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Thread: Where would we be sans ‘container schema’?

  1. #1 Where would we be sans ‘container schema’? 
    Forum Ph.D.
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    Feb 2007
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    Where would we be sans ‘container schema’?

    ‘Container’ is a ubiquitous (constantly encountered) metaphor in the cognitive sciences.

    A single cell creature, such as the amoeba, is not merely alive but has the urge to stay alive. This creature knows nothing of intentionality; nevertheless such a form exists and expresses itself in the manner by which it maintains the chemical balance within its enclosing membrane.

    The urge to stay alive exists in most living organisms. This urge is not a modern phenomenon but exists in degrees throughout living creatures. Life is carried out within a boundary. Life needs a container with an interior, a boundary, and an exterior.

    The internal milieu, as named by French biologist Claude Bernard, is largely characterized by stability and sameness. Internally there exists an ability to maintain the stability required by life. This internal stability necessitates some form of sensing, some form of memory, and some form of controlling activity within the container. One might compare this internal system as having, to some very small degree, the same ingredients as does a neural network like a brain.

    Humans and I suspect all creatures navigate in space through spatial-relations concepts, i.e. schema. These concepts are the essence of our ability to function in space. These are not concepts that we can sense but they are the forms and inference patterns for our movement in space that we utilize unconsciously. We automatically perceive an entity as being on, in front of, behind, etc., another entity.

    The container schema is a fundamental spatial-relations concept that allows us to draw important inferences. This natural container format is the source for our logical inferences that are so obvious to us when we view Venn diagrams. If container A is in container B and B is in container C, then A is in C.

    A container schema is a gestalt (a functional unit) figure with an interior, an exterior, and a boundary—the parts make sense only as part of the whole. Container schemas are cross-modal—“we can impose a conceptual container schema on a visual scene…on something we hear, as when we conceptually separate out one part of a piece of music from another…This structure is topological in the sense that the boundary can be made larger, smaller, or distorted and still remain the boundary of a container schema.”

    “Image schemas have a special cognitive function: They are both perceptual and conceptual in nature. As such, they provide a bridge between language and reasoning on the one hand and vision on the other.”

    A common conception that has become a commonplace metaphor is ‘category is container’. We can thus image categories as a bounded region with members of the category as being objects inside that region. A subcategory is another bounded region, another container, within the original category container.

    ‘Logic’ is a word with more than one meaning; but it, like ‘science’, ‘Kleenex’ etc, has become a word with a common usage. In our common mode of speaking ‘logic’ means Aristotelian Formal Logic.

    Aristotle said “A definition is a phrase signifying a thing’s essence.” Essence is the collection of characteristics that makes a thing a kind of thing. Such a definition expresses what is called a concept.

    Aristotle equates predication (all men are mortal, I am a man) with containment. Predication is containment. To make a predication is to create a ‘container’ that contains the essence of a thing being predicated.

    This containment leads us to the obvious logic (formal principles of a branch of knowledge) of containers. If container A is in container C and container B is in A then B is in C. This container schema is where all of these Latin terms, such as Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens, come from. This is, I think, the source of all of the principles for syllogisms. In other words just imagine containers and various juxtapositions of these will lead one to the principles of Aristotelian logic. I suspect many Greeks scratched their heads and wondered “why didn’t I think of that?”

    Is there a demarcation boundary between instinct and reason? Is there a demarcation boundary between anything between here and the Big Bang? Is demarcation boundary a part of nature or is it just a necessity of human comprehension? Is category a fact of nature or is category a necessity of human comprehension? Is anything different in kind from anything else? Is everything different only in degree from everything else?

    I conclude that demarcation boundary is not an essential characteristic of nature but is an essential characteristic of human comprehension. Everything is a seamless flow from the Big Bang to now. Only in our mind do we have a difference in kind.

    Reality is a rainbow but we humans perceive reality as a myriad of containers! We perceive reality as containers because our “gut” tells us so and because classical metaphysics tells us so. Reality without demarcation boundaries means that everything is a seamless reality from everything else. It means that everything is not a kind of thing with its own necessary and sufficient nature but that all reality runs together and it is only in our minds that these containers exist.

    This is kind of a synthesis of ideas and quotes contained in The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio and Where Mathematics Comes From by Lakoff and Nunez.


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