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Body and Embodiment


Admission requirements

  • BA students in Philosophy: propedeuse degree has been obtained and the second-year course Philosophy of Mind has been successfully completed.

  • Students from other departments (including contractstudenten): propedeuse degree has been obtained, and additionally at least one of the following philosophy courses is required: Philosophy of Culture (Cultuurfilosofie), Philosophical Anthropology (Wijsgerige antropologie), Philosophy of Mind.


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 (Noe, Gallagher, Thompson, Varela) and the politicization of the body (Marx, Foucault, Malabou) and how they interact with a persistent Cartesian tradition in neurophilosophy in particular.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide the students with a clear 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 and interconnect the major texts and theories relative to embodiment;

  • present a consistent view of the current problems of the field and suggest possible avenues of research.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2015-2016, BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), derde jaar/third year.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load (10 EC x 28 hrs): 280 hours

  • Attending lectures and seminars: 14 × 3 hours = 42 hours

  • Time for studying literature: 80 hours

  • Preparation for lectures and seminars: 40 hours

  • Presentation: 16 hours

  • Preparation assignments: 52 hours

  • Assignments: 50 hours

Assessment method

  • Oral reading report on a primary text and abstract (30%)

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


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.


We will use Blackboard for posting texts, general information documents (syllabus etc), assignments and updates.

Reading list

In addition to the books listed below, several extracts of which we shall use, a reading schedule (including shorter texts) and syllabus will be made available on Blackboard.

  • Plato, Phaedo

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

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

  • Sean Gallagher, How the Body Shapes the Mind, Oxford UP, 2005.

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


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “”.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs
Registration Studeren à la carte: not applicable.


Dr. F. Chouraqui