KARL JASPERS FORUM
TA110 (Mind and Metaphysics)
Commentary 27 (to Harwood Fisher, C24)
( ON EMBODIMENT )
by Richard W Moodey
25 February 23009, posted 7 March 2009
[ New comments marked with ** - HFJM ]
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.
I do not think we can "observe" linguistic functioning as a product of cognitive processes. This is probably because I understand 'observation' to refer to an activity involve the external senses, not "pure" sensation, Of course, because i believe that the observing subject integrates sensory Inputs into a coherent experience. The point is that my interpretation of "observation" is a construction, and so is Lakoff's, Johnson's, and Fisher's.
Reply: you can't have it both ways. If 'observe' is relegated to 'external' -- whatever that means -- then you don't have an 'observing subject', as you define it. Observation neither precludes "integration into an 'Experience'" nor a process of construction.
By "external senses" I mean sight, hearing, touching, etc. I don't see any contradiction between saying that "observating" involves the external senses and saying that there is an observing subject. "I see things."
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.
I thought that I was arguing against reifications of mind and body. I do regard a person as a thing, and I could see how Fisher might regard that as a reification. If so, we disagree.
Reply: 'person' is not what I identified as a reification. Still, although there is a broader discussion here about the positing of units and the interaction of perception and cognitive decisions about objects and their characterization, the topic is too big. It includes all sorts of cultural and sociological points of view. My points have to do with 'mind' and 'body.' My concern is that too dogmatic a position on either prevents Progress of theorizing -- and even just thinking -- about the different ways to analyze events, phenomena and patterns of dynamics and transaction.
We agree about the dangers of dogmatism. My position is that whatever I say explicitly about "mind" or "body" has many other beliefs as the tacit background. Among those are tacit beliefs about the person as actor.
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.
A bi-directional account makes a lot of sense to me. I would say, By the way, that it is not the "mind" that evaluates schemata, but the Person.
Reply: it looks like we agree more than disagree. 'The mind' becomes a 'thing' if agency is not accounted for; so I look for a dynamic account that differentiates action from evaluation. The 'person' -- at times and at different levels or modes of functioning -- acts or functions with access to agency. Distinctions between more and less conscious thought and the manifestations of these distinctions in a phenomenological analysis are necessary for an adequate account of the vicissitudes of thought re logical form, and also re the relation of self to intention. The point for cognitive linguistics has to do with overextending linguistic form to account for these things.
For me, and in this I might be in a minority, the first step in accounting for "agency" is being explicit about the "agents" and what they can and cannot do. And I think that you are doing that in what you say above. I am not sure how to interpret "access to agency," however. Does it mean something other than "able to act"?
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.
I must say that i had telescoped there! Sorry about that. But now see my reply immediately above.
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.
Could not Braine and O'Brien be accused of reifying wire-in logic Patterns?
What concerns me is not a proposal about a neurologically-inspired process of logical routines and constraints. The latter is subject to a phenomenological inquiry as well as to all sorts of operationalizing in social psychological experiments. The posit of a 'wired-in' status, even if it's tied to the idea of neurological correlates is sufficiently hypothetical to be merely suggestive -- although I must admit, that I too get concerned when some theorists and researchers consider a neurological model with too limited an explanation of determinants of meaning, its processing and its evaluation in thought.
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.
Richard W Moodey
e-mail < MOODEY001 (at) gannon.edu >