Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sparrow, Tom. "Review of Mark Johnson's THE MEANING OF THE BODY." METAPSYCHOLOGY June 10, 2008.

Johnson, Mark. The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding. Chicago: U Of Chicago P, 2007. Mark Johnson's book is a welcome contribution to the recent philosophical literature meant to expound the ontological, epistemological, aesthetic, and moral implications of research coming out of second-generation cognitive science. It belongs in the company of theorists like George Lakoff, Antonio Damasio, Eugene Gendlin, Shaun Gallagher, and Francisco Varela. Its specific aim is to develop and defend a theory of embodied cognition which gets beyond objectivist and dualist metaphysics, and which is intended to ground the meaning of human experience in body-environment interactions. As Johnson puts it: "This book is about meaning--what it is, where it comes from, and how it is made" (ix). This engagement with the whence and whither of meaning is situated by Johnson in the field of aesthetics, by which he means "the study of everything that goes into the human capacity to make and experience meaning" (x). Using this broadened definition, The Meaning of the Body argues for the bodily/aesthetic basis of all philosophy--as well as logic, mathematics, and language (cf. 102, 181, 195)--and for an expansive understanding of meaning as such. In Johnson's words, "meaning is not just a matter of concepts and propositions, but also reaches down into the images, sensorimotor schemas, feelings, qualities, and emotions that constitute our meaningful encounter with our world. Any adequate account of meaning must be built around the aesthetic dimensions that give our experience its distinctive character and significance" (xi-xii). . . . Read the whole review here:

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