Author: George Lakoff

Title: Women, Fire and Dangerous Things

Recommended by Maggie Appleton

Preface

This is a book about epistemology - and specifically how the old answers say knowledge and reason as literal and objective, whereas the new view takes the imagination seriously - seeing metaphor and mental imagery as central to reason.

The traditional view is hanging on, even with plenty of evidence against it. Two main reasons why - the 2,000 yo status quo and no well thought out alternative.

The traditional view says that thought is abstract and objective - it exists independently of the one who has the thought. Machines, therefore, as they manipulate data are capable of thought.

We group things into categories - the objectivist (traditional) will group if, and only if, things have certain properties in common.

Conceptual categories are very different. Thought is embodipried, imaginative (particular for those concepts which are not grounded in experience), thought has gestalt properties (this supports thinking in more connected ways). This is a much more organic and evolutionary way of considering thought and thinking - less certain, more room for interpretation, each embodied understanding will be different.

The new view is being referred to as experientialism. This is based on a commitment that the real world exists, that reality places constraints on concepts, that truth is more than formal logic.

Experience is everything that goes to make up the individual - both senses and genetic legacy.

So, do meaningful thought exist merely in the abstract or does it only exist in the embodied experience?

And why does it matter? Because it affects how we view and value humans, humanity and human experience.

It also means we recognise that learning goes beyond the rote and mechanical - it impacts how we see how human minds can and should be deployed for their flourishing and for that of all society.

This book brings together some of the evidence for this view - the embodied, experiential view and particularly the ways in which we categorize. Are we Platonic? Or is there more to it?