Reevaluating Aesthetics. Towards Enactive Aesthetics

Testing Embodied Cognition: 1st Workshop (A. Scarinzi)


1st Workshop:  “Meaningful Relations” – Meeting the iCub Robot: Human-Robot-Interaction”

Speaker: Alessandra Sciutti (ERC Project Whisper; iit – istituto italiano di technologia di Genova – Italy)

When: 14th November 2019

Where: Uni Göttingen, Germany

The embodied mind or embodied cognition thesis appeals to the idea that cognition deeply depends on aspects of the agent's body other than the brain. Embodied cognitive science aims to understand the full range of perceptual, cognitive, and motor capacities we possess, cognition in the broad sense, as capacities that are dependent upon features of the physical body. According to Varela et al. (1993), Di Paolo et al. (2010), Fuchs (2018), embodiment means that mind is inherent in the precarious, active, normative, and worldful process of animation. This means that the body is not a puppet controlled by the brain but a whole animate system with many autonomous layers of self-constitution, self-coordination, and self-organization and varying degrees of openness to the world that create its sense-making activity. 

According to embodied cognition, a baby, for example, learns many cognitive skills by interacting with its environment and other humans, using its limbs and senses. Consequently, its internal model of the world is largely determined by the form of the human body. The embodied approach to cognition was tested within the iCub project. The iCub is a humanoid robot that allows cognitive learning scenarios to be acted out by an accurate reproduction of the perceptual system and articulation of a small child so that it could interact with the world in the same way that such a child does. In other words, it is believed that human-like manipulation plays a vital role in the development of human cognition. 

Within this workshop, we would like to discuss the argument that the motor system influences our cognition and the question of how embodied cognition can be tested. The iCub project will be one of the topics. 

More precisely, we look for cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary contributions (not only from philosophy and the cognitive sciences but from all disciplines) dealing with 

-          the sensorimotor approach to consciousness (sensorimotor contingency theory)

-          the mirror neuron system, representations, and embodied simulation

-          the mirror neurons as neural resonance system and the brain 

-          HCI and the embodied approach to emotions

-          participatory sense-making and HCI

Contributions from all disciplines are welcome.

Please send your proposal (300 words) to the organizer and scientific coordinator: Alfonsina Scarinzi, Dr. phil not later than 20th August. 

Reevaluating Aesthetics. Towards Enactive Aesthetics (PI: Dr. A. Scarinzi)

Deadline for submission: 12th June 2019 (CLOSED)

 3rd Conference on Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind
29th - 30th August 2019 
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen - Germany

Confirmed Keynotes: 

P. Määttänen - (University of Helsinki) - Body-Language Continuity via Non-linguistic Meanings 

A. Schiavio - (University of Graz) - From Action to Musical Experience. A ‘4E' Proposal.

M. Tessarolo - (University of Padova) - Continuity between subjective and objective feeling as a push for creativity and sociality 

A. Grieser - (Trinity College Dublin) -  Visioneering Future Beings – Transhuman subjectivities in the light of an Aesthetics of Religion

D. Bottineau - (CNRS UMR 5191 ICAR, ENS Lyon, France) - Languaging in natural languages as bodily and interactive sense-making and experience

J. Lindblom (School of Informatics - University of Skövde, Sweden)  - On the nature of aesthetic and emotionally embodied experience in sense-making practices

A. Scarinzi (University of Goettingen - Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind  Project) - Neither Art Theory Nor Neuroaesthetics, Neither Umbrella Term Nor Buzzword: What Does "Enactive Aesthetics" Mean?

"Feeling Sense-Making, Enacting Meaning: The Lived Unity of an Experience and the Mind-Body-Language Continuity"  

The aim of this conference is to put into focus the role of embodied cognitive-emotional and linguistic sense-making in our being sensitive to multiple domains of meanings in the sensorimotor and social interaction with the environment. 

