New Book: Philosophy in the Flesh
lakoff at COGSCI.BERKELEY.EDU
Thu Jan 14 07:58:26 UTC 1999
PHILOSOPHY IN THE FLESH
The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
Hardcover, 624 pages, $30 list
$21 + shipping at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com
Thought is mostly unconscious.
The mind is inherently embodied.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.
These are three major findings in cognitive science that contradict most of
Western philosophy, including both Anglo-American analytic philosophy and
This book asks, What would happen if we started with these empirical
discoveries about the nature of mind and constructed philosophy anew from
Virtually everything changes when the embodiment of mind is taken into account:
-New understandings of truth and of science are required.
-The most basic philosophical ideas-time, events, causes, the mind, the
self, and morality-are reanalyzed in detail and shown to be radically
different than the Western tradition has supposed.
-Great philosophical theories-from the Presocratics, Plato and Aristotle to
Descartes and Kant to analytic philosophy-are shown to be composed out of a
small number of metaphors taken as eternal truths.
-Even contemporary accounts of language (Chomskyan linguistics) and
rationality (the rational actor model using game theory) are shown to have
a metaphorical basis.
Most importantly, the very idea of what a human being is changes
-There is no Cartesian person, whose essence is a mind separate from, and
independent of the body.
-There is no Kantian, radically autonomous person, with an absolute freedom
and a transcendent universal reason that correctly dictates what is and
-There is no utilitarian person, for whom rationality is economic
rationality-the maximization of utility.
-There is no postmodernist person-no completely decentered subject for whom
all meaning is arbitrary, totally relative, and purely historically
-There is no person as posed by analytic philosophy for whom truth is a
correspondence between words and the world, independent of human psychology
-There is no computational person, whose mind is like computer software
able to work on any suitable computer or neural hardware.
-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
and whom language is a total genetic innovation that began with human
Contemporary cognitive science reveals that we human beings are radically
different kinds of creatures than Western philosophy has taught us that we
GEORGE LAKOFF is Professor of Linguistics at the University of California
at Berkeley. He has served on the Governing Board of the Cognitive Science
Society and has been President of the International Cognitive Linguistics
MARK JOHNSON is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy
Department at the University of Oregon.
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