From a sensorimotor to a sensorimotor-plus-plus account of embodied conceptual cognition

Joel Parthemore

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterpeer-review


Since the publication of O'Regan and Noë's original article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 2001, which first set out the sensorimotor account by which sensory experience and motor engagement are inextricably intertwined, there have been not just one but many sensorimotor accounts. However, in many ways that original article remains the canonical account. In this paper, I discuss a particular theory of concepts from philosophy of mind -- the unified conceptual space theory, based on Peter Gärdenfors' conceptual spaces theory -- and, in that light, set out what I take to be the key points of the 2001 account, along with its strengths and weaknesses. I discuss the ways in which the 2001 account aligns with, and departs from, the unified conceptual space theory; and I offer an extension to it that I call sensorimotor++, which adds to the 2001 account a key role for emotional affect and the somatosensory system, with which one might ground salience, and a key role for (so-called 'mental') representation, properly understood. I argue that sensorimotor++ makes for a better theory of concepts -- one that is not just embedded and embodied but enactive -- and, perhaps, a better sensorimotor theory more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Sensorimotor Theory: Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics
EditorsJohn Mark Bishop, Andrew Owen Martin
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-05106-2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


  • sensorimotor theory
  • concepts
  • representations
  • enaction
  • enactive
  • circular causality
  • conceptual spaces theory
  • unified conceptual space theory


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