Di Paolo, E. A., Heras-Escribano, M., Chemero, A., McGann, M., (eds) (2021). Enaction and Ecological Psychology: Convergences and Complementarities. Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA. doi: 10.3389/978-2-88966-431-3, ISBN 978-2-88966-431-3.

Di Paolo, E. A., Cuffari, E. C., and De Jaegher, H. (2018). Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity Between Life and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Di Paolo, E. A., Buhrmann, T., and Barandiaran, X. E. (2017). Sensorimotor Life: An Enactive Proposal. Oxford University Press.

Di Paolo, E. A. and De Jaegher, H. (2015). Towards an Embodied Science of Intersubjectivity: Widening the Scope of Social Understanding Research. Lausanne: Frontiers Media.

Vargas, P. Di Paolo, E. A., Husbands, P., and Harvey, I. (eds) (2014). Horizons for Evolutionary Robotics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

J. Stewart, O. Gapenne, and E. A. Di Paolo (eds) (2010). Enaction: Towards a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity between Life and Language

Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Elena Clare Cuffari, Hanne De Jaegher, 2018, MIT Press.


A novel theoretical framework for an embodied, non-representational approach to language that extends and deepens enactive theory, bridging the gap between sensorimotor skills and language.

Linguistic Bodies offers a fully embodied and fully social treatment of human language without positing mental representations. The authors present the first coherent, overarching theory that connects dynamical explanations of action and perception with language. Arguing from the assumption of a deep continuity between life and mind, they show that this continuity extends to language. Expanding and deepening enactive theory, they offer a constitutive account of language and the co-emergent phenomena of personhood, reflexivity, social normativity, and ideality. Language, they argue, is not something we add to a range of existing cognitive capacities but a new way of being embodied. Each of us is a linguistic body in a community of other linguistic bodies. The book describes three distinct yet entangled kinds of human embodiment, organic, sensorimotor, and intersubjective; it traces the emergence of linguistic sensitivities and introduces the novel concept of linguistic bodies; and it explores the implications of living as linguistic bodies in perpetual becoming, applying the concept of linguistic bodies to questions of language acquisition, parenting, autism, grammar, symbol, narrative, and gesture, and to such ethical concerns as microaggression, institutional speech, and pedagogy.


Lisco, S. M. (2020). Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Elena Clare Cuffari, Hanne De Jaegher, Linguistic Bodies. The continuity between Life and Language. Universa. Recensioni di filosofia, 9, 40–44. (in Italian).

Figueiredo, N. M. (2020). BOOK REVIEW: DI PAOLO, Ezequiel, DE JAEGHER, Hanne & CUFFARI, Elena. Linguistic Bodies: The continuity between Life and Language. Manuscrito vol.43 no.1. 

Budwig, N. (2019). Book Review of Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity between Life and Language by Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Elena Clare Cuffari, and Hanne De Jaegher, Human Development, DOI: 10.1159/000500176.

Grüny, C. (2018). Ezequiel A. Di Paolo/Elena Clare Cuffari/Hanne De Jaegher: Linguistic Bodies. The Continuity between Life and Language, Journal Phänomenologie, 50/2018, 64–66. (in German).

June 17, 2019, Format: Hardcover.

This book challenges quite a number of received wisdoms. One is that language is a phenomenon that can be studied in a disembodied way. Another is that Marxist scientific theorizing is something of the past. The authors make a compelling (& very erudite) case for the dialectical emergence of language from embodied social interaction. I will be honest: it isn’t the easiest of reads but it does not assume you’ve familiarized yourself with enactivist terminology. If you’re patient with this book, it will be patient with you in explaining step by interesting step how one gets from the body to language without it reducing the latter to the former. If you want to get a good introduction to enactivist thinking without just being lost in a terminological back-and forth, this book is a good starting point applying it to what is its most challenging explanandum: language.

Sensorimotor Life: An Enactive Proposal

Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Thomas Buhrmann, Xabier E. Barandiaran, 2017, Oxford University Press.


How accurate is the picture of the human mind that has emerged from studies in neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science? Anybody with an interest in how minds work – how we learn about the world and how we remember people and events – may feel dissatisfied with the answers contemporary science has to offer.

