Jenıs thoughts/questions on Lakoff:


1.  Highlight the key insights from cognitive science that they start off with and that we hoped would be useful to think about:

³The mind is inherently embodied.

Thought is mostly unconscious.

Abstract concepts are highly metaphorical.²  3


A few big implications seem to follow from these. One is that the way we, humans, conceptualize the world is particular to our embodied experiences as homo sapiens.

Lakoff and Johnson are challenging a conception of ³reason² as something that just happens to happen in the brain and has some kind of universality to it. The only universality is a human one ­ a commonality across cultures and history that arises from basic commonalities in human brains. 


Secondly, this means that while we are enabled in certain ways, we are also constrained.   We canıt jump out our bodies to access some kind of super-human knowledge/objectivity.


We want to talk about more than categories, but letıs start with this link from our exercise on Monday. Lakoff and Johnson are useful for us, I think, in describing us as category-making beings. We need them in order to interact with the world, to organize what is coming our way, and react.



2. SO I have some big Qs about your reactions to their argument:


àWas it convincing to you?  Have they convinced you, bringing the insights of cognitive science to bear, that categories are necessary and inevitable?



à  What about their description of ³basic level categories²?  What are these?  [like ³car,² ³cat² ­ also ³basic-level² versions of actions, emotions] I found this section particularly interesting, maybe illuminating, maybe problematic.  What makes some categories more ³basic² than others?  They argue that while ³basic² categories are as human/arbitrary as others, they have a closer correspondence with the world we encounter than other categories. This is ³the source of our most stable knowledge,²   [see p. 29] How so??  Do you accept this??  P. 26-29


Could we think of some of the meta-categories up on the board last time ­ gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. as ³basic-level² categories of identity? What would be useful or problematic about this?  [think]



[maybe skip if this overlaps with Anneıs exercises:

à How is this knowledge then useful in helping understand what we are doing with categories?  E.g., think about the exercise we did Monday.  Lakoff and Johnson argue that they way in which we organize what we know about the world is influenced by our embodiment.  [e.g., front/back ­ experience of our bodies in space; or how we talk about the trajectory of an action in time, which is metaphorically influenced by our own motor-sensory experience of the body in action]  p. 30-36 


Do these ideas apply to what you all did on the board on Monday?

[not a clear illustrationŠbut they all took some kind of spatial approach to organizing, interrelating or hierarchizing the abstract categories in spatial ways.  Some of the models illustrated L&Jıs point about how we imagine ³true² selves as ³inner.² P. 13] ]


[NB they argue towards end re: neural model findings:  Since spatial-relations concepts are about space, itıs not surprising that these should involve our capacities for vision and negotiating space.  Bodily concepts involve the sensory motor system.  Moving body is most common form of action, so this is involved in how we conceive events in general. 38-39]



à  What else struck you as particularly useful or un-useful about this cognitive scientific approach to how we conceptualize the world?



à **general reactions to this text:  does it make you feel more helpless or more hopeful about the possibility of changing/revising how categories are used, especially categories of social identity that are so power-ridden? 


--I canıt quite decide myselfŠit is very useful to get this insight re: just how embodied, constrained, subjective (in a shared, somewhat universal human sense) our concepts of our own social worlds are.

--Our concepts change historically and across cultures, we know that. But this suggests that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, that a lot of what we do with ideas is practically impossible for us to see (canıt get outside our own skin) and a lot more shared by all humans than we might think. As an anthropologist, this makes me a little nervousŠrefer forward to the Ortner etc. readings. 


--Still, it doesnıt seem totally hopeless ­ maybe requires us thinking less about ³truer² knowledge or ³freedom² from categories, and more about a very pointed, strategic, shifting of the categories/concepts/names we use?]


How does it shift how you think of the task of feminism or any kind of identity politics?