Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 143–169 | Cite as

Kinesthesia: An extended critical overview and a beginning phenomenology of learning

  • Maxine Sheets-JohnstoneEmail author


This paper takes five different perspectives on kinesthesia, beginning with its evolution across animate life and its biological distinction from, and relationship to proprioception. It proceeds to document the historical derivation of “the muscle sense,” showing in the process how analytic philosophers bypass the import of kinesthesia by way of “enaction,” for example, and by redefinitions of “tactical deception.” The article then gives prominence to a further occlusion of kinesthesia and its subduction by proprioception, these practices being those of well-known phenomenologists, practices that exemplify an adultist perspective supported in large part by the writings of Merleau-Ponty. Following this extended critical review, the article shows how Husserl’s phenomenology enlightens us about kinesthesia and in doing so offers us substantive clues to the phenomenology of learning as it takes place in the development and acquisition of skillful movement. It shows further how phenomenological methodology contrasts markedly with existential analysis, most significantly in its recognition of, and its ability to set forth a developmental history, a veritable genetic phenomenology that is basically a phenomenology of learning anchored in kinesthesia. After showing how that phenomenology of learning finds mutual validation in a classic empirical study of infant movement, the article ends by highlighting how human “I cans” are grounded in “I move,” specifically, in the pan-human ability to learn one’s body and learn to move oneself.


Adultist perspective Animate realities Evolutionary considerations Husserl’s insights “Muscle sense” Mutual validation Phenomenological methodology Qualitative dynamics 