Sensorimotor Life draws on current theoretical developments in the enactive approach to life and mind. It examines and expands the premises of the sciences of the human mind, while developing an alternative picture closer to people’s daily experiences. Enactive ideas are applied and extended, providing a theoretically rich, naturalistic account of meaning and agency. The book includes a dynamical systems description of different types of sensorimotor regularities or sensorimotor contingencies; a dynamical interpretation of Piaget’s theory of equilibration to ground the concept of sensorimotor mastery; and a theory of agency as organized networks of sensorimotor schemes, as well as its implicatons for embodied subjectivity.


Ramirez Vizcaya, S. (2020). A world-involving theory of agency: review of Sensorimotor Life: An Enactive Proposal by Ezequiel Di Paolo, Thomas Buhrmann, and Xabier Barandiaran. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2017, Adaptive Behavior,

Baggs, E. (2018). A psychology of in-between? Constructivist Foundations, 13(3), 395–397.

Witherington, D. (2019). Embracing agency in all of its explanatory complexity. Essay review of Sensorimotor Life: An Enactive Proposal. Human Development, DOI: 10.1159/000496138.

Høffding, S. (2019). Grounding Enactivism – Review of Dan Hutto and Erik Myin, Evolving Enactivism (2017, MIT press); Shaun Gallagher, Enactivist Interventions (2017, Oxford University Press); Ezequiel Di Paolo, Thomas Buhrmann, and Xabier E. Barandiaran, Sensorimotor Life (2017, Oxford University Press), Philosophy, DOI:

Enaction and Ecological Psychology: Convergences and Complementarities.

Edited by Di Paolo, E. A., Chemero, A., Heras-Escribano, M., McGann, M., eds. (2021).  Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA.

frontiers cover 2021

Ecological psychologists—following on the work of James J. Gibson—and enactivists—inspired by the work of Francisco Varela—offer clearly articulated alternatives to the dominant computational or cognitivist perspective in cognitive science. Both groups have developed a rich body of research in the form of scientific concepts, tools, models, and empirical work. Both groups share commitments to the naturalistic understanding of the mind as embodied and situated socially and ecologically, to the use of dynamical systems ideas, and to the challenge of explaining cognition as emerging out of the encounter of multiple processes and relations, from biology to culture, in a non-reductionist, yet scientifically grounded way.

An outside observer would be forgiven for thinking these are just two names for a same scientific endeavor. Yet, while ecological psychologists and enactivists are increasingly paying serious attention to each other’s work, the two groups remain relatively disconnected, sometimes talking past each other. Beyond the narcissism of small differences, there are real dissimilarities between the two approaches concerning explanatory strategies, goals, assumptions, vocabularies, and concepts. It remains unclear whether these differences are easily resolvable, point to useful complementarities, or indicate unsolved/unsolvable tensions between the two perspectives.

Towards an Embodied Science of Intersubjectivity: Widening the Scope of Social Understanding Research.

Edited by Ezequiel A. Di Paolo and Hanne De Jaegher, Lausanne: Frontiers Media, 2015.

A Frontiers in Psychology open access ebook based on the 42 contributions to a Research Topic.

Towards_an_Embodied_Science_of_Intersubjectivity_-_Widening_the_Scope_of_Social_Understanding_Research_CoverAn important amount of research effort in psychology and neuroscience over the past decades has focused on the problem of social cognition. This problem is understood as how we figure out other minds, relying only on indirect manifestations of other people’s intentional states, which are assumed to be hidden, private and internal. Research on this question has mostly investigated how individual cognitive mechanisms achieve this task. A shift in the internalist assumptions regarding intentional states has expanded the research focus with hypotheses that explore the role of interactive phenomena and interpersonal histories and their implications for understanding individual cognitive processes.

This interactive expansion of the conceptual and methodological toolkit for investigating social cognition, we now propose, can be followed by an expansion into wider and deeply-related research questions, beyond (but including) that of social cognition narrowly construed.

