New Book: How We Became Sensorimotor

From Mark Paterson:

Please allow me to announce my book How We Became Sensorimotor: Movement, Measurement, Sensation which came out last October with University of Minnesota Press [publisher link].

It speaks to the history of neuroscience, the history of science, the social history of technology, and phenomenological investigations of movement. I was rather frustrated that work in recent philosophy of the embodied, extended, embedded enactive (4E) mind has failed to historicize the discoveries about our bodies and inner perception. So I have written about key discoveries between the C19th and early C20th in this area, and discuss some implications implications for labor, industry, and automation.

The historical focus is the years between 1833 and 1945, which fundamentally transformed science’s understanding of the body’s inner senses, revolutionizing fields like philosophy, the social sciences, and cognitive science.

Each chapter takes a particular sense and historicizes its formation by means of recent scientific studies, case studies, or coverage in the media. This array of inner sensations, including balance, fatigue, pain, the “muscle sense,” and the essence of physiological movement which Étienne-Jules Marey tried to make visible, and which Maurice Merleau-Ponty termed “motricité,” become distinct chapters in themselves. In several chapters I move outward from the familiar confines of the laboratory to those of the industrial world, and to wild animals and their habitats. It includes important or now-forgotten stories, such as how forgotten pain measurement schemes transformed criminology, and about the hermunculus, a way to redress the gender imbalance of the sensory and motor homunculus which Penfeld and his illustrator Cantlie created, which still mar psychology textbooks to this day.

Endorsements on the back have been written by Erica Fretwell and David Howes:

Through rigorous archival research and fieldwork, Mark Paterson meticulously documents the historical practices that made the ‘sensorimotor’ body a thinkable concept. Crisscrossing neurology, experimental physiology, phenomenology, and chronophotography, How We Become Sensorimotor tells the fascinating story of the academic disciplines and artistic worlds that lodged internal sensations at the core of what it means to be a body.

Erica Fretwell, author of Sensory Experiments: Psychophysics, Race, and the Aesthetics of Feeling

Opening a new chapter in the archaeology of knowledge and the body, How We Became Sensorimotor charts how the inchoate mass of sensations within the bodily interior became the focus of increasingly intensive scientific inquiry from the mid-1800s onwards. To read this deeply touching book is to come to know one’s innermost self from a rigorously empirical and objective yet intimately familiar angle.

David Howes, author of The Sensory Studies Manifesto