Can’t be simple/absolute for DickandJane!
Those who control public policy in the United States, and I suspect elsewhere, try desperately to keep things simple so that DickandJane do not have to trouble themselves with complex problems. If DickandJane can handle the problems of production and consumption nothing else matters. Keep DickandJane quiet until they are needed to protest something.
I have recently turned my attention to art because I have discovered that the experts in this field seem to agree with Wilhelm Worringer, author of Abstraction and Empathy, that “The study of art is an indispensable part of the study of man.”
Worringer points out that the study of art as an objective science and the study of art as an aesthetic experience are incompatible disciplines. He also notes that each discipline often focused upon the Classical epochs when they created categories of understanding for the purpose of analysis.
He notes that such categories cannot be used with abandon between the two disciplines and between different historical epochs. That is to say that the created categories must be used with a comprehension of wide ranging nuances or they will cause mistaken analysis.
This is much the same problem that has been caused within the sciences when Newton’s theories and the expansion of technological advances led the general population to assume that the same categories used in the natural sciences are applicable to the wide domain of sciences in a much different world later.
All this is to say that DickandJane must learn to become a much more sophisticated analyst of even very basic categories or they will be unable to comprehend and thus hope to solve the grave, and complex problems our society faces today.
Most cognitive activity happens backstage, i.e. in the unconscious, which is unavailable to direct conscious analysis. The unconscious might be compared with the inside of the atom. They both are worlds not directly available to intuition; these worlds must be comprehended based upon what happens outside their enclosure.
Humans talk, listen, and draw inferences without conscious effort. “A large part of unconscious thought involves automatic, immediate, implicit rather than explicit understanding.” A large part of reasoning is accomplished within this unconscious domain of the brain and this reasoning is grounded in our everyday experiences.
Humans and, I suspect all creatures navigate in space through spatial-relations concepts, i.e. schemas. 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.
Common sense or, as cognitive science labels it, folk theory informs us that “all things are a kind of thing”. All things have in common with other things certain characteristics; i.e. all things belong in categories with other like things. Things are categorized together based upon what they have in common. It might be worth while to think of category as being a container.
In classical or conventional terms we categorize things in accordance with what are regarded as being that which is essential to that kind of thing. All things that are essentially the same fall into the same category. What is essential to a tree is that which is necessary and sufficient for that thing to be classified as a tree. To categorize a thing, i.e. define a thing, is to give its essential characteristics.
In some way or another all creatures must categorize. At a minimum all creatures must distinguish friend from foe or eat and not eat. Categorization is part of the fundamental needs for survival of the creature. If the mouse mistakes a snake for a stick that mouse becomes toast; the same categorization problem applies to the lion and to the man.
Categorization is meaningful. Meaning is not a thing; something is meaningful for a creature only when there is an association between that thing and the creature. “Meaningfulness derives from the experience of functioning as a being of a certain sort in an environment of a certain sort.” It is meaningful to a soldier when s/he mistakenly categorizes a tank to be only a harmless tree or an enemy to be a friend.
There is nothing more meaningful for a creatures’ survival than correct categorization of the world in which that creature lives.
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.”
Quotes from Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson