Neuroscience and phenomenology

Vittorio Gallese


This text contributes to a necessary dialogue, and possibly a translation of the different notions employed by neuroscience and phenomenology. This effort is particularly significant for cognitive neuroscientists whose main topic is social cognition and the related notion of intersubjectivity. What I qualify as “embodied simulation” (which exploits, not only but mainly, the intrinsic functional organization of the motor system) is a crucial functional mechanism in social cognition, not confined to the domain of action, but encompassing other aspects of intersubjectivity such as emotion and sensation. It is “embodied” because it uses a pre-existing body model in the brain: all the brain areas showing mirror mechanisms model our interaction with the world. This model of interaction, this praktognosia, turns out to be highly relevant not only when the task is to guide our own behavior, but also to understand the behavior of others. The very last part of the text is devoted to reply to some arguments against embodied simulation coming from phenomenologists themselves.


cognitive neuroscience; embodied simulation; mirror neurons; peri-personal space; phenomenology; praktognosia

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