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Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things [Paperback]

George Lakoff
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 15, 1990 0226468046 978-0226468044 1
"Its publication should be a major event for cognitive linguistics and should pose a major challenge for cognitive science. In addition, it should have repercussions in a variety of disciplines, ranging from anthropology and psychology to epistemology and the philosophy of science. . . . Lakoff asks: What do categories of language and thought reveal about the human mind? Offering both general theory and minute details, Lakoff shows that categories reveal a great deal."—David E. Leary, American Scientist

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Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things + Metaphors We Live By + From Molecule to Metaphor: A Neural Theory of Language (Bradford Books)
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Lakoff reviews a wide range of studies in "cognitive semantics," a new field that attempts to understand mind through empirical studies of the way people categorize. He provides several detailed conceptual "case studies," which aptly bring out the richness of the English language, and Whorfian-type examinations of the way different cultures view the world as exemplified in their language (the book's title derives from a classification in Dyirbal, an aboriginal language of Australia). Though this new "science" is supposed to yield insights more accurate and useful than traditional (i.e., "non-empirical") philosophy, the approach to philosophy here is superficial. For academic linguistics collections. Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

George Lakoff is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972. He previously taught at Harvard and the University of Michigan. His academic career has been devoted to developing the field of cognitive lingusitics, the cognitive theory of metaphor, construction grammar, embodied conceptual systems, a neural theory of grammar, and the cognitive foundations of mathematics.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 632 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 15, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226468046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226468044
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972. He previously taught at Harvard and the University of Michigan. He graduated from MIT in 1962 (in Mathematics and Literature) and received his PhD in Linguistics from Indiana University in 1966. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Don't Think of an Elephant!, among other works, and is America's leading expert on the framing of political ideas.

George Lakoff updates may be followed on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. Find these links, a complete bibliography, and more at http://georgelakoff.com


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 80 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
When I read this book for the first time, it was like a revelation - Lakoff concentrates on the way people *really* think, not the way philosophers would like them to. His approach: We use cognitive models that we acquired in childhood to solve almost every problem - to estimate, to schedule, to infer. What strikes me most about the cognitive science of metaphor is the possibility to apply it to many fields like computer interface design, social sciences, linguistics, you name it. His argument is partly very sophisticated, yet understandable also for a non-philosopher, and he comes up with lots of examples and evidence. This book has become a kind of "creativity technique" to me, I find myself developing new ideas based on Lakoff's approach all the time. Among the people who have no scientific interest in the matter, I recommend this book to designers, programmers and everybody in the field of communication. It is worth every minute you read.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new world is only a new mind May 29, 2006
Format:Paperback
I found this to be one of the most interesting books I have ever read. For me it's a revolutionary work in the sense that very rarely do books such as this come into my life -- maybe once every five years -- and have the ability to forever change the way I think about the world. And as with all such important books, it is iconoclastic and will not please everyone. Some will no doubt hate it, but most of the objectivist academics have no doubt long since dismissed it as nonsense. Most assuredly it is not without its faults. For example, Lakoff tends to rail a bit much against what he calls "objectivist" viewpoints (those who espouse some flavor of the correspondence theory of truth), which includes pretty much all of the present day scientific community as well as the majority of Anglo-American analytic philosophers. In addition, the book is admittedly long-winded and a little repetitious in places. By the time I had gotten to the end of the second case study, I was totally burned out and could not continue any further. But it wasn't disenchantment with the book so much as the desire to just move on to something else. I have yet to read the third case study, but I will eventually. In fact, I know that I will come back to this book many times in the future to refer to the numerous insights which lie scattered everywhere throughout the text.

