52nd Annual Cincinnati Philosophy Colloquium

Picture of flyer that says "Embodied Awareness" in the form on a tattoo on a persons back. It lists speakers at the University of Cincinnati

About the Colloquium

February 24 - 25, 2017
Taft Research Center (Edwards 1, Suite 1100)

The idea that human cognition fundamentally reflects the fact that we are animals who move our bodies through space is not new, but it has experienced a significant resurgence of late. But as this intellectual movement spreads, many larger unanswered questions remain. In particular, how do the peculiar human phenomena that humanists (and others!) prize fit with this perspective? How do things like conscious awareness, contemplative thought, inner dialogs, and daydreams, square with embodied cognition approaches? This conference seeks to explain how an embodied approach not only helps us understand conscious awareness but also, in explaining consciousness using an embodied approach, helps us understand other aspects of human existence, such as psychopathology and social interactions.

Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy 

Free and Open to the Public.

Program Schedule:


12:00-1:00    Welcome and Introduction/Buffet Lunch

The Science of Embodied Awareness

1:00-1:50     Lawrence Shapiro, "Embodiment and Awareness"

Abstract: As conscious beings, we are aware of many sorts of things: the colors and shapes in front of us, the sounds above us, the odors that surround us. But, perhaps most primitively, we are aware that we are embodied. In this talk I shall discuss what it means to be aware of being a body or of having a body. A number of psychological experiments suggest that questions about bodily awareness have no easy answers, and philosophers have disagreed about how to interpret a variety of empirical findings. I hope to clarify some of the main areas of controversy and defend a particular perspective on bodily awareness.

1:50-2:00    Patrick Nalepka (Psychology) Graduate Student Presenter
    Q&A and Open Discussion

2:45-3:35     Robert Wilson, "Being There in the Embodied Revolution: What Is (or Remains) To Be Done?"

Abstract: After reviewing some of the reductive tendencies that embodied approaches to the mind and cognition have resisted—for example, individualism, localization biases, intracranialism, eliminative and reductive views of phenomenology, and smallist metaphysics—this talk will discuss some recent and perhaps lesser known ongoing work on embodied awareness before turning to what remains more peripheral to the embodied revolution in the study of consciousness, awareness, and cognition.  Amongst published work I have in mind here are Jennifer Greenwood’s recent account of emotional development in her Becoming Human (2015) and Andrew Sneddon’s “wide systems” approach to moral psychology in his Like-Minded (2011).  I want to rely on the insights in such work to raise some questions about at least three further, related issues about embodied awareness and the research programs that embrace it: the normativity of conscious experience, some puzzles about first-person reports of experience from those deemed subnormal (e.g. historically, the “feebleminded” or “mentally deficient”), and political dimensions to embodied experience and its study. 

3:35-3:45    Ashley Walton (Psychology) Graduate Student Presenter
    Q&A and Open Discussion

4:30-5:20    Anthony Chemero, "Joint Experience"

Abstract: The basic anti-intellectualist position shared by embodied, enactive, and ecological cognitive scientists is that experiences is not things that happen to our brains, but, rather, are actions that we engage in, typically by moving our bodies.  Combining this anti-intellectualist position with the recent upsurge of experimental research on joint action leads one to wonder about the possibility of joint experiences.  In this talk, I will argue that groups of individuals engaging in joint action, at least sometimes, have experiences that the individual actors do not. 

5:20-5:50    Q&A and Open Discussion
6:30-8:30    Dinner for speakers


9:00-9:30    Light Breakfast

Disorders of Embodied Awareness

9:30-10:20    Michelle Maiese, "Getting Stuck: Affective Intentionality, Temporal Desituatedness, and Depression"

Abstract: The DSM-IV characterizes major depressive disorder partly in temporal terms: the depressive mood must last for at least two weeks, and also must impact the subject “most of the day, nearly every day.” The supposition that one distinguishing feature of depression is its temporal dimensions seems well-founded, but can more be said? From an enactivist perspective, a subject’s affective condition comprises “a form or structure of comportment” (Thompson, 2007) whereby she shapes her world into a meaningful domain. What I call ‘affective framing’ is a spontaneous, pre-reflective way of filtering and selecting information that allows subject to focus their attention on what matters to them. I will argue that affective framing ordinarily has a forward-looking temporal structure and a “teleological direction” that is rooted in our embodiment. However, depression involves a distortion in future-directed intentionality, so that a subject becomes temporally desituated and cut off from the future. This contributes to many of the characteristic symptoms of depression, including apparent lack of motivation, inability to imagine future possibilities, alterations in lived time, and a sense that one is “stuck.” To gain a better understanding of this disruption to the temporal structure of affective intentionality in cases of depression, I look to metaphors from complex dynamic systems theory and the notion of ‘habit.’ My proposed account aims to shed light on how a disruption to futural directedness impacts bodily attunement and reinforces depression as a long-term condition.

