Have We Metaphor...

... or are you just simile to somebody I used to know?

A major theme of Lakoff and Johnson's Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Philosophy is the notion that abstract thought is metaphorical and that the metaphors are grounded in the neural circuity of our sensory motor systems. Thus we may tackle the subject of metaphysics, see its key ideas, or have them go over our head. The apparatus of deductive thought is itself encapsulated in metaphor. Premises are starting points, deductions are a journey, and conclusions are a destination that follows from them.

According to the authors, the core metaphors are grounded in simultaneous activations:

Part 1: Johnson's theory of conflation in the course of learning. For young children, subjective (nonsensorimotor) experiences and judgments, on the one hand, and sensorimotor experiences, on the other, are so regularly conflated-undifferentiated in experience-that for a time children do not distinguish between the two when they occur together. For example, for an infant, the subjective experience of affection is typically correlated with the sensory experience of warmth, the warmth of being held. During the period of conflation, associations are automatically built up between the two domains. Later, during a period of differentiation, children are then able to separate out the domains, but the cross-domain associations persist. These persisting associations are the mappings of conceptual metaphor that will lead the same infant, later in life, to speak of "a warm smile," "a big problem," and "a close friend."

George Lakoff. Philosophy In The Flesh (Kindle Locations 610-615). Kindle Edition.

Such subjective associations with concrete sensory-motor experience color, shape and define all our more abstract notions.


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