Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 95–110 | Cite as

Thinking-is-moving: dance, agency, and a radically enactive mind

  • Michele Merritt


Recently, in cognitive science, the enactivist account of cognition has been gaining ground, due in part to studies of movement in conjunction with thought. The idea, as Noë (2009), has put it, that “cognition is not something happening inside us or to us, but it’s something we do, something we achieve,” is increasingly supported by research on joint attention, movement coordination, and gesture. Not surprisingly, therefore, enactivists have also begun to look at “movement specialists”—dancers—for both scientific and phenomenological accounts of thinking with and through movement. In this paper, I argue that a serious exploration of dance and movement does not merely bolster the enactivist view, but rather, it suggests a radical enactivism, as envisaged by, e.g., Hutto (2011). To support this claim, I examine an account of “Thinking in Movement” provided by Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (1981, 2009) in order to highlight the ways in which intentional agency and meaning-making occur in improvisational dance. These processes, I further argue, closely mirror some of the key components of participatory sense making, as described by De Jaegher and Di Paolo (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 6(4):485–507, 2007). This is beneficial to my case, because it permits a discussion of “thought-full action” that does not depend upon standard cognitivist frameworks for explanation. By carefully focusing on how agency can help to separate mere “thrashing about” from meaningful movement, this paper aim to strengthen the position of radical enactivism from the unique perspective and dance and sense-making.


Dance Movement Radical enactivism Agency Sense-making Gesture Embodiment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English and PhilosophyArkansas State UniversityJonesboroUSA

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