Disciplines/fields: Philosophy, Cognitive Science, Anthropology

Duration: 4 sessions

Course Content

The course is about knowledge – and about what we know about knowledge – or what we think we know and where it comes from. (1) Different concepts of knowledge from philosophy and psychology are introduced. (2) Then, ideas about the human mind and its functioning are discussed. Is all knowledge is in the brain, or how far does it extend into the body and external carriers of meaning? New approaches in embodiment research will be exposed to review this problem. (3) Finally, metaphors of the mind will be considered as epistemologically interesting constructs. Throughout the history of ideas, the mind has been conceptualized by analogy with technological developments: in antiquity, it has been compared to a catapult, in modern times to a switch board, and finally to a computer. What do such metaphors tell us about our ways of understanding ourselves? Which possibilities of knowledge about the mind do they enable, and which do they impede?


  • To get an overview of different conceptualizations of knowledge.
  • To explore the relationship between mind and body on the basis of current research.
  • To critically reflect on our understanding of the mind in the context of the history of ideas and metaphors.


Adolf, M. & Stehr, N. (2014). Knowledge. London: Routledge.
Draisma, D. (2000). Metaphors of Memory: A History of Ideas about the Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Menary, R. (2010). 4E Cognition. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 12.


Thiemo Breyer is a Junior Profesor at the University of Cologne and Director of the Research Lab “Transformations of Knowledge”. He holds fellowships from the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Bielefeld. His PhD and Habilitation were in philosophy, but having studied cognitive science and anthropology, he is also especially interested in interdisciplinary questions, e.g. on consciousness, embodiment, the history of ideas, intersubjectivity, and social cognition.