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  1. #1
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    Default What is a Basic-Level Category?

    What is a Basic-Level Category?

    Consider the category hierarchies: {furniture--chair—rocker} and {vehicle--car—sedan}. The middle categories--chair and car--have been discovered to be “basic”—they have a cognitive priority. “Basic-level categories are distinguished from subordinate categories by aspects of our bodies, brains, and minds: mental images, gestalt perception, motor programs, and knowledge structure.”

    The basic level is characterized by at least four conditions: 1) It is the highest level at which a single mental image can represent the entire category (you can’t get a mental image of vehicle or furniture). 2) It is the highest level at which category members have a similarly perceived overall shape. 3) It is the highest level at which a person uses similar motor actions for interacting with category members. 4) It is the level at which most of our knowledge is organized.

    The division between basic and non-basic level is body-based. It is based upon gestalt (overall part-whole structure) perception, motor programs, and mental images. The basic-level is that level at which people more optimally interact with their environment.

    The basic-level does not merely apply to objects. “There are basic-level actions, actions for which we have conventional mental images and motor programs, like swimming, walking, and grasping. We also have basic-level concepts, like families, clubs, and baseball teams, as well as basic-level social actions, like arguing. And there are basic-level emotions, like happiness, anger, and sadness.”

    “Our categories arise from the fact that we are neural beings, from the nature of our bodily capacities, from our experience interacting in the world, and from our evolved capacity for basic-level categorization—a level at which we optimally interact with the world. Evolution has not required us to be as accurate above and below the basic level as at the basic level, and so we are not.”

    We have a gut feeling about some things because our sense of correctness comes from our bodies. When Newton provided us with his theory of physics we could “feel” the correctness of much of it because he was using such concepts as acceleration, momentum, distance and velocity all of which we knew because we could intuit them, we could “feel in our gut” these concepts. Such was not the case when the physicist attacked the problem of quantum physics. Who has a gut feeling for the inner workings of the atom?

    Our “gut feeling” constantly informs us as to the ‘correctness’ of some phenomenon. This gut feeling is an attitude; it is one of many types of attitudes. What can we say about this gut feeling?

    Philosophy in The Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson says a great deal about this gut feeling. Conceptual metaphor theory, the underlying theory of cognitive science contained in this book, explains how our knowledge is ‘grounded’ in a manner in which we optimally interact with the world.

    Our basic-level categories are created unconsciously based upon our bodily interaction with our world.

  2. #2
    The Memes Justify the End EcK's Avatar
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    so..?
    Expression of the post modern paradox : "For the love of god, religions are so full of shit"

    Theory is always superseded by Fact...
    ... In theory.

    “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”
    Richard Feynman's last recorded words

    "Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart."
    Mencius (Meng-Tse), 4th century BCE

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    What is a Basic-Level Category?

    Consider the category hierarchies: {furniture--chair—rocker} and {vehicle--car—sedan}. The middle categories--chair and car--have been discovered to be “basic”—they have a cognitive priority. “Basic-level categories are distinguished from subordinate categories by aspects of our bodies, brains, and minds: mental images, gestalt perception, motor programs, and knowledge structure.”

    The basic level is characterized by at least four conditions: 1) It is the highest level at which a single mental image can represent the entire category (you can’t get a mental image of vehicle or furniture). 2) It is the highest level at which category members have a similarly perceived overall shape. 3) It is the highest level at which a person uses similar motor actions for interacting with category members. 4) It is the level at which most of our knowledge is organized.

    The division between basic and non-basic level is body-based. It is based upon gestalt (overall part-whole structure) perception, motor programs, and mental images. The basic-level is that level at which people more optimally interact with their environment.

    The basic-level does not merely apply to objects. “There are basic-level actions, actions for which we have conventional mental images and motor programs, like swimming, walking, and grasping. We also have basic-level concepts, like families, clubs, and baseball teams, as well as basic-level social actions, like arguing. And there are basic-level emotions, like happiness, anger, and sadness.”

    “Our categories arise from the fact that we are neural beings, from the nature of our bodily capacities, from our experience interacting in the world, and from our evolved capacity for basic-level categorization—a level at which we optimally interact with the world. Evolution has not required us to be as accurate above and below the basic level as at the basic level, and so we are not.”

