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Thread: Our subjective mental life

  1. #1 Our subjective mental life 
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Our subjective mental life

    We constantly make subjective judgments regarding abstract things, such as morality, difficulty, importance; we also have subjective experiences such as affection, desire, and achievement.

    The manner in which we reason, and visualize about these matters comes from other domains of experience. “These other domains are mostly sensorimotor domains…as when we conceptualize understanding an idea (subjective experience) in terms of grasping an object (sensorimotor experience)…The cognitive mechanism for such conceptualizations is conceptual metaphor, which allows us to use the physical logic of grasping to reason about understanding.”

    Metaphor is pervasive throughout thought and language. Primary metaphors might properly be considered to be the fundamental building blocks for our thinking and our communication through language.

    The theory of primary metaphors has four parts:
    1) Johnson’s theory of conflation—in the early years of childhood the sensorimotor experiences are often conflated with the subjective (nonsensorimotor) experiences and judgments. An example might be when a newborn experiences the warmth of the embrace by its mother and that literal experience becomes conflated with a later subjective experience of affection. That is why our feeling of affection is accompanied by a sense of warmth. “During the early period of conflation, associations are automatically built up between the two domains. Later, during a period of differentiation, children then able to separate out the domains, but the cross-domain associations persist.”

    2) Grady’s theory of primary metaphor—complex metaphors are like molecular structure with primary metaphors as the atomic elements.

    3) Narayanan’s neural theory of metaphor—the associations made during conflation “are realized neurally in simultaneous activations that result in permanent neural connections being made across the neural networks that define conceptual domains…that constitute metaphorical entailments.”

    4) Fauconnier and Turner’s theory of conceptual blending—Distinct separate conceptual domains can be coactivated thereby creating a blending, which creates new and unique conceptual blends.

    “The integrated theory –the four parts together—has an overwhelming implication: We acquire a large system of primary metaphors automatically and unconsciously simply by functioning in the most ordinary of ways in the everyday world from our earliest days…we all naturally think using hundreds of primary metaphors.”

    In summation, we have many hundreds of primary metaphors, which together provide a rich inferential structure, imagery, and qualitative feel. These primary metaphors permit our sensorimotor experiences to be used to create subjective experiences. Thus abstract ideas are created that are grounded in everyday experiences.


    Do you have any idea how abstract ideas might be created other wise?

    Quotes from Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson


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