This book is mind blowing. I think the best description I can give of what it's topic and goals are is to present the first chapter, in full. From here I think anyone interested in the subject will understand fully where this book is going and the intentions of the authors.
- Properly titled Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought
- TODO - The various Wikipedia topics would need references to cognitive philosophy as a contraindication to the various topics, and in those topics to specifically cite passages in the introduction in this book.
TODO - Finish the linking.
- 1 Thoughts
- 2 The Front Cover
- 3 The Back Cover
- 4 Part I How the Embodied Mind Challenges the Western Philosophical Tradition
- 5 Notes / random
By linking to Wikipedia , I have also had an interesting look into a number of things:
What subjects this document covers.
- How broad the topic is.
Learning terms and phrases by finding Wikipedia links.
- How well-documented Wikipedia is on the various linked-to subjects.
The original authors and the Wikipedia are not associated. The Wikipedia is an openly edited encyclopedia, don't draw a connection between the text here and the content there.
This text is pages 3-8 of ISBN 0-465-05674-1 (the paperback edition).
I would like to think that this effort is one of the highest praises I can give this book and its topic. I have hand-transcribed the text and have done a lot of research to link terms and phrases to Wikipedia articles.
I think everyone wins with this effort. People get a good introduction to this book and this topic, they find a lot of other writing to explore on related issues, literacy improves and world peace ensues. ;)
The Front Cover ∞
Philosophy in the Flesh
The embodied mind and its challenge to western thought
ISBN 0-465-05673-3 (cloth)
ISBN 0-465-05674-1 (pbk.)
"A ground-breaking work that radically changes the tenets of traditional western philosophy"
The Back Cover ∞
What does it mean to be human? How is knowledge possible? Where do moral values come from? Questions like these have stood at the center of Western philosophy for centuries. In addressing them, philosophers have made certain fundamental assumptions -- that we can know our own minds by introspection, that most of our thinking about the world is literal and that reason is disembodied and universal -- that are now called into question by well-established results of cognitive science.
Lakoff and Johnson show that a philosophy responsible to the science of the mind offers radically new and detailed understandings of what a person is. This book re-examines the basic concepts of the mind, time, causation, morality and the self; it rethinks a host of philosophical traditions, from the classical Greeks through Kantian morality through modern analytic philosophy. Lakoff and Johnson reveal the metaphorical structure underlying each mode of thought and show how the metaphysics of each theory flows from its metaphors.
Philosophy in the Flesh reveals a radically new understanding of what it means to be human and calls for a thorough rethinking of the Western philosophical tradition. This is philosophy as it has never been seen before.
Critical praise for Philosophy in the Flesh ∞
"This book will be an instant academic bestseller." -- Mark Turner, author of The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language
"Their ambition is massive, their argument important....The authors engage in a sort of metaphorical genome project, attempting to delineate the genetic code of human thought." -- The New York Times
"Philosophy in the Flesh is a ground breaking work that radically changes the tenets of traditional western philosophy....[It] will have a prodound influence on our evolving understanding of human nature, intellectual functioning and the philosophical paradigms of human thought and perception." -- The Philosophy Shelf* [ 1 ] [sic] - I have no idea what the asterisk was for
"The provocative explanations given here...challenge us to clarify our own understanding of the mechanism of the human mind." -- The Christian Science Monitor
About the Authors ∞
George Lakoff is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the co-author, with Mark Johnson, of Metaphors We Live By. His other books include Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things and Moral Politics.
Mark Johnson is a Professor and Head of the Philosophy Department at the University of Oregon. Besides Metaphors We Live By with George Lakoff, he is the author of The Body in the Mind and Moral Imagination, and he is the editor of the anthology Philosophical Perspectives on Metaphors.
Part I How the Embodied Mind Challenges the Western Philosophical Tradition ∞
Introduction: Who Are We? ∞
How Cognitive Science Reopens Central Philosophical Questions ∞
- The mind[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] is inherently embodied[unknown prefix: Wikipedia].
- Thought[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] is mostly unconscious[unknown prefix: Wikipedia].
