Saturday, October 29, 2022

International Conference on Embodied Cognitive Science, November 7-11, Okinawa

There will be a full-fledged onsite conference on embodied cognition in a week.

at OIST, Okinawa, Japan

I've just started to prepare for my talk titled "Embodied cognitive revolution behind the “sapient paradox”" 

Sapient Paradox is a question formulated by Colin Renfrew in his 1996 paper, pointing out that there is a big temporal gap between the accomplishment of human evolution in anatomical senses and the manifestation of human cognitive capabilities in civilizations. In fact, human evolution in a biological sense was accomplished some 60,000 years ago (or as long as 200,000 years ago when the Sapiens appeared), but human civilization first appeared 12000-10000 years ago. If there is such a gap, there should be an account on human cognitive capacities that prepared for the formation of early civilization, which involved the development of sedentism, stock rearing, and agriculture. My talk deals with this problem from the perspective of embodied cognition.

See you soon in Okinawa,

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Upcoming Event: "Embodied Spirituality" (September 23rd)

We are going to hold an online symposium on September 23rd. 

Tokai University Online Symposium

"Embodied Spirituality: Meditation practices in the contemporary world"

September 23rd, 2022, 10:00 - 12:00 CET / 17:00 - 19:00 JST

All those who are interested in embodiment and spirituality are welcome. Please follow the link below and register your name and e-mail address. You will get the webinar link after the registration.


My talk is titled "On the spiritual dimension of embodied experiences." Though I have not finished preparing for my talk yet, my main idea is very simple: Our bodily experiences such as sports and dance inherently have spiritual dimensions. Are you interested? Please join us!



Sunday, October 10, 2021

Saving the previous page: Embodied Knowledge

As I restarted the blog as my personal website, the previous pages were closed. I save the page "Embodied Knowledge" as follows:


Embodied Knowledge

Embodied knowledge is a type of knowledge where the body knows how to act.

A simple and general example is riding a bicycle. Most of us know how to ride a bicycle, and we are able to do it without any deliberation. There is no need to verbalize or represent in the mind all the procedures required. The knowledge seems to be imprinted in one’s body. The knowing-subject here is the body itself, not the mind. Or more precisely, the knowing subject is the minded-body or embodied-mind.

The notion of embodied knowledge is derived from the phenomenology of the French philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961). In Phenomenology of Perception (1945/1962), referring to knowing how to touch type, he explains it as follows:

To know how to touch type is not, then, to know the place of each letter among the keys, nor even to have acquired a conditioned reflex for each one, which is set in motion by the letter as it comes before our eye. If habit is neither a form of knowledge nor an involuntary action, what then is it? It is knowledge in the hands, which is forthcoming only when bodily effort is made, and cannot be formulated in detachment from that effort.
[Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945/1962). Phenomenology of Perception, Routledge, p.144.]

What Merleau-Ponty described as 'knowledge in the hands' is the particular type of knowledge which is not distinctly explicit, conscious, mentally representative, or articulated. It is, however, well known by the body or through the body, when it is practiced. The knowledge of how to touch type is just lived by the hands or by the body. Merleau-Ponty also refers to it as 'knowledge bred of familiarity' (savoir de familiarité). This is the original source of embodied knowledge.

Embodied knowledge is similar in concept to the procedural knowledge (as contrasted with declarative knowledge) of cognitive science, which can be better presented by performance than by verbal explanation. However, in contrast to the ideas of Merleau-Ponty, in mainstream cognitive science Cartesian mind-body dualism (and the reduction of mind to brain which derived from it) is still dominant, and the embodied nature of this knowledge seems to be overlooked. For example, Raymond Gibbs states:

One of the traditional beliefs in the cognitive science is that intelligent behavior, including the ability to perceive, think, and use language, need not arise from any specific bodily form. Thermostats, computers, robots, and brains in vats may all, under the right circumstances, exhibit sophisticated cognitive skills.
[Gibbs, R. W. (2006). Embodiment and Cognitive Science. Cambridge U. P., p.2]

This tradition has not fully changed yet, although there exists many embodied approaches today.

Descartes, with his famous methodological skepticism, separated mind and body, and at the same time rejected any knowledge that could be doubted. Thus, in the Cartesian world-view, the knowing-subject, which certain knowledge belongs to, is only the mind. The body is a mere known-object. There is no place for any 'embodied' knowledge.

