Cognitive Science and Embodied Realism Glossary

Based on George Lakoff and Mark Johnson,
Philosophy in the Flesh

© by Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised September 30, 2009

Several terms important important in Chapter 6 have been added or modified recently.

aptness of metaphor - roughly, the excellence of metaphor: a metaphor can be apt if it effectively structures experience (think of Love is a Journey) or if it has nonmetaphorical entailments that can be true. (True nonmetaphorical entailments of metaphor tend to make a metaphor apt.) (LJ 72-73)

basic-level categories - categories we most readily distinguish because we have evolved to do so, folk versions of biological genera (cows, cats, goats, giraffes rather than Siamese cat or feline) and middle-level genera of artifacts (chair and car rather than furniture or rocking chair) unified, e.g., by the fact that we interact with their instances by similar motor actions. (LJ 27-28) I am not sure that there is any real difference between basic-level categories and basic-level concepts for LJ.--JG. See category.

basic-level concepts - concepts, like chair, which are characterized by mental imagery, motor movement, and gestalt perception. They are intentional and representational. They are intentional because the concept "picks out the things that fit our mental image of a chair, fit our motor program for sitting in a chair, and fit our gestalt perception of chairs. The mental image, the motor program, and the perceptual gestalt together form an embodied representation of category members." (LJ 116) If any words have strictly literal meaning, it would be those corresponding to basic-level concepts.

categorization - the embodied, largely (for some living beings entirely) unconscious making of distinctions that determines a living being's responses to things (LJ 17-18)

category - a classification of things made by human beings on the basis of their unconscious (or conscious) categorizations, or attributable by scientists to nonhuman beings for analogous reasons.

category as container metaphor - a conceptualization of categories in terms of containers, with an interior, an exterior, and a boundary; typically such containers are arranged in hierarchical order, with smaller containers inside larger; classical category thinking employs this metaphor (LJ 20)

classical category - a category defined in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions; very few of our natural categories conform to classical categories (LJ 78)

cognitive - any kind of mental operation or structure that can be studied in precise terms (LJ 11). All aspects of thought and language, conscious or unconscious, are cognitive.

Cognitive Reality Commitment - one of the three commitments of empirically responsible inquiry: an adequate theory of concepts and reason must provide an account of mind that is cognitively and neurally realistic. (LJ 79)

cognitive unconscious - the vast majority of cognitive structures and operations that are unconscious

cognitive science - the empirical study of the mind (LJ 15); the study of cognitive operations or structures, including conceptual systems, the mental lexicon, inferences (including unconscious inferences), mental imagery, emotions; and neural modeling of any cognitive operation

concept - not directly defined by LJ, but apparently including basic-level concepts, spatial-relations concepts, and conceptual metaphors (See LJ 116)

complex metaphor - metaphors formed by combination of primary metaphors. Important complex metaphors are stable: they become entrenched or fixed in our unconscious for long periods of time. They affect what we think and care about, structure our dreams, and form the basis of new metaphorical combinations. (LJ 60) They are used to reason with. (LJ 65). Examples of complex metaphor are Life is a Journey and Argument (i.e., intellectual controversy) is War. (The second example is discussed in Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (1980).)

conceptual metaphor (introduced without definition at LJ 45, the chief kind of metaphor in which LJ are interested): roughly, conceptual metaphor enables us to understand one type of thing (in the target domain) in terms of something else already understood (in the source domain). This correlation is "cross-domain mapping." (LJ 70)

Conceptual metaphors are either primary metaphors or complex metaphors.

conflation - the process by which in early childhood, terms from the source domain of primary metaphors are fused, in the minds of children, with terms from the target domain, e.g., "seeing" with "knowing," based on experiences where the two commonly occur together. The conflation stage is typically followed by a differentiation stage, in which distinctions are made between seeing and metaphorical seeing (i.e., knowing) but the metaphorical linkage remains in the background. (LJ 48-49)

conventional metaphorical mapping - a conventional projection from a conventional mental image about the source domain, along with knowledge about that image, onto target-domain knowledge (LJ 68)

Convergent Evidence Commitment - one of the three commitments of empirically responsible inquiry: an adequate theory . . . must be committed to the search for converging evidence from as many sources as possible. (LJ 80)

correspondence theory of truth - the idea that truth lies in the relationship between words and the metaphysically and objectively real world external to perceivers (LJ 26). (Note: it would have been better had LJ said that the correspondence theory holds that truth exists only when there is an isomorphism between mental states (Aristotle's affections of the soul) and the external real world.

direct realism - the realism favored by major ancient Greek philosophers (e.g., Aristotle), according to which fully adequate knowledge of the world is possible because the mind has direct access to the knowable features of the world; see disembodied realism; and embodied realism.

disembodied realism–the realism favored by Descartes and many others in post-Cartesian, including realists among the major analytic philosophers; this type of realism denies that the mind is directly in touch with the knowable world, yet it holds that fully adequate knowledge is possible insofar as the mind can adequately represent or refer to features of the external world.

disembodied scientific realism–the view characterized by three claims: "There is a world independent of our understanding of it.… We can have stable knowledge of it.… Our very concepts and forms of reason are characterized by the external world in itself." ("It follows that scientific truths are not merely truths as we understand them, but absolute truths." [LJ 90])

duals - a pair of metaphors that are figure-ground reversals of each other. (1) The Moving Time metaphor and the Moving Observer metaphors by which we conceive time are duals (148-49); another is the Multiplicity-Mass duality exhibited in variations on moving time (141-45); so are (2) the Location Event-Structure Metaphor and the Object Event Structure metaphor (198-99), especially when used to convey causal force.

embodied realism - the view that our notions of the external world result from a complex history and prehistory of interaction between our biology (and that of our ancestors) and the external world (LJ 25). Embodied realism is LJ's position, which they counterpose to objectivism, metaphysical realism, and subjectivism. Embodied realism accepts the first two claims of disembodied scientific realism, but rejects the third. "At the heart of embodied realism is our physical engagement with an environment in an ongoing series of interactions." (LJ 90) Unlike disembodied scientific realism, embodied realism "brings our understanding of what science is in line with the best neuroscience and cognitive science of our age." (LJ 92)

empirically responsible inquiry - a form of (scientific) inquiry that meets certain commitments, which LJ list as follows: Cognitive Reality, Convergent Evidence, and Generalization and Comprehensiveness. (LJ 79) See the corresponding entries in this glossary.

entailment hierarchy - the relationships between metaphors and other metaphors that seem to be logically entailed by them, e.g., Actions Are Self-Propelled Movements and Careful Action Is Careful Movement. (202-203)

essence prototype - a prototype that enables us to think of categories as if they were sharply defined and minimally distinguished from one another (LJ 20)

first generation cognitive science - the early version of cognitive science (beginning in the 1950's and 1960's), which adopted philosophical assumptions from analytic philosophy and had the following commitments: functionalism; cognitive operations as symbol manipulation; representational theory of meaning; classical categories; literal meaning. (LJ 78-79)

folk theory - models that make up a culture's shared common sense (352). Some folk theories, like the FT of the Elements (351-52) are "conscious public knowledge"; others are automatic, operating in the background as assumptions and used to draw conclusions. The term "folk theory" is a metaphorical coinage used to refer to more or less systematic types of thought found outside the specialized fields where theories in the normal sense are formed, explicitly stated, debated, and sometimes tested. The term was apparently coined by one type of specialists (e.g., cognitive scientists and philosophers influenced by them) to help describe how non-specialists think. Folk theories and conceptual metaphors are both "found" in the cognitive unconscious; many (all?--JG) FT's implicitly use conceptual metaphors; for instance, the FT of Faculty Psychology (discussed in LJ chapter 19) uses the Society of the Mind metaphor.

functionalism - one of the assumptions of first-generation cognitive science. The mind is essentially disembodied; we can study it independently of any knowledge of the body and brain, simply by looking at functional relations among concepts represented symbolically. (LJ 78) [Note: one does not have to be a dualist; one could be a materialist and a functionalist by holding that the concepts were indifferent to their material substratum of concepts, i.e., the thought of beauty could be located in the human brain or in the hardware of a sufficiently complex computer.]

hierarchy (in the metaphorical system) - the relationships between concepts related by cognitive inheritance; concepts "inheriting" features from other concepts are higher in the hierarchy. (201) See special-case hierarchy and entailment hierarchy.

