Why is Philosophy like General Motors?
With the aid of new brain scan technology the amalgamation of scientific disciplines that make up what is commonly known as SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) has produced empirical evidence to support theories that challenges two millennia of a priori philosophical speculation.
The three major findings of SGCS that challenges Anglo-American analytic and postmodernist philosophy are as follows:
These newly assimilated (primarily in the last four decades) discoveries require that our Western culture must question and discard some of its most deeply held philosophical assumptions.The mind is inherently embodied.
Thought is mostly unconscious.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.
We have in our Western philosophy a traditional theory of faculty psychology wherein our reasoning is a faculty completely separate from the body. “Reason is seen as independent of perception and bodily movement.” It is this capacity of autonomous reason that makes us different in kind from all other animals. I suspect that many fundamental aspects of philosophy and psychology are focused upon declaring, whenever possible, the separateness of our species from all other animals.
This tradition of an autonomous reason began long before evolutionary theory and has held strongly since then without consideration, it seems to me, of the theories of Darwin and of biological science. Cognitive science has in the last four decades developed considerable empirical evidence supporting Darwin and not supporting the traditional theories of philosophy and psychology regarding the autonomy of reason. Cognitive science has focused a great deal of empirical science toward discovering the nature of the embodied mind.
The cognitive science claim is that ”the very properties of concepts are created as a result of the way the brain and body are structured and the way they function in interpersonal relations and in the physical world.”
The embodied-mind hypothesis therefore radically undercuts the perception/conception distinction. In an embodied mind, it is conceivable that the same neural system engaged in perception (or in bodily movements) plays a central role in conception. Indeed, in recent neural modeling research, models of perceptual mechanisms and motor schemas can actually do conception work in language learning and in reasoning.
A standard technique for checking out new ideas is to create computer models of the idea and subject that model to simulated conditions to determine if the model behaves as does the reality. Such modeling techniques are used constantly in projecting behavior of meteorological parameters.
Neural computer models have shown that the types of operations required to perceive and move in space require the very same type of capability associated with reasoning. That is, neural models capable of doing all of the things that a body must be able to do when perceiving and moving can also perform the same kinds of actions associated with reasoning, i.e. inferring, categorizing, and conceiving.
Our understanding of biology indicates that the body has a marvelous ability to do as any handyman does, i.e. make do with what is at hand. The body would, it seems logical to assume, take these abilities that exist in all creatures that move and survive in space and with such fundamental capabilities reshape it through evolution to become what we now know as our ability to reason. The first budding of the reasoning ability exists in all creatures that function as perceiving, moving, surviving, creatures.
Cognitive science has, it seems to me, connected our ability to reason with our bodies in such away as to make sense out of connecting reason with our biological evolution in ways that Western philosophy has not done, as far as I know.
It seems to me that Western philosophical tradition has always tried to separate mind from body and in so doing has never been able to show how mind, as was conceived by this tradition, could be part of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Cognitive science now provides us with a comprehensible model for grounding all that we are both bodily and mentally into a unified whole that makes sense without all of the attempts to make mind as some kind of transcendent, mystical, reality unassociated with biology.
Just as General Moors is headed toward bankruptcy court, likewise is Western traditional philosophy headed for bankruptcy hearings in the court of public comprehension.
Quotes from Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson