George Lakoff and Mark Johnson take on the daunting task of rebuilding Western philosophy in alignment with three fundamental lessons from cognitive science: The mind is inherently embodied, thought is mostly unconscious, and abstract concepts are largely metaphorical. Why so daunting? "Cognitive science--the empirical study of the mind--calls upon us to create a new, empirically responsible philosophy, a philosophy consistent with empirical discoveries about the nature of mind," they write. "A serious appreciation of cognitive science requires us to rethink philosophy from the beginning, in a way that would put it more in touch with the reality of how we think." In other words, no Platonic forms, no Cartesian mind-body duality, no Kantian pure logic. Even Noam Chomsky's generative linguistics is revealed under scrutiny to have substantial problems.
Parts of Philosophy in the Flesh retrace the ground covered in the authors' earlier Metaphors We Live By, which revealed how we deal with abstract concepts through metaphor. (The previous sentence, for example, relies on the metaphors "Knowledge is a place" and "Knowing is seeing" to make its point.) Here they reveal the metaphorical underpinnings of basic philosophical concepts like time, causality--even morality--demonstrating how these metaphors are rooted in our embodied experiences. They repropose philosophy as an attempt to perfect such conceptual metaphors so that we can understand how our thought processes shape our experience; they even make a tentative effort toward rescuing spirituality from the heavy blows dealt by the disproving of the disembodied mind or "soul" by reimagining "transcendence" as "imaginative empathetic projection." Their source list is helpfully arranged by subject matter, making it easier to follow up on their citations. If you enjoyed the mental workout from Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works, Lakoff and Johnson will, to pursue the "Learning is exercise" metaphor, take you to the next level of training. --Ron Hogan
From Library Journal
Written by distinguished Berkeley linguist Lakoff and his coauthor on Metaphors We Live By (1983), this book explores three propositions claimed as "major findings" of cognitive science: "The mind is inherently embodied. Thought is mostly unconscious. Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical." Cognitive science, with its basic materialist bent, applies computer-based concepts, a little neurophysiology, and linguistic theory to human mental life. It will, the authors say, drastically change philosophy. They seem to think that we are really run by our deep wiring and the cultural concepts that become embodied metaphors. While seeking clarity by drawing out the implications of their basic notions, they add new puzzles. What does it mean to say "reason is not disembodied"? Read this book to see how (some?) cognitive scientists think. But read it with Charles P. Siewert's recent The Significance of Consciousness (Princeton Univ., 1998) for the traditional notions of consciousness. Readers will find there's still room for their own judgments.?Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa, Canada
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