Constitution Embodiment

Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 8 (1):131-158 (2017)
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In this paper I analyze constitution embodiment, a particular conception of embodiment. Proponents of constitution embodiment claim that the body is a condition of the constitution of entities. Constitution embodiment is popular with phenomenologically-inspired Embodied Cognition, including research projects such as Enactivism and Radical Embodied Cognitive Science. Unfortunately, PEC’s use of constitution embodiment is neither clear nor coherent; in particular, PEC uses the concept of constitution embodiment so that a major inconsistency is entailed. PEC conceives of the body in a transcendental sense as a condition of the constitution of entities, and, in an ontic sense, as a scientifically describable entity. Yet, a condition of the constitution of entities cannot be itself an entity—rather, it is the very condition of the possibility of an entity. This inconsistency entails further problems, among them PEC’s misguided focus on the location of the embodied mind. In order to correct these mistakes, I develop a conception of constitution embodiment based on the work of Heidegger, Husserl and to a lesser degree Merleau-Ponty. This has two purposes. First, it provides the conceptual groundwork to secure the status of PEC as a consistent and coherent research project and to clarify PEC’s conception of the relationship between phenomenology and the sciences. In that spirit, my approach provides further guidelines for fruitful research alliances between PEC and other research programs such as Grounded Cognition and identifies current research alliances, such as those with Radical Enactivism, as undesirable. Second, my account provides an elaborate concept of constitution embodiment that can function as the basis for more sophisticated work in the future.

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Alexander Albert Jeuk