These are three major findings of cognitive[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] science[unknown prefix: Wikipedia]. More than two millenia[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] of a priori[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] philosophical speculation about these aspects of reason[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] are over. Because of these discoveries[unknown prefix: Wikipedia], philosophy[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] can never be the same again.
When taken together and considered in detail, these three findings from the science of the mind are inconsistent with central parts of Western philosophy[unknown prefix: Wikipedia]. They require a thorough rethinking of the most popular current approaches, namely, Anglo-American[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] analytic philosophy[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] and postmodernist philosophy[unknown prefix: Wikipedia].
This book asks: What would happen if we started with these empirical[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] discoveries about the nature of mind and constructed[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] philosophy anew? The answer is that an empirically responsible[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] philosophy would require our culture[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] to abandon some of its deepest philosophical assumptions[unknown prefix: Wikipedia]. This book[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] is an extensive study[unknown prefix: Wikipedia] of what many of those changes would be in detail.
Our understanding of what the mind is matters deeply. Our most basic philosophical beliefs are tied inextricably to our view of reason. Reason has been taken for over two millenia as the defining characteristic of human beings. Reason includes not only out capacity for logical inference, but also our ability to conduct inquiry, to solve problems, to evaluate, to criticize, to deliberate about how we should act, and to reach an understanding of ourselves, other people, and the world. A radical change in our understanding of reason is therefore a radical change in our understanding of ourselves. It is surprising to discover that we are very different from what our philosophical tradition has told us we are.
Let us start with the changes in our understanding of reason:
- Reason is not disembodied, as the tradition has largely held, but arises from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily experience. This is not just the innocuous and obvious claim that we need a body to reason; rather, it is the striking claim that the very structure of reason itself comes from the details of our embodiment. The same neural and cognitive mechanisms that allow us to perceive and move around also create our conceptual systems and modes of reason. Thus, to understand reason we must understand the details of our visual system, our motor system, and the general mechanisms of neural binding. In summary, reason is not, in a any way, a transcendent feature of the universe or of disembodied mind. Instead, it is shaped crucially by the peculiarities of our human bodies, buy by the remarkable details of the neural structure of our brains, andby the specifics of our everyday functioning in the world.
- Reason is evolutionary, in that abstract reason builds on and makes use of forms of perceptual and motor inference present in "lower" animals. The result is a Darwinism of reason, a rational Darwinism: Reason, even in its most abstract form, makes use of, rather than transcends, our animal nature. The discovery that reason is evolutionary utterly changes our relation to other animals and changes our conception of human beings as uniquely rational. Reason is thus not an essense that separates us from other animals; rather, it places us on a continuum with them.
- Reason is not "universal" in the transcendent sense; that is, it is not part of the structure of the universe. It is universal, however, in that it is a capacity shared universally by all human beings. What allows it to be shared are the commonalitites that exist in the way our minds are embodied.
- Reason is not completely conscious, but mostly unconscious.
- Reason is not purely literal, but largely metaphorical and imaginative.
Reason is not dispassionate, but emotionally engaged.
This shift in our understanding of reason is of vast proportions, and it entails a corresponding shift in our understanding of what we are as human beings. What we now know about the mind is radically at odds with what the major classical philosophical views of what a person is.
For example, there is no Cartesian dualistic person, with a mind separate from and independent of the body, sharing exactly the same disembodied transcendent reason with everyone else, and capable of knowing everything about his or her mind simply by self-reflection. Rather, the mind is inherently embodied, reason is shaped by the body, and since most thought is unconscious, the mind cannot be known simply by self-reflection. Empirical study is necessary.
There exists no Kantian radically autonomous person, with absolute freedom and a transcendent reason that correctly dictates what is and isn't moral. Reason, arising from the body, doesn't transcend the body. What universal aspects of reason there are arise from the commonalitites of our bodies and brains and the environments we inhabit. The existence of these universals does not imply that reason transcends the body. Moreover, since conceptual systems vary significantly, reason is not entirely universal.
