Ending the Nativism-
Willis F. Overton
In this chapter, I discuss the importance of the concept of embodiment in the understanding of human behavior and development. My general argument is that embodiment is central to any discussion of the relation of biological systems and psychological systems or cultural systems and psychological systems. I also argue that seriously embracing the concept of embodiment represents a move away from unproductive questions entailed in the nativism-empiricism or nature-nurture debate and toward a more productive arena of inquiry and research—the examination of questions of the nature of the relations that operate among biological systems, psychological systems, and cultural systems. In developing this argument, I first discuss the role metatheory—especially relational metatheory—plays in contexualizing the concept of embodiment. I then discuss embodiment as a concept that bridges biological, cultural, and person-centered approaches to psychological inquiry. And finally, I focus on a brief elaboration of the place and nature of the embodied person-centered approach.
Most simply stated, embodiment is the affirmation that the lived body counts in our psychology. It is not a split-off disengaged agent that simply moves around peeking at a preformed world and drawing meaning directly from that world. It is not a set of genes that causes behavior, nor a brain, nor a culture. Behavior emerges from the embodied person actively engaged in the world. The concept of embodiment was first fully articulated in psychology by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1962. 1963), and it represents a movement away from any dichotomous understanding of