The new “unconscious” (part 2)
Sept 7, 2011 – Today’s ‘i’ headline (on 3 separate stories – hacking, MPs’ expenses, policing) consists of an abstraction and a metaphor. But it points to a “reality” of sorts – courtesy of frames in our brains.
“All of our knowledge and beliefs are framed in terms of a conceptual system that resides mostly in the cognitive unconscious”.
This quote is from a book on cognitive science which I’ll be making much use of: Philosophy in the Flesh, by Lakoff & Johnson. Much of it doesn’t seem new, as it uses familiar words: “unconscious”, “frame”, etc. But don’t be fooled by the familiarity.
From the Western philosophical tradition, we’ve inherited a “faculty” theory of reason, which holds that reason is a separate faculty in its own right – separate from sense-perception, etc. This is supposedly what makes us “human”. Cognitive science has shown this to be false. To give one example, our fundamental concept of causality is shaped – shaped – by the fact we have muscles which we use to exert force.
We don’t, and can’t, have full control of the categories we use in our reasoning. Although we learn new categories, we can’t consciously make major changes to the main category systems forming our “cognitive unconscious”. Much of what we regard as conceptual inference is built from basic metaphors arising from sensorimotor inference (eg the stuff that goes on in our nervous systems as we swing through the trees looking for bananas).
Yeah, but what does this have to do with the malign nonsense written by Daily Mail assholes?
Patience – we’re not in Kansas any more…
To be continued…