In enactive cognitive science, bodily sense-making is the feel of the cognitive-emotional qualitative dimension of an adaptation to environmental factors the organism interacts with and has a participatory character in social interaction. Recent studies in neuroscience and philosophy of mind (Fuchs 2018; Di Paolo et al. 2018) highlight the role of the subjective and intersubjective embodied evaluation of sense-making in experiencing the bodily conditions of meaning constitution in social interaction and in the constitution of shared reality in our sensorimotor engagement with the world. Moreover, they support the view that human experience relies on mind-body-language continuity. Human embodiment involves a special kind of autonomy acquired via incorporation of linguistic habits of sense-making we become sensitive to. We are sensitive to multiple registers and domains of meaning at once when we co-determine and make sense of the environment and of the interaction with the others.

This conference highlights the enactive relation between subjectivity, intersubjectivity and sensorimotor coupling with the environment in the constitution of an experience. According to John Dewey, an experience has a unity. The existence of this unity is constituted by a single quality that pervades the entire experience in spite of the variation of its constituent parts. The capacity of experience to mean and to become an experience is realized through a consummatory process of bodily sense-making and completes itself. Such an experience is aesthetic for it conveys a feeling of wholeness. 

The submission of contributions that highlight enactive sense-making in the lived process of meaning generation in experiencing interactions and the embodied quality of an experience is encouraged.

The conference welcomes contributions from the following disciplines:

Artificial Intelligence and human cognition



Literary studies

Music and the Cognitive Sciences 



Philosophy of emotion

Philosophy of mind 

Psychology of aesthetics

Please send your abstract (max. 300 words) not later than 12th June 2019 to alfonsinascarinzi[at] 


Dr. Alfonsina Scarinzi 



Bottineau, D. (2012). Remembering Voice Past: Languaging as an embodied interactive cognitive technique. E.I. Pivovar. Conference on Interdisciplinarity in Cognitive Science Research, Apr. 2012, Moscou, Russia. Moscow: RGGU [Russian State University for the Humanities], 194-219

Di Paolo, E.A., Cuffari, E. C., De Jaegher, H. (2018). Linguistic Bodies. The Continuity between Life and Language. MIT Press

Thomas Fuchs (2018). Ecology of the Brain (International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry), OUP

Alfonsina Scarinzi (ed.) (2015), Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind: Beyond Art Theory and the Cartesian Mind-Body Dichotomy, Contributions to Phenomenology, Vol. 73, Springer Science+Business Media, Dordrecht

Schiavio, A., van der Schyff, D., Cespedes-Guevara, J. & Reybrouck, M. (2017). Enacting musical emotions. Sense-making, dynamic systems, and the embodied mind. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 16(5), 785-809 

Steiner, P. (2014). Enacting anti-representationalism. The scope and the limits of enactive critiques of representationalism, AVANT, 2, 2014, 43 – 86 

John T. Haworth - New Beginning 
Principal Investigator: Alfonsina Scarinzi, Dr. phil.
Art and aesthetic meaning mark the fulfillment of nature in experience and of experience in meaning. It is there that the capacities of the world to achieve the interpenetration of sense and value in human life are realized.

 Thomas M. Alexander on John Dewey's Theory of Art


 The research project

Wiss. Leitung/Scientific Direction: Alfonsina Scarinzi, Dr. phil.

In his work The Meaning of the Body philosopher Mark Johnson argues that aesthetics is not just art theory. Rather, it should be considered to be the study of everything that goes into the human capacity to make and experience the bodily pre-linguistic cognitive, emotional and sensory-perceptual conditions of meaning constitution having its origins in the organic activities of living creatures and in their organism-environment transactions. In this way he rejects both the Kantian view of aesthetics, according to which aesthetics is nonconceptual and incapable of giving rise to knowledge, and the mind/body dichotomy that underlies it. Johnson introduces the embodied mind thesis into aesthetics. The embodied mind thesis is usually traced back to the work The Embodied Mind by Varela & Thompson & Rosch. It denies a separation of mind and body, sees meaning, reason and imagination as embodied and ties reason to emotion. In other words, experience and cognition are bodily mediated and depend on the sensorimotor capacities of individuals embedded in a biological, psychological and cultural context that interact with the environment in a relation of co-determination.

