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Body and Embodiment


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Modern European Philosophy

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Global and Comparative Philosophy

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Humanities

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Psychology


The course investigates the ways in which the fact of human embodiment affect all other philosophical concerns, including ontological, political, ethical and epistemological issues. It takes its starting point in the well-known neglect of the body by philosophers from Plato to Descartes in order to bring out a more minor but constant tradition that upholds the importance of the fact of embodiment (from the Stoics to Pascal and Spinoza). It then focuses on the several dimensions of the body as investigated by post-Kantian philosophy in the last two centuries through a discussion of the intentional body (Nietzsche, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty), embodied cognition (Gibson, Noe) and the politicization of the body (Kantorowicz, Freud, Marx, Foucault) critical race and gender studies, and how they interact with a persistent Cartesian tradition in neurophilosophy in particular.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide the students with a detailed view of:

  • the history of the concept of body in Western philosophy;

  • the current state of the debate around embodiment;

  • the implications of the fact of embodiment for epistemology, political philosophy and ontology.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the history of the debates surrounding embodiment (including the mind-body problem, the debates around the metaphysics of the body as material, spiritual, objective, organic, structural or intentional);

  • the metaphysical importance of embodiment;

  • the relations between the philosophical and scientific views of the body.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • critically understand, comment and interconnect specialized texts and theories relative to embodiment;
    critically engage with some of the latest literature on embodiment;
    present a consistent and comprehensive view of the current problems of the field and explore possible avenues of research.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Oral or written presentation and abstract (30%)

  • Final paper on a question agreed in advance based on abstract submitted (70%)

Class preparation and attendance are required and are conditions for submission of the paper.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (presentation and abstract, paper). See above.


The resit will be a thoroughly demanding survey take-home exam covering the entirety of the course materials, and including a text commentary, a series of short questions and an argumentative essay. There may be an added short oral examination. The mark will replace all previously earned marks. No separate resits will be offered for subtests.

Students will only be eligible for resits if they have submitted/presented all other assessments in the term. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Discussion of the paper is by appointment after publication of the final grade.

Reading list

Primary readings include:

  • Plato, Phaedo, Phaedrus.

  • Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Trans. Cottingham, Cambridge UP, 1996.

  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception, Trans. Landes, Routledge 2012.

  • Alva Noe, Action in Perception, MIT Press, 2004.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga