CFP: Enactivism and Phenomenology: State of the Dialog

Submission deadline: October 31, 2021

Conference date(s):
November 11, 2021 - November 12, 2021

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Conference Venue:

Department of Philosophy, Palacky University
Olomouc, Czech Republic

Topic areas



Enactivism and Phenomenology: State of the Dialog

We invite conference paper submissions that explore historical, methodological, and systematic links between enactivism and phenomenology. 

Since the first explorations of an embodied approach to the study of cognition, the interest of the cognitive sciences in phenomenology has only been growing. In their seminal work The Embodied Mind (1991), Varela, Thompson, and Rosch have emphasized the need to systematically study everyday human experience, including our “lived” self-understanding, and pointed to phenomenology as one of the important reflexive traditions that provide such descriptions. Though initially critical of Husserlian phenomenology, the authors highlighted the importance of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy. They were inspired not only by his phenomenological account of embodiment, but also by his ability to implement the “deep circularity” between empirical scientific research and philosophical descriptions. More recently, both Rosch and Thompson, like a number of other contemporary authors, have adopted a much more favorable stance toward phenomenology in general. For embodied cognition theories, phenomenology remains a vital movement of continuing relevance to philosophy, cognitive science, and practical disciplines of human transformation. In turn, many contemporary phenomenologists explore possibilities of engagement with scientific research, thereby softening the strict divide between empirical investigation and philosophical theorizing.

Following this line of development, this conference aims to foster the dialog between enactivism and phenomenology, and address questions that will be important for future research. We aim to explore the positive overlaps between the two traditions as philosophical disciplines, with particular attention to their shared emphasis on the close integration between perception and action, and the pragmatic, pre-reflexive, social, bodily, environmental, and affective aspects of cognition. However, we also aim to explore the differences, incongruences, and disagreements between the two traditions, for example, by contrasting the universalistic, theoretical, and reflexive tendency of phenomenology with the interdisciplinary, experimental, and pragmatic approach of cognitive science. 

Understanding the term enactivism broadly, as including any philosophical study of cognition that elucidates the active role of embodied subjects in cognition, we encourage submissions on themes that include, but are not restricted to, the following:

Historical themes

- Discussions on historical phenomenologists prefiguring essential aspects of enactivism and embodied cognition theories

- The role of historical and contemporary phenomenologists such as Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Gurwitsch, Jonas, and Dreyfus in the development of enactivism and embodied cognition theories 

- The role of Merleau-Ponty’s works in enactivism, in particular his Structure of Behavior

- The relationship of phenomenology and enactivism to gestalt-psychology and Gibson’s ecological psychology

Methodological themes

- Possibilities for phenomenology to provide a foundation for empirical scientific research (e.g., in neurophenomenology or cardiophenomenology)

- Is phenomenology necessarily realized in the first-person perspective or does it allow for the incorporation of second- and third-person information (e.g., via “phenomenological interviews” and neural observations)?

- Is the practice of phenomenology purely reflective or does it require some sort of “training”? Is phenomenology purely descriptive, or does it involve constructive elements?

- In what sense can phenomenology draw on empirical research (e.g., from psychology, neurology, and neuroscience)?

Systematic themes

- Topic-focused explorations on perception and action, social cognition, affectivity, language and learning, culture, or artificial intelligence and robotics

- Clarification of the relationship between first-person and third-person perspectives; the relationship between transcendental and empirical modes of inquiry, and possibilities of their mutual illumination; clarification of the notion of “lived experience”

- Clarification of the general sense of “embodiment” (e.g., physical-causal versus organismic; “objective” versus “lived”); interpretations of related notions such as incorporation and intercorporeality

- Hopes and pitfalls related to attempts to naturalize phenomenology

- The relationship between phenomenology’s intentionality and enactivism’s relational interpretation of organism-environment coupling

- Clarification of the notions of significance, value, and meaning (as in Varela’s or Thompson’s “sense-making” or Husserl’s “bestowal of sense”)

- The role of the ideas of representation versus skillful coping, in particular as they relate to “higher-order” cognitive activities

- Differences between strands of enactivism and embodied cognition theories with regard to their relation to phenomenology

- The relation between the notions of environment, world, life-world, and the universe studied by science

- Perception–action interrelation; interrelation between the cognizer’s activity and the role of environment; the role of the cognizer’s activity, including their physical movement, in “higher-order” cognition

Please send anonymized abstracts of 300–500 words in English, attached as a word file, no later than 31 October 2021 to [email protected]. Please include "Enactivism and Phenomenology Conference - abstract submission" in the subject line. Full papers of up to 4000 words are also accepted. The presenter’s name, affiliation, and contact information should be indicated in the e-mail.

Notification of acceptance: before 7 November 2021

Date: 11 – 12 November 2021

There is no participation fee. 

The language of the conference is English. 

The time for presentation will be limited to 20 minutes, followed by 15 minutes for discussion.

Organizer: Department of Philosophy, Palacky University Olomouc, Czech Republic


Keynote speakers:

Julian Kiverstein (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Raymond Tallis (University of Manchester, UK)

Sebastjan Vörös (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

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Custom tags:

#Phenomenology, #Enactivism