Body Language: Representation in Action

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MIT Press, 2006 - Psychology - 241 pages
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In Body Language, Mark Rowlands argues that the problem of representation--how it is possible for one item to represent another--has been exacerbated by the assimilation of representation to the category of the word. That is, the problem is traditionally understood as one of relating inner to outer--relating an inner representing item to something extrinsic or exterior to it. Rowlands argues that at least some cases of representation need to be understood not in terms of the word but of the deed. Activity, he claims, is a useful template for thinking about representation; our representing the world consists, in part, in certain sorts of actions that we perform in that world. This is not to say simply that these forms of acting can facilitate representation but that they are themselves representational. These sorts of actions--which Rowlands calls deeds--do not merely express or re-present prior intentional states. They have an independent representational status.After introducing the notion of the deed as a "preintentional act," Rowlands argues that deeds can satisfy informational, teleological, combinatorial, misrepresentational, and decouplability constraints--and so qualify as representational. He puts these principles of representation into practice by examining the deeds involved in visual perception. Representing, Rowlands argues, is something we do in the world as much as in the head. Representing does not stop at the skin, at the border between the representing subject and the world; representing is representational "all the way out."

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Content Externalism
The Myths of the Giving
Enacting Representation

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About the author (2006)

 Mark Rowlands was born in Newport, Wales and began his undergraduate degree at Manchester University in engineering before changing to philosophy. He took his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University and has held various academic positions in philosophy in universities in Britain, Ireland and the US.

His best known work is the book The Philosopher and the Wolf about a decade of his life he spent living and travelling with a wolf. As The Guardian described it in its review, "it is perhaps best described as the autobiography of an idea, or rather a set of related ideas, about the relationship between human and non-human animals." Reviews were very positive, the Financial Times said it was "a remarkable portrait of the bond that can exist between a human being and a beast,". Mark Vernon writing in The Times Literary Supplement "found the lessons on consciousness, animals and knowledge as engaging as the main current of the memoir," and added that it "could become a philosophical cult classic", while John Gray in the Literary Review thought it "a powerfully subversive critique of the unexamined assumptions that shape the way most philosophers - along with most people - think about animals and themselves." However, Alexander Fiske-Harrison for Prospect warned that "if you combine misanthropy and lycophilia, the resulting hybrid, lycanthropy, is indeed interesting, but philosophically quite sterile" and that, although Rowlands "acknowledges at the beginning of the book that he cannot think like a wolf... for such a capable philosopher and readable author not to have made the attempt is indeed an opportunity missed."

As a professional philosopher, Rowlands is known as one of the principal architects of the view known as vehicle externalism or the extended mind, and also for his work on the moral status of animals.

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