Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff & Johnson

Philosophical Context

Dewey and Merleau-Ponty anticipated embodied realism in their philosophies. They both believed in an empirical basis for philosophy and argued that mind and body are not separate metaphysical entities and that experience is embodied, not abstract. They also contended that the mind and the body are words which artificially restrict the conceptual structures that constitute our experiences.

Dewey showed how experience is physical, social, intellectual and emotional. Merleau-Ponty maintained that 'subjects' and 'objects' are not independent items but arise from a fluid experience on which we impose the concepts 'subjective' and 'objective'. 

In the 20th. century Varela, Thompson, and Rosch century drew on cognitive science, phenomenology and Buddhist awareness practices to define their concept of experience. They hold two basic ideas of embodied realism:

"First, that cognition depends upon the kinds of experience that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities, and second, that these individual sensorimotor capacities are themselves embedded in a more encompassing biological, psychological, and cultural context."

Alfred North Whitehead, Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores, Drew Leder, and Eugene Gendlin have also explored dimensions of embodied realism.

The novelty in Lakoff's work Philosophy in the Flesh (1999), lies in the use of empirical evidence from cognitive neuroscience. It explains how embodied science describes our understanding of reality.


I. Foundations of cognitive science

The 3 important findings of cognitive science which challenge our ideas of the a priori Western philosophical tradition are:

- The mind is inherently embodied.

- Thought is mostly unconscious.

-Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.

Humans are traditionally defined as 'rational animals' and that Reason captures our essence. 

Reason is traditionally understood as disembodied, however cognitive science (the empirical study of the mind) asserts that our conceptual systems are based on our neural, cognitive and motor systems. In this appriach Reason is not transcendent, but is shaped by our physicality. It is also evolutionary and so makes use of the perceptual and motor influences of other animals:

- Reason is not completely conscious, but mostly unconscious.

- Reason is not purely literal, but largely metaphorical and imaginative.

- Reason is not dispassionate, but emotionally engaged.

This novel view of Reason contradicts traditional philosophical assumptions about the notion of Person, among others: Descartes' unempirical dualism of mind/body; Kant's transcendent reason which dictates a universal morality; the Utilitarian principle of maximising self-interest and economic theory based on conscious reasoning; the Phenomenologist who can know the mind and experience through introspection; the Poststructuralist's relativist view, unconstrained by the brain and body.

Antonio Damasio published Descartes' Error in 1994, a critique of the Enlightenment view of Reason. His work with brain-damaged patients who had lost the ability to perform certain kinds of practical reasoning because their emotional experience was impaired suggests that rational deliberation cannot be the product of an allegedly pure reason but that reasoning is highly coloured by emotion.

The cognitive unconscience

Traditional thinking in philosophy has made us aware of the many aspects of consciousness and even pre-reflective experiences. Through empirical investigation cognitive science deals with theorising on the other, major, shaping of our thinking which is unconscious. It achieves this, principally, by the study of our conceptualisations, expressed in language metaphors, which traditional philosophy calls metaphysics. Through their insights into metaphoric thinking philosophers have brillantly elucidated how we think. The problem lies in the subsequent presentation of these metaphysics as literal truth when it is actually the realm of unconscious metaphor.

The Embodied Mind

Previous to what is termed the darwinian theory of evolution, which emerged after the publication of The Origin of the Species in 1859, human reasoning was presented as autonomous, independent of perception and physical movement. 

Cognitive science, on the contrary, claims that human reason is evolutionary and thus linked to our bodies and brains. It also asserts that our interactions with the environment create our largely unconscious sense of what is real.

Neural beings, including amoebas, categorise. Animals categorise food, predators, mates, offspring and all that enables survival. Categorisation depends on the ability to move, to manipulate objects and on sensory sensitivity. It is not primarily a result of our reasoning but of our physicality. The mechanism is that information is passed in the brain from one neuron cluster to another through a sparse set of connections. Whenever the information is too great to be encompassed by the sparse set, the input connections are grouped and mapped to the output ensemble. This grouping is categorisation:

To take a concrete example, each human eye has 100 million light-sensing cells, but only about 1 million fibers leading to the brain. Each incoming image must therefore be reduced in complexity by a factor of 100. That is, information in each fiber constitutes a "categorization" of the information coming from 100 light cells." 

