The Feeling BodyAffective Science Meets the Enactive Mind

The Feeling BodyAffective Science Meets the Enactive Mind

Giovanna Colombetti

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780262019958

Publisher: The MIT Press


In this book I conceptualize various affective phenomena from the perspective of the “enactive” approach in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. I begin by arguing that affectivity is not a contingent psychological faculty, but an essential and pervasive dimension of our embodied existence, and more broadly of all living organisms (chapter 1). I then turn to existing affective-scientific accounts of the emotions (basic emotion theory, psychological constructionist approaches, the component process model), emphasising some of their main limitations (chapter 2), and then offering an enactive alternative that draws on dynamical systems theory and characterizes all emotional episodes as self-organizing patterns of the whole organism (chapter 3). Chapter 4 addresses the notion of “appraisal”, highlighting and criticizing the widespread assumption that appraisal is an entirely brain-based cognitive process. In line with the enactive approach, I then reconceptualize appraisal as a thoroughly embodied and enactive phenomenon. Chapter 5 pays special attention to the phenomenology of affectivity, distinguishing various ways in which we feel our body when we experience emotions. In chapter 6 I turn to neuroscience, and in line with the “neurophenomenological” approach favoured by enactivism, I argue that an adequate neuroscientific account of emotion needs to integrate methods for the collection of data about brain and bodily activity with methods for the collection of data about experience. Finally, in chapter 7 I discuss the place of affectivity in intersubjectivity, distinguishing different ways in which we feel others (in empathy, sympathy, intimacy, etc.), and using these distinctions to make sense of empirical evidence of how our bodies respond to the physical presence of other people.