What I propose as the embodied knowledge is not constituted upon such dualism. For the mind, it is not apparent as knowledge since it is not clearly represented; nevertheless, we experience it with certainty through our own body. It is not confined only to the motor skills, but is concerned with the variety of human experiences which occur within the Lifeworld (Lebenswelt).

For the detail, please refer to;

Saving the previous page: Intercorporeality

As I restarted the blog as my personal website, the previous pages were closed. I save the page "Intercorporeality" as follows: 


Intercorporeality is a notion proposed by Merleau-Ponty that enables us to illuminate social cognition in an alternative way, by focusing on the relation between one's own body and that of the other.

Please remember the experience of contagious yawning. In everyday life, it is a common experience that we cannot help yawning when we see someone else yawn (Interestingly enough, it has been pointed out that children with autism show difficulty with contagious yawning). The other example is smiling. Generally speaking, smiling is not as contagious as yawning. However, when we come upon someoneʼs smiling face, we feel that the muscles around our mouth are about to make the same facial expression, even if we do not actually smile.

As is seen in these examples, intercorporeality contains a perception-action loop between self and other. Perceiving the otherʼs action prompts the same action in the self (like yawning) or its possibility (like smiling). Conversely, the selfʼs action prompts the same action, or its possibility, in the otherʼs body.

“In perceiving the other, my body and his are coupled, resulting in a sort of action which pairs them. This conduct which I am able only to see, I live somehow from a distance. I make it mine; I recover it or comprehend it. Reciprocally I know that the gestures I make myself can be the objects of anotherʼs intention.”
(Merleau-Ponty, 1951/1964, The Child's Relations with Others (W. Cobb trans.), p. 118.)

In terms of social cognition, through this reciprocity between bodies, we directly grasp the intention of anotherʼs action. For the self, to perceive anotherʼs action is potentially to take up the same action. It is through our motor capacity that we understand the meanings of the otherʼs action. Our basic ability to understand others is perceptual, sensorimotor, and non-conceptual. It developmentally (and also theoretically) precedes the cognitive capacity known as "theory of mind."

For the detail, please refer to;

  • Tanaka, S. (2015). Intercorporeality as a theory of social cognition. Theory & Psychology, 25, 455-472. (Please send me an e-mail in case you need a copy)
  • Tanaka, S. (2017). Intercorporeality and aida: Developing an interaction theory of social cognition. Theory & Psychology, 25, 455-472. (You can download a pdf here)

Updating the blog

I newly updated the blog as my personal website. This site has been known as "Embodied Approach" blog but from now on I will maintain as "Shogo Tanaka's Psychology and Philosophy Lab."

Best regards,

Friday, December 25, 2020

This blog is now closed

As I launched my own website recently, I decided to close this blog. But I leave all the posts as they are now so that you can visit and enjoy them. 

Please visit my new website: 

Shogo Tanaka's Psychology & Philosophy Lab.

All the best,


Monday, October 19, 2020

coming soon: Embodied Ways of Knowing

Very soon, this Friday, we are going to hold a panel titled "Embodied Ways of Knowing" in the Embodiment Conference. 

Panel: Embodied Ways of Knowing

October 23rd, Friday

JST (Tokyo) 10pm-, CET (Berlin): 3pm-, BST (London): 2pm-, EDT (New York): 9am-, PDT (Los Angeles): 6am-

I am going to give a brief talk on the concept of embodied knowledge. Though it is introductory, it would be a nice opportunity for those who are interested in knowing Merleau-Ponty's theory of embodiment.

I also look forward to sharing the panel with Dr. Kat Austin, a very unique artist based in Berlin creating diverse media installations. 

Dr. Kat Austen

Get your free ticket here;

The Embodiment Conference


See you soon on Zoom,


Thursday, June 18, 2020

Embodiment Conference 2020

I will participate in the Embodiment Conference 2020 as a speaker. The conference is going to be held from October 14-20, on Zoom. You'll enjoy many lectures and sessions on embodiment from diverse perspectives. If you are interested in the conference, get your free access here;

My British colleague Dr. Adrian Harris informed me that the crowdfunding campaign has started last week. It will help them finance the stable online platform where all the sessions will be arranged as well as the translation of conference sessions into several different languages.

As a speaker I will join the panel organized by Adrian. I will inform you of the detail when it is fixed.