    We have a gut feeling about some things because our sense of correctness comes from our bodies. When Newton provided us with his theory of physics we could “feel” the correctness of much of it because he was using such concepts as acceleration, momentum, distance and velocity all of which we knew because we could intuit them, we could “feel in our gut” these concepts. Such was not the case when the physicist attacked the problem of quantum physics. Who has a gut feeling for the inner workings of the atom?

    Our “gut feeling” constantly informs us as to the ‘correctness’ of some phenomenon. This gut feeling is an attitude; it is one of many types of attitudes. What can we say about this gut feeling?

    Philosophy in The Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson says a great deal about this gut feeling. Conceptual metaphor theory, the underlying theory of cognitive science contained in this book, explains how our knowledge is ‘grounded’ in a manner in which we optimally interact with the world.

    Our basic-level categories are created unconsciously based upon our bodily interaction with our world.
    Quite so.

    If we divide the world into the very small, our size, and the very big, it is no surprise to find 'our size' is intuitive.

    But we have been surprised to find the the very small, the atomic, is counter-intuitive as in quantum mechanics.

    And we have correspondingly been surprised that the very big is also counter-intuitive, as in relativity.

    At a simple level, it is intuitive that the sun goes round the earth, and counter-intuitive that the earth goes round the sun.

    So for 200,000 years, humanity has been intuitive. But it is only in the last few hundred years, that we have learnt how to think counter-intuitively.

    So what happened to change our way of thinking?

  4. #4
    Senior Member matmos's Avatar
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    In the Third Man, Harry Lime asks an interesting question as he goes up in the Ferris Wheel and the landscape shrinks. At what point do the people below appear insignificant enough to kill them for profit?

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    Cognitive science has introduced a new way of viewing the world and our self by declaring a new paradigm which they call the embodied mind. The primary focus is upon the fact that there is no mind/body duality but that there is indeed an integrated mind and body. The mind and body are as integrated as is the heart and the body.

    The human thought process is dominated by the characteristic of our integrated body. The sensorimotor neural network is an integral part of our mind. The neural network that makes movement and perception possible is the same network that processes our thinking.

    The unconscious categories that guide our human response to the world are constructed in the same way as are the categories that make it possible of other animals to survive in the world. We form categories both consciously and unconsciously.

    Why do we feel that both our consciously created and unconsciously created categories fit the world?

    Our consciously formed concepts fit the world, more or less, because we consciously examine the world with our senses and our reason and classify that world into these concepts we call categories.

    Our unconsciously formed categories are a different matter. Our unconsciously formed categories fit our world because these basic-level categories “have evolved to form at least one important class of categories that optimally fit our bodily experiences of entities and certain extremely important differences in the natural environment”.

    Our perceptual system has little difficulty distinguishing between dogs and cows or rats and squirrels. Investigation of this matter makes clear that we distinguish most readily those folk versions of biological genera, i.e. those “that have evolved significantly distinct shapes so as to take advantage of different features of their environment.”

    If we move down to subordinate levels of the biological hierarchy we find the distinguishing ability deteriorates quickly. It is more difficult to distinguish one species of elephant from another than from distinguishing an elephant from a buffalo. It is easy to distinguish a boat from a car but more difficult distinguishing one type of car from another.

    “Consider the categories chair and car which are in the middle of the category hierarchies furniture—chair—rocking chair and vehicle—car—sports car. In the mid-1970s, Brent Berlin, Eleanor Rosch, Carolyn Mervis, and their coworkers discovered that such mid-level categories are cogently “basic”—i.e. they have a kind of cognitive priority, as contrasted with “superordinate” categories like furniture and vehicle and with “subordinate” categories like rocking chair and sports car” (Berlin et al 1974 “Principles of Tzeltal Plant Classification”; Mervis and Rosch 1981 Categorization of Natural Objects, “Annual Review of Psychology” 32: 89-115))

    The differences between basic-level and non basic-level categories is based upon bodily characteristics. The basic-level categories are dependent upon gestalt perception, sensorimotor programs, and mental images. “Because of this, classical metaphysical realism cannot be true, since the properties of categories are mediated by the body rather than determined directly by a mind-independent reality”

    In humans basic level categories are developed primarily based upon our bodily configuration and its interrelationship with the environment. For other animals almost all, if not all, categories are basic-level categories.

    Quotes from "Philosophy in the Flesh" by Lakoff and Johnson

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