Embodied Cognition at the Crossroads of
Philosophy, Linguistics, Psychology and Artificial Intelligence

May 13-15, 2021, Cluj-Napoca, ROMANIA

Section 6A


Phenomenology of embodiment



Friday 14/5, 14:50-15:50



Alexandru Cosmescu

Affiliation: Institute of History
Title: The Dialogical Form of Philosophical Practice
Abstract: The term “Philosophical Practice” can be applied to a variety of activities. In this paper, I will refer to the form of Socratic dialogue as reinvented by the French philosopher Oscar Brenifier. Brenifier is committed to a form of radical, improvisational, oral philosophizing, its embodied character being both implicit in the communication situation – two people, sitting next to each other, seeing each other, speaking, responding to each other’s verbal and nonverbal cues, or communicating through the means of a video-chat program, again, seeing each other, and responding to each other’s appresented body. The stated function of a dialogue of this type is making the other aware of herself as speaking, and able to detach from herself and her own speech in order to conceptualize herself, based on her speech. This process is carried on through a radical, relentless questioning based on Socratic strategies. One advantage that Brenifier’s practice has, as an object of study, is its extended archive – thousands of hours of video recordings of live philosophical dialogue – which is particularly suited for an account using the means of discourse analysis, which, in the tradition of Wallace Chafe and Deborah Tannen, has clear phenomenological overtones that will become more explicit in my own paper. In the paper, I will analyze a transcript of a fragment of a philosophical practice session, emphasizing the details of what happens during an interaction of this type. The conversation has predetermined roles: one person is the questioner, the other is the questioned. The “control” of the discourse flow belongs to the questioner: she is the one that “guides” the questioned – but only after the questioned person’s initial input, usually also taking the form of a question. The usual form of a question involves an utterance, expressing something that the questioner noticed in the other’s discourse, followed by a question that checks whether the other is able to notice that or no. This process of paying attention to what is implicit in the other’s discourse and continuous checking whether what was noticed there is also available to the other. In this sense, the process of dialogue constitutes itself as an attempt to make the questioned person detach from her discourse in order to conceptualize her own speech, objectify it, interpret it, in an intersubjective context. With a metaphor that Brenifier uses, it is akin to a “cutting off the umbilical cord” that links us to our speech, confusing “what we wanted to say” / “what we had in mind” and “what was said”. This practice offers vistas for interpreting the practice itself of philosophizing in a context where its character as “embodied speech” becomes obvious.


Robert R.A. Arnautu

Affiliation: independent researcher
Title: Technologically mediated bodies
Abstract: Cyborgs are no more a production of science-fiction literature but an everyday phenomenon. Even if they do not look like robots, bodies are permeated by technology. Technologies mediate our experience of the world or even create our perspective of the world. Following Ihde (1990) and Verbeek (2015), we can analyse the mediated relations between bodies and world on the following structure: Body – technology – world Technologies are multifaceted and multistable devices that mediate our bodies in multiple ways. Ihde exposes four main types of relations: embodiment relations, in which body and technology are in fact a single entity experiencing the world (like a pair of glasses, a video-call, etc. through which the world is seen); hermeneutic relations, in which the body interacts with a technological enriched world (like a wristwatch, an ultrasound scanning device, etc.); alterity relations, in which technology itself is the focus of interaction (like an ATM machine, a computer game, etc.); and background relations, in which the technology provide the necessary conditions for our everyday life in the background (like the central heating systems). All these relations comport two main components: transparency and transformation. Transparency refers to the possibility of the device to fuse with the world or with the body so much as to vanish from consciousness. In the above-mentioned technological mediations there is always a way to bring into view the device, to become aware of its mediation. However, there are technologies that exhibit another type of mediation: cyborg relations in which the device is incorporated into the body (like cochlear implant devices, prosthetic devices). The difference between embodiment relations and the relation of incorporation is that in embodiment I consciously extend my body by transforming the device into my own “flesh”. However, I can take distance of this “flesh” and transform it again into an object. In cyborg relations, the device does not just extend my abilities and it cannot be dis-appropriated but create the experience (e.g. from not hearing to hearing) or in other way create my being-in-the-world or it is incorporated in such a way that it cannot be experienced directly (like an internal prosthesis). Such technological incorporations create me as human being and I cannot be me in the absence of this technological relation. Transformations effected by technology over the body refers to things from simple gestures and habits to new and “unnatural” abilities that we acquire by embodying or incorporating technological devices. In order to understand what a human body is nowadays we cannot overlook these technological relations. We are not only biological and social bodies but technological bodies also, not exceptionally but in our everyday existence. My presentation aims to analyse our existence as embodied persons from the perspective of technological relations.


Sara Incao

Affiliation: Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano
Title: Embodied cognition in the aesthetic experience of Virtual Reality
Abstract: Nowadays, technology is increasingly often employed in art: the use of Virtual Reality (VR) is completely changing the dynamics of the perceptual process, modifying the traditional relationship between viewer and artwork. Every kind of aesthetic experience is a mediated form of intersubjectivity that involves our cognitive abilities like the mapping of space around us. In the case of digital artworks, especially in VR, there is no longer the traditional distance between the subjectivity of the artist and that of the recipient. The idea in the artist’s mind can really hit us: the VR artwork has now the chance to address our real body for example with haptic suits. For this reason, the embodied cognition is the basis for every VR aesthetic experience. In addition, through VR, the contact with the work of art happens by means of our body and also by means of technological devices which increase its motor action potential. We are therefore witnessing a split in the motor action potential of the body: we can indeed see with our eyes our virtual body touching an object in the VR but our real hands don’t receive any tactile stimuli. At the same time, it is come to create a sort of hybridization between the world of the viewer-experiencer and the world of the work of art: the boundary between the reality in which our body is located and Virtual Reality is now blurred. Merleau-Ponty’s reflections on the sentient and sensed body could help consider another perspective: our body has often a virtual double in VR but this double is only a body that we can objectify and therefore is only a sensed body. The virtual body we can see in VR could be considered an incomplete body because it has no chance to perceive anything, it cannot be a sentient body. The use of VR in art implies a deep reflection on issues such as embodiment, presence, and the entire meaning of aesthetic experience. VR, in fact, enables us to enter the world created by the artist not only seeing it with our eyes as we do with traditional works of art, but also experiencing it with our whole body by means of multisensorial stimuli. We can now experience the sensuous form of the idea in the artist’s mind as never before, approaching us to the first-person experience of the artist itself.


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