Our physical being determines that we must categorise in order to make sense of the world and it also determines our categories and their structure. The five senses, our movements and our muscles all influence the possibilities for conceptualization and categorization.

Humans conceptualise categories in several prototypes. Typical prototypes allow us to generalise categories (a typical day); ideal prototypes evaluate categories in comparison to a standard (an ideal day). Essence prototypes allow us to make sharp distinctions between categories and these are often imaged in spatial metaphors as containers. These prototypes form an integral part of our reasoning.

Traditional philosophy relies on the beliefs that human reason and concepts are free from physicality and characterise objective, external reality. Cognitive science tells us the opposite, thus collapsing that tradional worldview. One example is colour which appears to be 'out there', but is, in fact the product of an interaction between the brain and environmental input:

"... our color concepts, their internal structures, and the relationships between them are inextricably tied to our embodiment. They are a consequence of four interacting factors:lighting conditions, wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, our color cones, and neural processing. Colors as we see them, say, the red of blood or the blue of the sky, are not out there in the blood or the sky. Indeed, the sky is not even an object."

Colour is not a metaphysical reality, as the philosophical correspondence theory suggests, the idea that truth lies in the relationship of words to the real, external world.

Traditional metaphysical realism is attractive because we have evolved to create basic-level categories that optimally fit our bodily experiences of world entities. For example in the natural world we readily distinguish between biological genera, those whose shapes are adapted to their environment, such as the different forms of animals and plants. The same holds for physical objects, cars, chairs and so on. However, evolution does not require us to be very accurate above and below the basic level and so we are not.

Cognitive science models of how humans characterise spatial-relations concepts suggest that we use our visual systems and our sensorimotor schemas.

 Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical

We have a system of primary metaphors, acquired unconsciously through functioning in the everyday world.

We experience daily a correlation between the subjective estimation of quantity and the sensorimotor experience of verticality as in water rising in a glass when you pour it in. We conflate both concepts so that they are associated into metaphors like More Is Up, as in "Prices rise". The opposite metaphor then arises as Less is Down as in "Stocks plummeted".

Johnson investigated the emergence of conceptual metaphor in a child using Knowing is Seeing. He concluded that it was created in two stages. The first was when both domains were experienced as interchangeable: "Let's see what is in the box." Here knowing what is there and seeing what is there are the same experience. In the second stage one metaphorical domain becomes the target and the other the source: "I see what you mean."

The mechanism for the formation of primary metaphors is the regular coactivation of a subjective experience with our sensorimotor system which unconsciously establishes permanent neural connections through recurrent synaptic firing.

Complex metaphors

A Purposeful Life Is A Journey is a common complex metaphor built up of primary metaphors. One stone of the building is the cultural belief that people are supposed to have purposes in life and act to attain these purposes. This purposefulness is based on the primary metaphor Purposes Are Destinations. Reaching a destination involves a journey, the other part of the complex metaphor. This metaphor has no sensorimotor grounding and is composed of grounded primary metaphors. 

Each complex metaphor is built of primary metaphors. These are embodied through physical experience in the world by pairing subjective and sensorimotor experience in synaptic connections. Both primary and complex metaphors are unconscious:

"Thus abstract concepts structured by multiple complex metaphors exemplify the three aspects of mind that are the central themes of this book: the cognitive unconscious, the embodiment of mind, and metaphorical thought."

Second generation cognitive science and philosophy

Empirical research in the mid-1970s began to question the a priori assumptions of Anglo-American formalist philosophy. This occurred because of evidence that concepts depended heavily on sensorimotor input and the central role of metaphor, imagery, metonymy, prototypes, frames, mental spaces, and radial categories in conceptualisation and reason.

