field Guide.Michael L. Anderson - 2003 - Artificial Intelligence 149 (1):91-130.
    The nature of cognition is being re-considered. Instead of emphasizing formal operations on abstract symbols, the new approach foregrounds the fact that cognition is, rather, a situated activity, and suggests that thinking beings ought therefore be considered first and foremost as acting beings. The essay reviews recent work in Embodied Cognition, provides a concise guide to its principles, attitudes and goals, and identifies the physical grounding project as its central research focus.
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