Our social lives are populated by different kinds of cognitive and affective phenomena that are related to but not exhausted by the question of how we figure out other minds. These phenomena include acting and perceiving together, verbal and non-verbal engagement, experiences of (dis-)connection, management of relations in a group, joint meaning- making, intimacy, trust, conflict, negotiation, asymmetric relations, material mediation of social interaction, collective action, contextual engagement with socio-cultural norms, structures and roles, etc. These phenomena are often characterized by a strong participation by the cognitive agent in contrast with the spectatorial stance typical of social cognition research. We use the broader notion of embodied intersubjectivity to refer to this wider set of phenomena.

The Horizons of Evolutionary Robotics

Edited by Patricia A. Vargas, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Inman Harvey and Phil Husbands, MIT Press, 2014.

9780262026765_0Evolutionary robotics (ER) aims to apply evolutionary computation techniques to the design of both real and simulated autonomous robots. The Horizons of Evolutionary Robotics offers an authoritative overview of this rapidly developing field, presenting state-of-the-art research by leading scholars. The result is a lively, expansive survey that will be of interest to computer scientists, robotics engineers, neuroscientists, and philosophers.

The contributors discuss incorporating principles from neuroscience into ER; dynamical analysis of evolved agents; constructing appropriate evolutionary pathways; spatial cognition; the coevolution of robot brains and bodies; group behavior; the evolution of communication; translating evolved behavior into design principles; the development of an evolutionary robotics–based methodology for shedding light on neural processes; an incremental approach to complex tasks; and the notion of “mindless intelligence”—complex processes from immune systems to social networks—as a way forward for artificial intelligence.

Contributors: Christos Ampatzis, Randall D. Beer, Josh Bongard, Joachim de Greeff, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Marco Dorigo, Dario Floreano, Inman Harvey, Sabine Hauert, Phil Husbands, Laurent Keller, Michail Maniadakis, Orazio Miglino, Sara Mitri, Renan Moioli, Stefano Nolfi, Michael O’Shea, Rainer W. Paine, Andy Philippides, Jordan B. Pollack, Michela Ponticorvo, Yoon-Sik Shim, Jun Tani, Vito Trianni, Elio Tuci, Patricia A. Vargas, Eric D. Vaughan.

A review:

Lehman, J. (2015). Review of The Horizons of Evolutionary Robotics, Genet Program Evolvable Mach (2015) 16:393–395.

Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science,

Edited by John Stewart, Olivier Gapenne and Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, MIT Press, 2010.


This book presents the framework for a new, comprehensive approach to cognitive science. The proposed paradigm, enaction, offers an alternative to cognitive science’s classical, first-generation Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). Enaction, first articulated by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch in The Embodied Mind (MIT Press, 1991), breaks from CTM’s formalisms of information processing and symbolic representations to view cognition as grounded in the sensorimotor dynamics of the interactions between a living organism and its environment. A living organism enacts the world it lives in; its embodied action in the world constitutes its perception and thereby grounds its cognition. Enaction offers a range of perspectives on this exciting new approach to embodied cognitive science.

Some chapters offer manifestos for the enaction paradigm; others address specific areas of research, including artificial intelligence, developmental psychology, neuroscience, language, phenomenology, and culture and cognition. Three themes emerge as testimony to the originality and specificity of enaction as a paradigm: the relation between first-person lived experience and third-person natural science; the ambition to provide an encompassing framework applicable at levels from the cell to society; and the difficulties of reflexivity. Taken together, the chapters offer nothing less than the framework for a far-reaching renewal of cognitive science.

Contributors: Renaud Barbaras, Didier Bottineau, Giovanna Colombetti, Diego Cosmelli, Hanne De Jaegher, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo. Andreas K. Engel, Olivier Gapenne, Véronique Havelange, Edwin Hutchins, Michel Le Van Quyen, Rafael E. Núñez, Marieke Rohde, Benny Shanon, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Adam Sheya, Linda B. Smith, John Stewart, Evan Thompson”

A couple of reviews:

Froese, T. (2012). From adaptive behavior to human cognition: a review of Enaction, Adaptive Behavior, 20, 209 – 221, DOI: 10.1177/1059712311433892

Kirchhoff, M. D. (2012). Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science, Philosophical Psychology, DOI:10.1080/09515089.2012.681864

Reid, D. A. (2011). Enaction: An Incomplete Paradigm for Consciousness Science. Review of “Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science” edited by John Stewart, Olivier Gapenne and Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Constructivist Foundations 7(1): 81–83