Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just very cool book

Well, I thought I was rereading Mark Johnson's book The Meaning of the Body, but either I have an extraordinarily bad memory (which I don't think I do) or I have, in fact, not read this book before.  Regardless of which it is, it certainly feels as if I'm reading it for the first time.  And, wow.  It's really interesting.  This is another case where I wish I could be taking a course on this book (or, better, with this author).
He's talking about the way in which our physiological being directly shapes our conceptual understanding of the world.  Happily, he's drawing on much of the material that I've been reading (Tomasello, developmental psychology, neuroscience, James and Dewey).  It's so, so nice to discover that what I've been reading has some sort of coherence.

He's radically anti-representationalist.  Okay, maybe not radically, but sufficiently for most representationalist to say that he's radically anti-representationalist.  He's making some really interesting points about the subjective experience of thinking what it feels like to think, to search for the right word, to understand.  The big bonus is that while I've always been drawn to his work on metaphor, neuroscience has now gotten to the point where much of his work that had been theoretical has some fairly good science that lends credence to it.  And this is science that I've been reading and making sense of for the last couple of years and for a different purpose.

Of course, my big puzzlement is why hasn't his work gotten more attention?  Then again, most of the folks who I think are most interesting and on the mark haven't gotten all that much attention (Goodman, Elgin, Putnam, James, Dewey).  Hmmm, all of them are American Pragmatists — and Johnson places himself quite squarely in that camp.

Anyway, very interesting book and it's given me support for the direction that I've been thinking.  Of course, the fact that I've been spending time reading folks like Antonio Damasio and talking to folks who are working with him also gives me a good deal of support on this front.   

Brains are cool.

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