The Body Surpassed Towards the World and Perception Surpassed Towards Action: A Comparison between Enactivism and Sartre’s Phenomenology


  • Federico Zilio University of Padova (Italy)



Enactivism, Sartre, World, Action, Perception


Enactivism maintains that the mind is not produced and localized inside the head but is distributed along and through brain-body-environment interactions. This idea of an intrinsic relationship between the agent and the world derives from the classical phenomenological investigations of the body (Merleau-Ponty in particular). This paper discusses similarities and differences between enactivism and Jean-Paul Sartre’s phenomenology, which is not usually considered as a paradigmatic example of the relationship between phenomenological investigations and enactivism (or 4E theories in general). After a preliminary analysis of the three principal varieties of enactivism (sensorimotor, autopoietic and radical), I will present Sartre’s account of the body, addressing some key points that can be related to the current enactivist positions: perception-action unity, anti-representationalism, anti-internalism, organism-environment interaction, and sense-making cognition. Despite some basic similarities, enactivism and Sartre’s phenomenology move in different directions as to how these concepts are developed. Nevertheless, I will suggest that Sartre’s phenomenology is useful to the enactivist approaches to provide a broader and more complete analysis of consciousness and cognition, by developing a pluralist account of corporeality, enriching the investigation of the organism-environment coupling through an existentialist perspective, and reincluding the concept of subjectivity without the hypostatisation of an I-subject detached from body and world.