Since reason is shaped by the body, it is not radically free, because the possible human conceptual systems and the possible forms of reason are limited. In addition, once we have learned a conceptual system, it is neurally instantiated in our brains and we are not free to think just anything. Hence, we have no absolute freedom in Kant's sense, no full autonomy. There is no a priori, purely philosophical basis for a universal concept of morality and no transcendent, universal pure reason that could give rise to universal moral laws.
The utilitarial person, for whom rationality is an economic rationality -- the maximization of utility -- does not exist. Real human beings are not, for the most part, in conscious control of -- or even consciously aware of -- their reasoning. Most of their reason, besides, is based on various kinds of prototypes, framings, and metaphors. People seldom engage in a form of economic reason that could maximize utility.
The phenomenological person, who through phenomenological introspection alone can discover everything there is to know about the mind and the nature of experience, is a fiction. Although we can have a theory of a vast, rapidly and autonomically operating cognitive unconscious, we have no direct conscious access to its operation and therefore to most of our thought. Phenomenological reflection, though valuable in revealing the structure of experience, must be supplemented by empirical research into the cognitive unconscious.
There is no poststructuralist person -- no completely decentered subject for whom all meaning is arbitrary, totally relative, and purely historically contingent, unconstrained by body and brain. The mind is not merely embodied, but embodied in such a way that our conceptual systems draw largely upon the commanlities of our bodies and of the environments we live in. The result is that much of a person's conceptual system is either universal or widespread across languages and cultures. Our conceptual systems are not totally relative and not merely a matter of historical contingency, even though a degree of conceptual relativity does exist and even though historical contingency does matter a great deal. The grounding of our conceptual systems in shared embodiment and bodily experience creates a largely centered self, but not a monolithic self.
There exists no Fregean person -- as posed by analytic philosophy -- for whom thought has been extruded from the body. That is, there is no real person whose embodiment plays no role in meaning, whose meaning is purely objective and defined by the external world, and whose language can fit the external world with no significant role played by mind, brain, or body. Because our conceptual systems grow out of our bodies, meaning is grounded in and through our bodies. Because a vast range of our concepts are metaphorical, meaning is not entirely literal and the classical correspondence theory of truth is false. The correspondence theory holds that statements are true or false objectively, depending on how they map directly onto the world -- independent of any human understanding of either the statement or the world. On the contrary, truth is meditated by embodied understanding and imagination. That does not mean that truth is purely subjective or that there is no stable truth. Rather, our common embodiment allows for common, stable truths.
There is no such thing as a computational person, whose mind is like computer software, ablt to work on any suitable computer or neutral hardware -- whose mind somehow derives meaning from taking meaningless symbols as input, menipulating them by rule, and giving meaningless symbols as output. Real people have embodied minds whose conceptual systems arise from, are shaped by, and are given meaning through living human bodies. The neural structures of our brains produce conceptual systems and linguistic structures that cannot be adequately accounted for by formal systems that only manipulate symbols.
Finally, there is no Chomskyan person, for whom language is pure syntax, pure form insulated from and independent of all meaning, context, perception, emotion, memory, attention, action, and the dynamic nature of communication. Moreover, human language is not a totally genetic innovation. Rather, central aspects of language arise evolutionarily from sensory, motor, and other neural systems that are present in "lower" animals.
Classical philosophical conceptions of the person have stirred our imaginations and taught us a great deal. But once we understand hte importance of the cognitive unconscious, the embodiment of mind, and metaphorical thought, we can never go back to a priori philosophizing about mind and language or to philosophical ideas of what a person is that our inconsistent with what we are learning about the mind.
Given our new understanding of the mind, the question of what a human being is arises for us anew in the most urgent way.
Asking Philosophical Questions Requires Using Human Reason ∞
If we are going to ask philsophical questions, we have to remember that we are human. As human beings, we have no special access to any form of purely objective or transcendent reason. We must necessarily use common human cognitive and neural mechanisms. Because most of our thought is unconscious, a priori philosophizing provides no privileged direct access to knowledge of our own mind and how our experience is constituted.
