is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology of the University of Exeter (UK). She works on the philosophy of embodied and enactive cognition, as well as on emotion and affective science. She is currently Principal Investigator for a project titled “Emoting the Embodied Mind,” funded by the European Research Council. She is the author of several papers and chapters on emotion and embodiment, co-editor (with Evan Thompson) of a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies (2005) on emotion experience and author of The Feeling Body: Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind (MIT Press, forthcoming).
Open peer commentary on the article “Kaleidoscope of Pain: What and How Do You See Through It” by Maja Smrdu. Abstract: We agree with Smrdu that pain cannot be reduced to a neurophysiological event and we welcome a (micro-)phenomenological investigation of pain experience. However, we do not think such an investigation can provide sufficient support for either a 5E theory of pain, or (just) an enactive one. A 5E theory of pain would require a clarification of how the 5Es fit together. An enactive account would require a “circulation” between first- and third-person data.
Colombetti G. (2007) Enactive appraisal. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 6: 527–546. https://cepa.info/775
Emotion theorists tend to separate “arousal” and other bodily events such as “actions” from the evaluative component of emotion known as “appraisal.” This separation, I argue, implies phenomenologically implausible accounts of emotion elicitation and personhood. As an alternative, I attempt a reconceptualization of the notion of appraisal within the so-called “enactive approach.” I argue that appraisal is constituted by arousal and action, and I show how this view relates to an embodied and affective notion of personhood. Relevance: It proposes an enactive conceptualization of the phenomenon of appraisal.
Colombetti G. (2010) Enaction, sense-making and emotion. In: Stewart J., Gapenne O. & Di Paolo E. A. (eds.) Enaction: toward a new paradigm for cognitive science. MIT Press, Cambridge MA: 145–164. https://cepa.info/779
The theory of autopoiesis is central to the enactive approach. Recent works emphasize that the theory of autopoiesis is a theory of sense-making in living systems, i.e., of how living systems produce and consume meaning. In this chapter I first illustrate (some aspects of) these recent works, and interpret their notion of sense-making as a bodily cognitive-emotional form of understanding. Then I turn to modern emotion science, and I illustrate its tendency to over-intellectualize our capacity to evaluate and understand. I show that this over-intellectualization goes hand in hand with the rejection of the idea that the body is a vehicle of meaning. I explain why I think that this over-intellectualization is problematic, and try to reconceptualize the notion of evaluation in emotion theory in a way that is consistent and continuous with the autopoietic notion of sense-making. Relevance: It links emotion theory and the enactive notion of sense-making.
Colombetti G. (2013) Psychopathology and the enactive mind. In: Fulford K. W. M., Davies M., Gipps R. G. T., Graham G., Sadler J. Z., Stanghellini G. & Thornton T. (eds.) The Oxford handbook of philosophy and psychiatry. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1083–1102.
Excerpt: there are various common threads between the enactive approach, and current trends and practices in psychopathology. These common threads depend mainly on the fact that both the enactive approach and psychopathology have “phenomenological connections”; as such, they both value lived experience, emphasize the bodily and situated character of the mind, and the fact that what is constructed as salient depends constitutively on the organism’s structure, interests, and goals. To be aware of these commonalities is important to generate further ideas and methods. For example, an enactive neurophenomenological approach could be explicitly adopted to explore whether and how experience and neurophysiological processes correlate in mental disorders; also, emphasizing the complexity of the mutual relations of brain, body, and world, as enactivism does, can provide reasons within psychopathology as to why mental illness should not be reduced to neurochemical impairments, and as to why alternative forms of treatment such as bodily practices should be considered equivalent to drug-based therapy.
Colombetti G. (2013) Some Ideas for the Integration of Neurophenomenology and Affective Neuroscience. Constructivist Foundations 8(3): 288–297. https://constructivist.info/8/3/288
Context: Affective neuroscience has not developed first-person methods for the generation of first-person data. This neglect is problematic, because emotion experience is a central dimension of affectivity. Problem: I propose that augmenting affective neuroscience with a neurophenomenological method can help address long-standing questions in emotion theory, such as: Do different emotions come with unique, distinctive patterns of brain and bodily activity? How do emotion experience, bodily feelings and brain and bodily activity relate to one another? Method: This paper is theoretical. It advances ideas for integrating neurophenomenology and affective neuroscience, and explains how this integration would allow progress on the above questions. Results: An integrated “affective neuro-physio-phenomenology” may help scientists understand whether discrete emotion categories come in different experiential varieties, which would in turn help interpret concomitant brain and bodily activity. It may also help investigate the bodily nature of emotion experience, including how experience relates to actual brain and bodily activity. Implications: If put into practice, the ideas advanced here would enrich the scientific study of emotion experience and more generally further our understanding of the relationship of consciousness and physical activity. The paper is speculative and its ideas need to be implemented to bear fruit. Constructivist content: This paper argues in favor of the neurophenomenological method, which is an offshoot of enactivism.
This book takes ideas from the enactive approach developed over the last twenty years in cognitive science and philosophy of mind and applies them for the first time to affective science – the study of emotions, moods, and feelings. Colombetti argues that enactivism entails a view of cognition as not just embodied but also intrinsically affective, and she elaborates on the implications of this claim for the study of emotion in psychology and neuroscience. In the course of her discussion, the author focuses on long-debated issues in affective science, including the notion of basic emotions, the nature of appraisal and its relationship to bodily arousal, the place of bodily feelings in emotion experience, the neurophysiological study of emotion experience, and the bodily nature of our encounters with others. Relevance: The author draws on enactivist tools such as dynamical systems theory, the notion of the lived body, neurophenomenology, and phenomenological accounts of empathy.
Colombetti G. (2017) Enactive affectivity, extended. Topoi 36(3): 445–455. https://cepa.info/5681
In this paper I advance an enactive view of affectivity that does not imply that affectivity must stop at the boundaries of the organism. I first review the enactive notion of “sense-making”, and argue that it entails that cognition is inherently affective. Then I review the proposal, advanced by Di Paolo (Topoi 28:9–21, 2009), that the enactive approach allows living systems to “extend”. Drawing out the implications of this proposal, I argue that, if enactivism allows living systems to extend, then it must also allow sense-making, and thus cognition as well as affectivity, to extend – in the specific sense of allowing the physical processes (vehicles) underpinning these phenomena to include, as constitutive parts, non-organic environmental processes. Finally I suggest that enactivism might also allow specific human affective states, such as moods, to extend.
In this paper I argue that it is misleading to regard the brain as the physical basis or “core machinery” of moods. First, empirical evidence shows that brain activity not only influences, but is in turn influenced by, physical activity taking place in other parts of the organism (such as the endocrine and immune systems). It is therefore not clear why the core machinery of moods ought to be restricted to the brain. I propose, instead, that moods should be conceived as embodied, i.e., their physical basis should be enlarged so as to comprise not just brain but also bodily processes. Second, I emphasise that moods are also situated in the world. By this I do not simply mean that moods are influenced by the world, but that they are complexly interrelated with it, in at least three different ways: they are shaped by cultural values and norms; they are materially and intersubjectively “scaffolded”; and they can even “experientially incorporate” parts of the world, i.e., include the experience of parts of the world as part of oneself.
Colombetti G. & Thompson E. (2005) Enacting emotional interpretations with feeling. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28(2): 200–201.
This commentary makes three points: (1) There may be no clear-cut distinction between emotion and appraisal “constituents” at neural and psychological levels. (2) The microdevelopment of an emotional interpretation contains a complex microdevelopment of affect. (3) Neurophenomenology is a promising research program for testing Lewis’s hypotheses about the neurodynamics of emotion-appraisal amalgams.
Colombetti G. & Thompson E. (2008) The feeling body: Towards an enactive approach to emotion. In: W. F. Overton, U. Müller & J. Newman (eds.) Developmental perspectives on embodiment and consciousness. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale NY: 45–68. https://cepa.info/777
Our aim in this chapter is to bring emotion theory and the embodied view of cognition closer to each other. We first present an overview of classical (pre-Jamesian) theories of emotion and show that they were all psychosomatic. We then turn to the disembodied stance of cognitivism and trace how and why emotion theory came to lose the body. We argue that cognitivism not only neglected the body, but also tended to classify previous theories of emotion as either cognitive or physiological. This tendency has fostered a tension between these two features of emotion that exists to this day. The main manifestation of this tension in current emotion theory is the tendency to see cognitive and bodily processes as separate aspects or constituents of emotions. Finally, in the remainder of the article, we sketch an embodied approach to emotion, drawing especially on the “enactive approach” in cognitive science. Relevance: It develops ideas for an enactive approach to emotion.