Embodied Cognition, Habit, and Natural Agency in Hegel’s Anthropology

In Marina F. Bykova & Kenneth R. Westphal (eds.), The Palgrave Hegel Handbook. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 395-416 (2020)
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The aim of this chapter is to discuss the central role of the notion of " habit " (Gewohnheit) in Hegel's theory of " embodiment " (Verleiblichung) and to show that the philosophical outcome of the Anthropology is that habit, understood as a sensorimotor life form, is not only an enabling condition for there to be mindedness, but is more strongly an ontological constitutive condition of all its levels of manifestation. Moreover, I will argue that Hegel's approach somehow makes a model of embodied cognition available which offers a unified account of the three main senses of embodiment understood as both a physiological, a functional, and a phenomenological process. In this sense Hegel's approach to habit can make a useful contribution to the contemporary debate on embodiment in philosophy of mind, the cognitive sciences, and action theory. For a long time habit in 20th century philosophy and science has been mostly read in a negative way, identified with mechanical and repetitive routine. The reconstruction of Hegel’s approach is particularly relevant here and can fruitfully contribute to this discussion, since it offers us not only a model that assigns to habit a positive constitutive role in the formation of embodied human mindedness but which also overcomes the dualism between habitual motor routine and intentional activities that is prevalent nowadays in the cognitive sciences and in action theory, and allows for some sense of natural agency as belonging to animal life. Furthermore, Hegel’s approach cuts across the great divide between associationist and holistic approaches to habit that has for a long time dominated the philosophical debate on habit and still shapes the current opposition between classical cognitive science and embodied cognitive science.



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Italo Testa
University of Parma

Citations of this work

Hegel's real habits.Andreja Novakovic - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (4):882-897.
Enactivism and the Hegelian Stance on Intrinsic Purposiveness.Andrea Gambarotto & Matteo Mossio - forthcoming - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-23.

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