Friday, November 1, 2019

my paper on depersonalization

The paper on depersonalization that I published last year has become downloadable. Here is the link.

What is it Like to Be Disconnected from the Body?: A Phenomenological Account of Disembodiment in Depersonalization/ Derealization Disorder

As you can see in the abstract, I examined the experience of disembodiment in depersonalization disorder especially in terms of the minima self. It maybe of interest for those who are working on phenomenology of embodiment, phenomenological psychopathology and the philosophy of psychiatry.

Enjoy the paper!


Saturday, October 12, 2019

visiting Prague again

Thanks to the effort of my Czech colleagues, Martin Nitsche & Petr Urban, I am invited to give a talk in Prague again. I visited there for the first time three years ago to discuss in the workshop with philosopher Tom Sparrow.

This time I am going to give a talk on social cognition and intersubjectivity, especially on the concept of aida proposed by a Japanese phenomenologist, Bin Kimura. Here are my essays on aida in this blog.

For those who may be interested in my talk, here I share the abstract of my talk in Prague. My talk is scheduled for October 23rd.


Title: On the normativity that emerges through embodied social interactions

The so-called interaction theory has brought rich insights into the debate on social cognition. Different from other major theories of mind, interaction theory describes the process of our social understanding focusing on the embodied interactions between the self and the other. In this presentation, I examine how the interaction theory can be further elaborated by drawing on the concept of aida, which was proposed by a Japanese phenomenologist Bin Kimura (1931-). Mainly describing an experience of music ensemble, Kimura explicates how the process of interpersonal interactions gain an autonomy as an emergent system. Beyond Kimura’s argument, I would like to show how this autonomy is experienced as a shared norm between the self and the other in social situations.

I look forward to feeling that special ambient of the city of Prague.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Problem of Religious Experience

Dr. Olga Louchakova-Schwartz edited a new book, which I contributed a chapter to. It will be published in November.

Here's my chapter information.

[Chapter 2] Shogo Tanaka
Reconnecting the Self to the Divine: The Body’s Role in Religious Experience

It is the first time for me to consider religious experiences from a perspective of embodiment. Let me share the abstract with all of you. Enjoy it!

I would like to explore spontaneous religious experiences,  “spontaneous” meaning experiences that happen outside traditional religious beliefs or religious institutions and traditions but still have a religious nature. Such experiences include the feeling of unity with nature,  experiences during peak performance in sports, or the sudden ecstatic sensation aroused by listening to a harmonious chorus, and so forth. Although they are not always recognized as “religious” for lack of a proper context,  they are intense enough to awaken spiritual feelings. What is experienced as “something beyond the self” in these cases may be the foundational source of divinity underlying all sorts of religious activities. My goal is to further explore the experience of divinity from the perspective of the embodied self in terms of the sense of agency.  James (1902) listed passivity as one of the four hallmarks of mystical experience: the person feels as if his or her actions are guided by the Other while maintaining a sense of agency. In my view, this state originates in the function of the body schema coordinating actions with the environment. In an unfamiliar situation, the body schema organizes new bodily actions beyond one’s intentions and expectations. Similarly, the body operates outside habit and as if following the Other’s will in spontaneous religious experiences. 


Friday, May 3, 2019

to be published soon

A friend of mine, Luca Tateo invited me to contribute to the following book, which will be published soon.

Waldomiro J. Silva Filho & Luca Tateo (Eds.)
Thinking About Oneself: The Place and Value of Reflection in Philosophy and Psychology.
(Springer, Philosophical Studies Series)

I wrote a chapter that focuses on the bodily origin of self-reflection. Though one tends to presuppose that reflection is something purely mental as Descartes did, actually it has bodily origin. Here's the title of my chapter and the abstract. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 9: Bodily origin of self-reflection and its socially extended aspects
Shogo Tanaka (Tokai University)

My aim in this chapter is to give a genetic account of self-reflection based on phenomenology and other related cognitive sciences. When dealing with the body in its relationship to the self, the traditional phenomenological approach emphasizes the subjective aspect of the body: “I” perceive the world through and from my body, and “I” act in the world through and with my body. In general, this embodied self is invoked to explain how the self is deeply rooted in pre-reflective actions. In this chapter, however, I attempt to elucidate how the embodied and pre-reflective self begins to reflect itself through bodily experiences. My view is that the origin of reflection is found not in contemplation by the detached mind, but in experiences of one’s own body as an object. One’s own body appears not only as a subject of perception and action but also as an intentional object (“body-as-object”). This ambiguity of the body precedes and underpins psychological experiences of self-reflection. In addition, the body-as-object appears as an object not only for oneself but also for others. Thus, self-reflection is not intrapsychically limited but has extended aspects in intersubjectivity and social cognition. Drawing on arguments by Husserl and Sartre, I explore experiences of empathy and social anxiety as socially extended experiences of self-reflection. This analysis suggests that it is only the self-reflective agent who can truly serve as the social agent and vice versa.