In asking philosophical questions, we use a reason shaped by the body, a cognitive unconscious to which we have no direct access, and metaphorical thought of which we are largely unaware. The fact that abstract thought is mostly metaphorical means that answers to philosophical questions have always been, and always will be, mostly metaphorical. In itself, that is neither good nor bad. It is simply a fact about the capacities of the human mind. But it has major consequences for every aspect of philosophy. Metaphorical thought is the principal tool that makes philosophical insight possible and that constrains the forms that philosophy can take.
Philosophical reflection, uninformed by cognitive science, did not discovery, establish, and investigate the details of the fundamental aspects of mind we will be discussing. Some insightful philosophers did notice some of these phenomena, but lacked the empirical methodology to establish the validity of these results and to study them in fine detail. Without empirical confirmation, these facts about the mind did not find their way into the philosophical mainstream.
Jointly, the cognitive unconscious, the embodiment of mind, and metaphorical thought require not only a new way of understanding reason and the nature of a person. They also require a new understanding of one of the most common and natural of human activities -- asking philosophical questions.
What Goes into Asking and Answering Philosophical Questions? ∞
If you're going to reopen basic philosophical issues, here's the minimum you have to do. FIrst, you need a method of investigation. Second, you have to use that method to understand basic philosophical concepts. Third, you have to apply that method to previous philosophies to understand what they are about and what makes them hang together. And fourth, you have to use that method to ask the big questions: What is it to be a person? What is morality? How do we understand the causal structure of the universe? And so on.
This book takes a small first step in each of these areas, with the intent of giving an overview of the enterprise of rethinking of rethinking what philosophy can become. The methods we use come from cognitive science and cognitive linguistics. We discuss these methods in Part I of the book.
In Part II, we study the cognitive science of basic philosophical ideas. That is, we use these methods to analyze certain basic concepts that any approach to philosophy must address, such as time, events, causation, the mind, the self, and morality.
In Part III, we begin the study of philosophy itself from the perspective of cognitive science. We apply these analytic methods to important moments in the history of philosophy: Greek metaphysics, including the pre-Socratics, Plato and Aristotle; Descarte's theory of mind and Enlightenment faculty psychology; Kant's moral theory; and analytic philosophy. These methods, we argue, lead to new and deep insights into these great intellectual edifices. They help us understand those philosophies and explain why, despite their findamental differences, they have seemed intuitive to many people over the centuries. We also take up issues in contemporary philosophy, linguistics, and the social sciences, in particular, Anglo-American analytic philosophy, Chomskyan linguistics, and the rational-actor model used in economics and foreign policy.
Finally, in Part IV, we summarize what we have learned in the course of this inquiry about what human beings are and about the human condition.
What emerges is a philosophy close to the bone. A philosophical perspective based on our empirical understanding of the embodiment of mind is a philosophy in the flesh, a philosophy that takes account of what we most basically are and can be.
The cited text is copyright © 1999 by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.
Notes / random ∞
- Anaximander => "Apeiron" = The unbounded, the indeterminate.
- p 359 - quote re. stepping in the same river twice.
- Curious how close the Greeks were in the particular philosophy about rarified air. However, all matter is not rarified air, but rarified fire. Not fire but heat / "activity" (and not necessarily change)
- Telos (a word Aristotle coined) = a purpose that arises naturally as part of the world.
- p 428 - typo in section 2, paragraph 2 - "with the achieving his or her ends." doesn't make sense.
- p531 goes into a huge rant.
Panetheism as a way of thinking about God affirms both the transcendence of God and the immanence of God. For panentheism, God is not a being "out there." The Greek roots of the word point to its meaning: pan means "everything," en means "in," and theos means "God." God is more than everything (and thus transcendent), yet everything is in God (hense God is immanent). For Panentheism, God is "right here," even as God is also more than "right here." -- Borg, M. J. 1997. The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a more Authentic Contemporary Faith. San Fransisco: Harper San Fransisco. -- From Philosophy in the Flesh -- George Lakoff and Mark Johnson p 567
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