Emotions and the embodied mind

No picture books today, but instead a contemplation of emotions and the mind/body.

The ’embodied mind’ thesis is that the nature of the human mind (including our concepts, reasoning, will and emotion) is largely determined by the form of the human body (including our bodily movement, perception and interactions with the environment).

The activities below explore the relationship between one aspect of our minds (emotion) and one aspect of our bodies (apparent location of bodily awareness). They draw out subjective impressions of where emotions reside, and they develop a sort of visual language for emotion. These activities are based on Orlagh O’Brien’s research project Emotionally}Vague.

Activity – Emotional triggers
Reflect on and describe your feelings of anger, joy, fear, sadness and love. Describe in words what makes you feel each of these emotions.

(Response words recorded during the Emotionally}Vague project are set out in order of frequency here.)

Activity – Embodied emotion

  • What sort of bodily responses accompany your emotional states? (e.g. heart racing, sweating, shivering, jumping up and down, crying, changing your facial expression…)
  • What is the difference between bodily feelings and emotional feelings?
  • Download the worksheet.
    • How do you feel anger, joy, fear, sadness and love in your body? Draw anything you wish.
    • Where do you feel these emotions in your body? Draw one spot only.
    • Do your emotions have direction? If yes, draw arrows.

Once drawings are complete, compare and discuss the responses.

  • Do patterns emerge from the drawings?
  • What are the differences in how the various emotions are felt?
  • For each emotion, are there notable similarities among responses?

The five images below are composites drawings based on the responses of 250 people who participated in the Emotionally}Vague project.

Images: Orlagh O’Brien, Emotionally}Vague.

Discussion – Disembodied intelligence

  • How does having a body affect your conscious experience?

Robotics researchers who subscribe to the embodied mind thesis have argued that true artificial intelligence can only be achieved by machines that have sensory and motor skills and are connected to the world through a body.

  • Can you imagine what it would be like to be an intelligent being without a body?

Philosophical Allsorts

“All the passions are nothing else than different degrees of heat and cold of the blood.” François de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)

“…the dictates of the mind are but another name for the appetites, and therefore vary according to the varying states of the body.” Baruch Spinoza (1632 – 1677)

“Sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart.” William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

The Philosophy Club runs co-curricular and extra-curricular workshops for children in Australia.




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