  1. Bastian, H.Charlton. 1890. The Brain as an Organ of Mind, 4th ed. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd.Google Scholar
  2. Bergson, H. 1991 [1896]. Matter and Memory, trans. N. M. Paul and W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  3. Bermúdez, José Luis. 2003. Thinking Without Words. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bloom, Lois. 1993. The Transition from Infancy to Language: Acquiring the Power of Expression. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cassirer, Ernst. 1957. The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Volume 3: The Phenomenology of Knowledge. New Haven: Yale University.Google Scholar
  6. Darwin, Charles. 1981 [1871]. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. De Waal, Frans. 1982. Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  8. Dennett, Daniel. 1991. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  9. Furuhjelm, Mirjam, Axel Ingelman-Sundbert, and Claes Wirsén. 1976. A Child is Born, revised ed. New York: Delacourte Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gallagher, Shaun. 2005. How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gallagher, Shaun. 2016. Social Kinesthesia. In Zwischenleiblichkeit und bewegtes Verstehen, Intercorporeity, Movement and Tacit Knowledge, ed. Undine Eberlein, 21–32. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.Google Scholar
  12. Gallagher, Shaun, and Jonathan Cole. 1998. Body Image and Body Schema in a Deafferented Subject. In Body and Flesh, ed. Donn Welton, 131–147. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  13. Gallagher, Shaun, and Dan Zahavi. 2012. The Phenomenological Mind, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Goldstein, Kurt. 1939. The Organism. New York: American Book Company.Google Scholar
  15. Goldstein, Kurt. 1940. Human Nature in the Light of Psychopathology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Husserl, Edmund. 1970. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, trans. David Carr. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Husserl, Edmund. 1973a. Cartesian Meditations, trans. Dorion Cairns. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  18. Husserl, Edmund. 1973b. Experience and Judgement, rev. and ed. Ludwig Landgrebe, trans. James S. Churchill and Karl Ameriks. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Husserl, Edmund. 1980. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, Third Book (Ideas III), trans. Ted E. Klein and William E. Pohl. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  20. Husserl, Edmund. 1983. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, First Book (Ideas I), trans. F. Kersten. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  21. Husserl, Edmund. 1989. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, Book II (Ideas II), trans. R. Rojcewicz and A. Schuwer. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. Husserl, Edmund. 2001. Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis, trans. Anthony Steinbock. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic. (Original work published 1920).Google Scholar
  23. Janoff, Alan. 2018. The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  24. Jeannerod, Marc. 2006. Motor Cognition: What Actions Tell the Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kelso, J.A.Scott. 1995. Dynamic Patterns. Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books/MIT Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kelso, J.A.Scott., and Armin Fuchs. 2016. The Coordination Dynamics of Mobile Conjugate Reinforcement. Biological Cybernetics 110: 41–53. Scholar
  27. Landgrebe, L. (1977). Phenomenology as Transcendental Theory of History, trans. J. Huertas-Jourda and R. Feige. In Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals, ed. P. McCormick and F. Elliston, 101–113. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  28. Laverack, M.S. 1976. External Proprioceptors. In Structure and Function of Proprioceptors in the Invertebrates, ed. P.J. Mill, 1–63. London: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  29. Lissman, H.W. 1950. Proprioceptors. In Physiological Mechanisms in Animal Behavior (Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology), vol. 4, 34–59. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Luria, A. R. (1966). Human Brain and Psychological Processes, trans. B. Haigh. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  31. Luria, A. R. (1973). The Working Brain: An Introduction to Neuropsychology, trans. B. Haigh. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  32. McNeill, David, Liesbet Quaeghebeur, and Susan Duncan. 2010. IW—‘The Man Who Lost His Body’. In Handbook of Phenomenology and Cognitive Science, ed. Shaun Gallagher and Daniel Schmicking, 519–543. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception, trans. C. Smith. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  34. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1963. The Structure of Behavior, trans. Alden L. Fisher. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  35. Nauta, Walle H., and Michael Feirtag. 1979. The Organization of the Brain. Scientific American 241(3): 88–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Noë, Alva. 2004. Action in Perception. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  37. Premack, David, and Guy Woodruff. 1978. Do Chimpanzees Have a Theory of Mind? The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4: 515–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sass, Louis. 2010. Phenomenology as Description and as Explanation: The Case of Schizophrenia. In Handbook of Phenomenology and Cognitive Science, ed. Shaun Gallagher and Daniel Schmicking, 635–654. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Scheerer, Eckart. 1987. Muscle Sense and Innervation Feelings: A Chapter in the History of Perception and Action. In Perspectives on Perception and Action, ed. Herbert Heuer and Andries F. Sanders. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  40. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 1979. On Movement and Objects in Motion. Journal of Aesthetic Education 13(2): 33–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 1999/exp. 2nd ed. 2011. The Primacy of Movement. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  42. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2006. Essential Clarifications of ‘Self-Affection’ and Husserl’s Sphere of Ownness: First Steps Toward a Pure Phenomenology of (Human) Nature. Continental Philosophy Review 39: 361–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2010a. Kinesthetic Experience: Understanding Movement Inside and Out. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy 5(2): 111–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2010b. Thinking in Movement: Further Analyses and Validations. In Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science, ed. J. Stewart, O. Gapenne, and E.A. Di-Paolo, 165–182. Cambridge: Bradford Book.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2012a. Kinesthetic Memory: Further Critical Reflections and Constructive Analyses. In Body Memory, Metaphor and Movement, ed. Sabine Koch, Thomas Fuchs, Michela Summa, and Cornelia Müller, 43–72. John Benjamins: Amsterdam/Philadelphia.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2012b. Fundamental and Inherently Interrelated Aspects of Animation. In Moving Ourselves, Moving Others: The Role of E(motion) for Intersubjectivity, Consciousness and Language, ed. Ad Foolen, Ulrike Ludtke, Jordan Zlatev, and Tim Racine, 29–55. John Benjamins: Amsterdam/Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  47. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2013. Movement as Way of Knowing. Scholarpedia 8(6): 30375. Scholar
  48. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2014. On the Origin, Nature, and Genesis of Habit. Phenomenology and Mind 6: 76–89.Google Scholar
  49. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2015. Embodiment on Trial: A Phenomenological Investigation. Continental Philosophy Review 48(1): 23–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2017a. In Praise of Phenomenology. Phenomenology and Practice 11(1): 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2017b. Husserlian Phenomenology and Darwinian Evolutionary Biology: Complementarities, Exemplifications, and Implications. Studia Phenomenologica 5: 19–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2017c. Agency: Phenomenological Insights and Dynamic Complementarities. The Humanistic Psychologist 45(1): 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2018. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology, and Psychopathology. In The Oxford Handbook of Phenomenological Psychopathology, ed. Giovanni Stanghellini, Andrea Raballo, Matthew Broome, Anthony Vincent Fernandez, Paolo Fusar-Poli, and René Rosfort. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  54. Sherrington, Sir Charles. 1953. Man on His Nature. New York: Doubleday Anchor.Google Scholar
  55. Sokolowski, Robert. 1974. Husserlian Meditations. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Stern, Daniel N. 1985. The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  57. von Uexküll, Jakob. 1957 [1934]. A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men, trans. Claire H. Schiller. In Instinctive Behavior, ed. Claire H. Schiller, 5–80. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  58. Whiten, A., and R.W. Byrne. 1988. Tactical Deception in Primates. The Behavioral and Brain Science 11: 233–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wright, B.R. 1976. Limb and Wing Receptors in Insects, Chelicerates and Myriapods. In Structure and Function of Proprioceptors in the Invertebrates, ed. P.J. Mill, 323–386. London: Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
  60. Zahavi, Dan. 1999. Self-Awareness and Alterity: A Phenomenological Investigation. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

Personalised recommendations