The enactive hand



Publication Details

Gallagher, S. (2013). The enactive hand. In Z. Radman (Eds.), The Hand, an Organ of the Mind (pp. 209-225). United States: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9780262018845


The enactive view of human cognition starts with the idea that we are action oriented. Our ability to make sense of the world comes from an active and pragmatic engagement with the world, along with our capacities to interact with other people. In this regard, Anaxagoras's observation that we humans are the wisest of all beings because we have hands better reflects an enactive view than Aristotle's claim that "Man has hands because he is the wisest of all beings". In the Aristotelian tradition, the hand is raised to the level of the rational by considering it the organum or organorum. More generally, in the history of philosophy, hands are inserted here and there to provide a firm grasp on some important philosophical notions.Thus, a statement attributed to Isaac Newton suggests that the thumb is good evidence of God's existence, and Immanuel Kant used his hands (the fact that hands are inconfruent counterparts, e.g., a left hand doesn't fit properly into a right-hand glove) to prove that Newton was right about space being absolute. But this is not the main line drawn by the philosophical traditions. With respect to rationality, the eyes have it more than the hands. Both philosophically and scientifically, vision dominates.

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