Embodied cognition as refutation of Langer's "Illusory Powers": "I move, therefore I know"

Ruby A Montana, University of Texas at El Paso


Thesis objective. To refute Susanne Langer's notion within her philosophy of dance which holds that emotional forces in dance are solely "virtual" and thus illusory. I plan to do so by means of the growing research in the branch of cognitive science known as Embodied Cognition. ^ In brief. Susanne Langer, one of the most prominent philosophers of Aesthetics, contends that dance is able to express emotions as an external force, while creating what she calls a "primary illusion". Langer attributes gesture as the basic abstraction whereby the dance illusion is made and organized. Furthermore, she contends that dance is not only governed by "imagined feeling" and not real emotional conditions, but that 'even the most thoughtful of dancers' are confused in relaying what they create in dance. She goes so far as to say the dancer's philosophical reflections are "affected", "mystical", and "mythical". ^ I argue that this view entirely neglects the epistemology of the dancer, who is very much able to experience "real" emotions while dancing. Philosophical aesthetics tends to focus on dance as witnessed by a detached audience, a pure art form, while disregarding the dancer. I will argue that this perspective offers an incomplete and thus inadequate Philosophy of dance. ^ Primary sources. Susanne Langer's Feeling and Form is the primary text I plan to dispute using Embodied Cognition. EC has its philosophical roots in Kant, Dewey and others, but it can be seen as a direct response to the classicist view of the mind, which likens the functions of the brain to those of a computer while overlooking environmental factors that are essential in developing a more robust explanation of cognitive processes. Langer's view of dance similarly neglects the role of the body and its sensorimotor capacities in cognitive processes within dance, and maintains that the dancer fails to distinguish between what is actual and what is virtual. Langer states that "All forces which cannot be scientifically established and measured must be regarded, from the philosophical standpoint, as illusory". In consideration of the recent work within Embodied Cognition, I aim to show philosophically and scientifically that Langer's hypothesis is faulty and problematic.^

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Montana, Ruby A, "Embodied cognition as refutation of Langer's "Illusory Powers": "I move, therefore I know"" (2010). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1477808.