PHIL 401-001 (Fall 2009)
First Essay Assignment on the Lakoff/Lakoff-Johnson Perspective
or the Cognitive Science of Philosophical Concepts

Contact Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised on September 13, 2009

Due: Class time, September 30.

Length: 1200 words excluding quoted material; double spaced, word-processed, about one-inch page margins. Please give me a word count, without including quoted material. You may exceed the minimum page length by 2-3 pages if you wish.

Semester Points Assigned: 40

General Description: A paper on some aspect of Lakoff's and Johnson's account of the embodied nature of human thought, or moral and political thought, or their analyses of our concepts of causation or mind. Superior papers will discuss a certain number of empirical results of (second-generation) cognitive science and connect them with their (alleged or real) implications for philosophical questions and/or political advocacy.

If you have not carefully worked through the study questions corresponding to the key passages on which you'll be relying, you should probably do that before trying to compose your essay.

You may refer to Lakoff (The Political Mind, L) and Lakoff and Johnson (Philosophy in the Flesh, LJ) by page number, using the embedded parenthetic format: e.g., "Lakoff and Johnson say that we rarely think without metaphor (LJ, 59)." You may refer to other works by using the author-date and page method, e.g., (Barnes 1995, 325). Use a bibliography if you cite such other sources.

Suggested Topics

Note: Other passages than those indicated by the study questions listed may be relevant. Use the index to look up any terms whose meanings are not clear. (I have created a glossary for Philosophy in the Flesh on this website that you may find useful.)

On this paper I think it would be best if you focused on topic A or B. A and B correspond to what I hope we will have discussed by the time the paper is due. The other topics go beyond that, though we may get to them later.

A. Lakoff and Johnson on the role of conceptual metaphor in thinking.

See LJ, chapters 4-5; especially issues to which the following study questions refer: 34; 36; 38; 40-43; 46-50; 55-56.
B. Select a set of interrelated issues from among those discussed in chapters 2, 3, 4 of The Political Mind. Probably you should focus on ideas in no more than two chapters. For instance, you might discuss the basic distinctions between conservative, progressive, and neoliberal approaches to politics (ch.2) and the role of metaphor and family moral models in generating the policy positions we normally take to be conservative and progressive (ch 3). Or you could concentrate on the themes of chapter 3 and chapter 4 (which seems to provide more detail). The later chapters presuppose the earlier ones, so be pretty sure you understand the earlier before trying to write on the topics of the later.

See the relevant study questions for The Political Mind.

Chapter 14 in Philosophy in the Flesh is an earlier discussion of Lakoff's perspective on family moral models and politics. There are Study Questions for this chapter on this website.

C. For somebody especially interested in philosophical theories of truth: Lakoff and Johnson on embodied realism, disembodied realism, and truth.
See chapters 6-7; especially issues to which the following study questions refer: 59-60; 63; 65-66; 71; 72; 74-75; 77-84; 92-98.

D. The cognitive science of causal ideas.

See chapter 11, especially the issues to which the following study questions refer: 38-39; 42-54; 56-59; 64-65. Among other things, this chapter tries to show how philosophical concepts such as essence and the four well-known Aristotelian causes derive from common conceptual metaphors. It also evaluates Russell's thesis that the idea of cause is a mere fiction.
E. The cognitive science of ideas of mind
See chapter 12, especially the issues to which the following study questions refer: 70-82; 84-86; 90-93. Note: This chapter has a number of interesting and provocative things to say about major perspectives in 20th century Anglo-American analytic philosophy.

If you find yourself stuck at any point, please ask for guidance. I am here to help.