Introduction

Synthese 198 (Suppl 9):2135-2151 (2019)
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Abstract

Several strands of contemporary cognitive science and its philosophy have emerged in recent decades that emphasize the role of action in cognition, resting their explanations on the embodiment of cognitive agents, and their embedding in richly structured environments. Despite their growing influence, many foundational questions remain unresolved or underexplored for this cluster of proposals, especially questions of how they can be extended beyond straightforwardly visuomotor cognitive capacities, and what constraints the commitment of embodiment places on the ontology of explanations. This special issue aims to contribute to these foundational debates by drawing on important precursors to embodied cognition in mid-twentieth century gestalt psychology, its immediate successor ecological psychology, and their dialectical counterpart, phenomenology. Gestalt psychologists and phenomenologists wrestled with many of the same foundational questions that still haunt us today, in a manner that seems refreshing in hindsight, and poised to contribute constructively to contemporary debate. Looking back on this history reveals deep commonalities across competing embodied approaches, exposing fundamental tensions that remain unresolved, but also paving the way to a more ecumenical and conciliatory embodied cognitive science.

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