TA110 (Mind and Metaphysics)


Commentary 18



Remarks On The Moodey, Muller, Freeman Dialogue

by Harwood Fisher

11 February 2009, posted 21 February 2009



HF:  As I understand the proposal by Johnson and by Lakoff, there are no reifications of the concepts of 'mind' and 'body.'  The proposal is that linguistic functioning as we can observe it is a product of cognitive processes, and that these cognitive processes are constructions, which appear as mapped schematizations of bodily experiences and their reaction patterns. 


To make this clear, take an example of the person who jumps into a lake.  The visual, kinesthetic, and other sense and motor experiences are bodily and they are tied to the motor reactions, whether of breathing, swimming motions, or other such.  Neural communication pathways and networks advance signals and significations, which result in cognitive patterns that schematize the experiences and action patterns in a format, which has nodes for different aspects of the prior (memory-engendered) and future (habit-inspired) stimulus to 'meaningful' reaction to, if not interpretation of, environmental demands and characteristics that the person faces--in the example, when various situations triggering analogues of jumping into a lake arise.  So, a metaphor-inspired phrase like 'Go jump in the lake' has such origins.


The ongoing Moodey, Muller, and Freeman dialogue is too beset with reifications of mind and body as entities.  Johnson and Lakoff are, for better or worse, not trapped in those considerations.  They have presented a series of causal progressions that make use of the basic idea (Darwinian and Gibsonian) that adaptation is by way of action patterns and these action patterns are reflected at various points in the organism's action within its bounds (includes sensory motor and affective action and reaction) and action upon the external environment. 



The model they present has two fundamental flaws: 


Problem One, the direction of the causal flow is bottom-up from neural--(and possibly sub-neural) structures and functions on upward to sensory-motor patterning and its schematizations.  These are reflected in cognitive images and other representations that are organized as schemata, as if reflections of adaptive habits.


So, problem I is that this view makes no distinction for conscious evaluation of schemata--unless you want to go down the road of endless regression by which an 'evaluative schema' is derived from target sub-schemata.  In short, this physical base orientation as the start point introduces a set of causal progressions, which do not accommodate an 'information-based' approach (Patee's point).  The 'information-based' approach to analyzing causal phenomena would call for a bi-directional account, in which cognitive phenomena would drive 'downward' in a top-down manner.


Problem Two, about which I've written extensively, is undue compression of organismic epistemics.  Our knowledge-enabling structures are reduced to schemata in an excessive patrimony to the concept of adaptation as blind habit building. 


Eschewed are follow-up analyses and probes of perceptual and cognitive patterns that are in different formats than schematics.  Here, one only need to refer to Aristotle's analyses of different sorts of logical and rhetorical forms to see that as Braine and O'Brien had pointed out there are probably basic logic patterns that are wired-in either universally or for most people.  Coupled with the para-logical formats that yield both poetic comparisons and hypotheticals, there is enough reason to examine the structure and dynamics of thought without stuffing it all into a schematization format.






M. D. S. Braine & D. P. O'Brien (Eds.) 1998, Mental logic. Mahwah NJ. USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.


Patee, H. H. (2007). The necessity of biosemiotics: Matter symbol-complementarity.  In:  Barbieri, M. (2007). Introduction to biosemiotics: The new biological  synthesis.115-132. Dordrecht: Springer.




Harwood Fisher

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