Paris, October 1995 (3)
George Lakoff: On Conceptual Categories
Conceptual categories are, on the whole, very different from
what the objectivist view requires of them. The evidence
suggests a very different view, not only of categories,
but of human reason in general:
George Lakoff: Women, Fire, and Dangereous Things;
- Thought is embodied, that is, the structures used to put
together out conceptual systems grow out of bodily experience
and make sense in terms of it; moreover, the core of our
conceptual systems is directly grounded in perception,
body movement, and experience of a physical and social character.
- Thought is imaginative, in that those concepts which are not
directly grounded in experience employ metaphor, metonymy,
and mental imagery - all of which go beyond the literal mirroring,
or representation, of external reality. It is this imaginative
capacity that allows for "abstract" thought and takes the mind
beyond what we can see and feel. The imaginative capacity is
also embodied - indirectly - since the metaphors, metonymies, and
images are based on experience, often bodily experience. Thought
is also imaginative in a less obvious way: every time we categorize
something in a way that does not mirror nature, we are using general
human imaginative capacities.
- Thought has gestalt properties and thus not atomistic; concepts
have an overall structure that goes beyond merely putting
together conceptual "building blocks" by general rules.
- Thought has an ecological structure. The efficiency of cognitive
processing, as in learning and memory, depends on the overall
structure of the conceptual system and on what the concepts mean.
Thought is thus more than just the mechanical manipulation
of abstract symbols.
What Categories Reveal about the Mind.
The University of Chicago Press, 1987.
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Timo Honkela <Timo.Honkela@hut.fi>