Institut Jean Nicod

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Body, Space and the Self (BoSS) (GR)


Research Group

One may believe that our representation of the world is structured under a binary mode, between the bodily self and the rest of the world. There is, however, a buffer zone in the immediate surrounding of the body, in which boundaries are blurred. What is close to the body is directly relevant for the self and yet already in external space. Peripersonal space is the space in which the world is literally at hand to act on. It is also the space in which the world can become directly threatening. Yet it is only recently that peripersonal space has attracted the attention of cognitive science, and still very little has been done on its philosophical implications. The objective of this research group is to refine its functional characterization and evaluate its consequences in three distinct domains : perception, self-awareness and social cognition.

Philosophy of perception has often been accused to analyse perception exclusively on the model of vision. But it is also guilty of focusing on the perception of far space, neglecting the possibility that peripersonal perception displays different properties, in particular in relation to action and evaluation. What difference, if any, does it make to see objects and events in peripersonal space ? In other words, in what manner does the visual experience of a snake close to my foot differ from the visual experience of the moon in the sky ?

The notion of peripersonal space is also of major significance for the understanding of both self-awareness and social awareness. It actually finds its origin in ethology and social psychology. It was the Swiss biologist Heini Hediger (1955), the director of the Zurich zoo, who first noted that animals start to flee or withdraw at a specific distance from a predator (i.e. flight distance). The study of the rules that govern peripersonal space can thus shed light on our relation to ourselves and to others. How are bodily boundaries, the territory of the self and the territory of others articulated ?

Key words : bodily sensations, bodily ownership, touch, pain, multimodality, sensorimotor theories, emotion, empathy, embodiment.




  • Adrienne Gouzien (psychiatre)
  • Alessandro Farnè (IMPACT, Lyon)
  • Malika Auvray (ISIR, Paris)
  • Patrick Haggard (UCL, Londres)
  • Giandomenico Iannetti (UCL, Londres)
  • Olivier Massin (Université de Neuchâtel)


Selected publications 


de Vignemont, F. (2018) Mind the body. Monograph. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
de Vignemont, F. and Alsmith, A. (Eds) (2017). The subject’s matter : the body and self-awareness. Cambridge (Mass.) : the MIT Press.


de Vignemont, F. (In press). Peripersonal perception in action. Synthese.
Pitron, V., Alsmith, A. and de Vignemont, F. (2019). How do the body schema and the body image interact ? Consciousness and Cognition.
de Vignemont, F. (2017). Pain and touch. The Monist.
de Vignemont, F. (2017). Can I see your pain ? An evaluativist model of pain perception. In Routledge handbook of philosophy of pain, edited by Jennifer Corns, Routledge


de Vignemont, F. (forthcoming). The phenomenology of bodily ownership. In M. Guillot and M. Garcia-Carpintero, The sense of mineness. OUP
de Vignemont, F. (2019), Was Descartes right after all ? An affective background for bodily awareness. In H. de Preester and M. Tsakiris, Interoception. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
de Vignemont, F. (forthcoming), Against phenomenal parsimony : a plea for bodily feelings. In A. Goldman and B. McLaughlin (eds), Metaphysics and cognitive science. Oxford University Press.
Massin, O. and de Vignemont, F. (forthcoming), Unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe. In The Rational Role of Perceptual Experience : Beyond Vision, edited by D. Gatzia & B. Broogard, Oxford University Press.


ANR Bodily plasticity and tool use (PI : Alessandro Farnè)
ANR Joint agency (PI : Elisabeth Pacherie)
AUTON (PI : Fabrice Salegna)