 The cross-disciplinary research project "Reevaluating Aesthetics. Towards Enactive Aesthetics" aims at bringing aesthetics closer to the enactive framework in the postcognitivist cognitive sciences by considering aesthetic experience as a cognitive-emotional process of meaning-making beyond traditional art theories. 

The project covers psychology of aesthetics, neuroaesthetics, empirical aesthetics, computational aesthetics,  literary aesthetics, pragmatist aesthetics, neuroscience, HCI. 
Edited Volume

Alfonsina Scarinzi (ed.) (2015), Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind: Beyond Art Theory and the Cartesian Mind-Body Dichotomy, Contributions to Phenomenology, Vol. 73, Springer Science+Business Media, Dordrecht


Zum "Enactive Literariness"

Enactive Literariness ist eine Bezeichnung aus dem 16. Kapitel dieses Bandes und wurde von mir vorgeschlagen, um zweierlei Ziele zu erreichen.
Einerseits soll die Bezeichnung die Aufmerksamkeit darauf lenken, dass das sprachliche Phänomen der Literarizität (Jakobson) und die Konstituierung deren Bedeutung im Prozess des Lesens aus antidualistischer Sicht in den subjektiven durch Interaktionen bestimmten Erfahrungen des Lesenden begründet liegt. Anderseits soll die Bezeichnung betonen, dass etablierte kognitivistische (cognitive/cognitivist/representationalist) Standpunkte und Erklärungen des Begriffes der Literarizität in Frage gestellt werden und auch mit der Begründung abgelehnt werden, dass sie keine unmittelbare Wechselbeziehung zwischen Geist und Körper anerkennen und sich stark an in den Kognitionswissenschaften abgeschwächtem Repräsentationalismus orientieren. Enactive Literariness bietet somit eine Brücke zur postkognitivistischen Wende .
Im Kapitel wird ausserdem ausreichend genug betont, dass ich einiges im Kapitel absichtlich radikalisiere, um die Unterschiede zwischen "cognitive/cognitivist" und "enactive" sehr stark in den Vordergrund zu stellen.

Die Argumentation wird darauf aufgebaut:
1) mind-body continuity principle (J. Dewey)
2) Husserls Begriff von Leib/Körper
3) Direct Perception (Gibson/Varela)

Das Kapitel ist NICHT ALS BEITRAG ZUR LITERATURTHEORIE anzusehen, sondern im Allgemeinen als Beitrag zur Untersuchung von kognitiven Prozessen in Kontexten der Abweichung von Erwartungen gedacht. 

"The first scholarly volume in the field of aesthetics to present an embodied approach to human experience"
(Leading researchers like Mark Johnson, Jim Garrison, David Miall, Daniel Hutto, Luca Ticini, Beatriz Calvo-Merino, John Haworth)

...and some additional points

Book review:   Ştefan-Sebastian Maftei: Alfonsina Scarinzi (ed.). Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind: Beyond Art Theory and the Cartesian Mind-Body Dichotomy (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015) in: Studia Phaenomenologica vol. 16 / 2016 - Film and Phenomenology

UniInform (April 2015, p.11), the official journal of the University of Göttingen (Germany), published this month (April 2015) a short review of the volume A. Scarinzi (ed.), Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind, Dordrecht Springer. In German language.
The volume contains original research works by leading researchers such as Mark Johnson, Daniel Hutto and Jim Garrison.

My Acknowledgments

I would like to express my gratitude to Mark Johnson for accepting my invitation to contribute to this volume. I am indebted to the serious commitment and enthusiastic engagement of the invited contributors who took an interest in my invitation beyond the limits of mere politeness. Many thanks to those who spontaneously answered my call for contributions published in 2011 and who are now part of this volume. Last but not least, I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers, who reviewed this work, for their useful comments.

Alfonsina Scarinzi,
Aug 27, 2015, 8:19 AM
Alfonsina Scarinzi,
Aug 27, 2015, 8:19 AM
Alfonsina Scarinzi,
Aug 27, 2015, 9:16 AM
Alfonsina Scarinzi,
Aug 27, 2015, 8:19 AM