To avoid a priori assumptions embodied cognitive science seeks converging evidence using a broad range of methodologies, thus reducing the possibilities of one research method skewing the results.

"Second-generation cognitive science argues that philosophy must begin with an empirically responsible cognitive science based on the above methodological assumptions, especially the assumption of convergent evidence."

The problem of knowledge

The ancient Greek philosophers' answer to how we could know was that we could know Being directly. Aristotle asserted that the human mind could directly comprehend the essences of things in the world. (His belief is summed up in the metaphor Ideas are Essences.) Plato based his knowledge on that of ideal Forms which humans could see dully reflected in this world. (The platonic metaphor was Essences are Ideas.)

Descartes opened a gap between the mind and the world. The body was flesh in the world and the mind was not. Ideas became inner representations of the external reality linked by an unexplained 'correspondence'.

Formalist philosophy in the Anglo-American tradition turned ideas into symbols. This maximised the arbitrary distance between mind and world since there is no physical connection between things in the world and their abstract symbols. This philosophy also relies on a commonsense correspondence theory of knowledge which asserts that:

"A statement is true when it fits the way things are in the world. It is false when it fails to fit the way things are in the world."

This theory relies on Gottlob Frege's work in which senses, which are abstract entities independent of mind and body, pick out referents. However, there is no scientific explanation of how this functions.

The correspondence notion is also based on the Kripke-Putnam causal theory by which in the past individuals pointed to a fixed referent of a specific word and this meaning was retained throughout history. Once again there is no empirical evidence adduced for this theory.

Cognitive science agrees more with the Greek concept and rejects cartesian dualism. It is an embodied realism grounded in our evolutionary capacity to successfully adapt to our physical environment. It renounces being able to know things-in-themselves or absolute knowledge and aspires to explain how we can gain sufficient knowledge to allow us to successfully survive in the world. The knowledge mechanisms of embodied realism for creating our social constructions lie in the formation of complex metaphors and other conceptual blends.

"The metaphoric character of philosophy is not unique to philosophic thought. It is true of all abstract human thought, especially science. Conceptual metaphor is what makes most abstract thought possible. Not only can it not be avoided, but it is not something to be lamented. On the contrary, it is the very means by which we are able to make sense of our experience. Conceptual metaphor is one of the greatest of our intellectual gifts."

II The Cognitive Science of Basic Philosophical Ideas: time, events, causation, the self, the mind, and morality. 

Time metaphors

Cognitive science does not approach time-in-itself, but rather as relative to the concepts of motion, space, and events.

Measurements of time depend on regular iterations of some sort such as pendulums, springs and wheels or the release of subatomic particles. We have an internal 'clock' consisting of a 40-hertz electric pulse sent across the brain forty times a second. The hypothesis is that these neural firings are the natural bodily iterations which correlate many bodily rhythms that give us our sense of timing. Time appears to be a conceptual domain with which we measure through comparison to other events. Thus our experience of time is indirect and operates through matching with other events. 

Much of our understanding of time is a metaphorical version of our grasp of motion in space. One area of the brain is dedicated to the detection of motion which means that movement is directly perceived, whereas time is not. The basic time metaphor is an observer imagining the present where they stand, the future in front and the past behind then:

"We're looking ahead to the future."

"He has a great future in front of him."

Two more time metaphors are: Moving Time: "Christmas is coming." and Moving Observer: "We are coming up to Christmas." These are dual metaphors because they reverse each other.

Our spatial metaphor for time permits us to measure time, think about history and practise theoretical physics. However, taken literally they lead to silliness.

Events metaphors 

Events cover causes, actions, states, purposes and changes.

It is our experience of motion in space that allows us to conceptualise all aspects of events: causes, changes, states, purposes etc. Our perception starts from a location which is a bounded region in space with an interior and exterior. The metaphor is States are Locations. (Example: on the edge of madness). 

Building submaps on States are Locations gives 'changes are movements', the move from one bounded state to another. (Examples: He went crazy. He went over the edge. He fell into a depression.)