Generalization and Comprehensiveness Commitment - one of the three commitments of empirically responsible inquiry: an adequate theory . . . must provide empirical generalization over the widest possible range of phenomena. (LJ 80)

ideal-type prototype - a prototype that allows us to evaluate category members by reference to some conceptual standard (LJ 19)

image schema - sometimes referred to merely as "a schema"; an unconscious image that we use to organize our experience of the world, e.g., container schema (a bounded region in space) that we use to conceptualize in; the source-path-goal schema that we use to conceptualize toward, away, and through. (LJ 31-34)

(cognitive) inheritance - the understanding of a one thing (less familiar) in terms of another (more familiar) that consists in replacing elements of the more familiar concept with the novel elements of the less familiar while keeping constant the similar elements (201) See hierarchy.

literal meaning, all meaning as - one of the assumptions of first-generation cognitive science: all meaning is literal meaning, e.g., "cat" just means that type of animal; "love" just means that type of feeling. No meaning is fundamentally metaphorical or imagistic. (LJ 79)

metaphysical realism - the view that there are realities external to us and that (at least some of) our ideas match up directly with the external world. (Some writers might call this a combination of metaphysical and epistemological realism.) See realism; embodied realism.

metonymy - the substitution of one thing for a second thing with which it is closely associated. Examples include (1) metonymy of Product for Process, e.g., instead of saying "The writing is coming right along," we might say "The book is coming right along" (LJ 203); (2) the Event for Time metonymy, e.g., "Commencement is approaching" is said instead of "The time at which Commencement will happen is approaching." (154); according to LJ without metonymy we would not have a literal concept of time: intervals of time are conceived in terms of "successive iterations of a type of event." Two seconds are conceived in terms of two clicks of a watch's second hand, and two minutes are conceived in terms of two 360-degree rotations of the second hand. We say that two minutes have passed even though what we have observed is two 360 degree rotations of the second hand (138, 167-68).

objectivism - this view, which tends to covers Greek direct realism, metaphysical realism, and disembodied realism in all its forms (Cartesian and 20th century analytic philosophy included), is contrasted with embodied realism and subjectivism. LJ use this term when discussing their position on metaphorical concepts and the philosophical mainstream that rejects conceptual metaphor. Objectivism typically insists that ordinary concepts have only literal meaning and that there is one and only one true or adequate analysis (or real definition) for any given concept. Objectivism is contrasted with subjectivism and embodied realism. It should not be confused with realism, since embodied realism is a type of realism.

poetic metaphor - the only type of metaphor traditionally (i.e., before 1980) recognized as metaphor (LJ 70); distinguished from the (conventional) kind of conceptual metaphor in which LJ are interested as novel (conceptual) metaphor.

primary (conceptual) metaphor - the mapping of sensorimotor experience onto subjective experience, e.g., Seeing-->Knowing, Grasping-->Understanding. Primary metaphors can be put together to form complex metaphors, as atoms are put together to form molecules. (See LJ 50-54 for a listing of important primary metaphors.)

prototype - neural structure that permits us to do an inferential or imaginative task with respect to a category (LJ 19); see essence prototype; ideal-type prototype.

radial category - a type of category more frequently employed than classical categories. The use of radial categories involves prototypes. Not all instances of a radial category are equal members of the category; concepts may be more or less central instances of a radial category. See LJ 177 for a discussion of causation as a radial category. See also prototype; classical category.

realism - an epistemologically optimistic philosophical position, according to which stable or fully adequate knowledge of the external world is possible; realism assumes (or takes itself to have proven) that there is a world outside subjective consciousness. Types of realist differ dramatically. Direct realists like Aristotle differ from "disembodied realists" like Descartes and the realists in the analytic philosophical tradition. Lakoff and Johnson, who are embodied realists, devote much of their energy to challenging realists of other types.

representational theory of meaning -- one of the assumptions of first-generation cognitive science: Mental representations are symbolic; they get their meaning by relations to each other or by relations to external reality. (LJ 78)

salient exemplar -- a prototype used for making probability judgments; = well-known example (LJ 19)

second-generation cognitive science -- cognitive science committed to empirically responsible inquiry in the sense defined by LJ.

social constructivism -- See subjectivism. Social constructivism holds that all science can do is make claims on the basis of culturally constructed narratives, predetermined by our assumptions. It denies that science can describe the world in an objective and stable manner. (78, 88, 331)

spatial relations concepts -- "concepts that characterize what spatial form is and define spatial inference." They make use of image schemas. (LJ 30ff.)

special-case hierarchy - exemplified by the relationship between Difficulties Are Impediments to Movement, on the one hand, and Difficulties Are Blockages, Difficulties are Burdens, etc., on the other hand. (202)

subjectivism (LJ use it to cover relativism and social constructivism) - the view that our ideas of the external world are culturally determined and so vary from culture to culture (LJ 25)

symbol manipulation, cognitive operations as. One of the assumptions of first-generation cognitive science: Cognitive operations (including all forms of thinking) are formal operations on symbols without regard to what those symbols mean. (LJ 78)