The Embodiment of Conscious Subjects Workshop

Satellite workshop of GAP.11 on the embodiment of conscious subjects will be held September 16 2022, organised by Humboldt University

Location: Humboldt University, Seminar Building at Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstr. 24


This workshop aims to connect recent work on embodiment (embodied cognition, the sense of owning one’s own body) with the metaphysical question of embodiment: what is it, metaphysically speaking, for a conscious subject to be embodied?
If you are interested in joining us, please email Donnchadh O’Conaill ([email protected]).


Barry Dainton (University of Liverpool) ‘Grades of Embodiment’
I take selves to be subjects of consciousness, and subjects of consciousness to consist of collections of capacities for experience. When developing this theory in The Phenomenal Self (2008) I devoted a chapter to embodiment, and argued there that embodiment has several aspects or strands, and can exist in different forms or grades. After outlining this account and some of its consequences I will move on to explore some new questions. What sort of embodiment can subjects existing in virtual worlds enjoy? What can octopuses teach us about embodiment?

Carlota Serrahima (Universitat de Barcelona) ‘Psychological Immunity, Bodily Ownership, and Vice Versa’
There are at least two forms of self-consciousness that philosophers of subjectivity are worried about. On the one hand, that typically made explicit in self-attributions of phenomenally conscious experiences, on the grounds of the subject’s phenomenal awareness of these experiences. We can call it psychological self-consciousness. On the other hand, that typically made explicit in self-attributions of a body, on the grounds of the subject’s somatosensory experience of this body. We can call it bodily self-consciousness. In turn, one epistemic phenomenon said to concern both forms of self-consciousness is immunity to error through misidentification relative to the first-person (IEM). In this paper, I address bodily IEM. First, I lay out a view according to which bodily self-consciousness partly results from psychological self-consciousness — in particular, from the subject’s typical self-attribution of her bodily sensations. Second, I show how this view defines bodily sensations as the kind of grounds that grant the IEM of bodily self-ascriptions. Finally, I show that the difference, sometimes identified in the literature, between the modal force of psychological and bodily IEM, is due to differences in our metaphysical concepts: in particular, in our concepts of owning, respectively, experiences and bodies.

Adrian J. T. Alsmith (Kings College London) ‘Embodiment and Flexible Self-Conceptions’
This paper will examine the relationship between three claims to be found in the literature on self-consciousness: (i) when one employs the self-concept in thought, that thought is guaranteed to refer to oneself; (ii) one’s pattern of use of the self-concept leaves open what kind of thing one is; and (iii) bodily experience is a source of self-consciousness. It will consider readings of each claim according to which they are jointly in tension, and provide reasons for supporting a reading of claim (ii) which might resolve the tension.

Brentyn Ramm (Witten/Herdecke University) ‘First-Person Embodiment: The Body in Consciousness’
The notion of the ‘embodiment’ of the conscious subject, when taken literally, suggests that the subject is either metaphysically ‘in’ the body or just is the body. This is to take a third-person view upon the subject. But is this how subjects actually experience themselves? As part of a phenomenological interview about their first-person perspective, I asked 20 participants to engage in visual and bodily awareness exercises. Subjects reported that they needed to either move, touch things (interact with objects in some way) or touch themselves to feel individually definable body parts in detail and their precise shape (e.g., individual toes, fingers, the shape of their face etc.). Their bodily experience was described as vague, blobby and fragmentary. While many did describe a definite sense of being bounded by their body, others described being the witness of the bodily sensations (a kind of ‘out of body’ experience). My hypothesis is that there are then at least two possible modes of conscious embodiment. The first being the ordinary experience of embodiment – that one is bounded by their body, particularly when bodily experience is filled in by imagination and memory. The second is that the body is in the field of consciousness (which I take to be the conscious subject). I suggest that the latter has advantages over the former as an account of embodiment. I also discuss why I take this conception of the conscious subject’s embodiment to be compatible with the tenets of embodied cognition (at least as a causal-functional framework), even lending support to each other in some interesting ways.