The embodied view of causation is our experience of manipulating objects by force in order to physically change them. The metaphor is Causes are Forces. Caused changes of state are understood as forced movements from one bounded location to another. (Examples: He drove her crazy. That experience pushed him over the edge. Her speech moved the crowd to rage.)

Purposes are conceptualised as desired locations, destinations we want to reach. The forces here are self-propelled motions. Aristotle's teleology understood purposeful causes as 'final causes' motivated by the individual or by nature. However, he confused the metaphor with truth.

The dual metaphor of States are Locations is Attributes are Possessions.

"Harry's in trouble. (States Are Locations)

Harry has troubles. (Attributes Are Possessions)"

In the first case, trouble is conceptualized as a location; in the second, it is an object.

To conceptualise a new idea we use a common cognitive mechanism called 'inheritance' which is information from previous prototypical concepts. To understand an electric car we take the petrol engine vehicle and replace the motor with an electric engine by eliminating the petrol tank, the carburettor and the exhaust and filling in batteries. Other parts of the vehicle such as wheels, tyres and seats remain the same. 

Mind metaphors

The root metaphor for the mind is: The Mind Is A Body. This conceptualisation is extended to metaphors in four types of physical functioning: moving, perceiving, manipulating and eating. 

Thinking is Moving. (Example: I can't think. I'm stuck.) Reason is a force which moves the thinker from one idea-location to another. 'Topic' comes from the Greek meaning ' a place'. Thinking is metaphoric movement around a location. (Examples: Return to the topic. Approach a topic. Stray from the topic.)

Thinking Is Perceiving. (ExI listen to my father. I smell a fish here.We obtain knowledge largely through vision and this experience leads to conceptualising knowing as seeing. (Ex: I see what you are saying.) 

Thinking Is object Manipulation. Information is also obtained through handling objects. (Ex: She grasped the idea. You can give and get ideas from someone.) Objects have a physical structure and ideas have a conceptual structure. (Ex: Complex ideas are fashioned and reshaped. There are many sides to an issue. Analysing ideas is unpacking them.)

Acquiring Ideas Is Eating. The referential metaphor is: A Well-Functioning Mind Is A Healthy Body. The Romans expressed it as Mens sana in corpore sano. The well-functioning mind is conceptualised as a healthy body. (Ex: A thirst for knowledge. An appetite for learning.) In textbooks we follow the metaphor when problems are physically conceptualised as 'mind exercises'.

The homunculus and Fregean intuition

As we conceptualise the mind in bodily terms and follow the cartesian dualist belief there naturally arises the perception of the mind as a person separate from the body: the homunculus. However, Lakoff argues that we must remember that this is not a cartesian 'reality', but a metaphor.

The conventional metaphors mentioned also coincide with Frege's intuitive idea of an apparent correspondence between ideas and things in the world. (Intuitive ideas tend to use ideas we already have.) However, it must be underlined that they are metaphorical, not literal as traditional philosophy believes. 

Three Metaphors of Mind in Linguistic Philosophy

- Thinking is Speaking or Writing (Ex: She's an open book to me. I can read her mind. I don't like the sound of his ideas. That sounds like a good idea.) This metaphor conceptualised thinking in terms of symbols. It is as if thought were a sequence of letters and turns something private into a something public.

 - Thought is Mathematical Calculation. (Ex: You can't count on him.) Thoughts are similar to numbers because they can also be represented accurately by written symbols.

- The Mind Is A Machine The assumption of this metaphor is that thoughts are produced in a mechanical way by the mind and the structure of thoughts is imposed by this regularised production of the mind.

Self metaphors

Self refers to our inner life. It's metaphoric system is based on the difference between Subject (our identity, consciousness, subjective experience, reason and will) and Selves (everything else about us: our bodies, our social roles, our histories...).

The metaphoric conceptualisations of our inner lives is structured hierarchically: the general Suject-self conceptualises the person as double in the remaining five submetaphors. These can be grouped through four types of experience: manipulating objects, location in space, social relationships and empathic projection onto someone else. The fifth case is rooted in the common theory of essences where the Subject has an Essence and one Self compatible with the essence: the 'true' Self.

