Embodied Cognition, Habit, and Natural Agency in Hegel’s Anthropology

Part of the Palgrave Handbooks in German Idealism book series (PHGI)


The aim of this chapter is to show that the focal notion in Hegel’s approach to ‘embodiment’ (Verleiblichung) is that of ‘habit’ (Gewohnheit), and that the philosophical outcome of the Anthropology is that habit, understood as a sensorimotor life form, is not only an enabling condition for there to be mindedness, but is more strongly an ontological constitutive condition of all its levels of manifestation. Moreover, the author argues that Hegel’s approach somehow makes a model of embodied cognition available which offers a unified account of the three main senses of embodiment understood as both a physiological, a functional, and a phenomenological process. In this sense, the author shows that Hegel’s approach to habit can make a useful contribution to the contemporary debate about philosophy of mind, the cognitive sciences, and action theory. For a long time, habit in 20th century philosophy and science has been mostly read in a negative way, identified with mechanical and repetitive routine. The reconstruction of Hegel’s approach is particularly relevant here and can fruitfully contribute to this discussion, since it offers us not only a model that assigns to habit a positive constitutive role in the formation of embodied human mindedness but which also overcomes the dualism between habitual motor routine and intentional activities that is prevalent nowadays in the cognitive sciences and in action theory, and allows for some sense of natural agency as belonging to animal life. Furthermore, Hegel’s approach cuts across the great divide between associationist and holistic approaches to habit that has for a long time dominated the philosophical debate on habit and still shapes the current opposition between classical cognitive science and embodied cognitive science.


Habit Agency Embodied cognition Intentionality Extended mind Freedom Naturalism Mindedness Anthropology Life 4E cognition Self-organization 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ParmaParmaItaly

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