Mark Johnson (philosopher)


Mark Johnson (philosopher)

Mark L. Johnson (born 24 May 1949 in Kansas City, Missouri) is Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon.[1] He is well-known for contributions to embodied philosophy, cognitive science and cognitive linguistics, some of which he has coauthored with George Lakoff such as Metaphors We Live By. However, he has also written extensively on philosophical topics such as John Dewey, Kant and ethics.

Contents

Background

In Johnson's 1987 book The Body in The Mind he developed a theory of image schema as basic building blocks in cognitive linguistics for conceptual metaphor, as well as for language and abstract reason generally. He argued for a revised version of Kant's notion of the schema as the crucial imaginative link between our concrete perceptions of an object (e.g. my dog Fido) and our experience of categories (the class of things called dogs). However, where Kant wanted schemata to serve as a bridge between non-empirical concepts and perceptual images, Johnson maintained that image schema are regularly recurring embodied patterns of experience that are acquired during the course of early child development. Such schemata are image-like in that they are analogic neural activation patterns which preserve the topological contours of perceptual experience as a cohesive whole. Thus image schemata are rich images, in a sense of the term similar to how the rotation of Shepard and Metzler-like mental images preserves the visual contours of the 2D picture of the 3D object; in other words image schemata are not strictly 2D pictures, but a rich image-like whole that contain procedural as well as perceptual information about the object as a whole. Moreover, Johnson explicitly states that image schemata are not restricted to visual modality and can be kinesthetic, auditory and cross-modal.

Johnson argues that his and Lakoff's recent research (presented in Philosophy in the Flesh) on the role of such bodily schemas in cognition and language shows the ways in which aesthetic aspects of experience structure every dimension of our experience and understanding, such as in our ethical reasoning (as in Lakoff's book Moral Imagination). In his interpretation of John Dewey, he claims that all our abstract conceptualization and reasoning, all our thought and language -- all our symbolic expression and interaction -- are tied intimately to our embodiment and to the pervasive aesthetic characteristics of all experience.

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