PC2: The Moving Self - Moving the Self


During the IK you will learn about a lot of different scientific concepts and theories about the self, the development of a self (in ontogeny and phylogeny), self-consciousness, self-awareness and the creation of artificial selves (persons), etc.
This course will focus on exploring our selves moving, as movement is part of our becoming a person from very early on. A foetus is moving already before and while it is developing its sensory systems through which it encounters the world around. Our senses develop in a moving organism and patterns of interactions / movement patterns / habits, which characterise us as persons, arise sometimes very early in life. Different dance and movement therapy approaches draw on such early movement experiences (e.g. Body-Mind Centering).
In this course we will explore our own movement patterns, play around and (partly through constraining our senses) also try out new ones. We will move together with other people, investigating distance and closeness/touch, moving in synchrony with others, and imitating, as the self develops in relation to others, and so does our movement.
Our explorations will be guided by and based on exercises from dance and contact improvisation and we will use the experiences of ourselves in movement to reflect about them, share them with others and also relate them to questions/topics in cognitive science, e.g. the role of the body in cognition, habits, autopoiesis, enaction, intersubjectivity, self-other, engagement, ownership and agency, …


The course aims to provide a space where participants can explore their movements, experience their selves in moving and relate their experiences to theories and concepts in cognitive science. Therefore, learning goals will be very personal and subjective.


Kaltenbrunner, Thomas (1998). Contact Improvisation: Moving, Dancing, Interaction. Aachen (Germany): Meyer & Meyer.

Novack, Cynthia J. (1990) Sharing the Dance: Contact Improvisation and American Culture (New Directions in Anthropological Writing). University of Wisconsin Press.


Di Paolo, E. A. and Thompson, E. (2014). The enactive approach, in L. Shapiro, ed., The Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition, Routledge Press, pp. 68-78.

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2015). Embodiment on trial: a phenomenological investigation, Continental Philosophy Review (2015) 48:23-39

Course location

Hörsaal 2

Course requirements


Instructor information.

Elisabeth Zimmermann


Elisabeth Zimmermann studied human biology and cognitive science for her diploma and is doing her PhD in philosophy of cognitive science at the University of Vienna. In her research she investigates how learning with a focus on body and movement can enable changes in habits and foster openness to new ways of interacting, sense-making, and being.

Since 2006 she coordinates the MEi:CogSci - Middle European interdisciplinary master programme in Cognitive Science and also teaches interdisciplinary cognitive science courses within this curriculum.

She has been dancing since her childhood (ballet, jazz dance, modern dance, expressive dance) and has been practicing contact improvisation since more than 15 years. She has been investigating the relation of body and mind on a theoretical level, but also on a practical level, attending courses in Qigong and Tai Chi, Yoga, Body-Mind Centering, Feldenkrais, Continuum Movement, etc.
She has training in holistic dance- and movement pedagogy as well as in classical massage and teaches workshops in dance/contact improvisation on a regular basis.