The General Subject-Self Metaphor

We experience ourselves as split:

The Subject is a person which experiences consciousness, is the locus of reason, will, judgment and only exists in the present. It has a subsystem which is the location of its Essence, its identity. 

The Self forms part of that person which is not covered by the Subject: the body, social roles, past states, and actions in the world. Each Self is conceptualised as a person, an object, or a location.

Object Manipulation

The Physical Object Self. Manipulating objects is a basic human experience and object control is a basic metaphor for our inner life. The control of objects involves controlling our bodies so self control and object control are linked experiences. From this we create the metaphoric conception: Self Control Is Object Control.

Location in Space

When in your normal environment you feel in control and this experience governs the conceptualisation of Subject over Self: Self Control is Being in your Normal Location. Normal location is divided into two forms: the Self conceptualised as a container when the location is the home, place of business, the earth; the Self is conceptualised as being on the ground in control of the effects of gravity. 

Social relationships

Growing up we develop values, right and wrong references, for our actions, social roles and our plans. These are all aspects of Self. We evaluate the Subject (identity) and Self with reference to interpersonal relationships. However, judgement and will are part of the Subject and social role is part of the Self, so there is a split between the two: The Subject has an obligation to the Self and the Self must trust the Subject to fulfill these obligations. 

Projecting onto Someone Else

A child imitating is its aptitude to put itself into another's body. Empathy is the extension allowing us to feel as another feels. Projection gives us a further metaphor where one Subject is projected onto another in a hypothetical situation (Ex. If I were you...).

The Essential Self

This metaphor deals with the often incompatibility between our essential self and how we act. The essential Self is always conceptualised as a person; the second Self is either a person or a container where the first Self hides.

Acting differently in public than in private is the Outer Self; acting differently in private than in public is the Inner Self which hides in our Outer Self. 


Health is a root experience on which ideas of morality are based. The primary metaphor is Morality Is Well-being. On the contrary, disease is an immorality. (Examples: having a rich life; investing in happiness; wasting our lives.)

Normally moral behaviour refers to looking out for others' interests. However, Adam Smith's economic metaphor of the Invisible Hand promoted self-interest as a moral goal. He asserted that if everyone pursued their own goal in a free market then an invisible hand would maximise everyone's wealth. Coupled with the Protestant ethic that Well-being is Wealth, Smith's economic metaphor becomes a morality, that of self-interest. The Enlightenement enhanced this outlook by endowing it with rationality so that Reason maximised self-interest.

Lakoff proposes that what binds all moral notions together are two metaphors based on two idealised family models: Strict Parenting and Nurturant Parenting.

In the Strict Parenting perspective the world is full of conflicts, dangers and pitfalls. To survive we need to have firm values and be strong. The parent in this context has the moral authority to determine policy and must be obeyed. Rules for behaviour are strict and enforcement is through rewards and punishments. Through this upbringing the children learn the self-discipline to face life. The principal metaphor is Morality is Order.

In the idealised Nurturant Parent family morality the experience is of being cared for, living happily. It is through being respected and cared for that the children will care for others. They learn obedience out of respect for their parents, not primarily from punishment. The main metaphor is Morality is Nurturance.

The Family of Man metaphor universalises the two family metaphors. Candidates for the role of universal Parent are: God, Reason/Emotion and Society.

God. Religious believers hold God the Father as the ultimate moral authority. He is the source of all moral law, punishes immorality and rewards ethical behaviour. Traditionally Strict Father religious morality has been dominant in Western societies. (It is an Old Testament metaphoric interpretion of God.)

God as Nurturant Parent relies on the metaphor of God as Love. This is the caring, suffering love of the New Testament interpretations. Christ brings God's nurturing and divine grace is the undeserved, freely given, nurturance. Morality is understood as a nurturing action, helping others through care, empathy and compassion.

