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EMOTER: Emoting the Embodied Mind

European Commission

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Photo of Professor Giovanna Colombetti

Professor Giovanna Colombetti

BA (Florence), MSc (Birmingham), DPhil (Sussex)

Professor (Philosophy)


01392 723287

Amory 311

I am a philosopher with a background in both philosophy and cognitive science. I work primarily on emotion and affectivity from the perspective of so-called '4E cognition' (embodied, embedded, enactive and extended cognition). Since my PhD (Sussex, 2004) I have strived to reconceptualize various affective phenomena from a dynamical, embodied-enactive and, more recently, situated perspective. In both my teaching and research I draw quite liberally on phenomenology, analytic philosophy, as well as theoretical and experimental work in psychology and neuroscience. More recently I have become interested in the contribution that the social sciences and the field of material culture studies can make to our understanding of affectivity, in particular in the context of philosophical debates on the 'scaffolded' and perhaps even 'extended' nature of the mind.

Most of my current reserach efforts are aimed at completing a monograph on our affective relation to everyday material objects and spaces (encouragement welcome!).

In addition:

I am member of EGENIS, and lead its Mind, Body, and Culture research group.

I am Editor-in-Chief of Emotion Review (together with Brian Parkinson and Doug Irish) - from Jan 2023 to Dec 2025. 

(From 2014 to 2022 I was Associate Editor of Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences.)

I am Adjunct Professor in Philosophy at the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Southern Denmark (2021-2026) - with links especially to its Movement, Culture and Society research cluster.

In the autumn of 2023 I was Visiting Professor at the Department of Philosophy of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, teaching there for one term. 

In 2010-2014 I was the Principal Investigator of a Starting Grant funded by the European Research Council (ERC), titled "Emoting the Embodied Mind" (EMOTER). This project focused primarily on so-called "embodied" and "enactive" approaches in the philosophy of cognitive science. These approaches have emphasized that to explain and understand mental phenomena we need to look at the whole organism; studying the brain only is not sufficient. My project EMOTER expanded upon this view, elaborating its implications for our understanding of various affective phenomena (such as emotions, moods, feelings), and of the relation between cognition and affectivity. My book The Feeling Body: Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind (2014, MIT Press) presents and discusses most of the ideas developed during this project.

My ORCID number is 0000-0003-0935-1109

You can access and download my publications here.

Research group links

Research interests

  • Philosophy of mind: emotion and affectivity; consciousness; embodied and enactive approaches; the extended mind
  • Philosophy of science: theories and experimental work in affective science
  • Phenomenology of affectivity and the body
  • Asian philosophies and meditative practices

NB: You can access and download my publications here.

Research supervision

I am always happy to hear from prospective PhD candidates. I also oversee all PhD admissions for our Department, so I can give general advice on the PhD admission process.

For information about our postgraduate (PhD, but also MA) research degrees, funding opportunities, and how to apply, the first thing to do is to look here carefully.

You are welcome to email me if you are interested in doing a PhD (or MPhil) under my supervision, in the following areas:

  • Philosophy of cognitive science - especially of "4EA cognition" (embodied, embedded, enactive, extended AND affective cognition);
  • Philosophy of emotion - especially questions about embodiment, emotional consciousness and feelings, moods and personality, affect and materiality;
  • Philosophy of affective science - especially methodological and theoretical issues pertaining to the scientific and experimental study of affective phenomena;
  • Consciousness studies - especially phenomenology (classic and contemporary), neurophenomenology, and Asian and contemplative approaches;
  • Theoretical approaches to material culture and technology - especially in relation to affect, and from a multidisciplinary perspective, including philosophy but not only (taking advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of this Department).


I joined the (then) Sociology & Philosophy Department at Exeter in 2007. Before then I moved around quite a lot...

2005-2007: Postdoc at the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences at the University of Trento (Italy). During this period I spent 10 months at the Cognitive Neuropsychology Laboratory at Harvard University.

2003-2005: Postdoc in "Cognitive Science and the Embodied Mind" at the Philosophy Department of York University (Canada) under the supervision of Evan Thompson.

2000-2004: PhD in Philosophy at the former School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences (now Centre for Research in Cognitive Science) at the University of Sussex (UK), under the supervision of Andy Clark.

1999-2000: MSc in Cognitive Science at the University of Birmingham (UK). For my final project I used John Barnden's system ATT Meta, an AI system that reasons about mental states, to reason about desires and emotions.

1993-1999: Laurea (BA & MA) in Filosofia (Philosophy) at the Dipartimento di Filosofia of the University of Florence (Italy). My Tesi (in Italian) was entitled "The role of Gödel's incompleteness theorems and quantum mechanics in the mind-computer debate". My supervisors were Marisa Dalla Chiara and Marco Giunti. I also collaborated with Bruno Marchal at the IRIDIA, Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium).

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