the mind is embodied, not in any trivial sense (e.g., the "wetware" of the brain runs the software of the mind), but in the deep sense that our conceptual systems and our capacity for thought are shaped by the nature of our brains, our bodies, and our bodily interactions. There is no mind separate from and independent of the body, nor are there thoughts that have an existence independent of bodies and brains. (pg.265)
the assertion that empirical knowledge of our moral cognition can have no normative implications, is based on a false dichotomy between facts and values. Owen Flanagan (Cl, 1991) has demonstrated the relevance of moral psychology for moral theory by showing that no morality can be adequate if it is inconsistent with what we know about moral development, emotions, gender differences, and self-identity. Johnson (Cl, 1993) argues that facts about human conceptualization and reasoning place normative constraints on what we can morally demand of ourselves and others. For example, any view of morality that involves absolute moral principles defined by literal concepts cannot be cognitively realistic for human beings, whose moral categories often involve radial structure, conceptual metaphor, and metonymy. Damasio's (B1, 1994) work with brain damaged patients who have lost the ability to perform certain kinds of practical reasoning because their emotional experience is impaired suggests that moral deliberation cannot be the product of an allegedly pure reason. Moral deliberation always requires emotional monitoring and an interplay of affect and reason. (pg.326)
Philosophical theories, like all theories, do not and cannot spring full-blown from some alleged pure, transcendent reason. Instead, philosophy is built up with the conceptual and inferential resources of a culture, even though it may transform and creatively extend those resources. These cognitive resources are not arbitrary or merely culturally constructed. They depend on the nature of our embodied experience, which includes both the constraints set by our bodily makeup and those imposed by the environments we inhabit. (pg.341)
It is natural to ask questions about the nature of things. As Aristotle said at the beginning of the Metaphysics, "All men by nature desire to know." We desire to know, for practical reasons, if the mushroom we are about to eat is poisonous. We desire to know, for ethical reasons, if there is some natural difference between men and women. We desire to know, for purely intellectual reasons, whether the universe will come to an end someday.
The very project of seeking knowledge assumes that the world makes systematic sense, that it is not just a random collection of individual phenomena. It is not just determined by the capricious whims of gods who are fickle, mischievous, and cruel, but, rather, it is a "cosmos," a rationally structured whole. In other words, to seek knowledge, we must assume that the world is not absurd. It also assumes that we can gain knowledge of the world.
These two assumptions together define what has come down to us as a commonplace folk theory that we take for granted any time we seek any kind of systematic knowledge:
THE FOLK THEORY OF THE INTELLIGIBILITY OF THE WORLD
The world makes systematic sense, and we can gain knowledge of it.
Thus it is natural for us to ask what things are like and why they behave the way they do. Moreover, we seek general knowledge, knowledge about kinds of things, not just particular knowledge that pertains only to a single entity. We want to know whether this mushroom is edible, but our knowledge of it depends on our knowledge of the general kind of mushroom it is. We want to know whether men and women are somehow fundamentally different and not just whether this man differs in certain particular ways from this woman. And we assume that such questions have answers, that if we can formulate such a question, there is a fact of the matter that answers it. In other words, much of the time we assume two particular folk theories about things in general:
THE FOLK THEORY OF GENERAL KINDS
Every particular thing is a kind of thing.
THE FOLK THEORY OF ESSENCES
Every entity has an "essence" or "nature," that is, a collection of properties that makes it the kind of thing it is and that is the causal source of its natural behavior.
The Folk Theory of Essences is metaphorical in two ways. First, the very idea of an essence is based on physical properties that compose the basis of everyday categorization: substance and form. For example, a tree is made of wood and has a form that includes a trunk, branches, leaves, roots, bark, and so on. It also has a pattern of change (another kind of form) in which the tree grows from seed to sapling to mature specimen. These are the physical bases on which we categorize an object as a tree: substance, form, and pattern of change. Where an essence is seen as a collection of physical properties, it is seen as one or more of these things. In the case of abstract essences, these three physical properties become source domains for metaphors of essence: Essence As Substance, Essence As Form, and Essence As Pattern Of Change.
