The Enactive Philosophy of Embodiment: From Biological Foundations of Agency to the Phenomenology of Subjectivity

  • Mog StapletonEmail author
  • Tom Froese
Part of the Historical-Analytical Studies on Nature, Mind and Action book series (HSNA, volume 2)


Following the philosophy of embodiment of Merleau-Ponty, Jonas and others, enactivism is a pivot point from which various areas of science can be brought into a fruitful dialogue about the nature of subjectivity. In this chapter we present the enactive conception of agency, which, in contrast to current mainstream theories of agency, is deeply and strongly embodied. In line with this thinking we argue that anything that ought to be considered a genuine agent is a biologically embodied (even if distributed) agent, and that this embodiment must be affectively lived. However, we also consider that such an affective agent is not necessarily also an agent imbued with an explicit sense of subjectivity. To support this contention we outline the interoceptive foundation of basic agency and argue that there is a qualitative difference in the phenomenology of agency when it is instantiated in organisms which, due to their complexity and size, require a nervous system to underpin their physiological and sensorimotor processes. We argue that this interoceptively grounded agency not only entails affectivity but also forms the necessary basis for subjectivity.


Agency Autonomy Affectivity Embodiment Enactivism Interoception Phenomenology Subjectivity 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für PhilosophieUniversität StuttgartStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Philosophy of Neuroscience (PONS) Group, Centre for Integrative NeuroscienceUniversity of TuebingenTuebingenGermany
  3. 3.Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en SistemasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  4. 4.Centro de Ciencias de la ComplejidadUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico

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