BSP Podcast: Danielle Petherbridge & Natalia Burakowska on Dementia

podcast update

This episode sees Burakowska & Petherbridge outline ‘An Embodied-Cognitive Approach to Dementia’. A paper from our 2020 conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology’.

Season 5 episode 103: 6 March 2021

This episode of Season 5 of the BSP Podcast features Natalia Burakowska & Danielle Petherbridge. Dr. Petherbridge is Assistant Professor in the School of Philosophy at University College Dublin; and Burakowska is a PhD student in Philosophy at University College Dublin. The presentation is taken from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online.

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Natalia Burakowska & Danielle Petherbridge
‘An Embodied-Cognitive Approach to Dementia’

ABSTRACT: Dementia is a complex disease that is most often framed in terms of diminished cognitive capacity or neurodegeneration, together with assumptions about the loss of personhood, memory and communication skills. As a consequence, forms of dementia assessment and care are often based on a cognitive account of personhood and framed in terms of cognitive and linguistic capacities. One of the central arguments of this paper is that such accounts of personhood are one-sided and neglect the important embodied dimensions of persons both as subjects in the world and in their interactions with others. More significantly, drawing specifically on phenomenology, the research constructs an embodied-cognitive account of dementia that offers new insights not only into the lived experience of persons with dementia but also alternative forms of care. The paper begins by examining the appropriateness of an account of empathy in encounter with persons with dementia before investigating the importance of dynamic engagement that can give rise to embodied and relational capabilities and forms of communication. This has significant ramifications for forms of interaction and care, as well as existing policies, medical attitudes and diagnosis of dementia. Our aim in this paper is to: (a) offer an embodied-cognitive approach to dementia drawing on a phenomenology; (b) provide an account of the lived experience of persons with dementia that in turn informs policy and care; (c) explore alternative forms of expressivity and personhood informed by a phenomenological approach. This research offers an important phenomenological alternative to current research on dementia with implications for the understanding of dementia, as well as diagnosis and methods of care.


Dr. Petherbridge is Assistant Professor in the School of Philosophy at University College Dublin and Deputy-Director of the UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life. Previously Dr. Petherbridge was an IRC Marie-Curie fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University, New York. Her primary research interests include the relation between perception, attention and affect; theories of intersubjectivity in phenomenology and social philosophy as well as embodied-cognitive approaches to illness. She is PI of a research project on embodied-cognitive accounts of dementia being undertaken in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.

Natalia Burakowska is a PhD student in Philosophy at University College Dublin. She works in the areas of phenomenology, philosophy of mind and applied philosophy. Her doctoral work is focused on a phenomenological approach to dementia that conceptualizes it as both a cognitive and bodily condition, taking account of the lived experience of dementia, vulnerability and forms of ethical responsiveness and care.

This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone.

Our 2021 event is an online international conference between the National University of Ireland Galway / Ollscoil Na Héireann Gaillimh, The Irish Philosophical Society / Cumann Fealsúnachta Na Héireann, and the British Society for Phenomenology: 1 – 3 September. The call for papers is open now.

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?