10:20-10:30    Christopher Parker (Philosophy) Graduate Student Respondent
10:30-11:00    Q&A and Open Discussion
11:00-11:15    Break

11:15-12:05    Valerie Hardcastle, "Predicting the Self: Lessons from Schizophrenia"

Abstract: Self-awareness is the kind of awareness that underlies our standard, first-personal attributions of conscious states and actions. Disturbances in self-awareness can intuitively seem quite strange, for, in its most basic form, it is a fundamental aspect of our conscious experiences.  This experience of a blue square is the experience that I am having now; I know this because I am the one having it. And yet, it appears that certain mental disorders, like schizophrenia, can give rise to that error quite regularly. Investigating these patients and their symptoms has been an important avenue in studying the nature of self, for it allows us to see where Nature’s joints are, as it were. Newly developed Bayesian perspectives on schizophrenia hold out the promise that a common underlying mechanism can account for many, if not all, of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. This presentation investigates this Bayesian promise by examining whether the approach can indeed account for the difficulties with self-awareness experienced in schizophrenia. While I conclude that it cannot, I nonetheless maintain that understanding how self-related properties break down in schizophrenia tells us much about how and why self-awareness functions in normal human circumstances.

12:05-12:15    Frank Faries (Philosophy) Graduate Student Respondent
12:15-12:45    Q&A and Open Discussion
12:45 - 2:00    Lunch (on own)

Social Cognition and Embodied Awareness

2:00-2:50    Shannon Spaulding, "How We Think and Act Together"

Abstract: In this paper, I examine the challenges socially extended mind pose for mainstream, individualistic accounts of social cognition. I argue that individualistic accounts of social cognition neglect phenomena important to social cognition that are properly emphasized by socially extended mind. Although I do not think the evidence or arguments warrant replacing individualistic explanations of social cognition with socially extended explanations, I argue that we have good reason to supplement our individualistic accounts so as to include the ways in which situational context affect social interactions. The result, I hope, is a more sophisticated individualism that offers a more comprehensive account of how we think and act together.

2:50-3:00    Sahar Heydari Fard (Philosophy) Graduate Student Respondent
Q&A and Open Discussion
3:30-3:45    Break

3:45-4:35    Donald F. Gustafson Memorial Lecture
        Albert Newen, "Embodied Awareness of Self and Other" 

Abstract: How can we best describe the phenomenon of self-consciousness? In recent naturalist theories of self-consciousness, most of them are representational and then the candidates to characterize a self are twofold: (i) the self is nothing but a representational content, while the content is either the content given by all self-relational phenomenal experiences (Metzinger's phenomenal self-model, Metzinger 2003, 2010), or the content is dtermined by the stories one tells about oneself (the narrative theory of self suggested by Dennett 1992, Hardcastle 2008). (ii) The alternative approach identifies the self with the representational vehicle, i.e. the self is nothing but a certain neural state (or bundle of neural states) producing self-relating thoughts (another eliminativist view, Churchlands). In all these cases the self-relating thoughts need not be seen as causally relevant since the content may be just without causal efficacy and the talk about the neural vehicle accepts the causal relevance of the vehicle but denies that the vehicle in any real sense is implementing the self. But our observations are such that self-relating thoughts seem to be one important source of motivation for human actions. How can we best account for it? A framework in which the self is characterized as an embodied human being while being a self-conscious person is realized by certain epistemic abilities and dispositions as part of the human body. An adequate description of self-consciousness presupposes an embodied cognitive system with certain epistemic abilities and dispositions which are causally shaping this cognitive system. After unfolding this embodied view investigating the phenomenon of self-consciousness it will be shortly discussed what these insights could mean for the phenomenon of understanding others.

4:35-4:45    Hannah Douglas (Psychology) Graduate Student Respondent
4:45-5:15    Q&A and Open Discussion
6:30-8:30    Dinner for speakers

Lunch on Friday and Breakfast on Saturday will be provided to all attendees. RSVP is requested to ensure meal accommodations.

Click Here for a Printable Schedule

The 52nd Annual Cincinnati Philosophy Colloquium is supported by the Department of Philosophy, the Taft Research CenterDepartment of PsychologyDepartment of AnthropologyUC Leaf and the Templeton Foundation New Directions in the Study of the Mind Project.