Embodied Action & Enaction


  • embodied action

embodied: cognition depends upon the kinds of experience that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities and that these individual sensorimotor capacities are themselves embedded in a more encompassing biological, psychological and cultural context/ action: sensory and motor processes, perception and action, are fundamentally inseparable in lived cognition.

  • enaction

it consists of two points: a. perception consists in perceptually guided action (how the perceiver can can guide his actions in his local situation) and b. cognitive structures emerge from the recurrent sensorimotor patterns that enable action to be perceptually guided (since the situations an individual is found in constantly change, the reference point for understanding perception is no longer a pregiven, but the sensorimotor structure of the perceiver-the way in which the nervous system links sensory and motor surfaces). The overall concern for the enactive approach to perception is to determine the common principles or lawful linkages between sensory and motor systems.


The properties of the object and the intentions of the subject . . . are not only intermingled; they also constitute a new whole (…) Since all the movements of the organism are always conditioned by external influences, one can, if one wishes, readily treat behavior as an effect of the milieu. But in the same way, since all the stimulations which the organism receives have in tum been possible only by its preceding movements which have culminated in exposing the receptor organ to external influences, one could also say that behavior is the first cause of all the stimulations.


The laws of cognitive gevelopment, even at the sensorimotor stage, are an assimilation of and an accommodation to that pregiven world.

One of the most fundamental cognitive activities that all organisms perform is categorization. By this means the uniqueness of each experience is transformed into the more limited set of learned, meaningful categories to which humans and other organisms respond (…) In the enactive view, although mind and world arise together in enaction, their manner of arising in any particular situation is not arbitrary (…) The basic level of categorization appears to be the point at which cognition and environment become simultaneously enacted.


kinesthetic image schemas: for example, the container schema, the part-whole schema, and the source-path-goal schema



Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch, 1993. The embodied mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, MIT Press, pp. 172-180

Image available here

The Walkshops


Many of the routines and standard practices of academic life do little to actively explore and experiment with the structure of working environments, spaces and relationships thus the social and ethical aspects of modern science. They do even less to address the importance of contextual and embodied dimensions of thinking (…) Through walkshops, we have spent several days walking together with our colleagues and students in open outdoor spaces, keeping a sustained intellectual discussion on ethical aspects of science, technology and innovation while moving through these landscapes (…) The value of both using the outdoors and walking as a way to stimulate reflective thinking have been appreciated and documented in various fields: Aristotle/Rousseau/ Heidegger/Human Geographers/ etc (…) What the move from the indoors to the outdoors or from the campus to the mountains offers for us is rather an altered nature/culture dynamic, different materialities, and a change in degree, going from a relatively static, controlled, secure environment to a more varied, dynamic and challenging terrain (…) More concretely, the value that we have experienced using this approach includes: the ability to use the materiality of a landscape as a tool for facilitating reflection, the capacity to productively alter social dynamics through enabling embodied encounters and challenging existing hierarchies, and the power to alter established patterns of thought through the combination of unmediated outdoor experiences with different social dynamics.



Fern Wickson, Roger Strand, Kamilla Lein Kjolberg, 2015. The Walkshop Approach to Science and Technology Ethics. In Sci Eng Ethics (2015) 21:241–264, DOI 10.1007/s11948-014-9526-z

Image taken form the walkshop implemented in June 2016 for NTUA postgraduate course ‘Methodological Tools of Analysis for Creating Strategies of Integral Urban Interventions’ in collaboration to the Urban Emptiness Network.