The Deep Embodied Roots of Education

Bidragets oversatte titel: (Ud)dannelsens dybe kropslige rødder

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper/skriftligt oplægForskningpeer review


Meno’s paradox pose a challenge to all theories of human development, learning and education. In its core, the paradox is about how knowledge can arise from a situation, where it is not present. This paradox is a close cousin of the myth of the given [1]. The myth is, that anything with meaning is grounded on some basic meanings that is given to the mind. Rationalists adheres to a version where ideas are innate, whereas empiricists adhere to a version where the givens are delivered to the mind in sense experience.
An understanding of the deep roots of learning should enable us to see how the cognitive friction of pragmatic interaction with the world is the basis of all knowledge and learning that does not involve any kinds of “givens”. Instead, our understanding is built on a purely causal basis. The task is, in Sellarsean terms, to construct a stereoscopic understanding of learning that includes a “space of causes” and a “space of reasons” [1]. The two spaces are possible to deal with in isolation, but the real challenge is to fuse the two perspectives on leaning into one coherent picture.
Recently, approaches to education and learning, inspired by the anti-representational approach of enactivism, have gained traction, e.g. [2, 3]. The problem with anti-representational approaches is that the medium or vehicle of learning often is supposed to be a kind of habituation. Such an approach, however, leads to an intractability with respect to connecting behavior and habit with reason and reflection.
This is essential to educational matters. If what is learned embodied and embedded by definition is bound to the very embodied and embedded practices of the learning situation [4, 5], then it is difficult to legitimize embodied learning in formal educational, where understanding through conceptual reflection is the overall purpose [6, 7].
Instead of joining enactivism in rejecting representations altogether at the lowest level of learning and cognition, this paper follows Mark Bickhard [8] and Wilfred Sellars [9, 10, 11] in their pragmatic approach to cognition. They propose conceptions of representation in which representations are not of how the world is, but of potentialities for interactions with the environment.
Building on an Sellars’ and Bickhard’s idea of a special kind of ur-representations, this paper presents a view on education and learning where embodied and enactive processes occupies a constitutive role in education and learning.
[1] Sellars, W. (1997). Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge, Mapp.: Harvard University Prepp.
[2] Hutto, D. D. & Abrahamson, D. (2020/in print). Embodied, Enactive Education: Conservative versus Radical Approaches. In: Sheila L. Macrine and Jennifer Fugate (Eds). Movement Matters: How Embodied Cognition Informs Teaching and Learning. Mapp: MIT Prepp
[3] Gallagher, S. (2018). Educating the Right Stuff: Lessons in Enactivist Learning. Educational Theory. 68, (pp. 625-641)
[4] Frølund, S. (2013). Situeret læring—situeret uvidenhed? Kognition & Pædagogik, 23, 88 (pp. 48-61)
[5] Shusterman, R. (2005). The Silent, Limping Body of Philsophy. In T. Carman & M. B. N. Hansen (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Merleau-Ponty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (pp. 151-180)
[6] Green, T. F. (1964). Teaching, acting and behaving. Harvard Educational Review, 34, 4 (pp. 507–524)
[8] Bickhard, M. H. (2009) The interactivist model. Synthese, 166 (pp. 547-591)
[9] Sellars, W. (1960). Being and Being Known. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Appociation, 28–49.
[10] Sellars, W. (1981a). Mental Events. Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, 39(4), 325-345.
[11] Sellars, W. (1981b). Foundations for a Metaphysics of Pure Process: The Carus Lectures of Wilfrid Sellars, The Monist, 64,1
Bidragets oversatte titel(Ud)dannelsens dybe kropslige rødder
Publikationsdato24 aug. 2022
StatusUdgivet - 24 aug. 2022
BegivenhedEuropean Conference on Educational Research 2022: Education in a Changing World: The impact of global realities on the prospects and experiences of educational research - Yerevan State University, Yerevan, Armenien
Varighed: 21 sep. 202123 sep. 2021


KonferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research 2022
LokationYerevan State University


  • uddannelse
  • embodied education
  • philsophy of education