Reason/Emotion. Reason as the Strict Parent is an Enlightenment metaphor replacing the previous God metaphor. Reason is a person with moral authority which the Will receives, yet retains the freedom to act. 

Following Eugeni D'Ors' notion of binary shifts between Classical and Romantic emphasis, there is a also an alternative basis to Reason in moral authority during the Enlightenment with a stress on Feeling and Passion. From this viewpoint moral sympathy is conceived as a feeling based on empathy that moves us to seek the well-being of others. In this sense it is the equivalent of a nurtruant metaphor.

Society. In this parenting metaphor Society is seen as a family setting the moral norms. The Strict or Nurturant Parents are social authorities who can be seen as elected officials or the clergy.

Traditional moral theories as Parenting metaphors

- in the Christian Ethics of monotheistic religions the moral authority is a God-the-Strict-Father metaphor. Obedience to His laws is rewarded in heaven and punished in hell. On the other hand Jesus is the Nurtruant aspect of the divinity as the God of love and divine grace.

- in Rationalist ethics Universal Reason, possessed by us all, is the moral guide. The tendency is towards a Strict Parent morality requiring absolute obedience with the reward as self-esteem in morally correct individuals. Punishment is a sense of guilt for being unethical. Reason is only conceived as Nurturant with difficulty.

- in Utilitarianism, which is an rational Enlightenement principle, the goal is the maximum happiness of the majority. Bentham and Mill regarded it as the ultimate nurturant morality aimed at empathy and well-being, especially of others.

- in Existentialism, ethics is a form of moral relativism in its rejection of moral essence, absolute values and rational order. We only have our personal freedom to choose. The Father figure (God, Reason, General Will, Essence) is dead, so you are free to choose your moral code. Even the Nurturant figure like the doctor in Camus' The Plague who chooses to stay in the the city helping other citizens, simply uses his freedom to choose and no moral conclusion is appropriate. Existentialism appears as a form of Permissive Family morality. It also proposes a relativism which denies the universalism of the Family of Man metaphor. It propounds that there is no universal family of all humankind. 

Universal morality?

Following the investigations of cognitive science there is no set of pure moral concepts. We construct our ethical behaviour via our experiences of wealth, balance, order, boundaries, light/dark, beauty, strength, and so on. These broad dimensions of experience are too large to allow for a universally unique moral code. (When we accept the social norms of our culture it is due to a consensually rationalised 'hallucination', not a universally applicable ethical system.)

"This type of moral knowledge makes us responsible not only for our own moral judgments and their consequences but for noticing implicit forms of moral judgment throughout our culture."

III The Cognitive Science of Philosophy

This is a review of the principal moments in the history of philosophy:

The Pre-socratics set up a cognitive structure which was later elaborated by Plato and Aristotle and their science of the essence of Being. Theses topics have guided Western philosophy ever since.

The Enlightenement shaped our view of the mind through Reason. This became the commonsense perception in Western thinking. Despite this it is at odds with the findings of second generation cognitive science. For example Kant's claim that morality issues from a transcendent, universal, and purely literal reason is analysed as irreducibly metaphoric, thus offering a cognitively realistic view of morality.

Analytic philosophy is then analysed to demonstrate its unrecognised metaphoric assumptions. Chomsky's generative linguistics is also shown to have a metaphorical conceptualisation.

The conclusion is that all philosophical theories are metaphoric in nature and metaphysics is actually metaphoric thought. (See the last paragraphs in each of the following links):

The Pre-Socratics



Descartes and the Enlightenment Mind


Kantian Morality

Analytic Philosophy

Chomsky's Philosophy

The theory of Rational Action

It has been the dominant thesis in Western philosophy, particularly emphasised by tge Enlightenment, that reason is the essence of the human being: the rational animal. Reason is interpreted as the capacity to think logically, to set purposes and to discuss them. It is believed to be a conscious, literal, transcendent, dispassionate process that operates on universal principles.

Cognitive science research has empirical evidence that this vision is erroneous. Human thought is mostly metaphorical, not literal; it is not formally logical but influenced by emotion; it is largely unconscious, not conscious; it is embodied, not transcedent. 

