PHIL 401: Readings in Philosophy
Aristotle and Embodied Realism

Spring Semester 2007

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Meeting Time: TR 2:20-3:40 p.m.
Instructor: Dr. Jan Garrett

This course sets up a conversation between Aristotle, the towering figure of ancient philosophy, and George Lakoff, the contemporary cognitive linguist and philosopher. Both thinkers philosophize against the background of the sciences of their time. Aristotle is well known as a contributor to the early history of Logic and Natural Science. Lakoff, our contemporary, has been engaged not only in philosophical debates about the nature of language, imagination, and the mind's relation to the body but in the empirical research programs of cognitive linguistics, a branch of second-generation cognitive science.

Regarding Aristotle, we will look primarily at his physical, epistemological, and metaphysical texts, trying to discover his views on truth, language, perception, thought, knowledge, mind and body, and reality.

Aristotle's view has been characterized as metaphysical realism. Lakoff deliberately calls his view embodied realism. Among other things, the course will explore the similarities and differences of these two "realisms."

Lakoff and his colleague Mark Johnson build on recent researches in cognitive science. They present original work:

  • on the role of conceptual metaphor, and more generally, the imagination in virtually all abstract thinking, inside and outside the specialist sciences;

  • explaining the pre-philosophical sources of major philosophical theories (including Aristotle's)

  • containing new explanations of our ordinary notions of time and cause, mind and self

  • embodied realism, a non-dualist, science-friendly account of human nature, knowledge, and truth that nevertheless differs from dominant views in contemporary philosophy

    As we study the Lakoff-Johnson account we will look for similarities and differences with respect to Aristotle, weighing the stated or likely reasons for the positions defended and attempting to determine their relative defensibility.


    Essential Aristotle Texts to be Studied

    We will likely use an anthology of selections from Aristotle's writings, either Aristotle: Selections, translations by Irwin and Fine (published by Hackett Publishing Co.) or A New Aristotle Reader, edited by J. L. Akrill (published by Princeton University Press).

    The primary texts to be studied are:

    Cat. 1-5 (on the categories and the primacy of substance)
    De Int. selections (on language, mind, and reality)
    Poetics 21 and Rhetoric 3.26ff. (on the nature and use of metaphor)
    Phys. II, IV.10-14. (on nature, the causes, time)
    Nic.Eth.VI.1-8 (on the various types of knowing)
    Metaphysics I.1-2 (sensation, experience, knowledge, wisdom)
    Posterior Analytics II.19 (on experience, intuition, and knowledge)
    On the Soul, selections (on perception, imagination, understanding)
    Metaphysics III.1, IV.1-4, VII, XII, selections (further inquiries on substance and being)

    Lakoff and Johnson Readings

    G. Lakoff and M. Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh (University of Chicago Press, 1999)

    (listed by Part and Chapter)

    I.1. Who are we?
    I.2. The Cognitive Unconscious
    I.3. The Embodied Mind
    I.4. Primary Metaphor and Subjective Experience
    I.5. Complex Metaphor
    I.6. Embodied Realism vs. A Priori Philosophy
    I.7. Realism and Truth

    II.9. The Cognitive Science of Philosophical Ideas
    II.10. Time
    II.11. Events and Causes

    III.15. The Cognitive Science of Philosophy
    III.16. The Cognitive Science of Early Greek Metaphysics
    III.17. Plato
    IV.18. Aristotle

    II.12. Cognitive Science and the Idea of Mind
    II.13. Cognitive Science and the Idea of Self
    III.17. Cognitive Science and Descartes

    II.14. Cognitive Science and Morality
    III.20. Cognitive Science and Kantian Morality