Contrary to what you may have been told, Lakoff is NOT an egotistical academic. He is quick to give credit and praise to others for many or most of the ideas contained in this work. Nor is he vain and arrogant; on occasion he even makes fun of himself. He does not talk down to the reader, but his expectation is that you are able to follow his argument, which is intelligent-undergraduate level.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars dense but well-worth the effort August 5, 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
this book explores the way language is a reflection of the inner workings of the brain. it specifically examines the way we think about grouping things. for instance: should red and orange belong to the super-category "color"? how about lavender? which is the best example of "color"?
as a web designer, i deal constantly with hierarchies and the ways that things are grouped together. this thick tome on cognitive science made me rethink some of my strategies. although dealing with very complex issues and obviously not for casual reading, i really appreciated the way the author delineates his thinking so clearly. one example is that he rarely drops names without explaining in some detail the contributions of the person cited. i ended up xeroxing several sections fo this book for my coworkers.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightning reading March 6, 2002
Format:Paperback
Definitively in my top 5 (High Fidelity?) books to bring on a desert island. Lakoff manage to be brilliant and sometimes funny while debunking one of the oldest theory in the world (the Aristotelician view on the nature of categories). Who said formal logic, linguistic and cognitive psychology are boring?
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41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking the Mindforged Manacles February 3, 2004
Format:Paperback
I've just started reading this book for a course on Classification Theory as it applies to Library Science and I have to say I'm quite impressed. Not only is it very readable (a special treat in itself as most text books read like stereo instructions) but it' on a fascinating subject that needs far more coverage today than it gets currently. Other reviews have summerized the contents so I'll just add that for anyone with even a passing interest in cognitive linguistics, this is where you should start.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Linguists...Terrible Writer May 10, 2007
Format:Paperback
This was the first popular ground-breaking synthesis on the issue of categorization from a cognitive-linguistic perspective at the time of its writing. Unfortunately, althought George Lakoff is a top notch linguistic thinker, his writing is terrible and confusing. I sincerely recommend you read Language, Culture and Mind by Kovesces. He is much better at explaining the ideas in Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things than George Lakoff.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classical Categories are Dangerous Things April 18, 2010
Format:Paperback
George Lakoff delivers a book-long explanation of mental categorization from his perspective as a cognitive linguist. When this book was first published, cognitive psychology had recently escaped the limitations of behaviorism and was focusing on the mind. While this was progress, there was for a time an over-emphasis on disembodied computer models of thought. Lakoff's book helped counter this extreme by highlighting ways that our minds draw on culture and on our physical form to create concepts and reason with them.

In Part I: Categories and Cognitive Models, Lakoff describes the classical mathematical definition of a category that has been with us since Aristotle. Members of a category have a set of defining features which nonmembers lack. Various sized squares, for example, are squares because they have four sides of equal length which meet at right angles. He then reviews research evidence that most of the categories we think with do not have this structure. The category "bird" contains members like ostriches that are "less good" members than more central examples like robins and sparrows. He explores the implications of non-classical category structures for metaphors, mental models, and other issues in cognitive science.

Part II: Philosophical Implications examines the implications of the previous section for the philosophical underpinnings of cognitive science. Lakoff rejects objectivism--the view that there is a single, objectively-verifiable external reality--as a basis for knowledge. We must instead develop a cognitive semantics that is based on how humans reason without making a claim that it captures the single correct way of understanding the external world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic work
Lakoff's classic was written at a time when A.I. was still a force to be reckoned with and computer models of the brain were all the rage. Read more
Published 9 months ago by magellan
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable work illustrating the link between modern neuroscience and...
From one useful perspective, the human (mammalian) brain is generator of classifications, creating (realizing) neural connections between associated items encountered in the world. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Aquagem
5.0 out of 5 stars Central concept in cognitive linguistics
I first met George Lakoff when this book was in manuscript form; even then his ability to describe the difference between how people think and how laws categorize was clear,... Read more
Published 13 months ago by JJ Hantsch
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting thought process, unconvincing results
Considering how influential lakoff is and how much technical data he amasses, I ultimately found his conclusions unsupported. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Daniel Barnett
3.0 out of 5 stars Contains some interesting material
There really isn't all that much to this book. Lakoff talks about categorization, but he has nothing special to say about it. Read more
Published on July 15, 2006 by Jill Malter
3.0 out of 5 stars Good and complete, but very dry and too big
I'd say it's a book I'll keep and likely use as a reference but I doubt I'll ever read the whole thing. Read more
Published on November 18, 2004 by Hoby
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 stars for readability, 2 stars for presentation
Almost anyone will sound brilliant if first they set up a hopelessly lame excuse for the status quo (what Lakoff calls the "Traditionalist View"), then knock it down with... Read more
Published on July 14, 2004 by ocbizlaw
2.0 out of 5 stars An anti-objectivist screed
I had hoped to get a book that fit its subtitle, "What Categories Reveal about the Mind." What I found was a diatribe against a naive form of objectivism. Read more
Published on June 26, 2000
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