IDOCs » Philosophy of Dance. Body, Knowledge and Subjectivity
This paper is the result of my Specialization of Interest-module within my master program in Cognitive Science. It was supervised by Silvia Galikova from the Slovak Academy of Science and has been presented as a poster at the MEi: CogSci conference held in Budapest in 2017.

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Traditionally, in the field of philosophy dance as art form has been neglected and is considered as under-represented in aesthetics. Possible reasons are the marginalized position of dance in the system of fine arts and in cultural institutions. However, in the second half of the twentieth century, a few philosophers have formed groundwork, which has fueled the increased scientific interest in dance over the last decades. Additionally, phenomenologically- and poststructuralist-informed dance studies demonstrate the significance of dance for understanding philosophical issues, such as embodiment, meaning, and subjectivity, to name but a few. (Bunker et al. 2013)

In cognitive science, dance has entered the scene in interestingly diverse ways. Firstly, fMRI studies are being done with dancers, contributing to the field of neuroaesthetics. Secondly, it is used by various philosophers as a metaphor for thinking, supporting embodied and enactive approaches of cognition. Thirdly, the growing number of researchers with a dual background (dance and science) as well as recent collaborations between scientists and dance artists show that the interest is mutual, and the encounters are enriching. (Bunker et al.2013, Brandstetter 2007, Noë 2008)

These developments can be understood as a profound challenge to our understanding of knowledge. Dance subverts a binary mode of thinking that poses body versus mind, emotionality versus rationality, and theory versus practice. By doing so, dance ultimately questions our notion of science (Brandstetter 2007).

By examining philosophies of dance in this project, I expect a refined understanding on how body, knowledge and subjectivity configure human being. I will draw on three French thinkers of poststructuralist stance in particular, Paul Valèry, Jean-Luc Nancy and Laurence Louppe. Their approaches represent a counterweight to phenomenological dance studies, and offer additional insights to the aforementioned question as well as to the philosophical study of dance.

On the long run, this project serves as preliminary investigation to a thesis on ‘dance as a culture of knowledge’ and its implications for conceptualizing cognition and (scientific) knowledge. (Brandstetter 2007)

I will give an overview of the status of the field also looking for possible reasons for the often cited neglect of dance by theoreticians of philosophy, therefore, creating a modest corpus of aesthetic theories of dance. Then I will continue with a discussion on the relationship between dance and philosophy and the possible questions that might arise when these two fields encounter. Subsequently, I will show why phenomenology in the line Merleau-Ponty allows for an aesthetic theory that is compatible with dance. In what follows next I will introduce Paul Valery, Laurence Louppe and Jean-Luc Nancy as philosophers of dance, and examine the implications of their writings on body, knowledge and subjectivity.

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