Monday, October 8, 2018

self in Japanese culture

A new book on cultural psychology was recently published by Routledge.

Gordana Jovanović, Lars Allolio-Näcke, & Carl Ratner (Eds.). (2018). The Challenges of Cultural Psychology: Historical Legacies and Future Responsibilities. New York, NY: Routledge.

The book covers diverse aspects of cultural psychology - its historical backgrounds, present and future. I also contributed a chapter on the self in Japanese culture, attempting to go beyond the cultural dichotomy such as "Western" and "Eastern." Here is the chapter title and the abstract.

Chapter 17: The Self in Japanese Culture from an Embodied Perspective (Shogo Tanaka)

The main aim of this paper is to consider the self in Japanese culture from an embodied perspective. Since early 1990’s, the discourses on the embodied mind have brought a radical change in the sciences of mind, including the notion of the self. In the following argument, first, I briefly describe the basic aspects of the embodied self, the notion of which was derived from the embodied mind paradigm. Then, I examine the discourse on the self in cross-cultural psychology that focuses on the differences in the self between the West and East, including Japanese culture. In the extant literature, it is widely acknowledged that the self in Eastern (or more widely, non-Western) cultures has the characteristics of being “interdependent” and “collective” in comparison with that in Western cultures. In addition to this, the self in Japanese culture has been described as “relationship dependent.” Finally, I give an account of the same characteristics from an embodied perspective in order to find a path to an understanding of the self beyond cultural dichotomies, such as “Western” and “Eastern.” If the self is inevitably embodied, such a self could be constituted as either “individual” or “collective,” “independent” or “interdependent,” regardless of the cultural background.

If you are interested in reading it, please let me know. My chapter may be of interest for those who hope to understand the connection between cultural issues and the embodied self.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bodily Basis of the Diverse Modes of the Self

My new paper on embodiment is published in Human Arenas, a new journal from Springer. You can follow the link and download the PDF for free. Enjoy it!

Here is the abstract;
Bodily experiences encompass and underpin all types of experiences of the mind, ranging from pre-reflective to self-reflective, from subjective to intersubjective, and from collectivistic to individualistic. Moreover, the self is shaped into diverse modes of being as a result of different focuses on bodily experiences. This paper describes the experiences of one’s body-as-subject, one’s body-as-object for oneself, and one’s body-as-object for others, as they relate with the self. After theoretical considerations, we take up the experience of wearing clothes as a concrete example. The author’s personal experiences adequately show that clothes portray the complexity and dynamism of the self in its relation to the body.

Although it still remains at the initial stage, I attempted to describe my personal experience of clothing in the last section. Please let me know your ideas if you are interested in developing the "phenomenology of clothing" together. It would be fun!


Sunday, June 10, 2018

New paper on Depersonalization

Recently my new paper on depersonalization was published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies.

As you can see on the title, I tackled the subjective feeling of disembodiment, which is one of the major symptoms in depersonalization disorder. Here is the abstract: 

So long as I maintain the ordinary modes of experience such as walking or eating, the body appears to me as something inseparable from myself. Through and with the body I act in the world, and through and from the body I perceive the world. However, this is not the case in the pathological condition known as depersonalization/ derealization disorder (DD). People with DD frequently claim that their self is disconnected from the body and their bodily actions feel like those of a robot. This symptom raises an important question about the paradigm of the embodied self, which is whether the union of body and self is contingent or not. In this paper, I describe the split between the self and body experienced in DD, then compare it with experiences of the full-body illusion, in which the self is perceived to be located out of the physical body. Through this comparison, it is made clear that the self in DD is not totally disembodied even though the basic sense of self has gone through a qualitative change.

In the paper, I claimed that the self in depersonalization is not totally disembodied in terms of motor agency. I hope this finding would be a hint for the future development of effective therapy...