The second way in which the concept of essence is metaphorical concerns its role as a causal source. The intuition is this: If a tree is made of wood, it will burn. Because it has a trunk and stands erect, it can fall over. The idea is that the natural behavior of a tree is a causal consequence of the properties that make it the kind of thing it is: The tree burns because it is made of wood. We have the same intuition about abstract essences, like a person's character. Honest people will tell the truth. Their essence as honest is the causal source of their truth telling. In such cases, we are clearly in the domain of the metaphorical, because we are attributing to a person a metaphorical substance called "character," which has causal powers. An immediate consequence of these two folk theories is the foundational assumption behind all philosophical metaphysics:
THE FOUNDATIONAL ASSUMPTION OF METAPHYSICS
Kinds exist and are defined by essences.
It is important to see how a natural desire to know leads so easily to metaphysical speculation, for as soon as we believe that kinds exist, what we shall call the metaphysical impulse takes over. We can apply the Folk Theory of Essences to kinds themselves, from which it follows that there are kinds of kinds and that these kinds of kinds themselves are defined by essences. This iteration is a fateful step; it is the first step toward metaphysics in Western philosophy.
This metaphysical impulse lies at the heart not only of Western philosophy but of all Western science, leading physicists to seek a general field theory, or as it has come to he known, "a theory of everything." In biology, there is a similar quest for a theory of life. Such theories seek to find some essence that characterizes the behavior of things in some general domain of study: physical phenomena, life, the mind, language, and so on. Questions like "What is the mind?" or "What is life?" presuppose the meaningfulness of such a quest for general knowledge.
Whether we like it or not, we are all metaphysicians. We do assume that there is a nature of things, and we are led by the metaphysical impulse to seek knowledge at higher and higher levels, defined by ever more general categories of things. Once we have started on this search for higher and higher categories and essences, there are three possible alternatives:
- The world may not he systematically organized, or we may not he able to know it, above a certain level of generalization, which might even he relatively low in the hierarchy of categories. In other words, there may be a limit to the systematicity of the world or to its intelligibility.
- The hierarchy of categories may go on indefinitely, with no level at which an all-inclusive category exists. In this case, the world might be systematic, but not completely intelligible. The process of gaining knowledge of the world would be an infinite, and hence uncompletable, task.
- The iteration up the hierarchy of categories and essences might terminate with an all-inclusive category, whose essence would explain the nature of all things. Only in this case would the world he totally intelligible, at least in principle.
This third alternative is what we call:
THE FOLK THEORY OF THE ALL-INCLUSIVE CATEGORY
There is a category of all things that exist.
From the Folk Theory of Essences, it follows that this all-inclusive category has an essence, and from the Folk Theory of Intelligibility, it follows that we can at least in principle gain knowledge of that essence. This all-inclusive category is called Being, and its essence is called the Essence of Being.
This third alternative, that the world is completely systematic and knowable, is the most hopeful, least skeptical attitude that someone concerned with seeking general knowledge can take. However, such optimism brings with it a substantial ontological presupposition, that there is a category of Being, and that, since it must have an essence, there is an Essence of Being. As we will see below, there is a profound problem that arises from this ultimate metaphysical impulse, as defined by these four commonplace folk theories. They lead us to ask a set of questions that may not be meaningful. And they give us a view of the world and of knowledge that may he misleading.
To see why this is so, we propose to apply the tools of embodied cognitive science to the emergence of explicit metaphysical thinking in the Western philosophical tradition. The foundational metaphysical projects of Western philosophy were formulated by Aristotle. In early pre-Socratic philosophy, there are hints of this way of thinking about nature that, in Aristotle, finally and explicitly become the quest for an understanding of Being as the ultimate form of knowledge. This sets the stage both for Western science and for theological interpretations of God as Ultimate Being. (pgs 346-9)
George Lakoff & Mark Johnson - Philosophy in The Flesh (1999)