Tag Archives: bodily awareness

Aesthetics and the 4E mind Conference July 2016

Slides from my talk, Embodying Aesthetics through Proprioception


Philosophy as an Art of Living


Forthcoming in Mind, a review of two of Richard Shusterman’s books:

For philosophy to be fully relevant to our lives—as you will come to believe after reading Richard Shusterman’s books, Body Consciousness and Thinking Through the Body—it must speak to the flesh and blood, moving, breathing, feeling, thinking beings that we are. Philosophy, as Shusterman points out, often ignores the role of the body in our lives, yet, as he argues, since our bodies are “the fundamental, indispensable instrument or medium through which we perceive, act and live this life on earth,” it follows that “[i]f we wish to improve our lives…then one important way to do so would bShusterman thinking throughe to improve our understanding and mastery of our bodies” (2012 x). Because of this, philosophy as Shusterman practices it, is “an art of living” (2012, ix). (→ Philosophy as an Art of Living)

The Myth of ‘Just do it’: Thought and Effort in Expert Action

Selections from my upcoming book, The ‘Myth of just do it’: Though and Effort in Expert Action (preface, introduction, Ch. 1)

From the introduction:

Science, Richard Feynman once said, is the belief in the ignorance of experts. If so—though I wouldn’t put it in quite those words—then perhaps my project should be dubbed scientific, for it is my belief that a wide range of experts who have written about expertise have been mistaken. In particular, I believe that various psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists, and other experts on high-level performance have erroneously concluded that expert action proceeds best when the mind is relatively less active, when action occurs automatically, and when bodily movements are effortless. These expertise-experts, I believe, are wrong…

(→ to the book )

Does Bodily Awareness Interfere with Highly Skilled Movement?

Barbara Montero (2010). Does Bodily Awareness Interfere with Highly Skilled Movement? Inquiry53 (2):105 – 122.

Draft of Does bodily awareness interfere with highly skilled movement

Abstract. It is widely thought that focusing on highly skilled movements while performing them hinders their execution. Once you have developed the ability to tee off in golf, play an arpeggio on the piano, or perform a pirouette in ballet, attention to what your body is doing is thought to lead to inaccuracies, blunders, and sometimes even utter paralysis. Here I re-examine this view and argue that it lacks support when taken as a general thesis. Although bodily awareness may often interfere (…) with well-developed rote skills, like climbing stairs, I suggest that it is typically not detrimental to the skills of expert athletes, performing artists, and other individuals who endeavor to achieve excellence. Along the way, I present a critical analysis of some philosophical theories and behavioral studies on the relationship between attention and bodily movement, an explanation of why attention may be beneficial at the highest level of performance and an error theory that explains why many have thought the contrary. Though tentative, I present my view as a challenge to the widespread starting assumption in research on highly skilled movement that at the pinnacle of skill attention to one’s movement is detrimental.

Proprioception as an Aesthetic Sense

Barbara Montero (2006). Proprioception as an Aesthetic Sense. Journal Of Aesthetics And Art Criticism 64 (2):231-242.

The aesthetic senses are the senses by which we experience beauty, grace, and other aesthetic properties. Vision and hearing are commonly recognized as aesthetic senses, while smell, taste, and touch are not. Proprioception is the sense by which we acquire information about the positions and movements of our own bodies, via receptors in the joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and skin. My claim is that proprioception is an aesthetic sense and that one can make aesthetic judgments based on proprioceptive experience. I will argue that, just as one can deem a painting beautiful based on one’s visual experience of the painting, one can deem a certain movement beautiful based on one’s proprioceptive experience of the movement. In addition, I posit that in a certain sense an observer can proprioceive the beauty of another’s movement. Although this may sound surprising, I argue that recent discoveries about the function of mirror neurons—neurons that are activated both when one performs a task and when one sees that task performed—as well as other empirical studies illustrating that when seeing others move we kinesthetically represent their motion, support the case and potentially pave the way toward a third-person proprioceptive aesthetics.