The most exciting book opening I've read in a while.

Okay, so it may be a revelation of my complete philosophy geekyness, but I just finished reading the first chapter of Philosophy in the Flesh George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's voluminous work of cognitive science/philosophy, and I found the opening to be one of the most interesting and enrapturing things I've read in a long time. I will now take the liberty of quoting this briefly, because it's just so interesting. What follows is the text of the opening.

"The mind is inherently embodied.
Thought it mostly unconscious.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.
These are three major findings of cognitive science. More than two millennia of a priori philosophical speculation about the aspects of reason are over. Because of these discoveries, philosophy can never be the same again."

Holy heck, what an opening! It's like taking a sledgehammer to philosophy of mind. Blunt, brief, oh so effective. What interests me most is the last major finding - the first two seem well proven. That the mind is inherently embodied is supported well by the work of Kristoff Kotch, Steven Pinker, and especially Vilayanur S. "Rama" Ramachandran, whose work on this issue I find most fascinating and persuasive. These three also give good credence, and they are not the only ones, only the ones I am most aware of, to the idea that thought is mostly unconcious. One of my favorite examples from Ramachandran is the story of the young man who had specific brain damage which did not allow him to recognize his mother as his mother - he knew she looked like his mother, but could not believe she was his mother. (if you're interested, and before you question the findings, please read more here.) Such a aspect of brain damage leads me to strongly believe both the first two points, because it shows that 1. The brain is embodied, other wise such specific brain damage would not have such specific effect, and 2. Such effect could not be effected without huge processing taking place on an entirely unconcious level.

But the third one, oh, there's a field I could play in for a while. The difficulty, it seems to me, is that the concept of "abstract concept" is itself an abstract concept, and much work must be done before we can answer the question "what is an abstract concept" specifically, non-metaphorically, and not a priori. it's like a metaphor of a metaphor of a metaphor. I'm very, very interested to see what Lakoff and Johnson do later, and I really want to see if they address this. Woo-hoo!

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