Body and Movement: Basic Dynamic Principles

  • Maxine Sheets-Johnstone


Embodiment is to the body as enaction is to movement.1 In each instance, the primary term of the analogy attempts to embrace an animate reality in a way compatible with the science or strand of philosophy being practiced. In each instance, however, the primary term is uncongenial to the basic reality it aims to capture and describe. The lack of fit is indirectly but substantively attested to by indices of books on embodiment and enaction: either no entry exists for the tactile-kinesthetic/affective body and kinesthesia or paltry entries exist. In effect, the foundational ontological and epistemological reality of life is missing: animation is nowhere on the map.2 The lack of fit and missing reality are furthermore attested to by the terms in which proprioception is discussed and the fact that a clear-cut distinction and substantive understanding of the difference between proprioception and kinesthesia is nowhere in evidence (see Sheets-Johnstone 1999 for more on this topic). Proprioception is, properly speaking, not a “matter of debate among philosophers” - seemingly, a matter of determining the correct answer to a multiple-choice question.3 Properly speaking, proprioception is a matter of all manner of bodily organs that sense movement and deformations, a primordial form of animate awareness that began its evolutionary career in surface recognition sensitivity - tactility in the service of movement - that evolved into different external sensors registering movement - chordotonal organs, hair plates, sensilla, cilia, and so on - and that, with the advent of internal bodily organs sensing movement through muscular effort, evolved into kinesthesia (Mill 1976; Laverack 1976; Wright 1976; Dorsett 1976; see Sheets-Johnstone 1999 for a close examination and study of the data). As is evident, proprioception is the broader term with respect to kinesthesia. It refers to a sense of movement and position that includes tactility and gravitational orientation through vestibular sensory organs as well as kinesthesia. As its etymology indicates, kinesthesia in its primary, that is, experiential, sense denotes an awareness of movement, hence an awareness of dynamics, hence an awareness of a qualitatively felt kinetic flow. The flow may be felt as smooth, expansive, abrupt, attenuated, jagged, linear, curved, constricted, slow, and so on, including any and all possible combinations as the flow unfolds. Given the inherent qualitative spatio-temporal-energic character of kinesthesia, it is hardly surprising that discussions of body and of movement that omit kinesthesia from their register omit the very stuff of life and the qualitative nature of that stuff. They omit animation.


Areal Pattern Coordination Dynamic Chordotonal Organ Qualitative Dynamic Primary Term 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maxine Sheets-Johnstone
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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