Research by George Lakoff and Robert Powell has shown that the rational choice theory has a metaphorical structure which affects its application in all contexts. They apply it to the principles of mathematics which rests on the assumption that maths is the most efficient way to maximise achievement of your desires and purposes while minimising unwanted outcomes. The rational is that reason holds universal principles that govern all reality. 

The common meraphoric conceptualisation of purpose is Purposes are Journeys: subjects are travellers following a path to a location. To turn outcomes into mathematics numbers are used. The accounting metaphor linking desired and undesired outcomes is Well-Being Is Wealth where increase in well-being is gain and the opposite is loss. A desirable result is thus a payoff; an undesirable result is a loss. The rational choice is that which will lead the subject along the best path to the desired location.

Kahneman & Tversky have investigated rationality in humans using cognitive science models and have demonstrated that we do not reason in everyday life using probability and logic. They concluded that most people reason using frames and prototypes which are based on the metaphorical thinking developed during our evolution. 

Markets are an example of an application of the common rational-probalistic reasoning. They are based on the metaphor Well-being is Wealth which is held as a truth. Maximising profits and minimising losses is thus the goal for markets. The rational actors are the corporations and 'free markets' are the institutions built to fit the model. Capitalism's narrative is that this way of functioning is 'natural'. However, markets are crafted and maintained through legislation to prescriptively enable the rational-probabilistic models to work. The upside of this system it rationalises control produces wealth and minimises the effects of 'irrationalities' such as natural disasters, natural business cycles, unscrupulous individuals, and corruption.

The problem with the 'rationalising' approach lies in its unconsciously assumed metaphors which really decide attitudes. If, for example the environment is approached with rationalism the metaphorical conception is Nature is a Resource, not the intrinsic value of Nature. The environment is not a rational actor, profits are monetary, not related to Nature. Loss affects the ecosystem, not the exploiting industries.

Contemporary free trade policies are attempts to fit business into the rational actor model. Well-being means wealth for big corporations or nations who use the model to rationalise economic vagaries. This may be destructive to the environment, indigenous cultures and even the human spirit which rely on a richer and more diverse understanding of life.

Rational choice forces the area of life it is applied to into an unnatural mold which benefits some, usually not the majority. Education is an example, when it is conceived as a business. In this metaphorical conception education is a product, students are consumers and teachers are labour resources. Knowledge is commodified, a market value passed from teacher to student. Productivity is measured on test scores and amounts of money spent. The cost-benefit analysis means that consumers should be getting the best 'education' for their money.

However, education is an activity, not a product and their is no literal passing of knowledge from teacher to student. It is what students become through work that matters, not their test scores. The loss is in education.

Health is another example. The national service measures doctors' productivity by counting the patients they see in a certain time. The doctors are a commodity in the health market. The uncounted loss is health, professionalism and dedication. 

What is wrong in the above cited examples is the prescriptive use of the rational model to change the world, when it should be descriptive. The values of the situation should be comparative, not intrinsic. The well-being of the situation must have a single, not diverse, form in order to be accurately measured in numbers. These are the requirements for a correct application of the rational model.

How Philosophical Theories Work

Philosophical theories are consciousness, systematic attempts to develop rational views about our world and our place in it. They also allow us to review our perception critically and change it. 

Philosophy traditionally sees itself as the judge of what knowledge and rational thought are. This relies on the belief that reason is capable of reflecting on itself since it is conscious, transcendent, universal and critical. This was Kant's view of philosophy. 

However, cognitive science has shown that philosophy is not an act of pure reason, but of embodied reason. It functions through the unconscious and makes use of its imagination and emotional resources and depends on our physical nature and our environments.

Philosophy Rests on Shared Conceptual Metaphors

In their thinking philosophers use the same cognitive resources as any other human. It is this shared capital that allow their discourses to seem intuitive to the majority. They employ a small number of core conceptual metaphors in their metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political theory. This makes their ideas appear as unified and coherent. Kant's moral theory is comprehensible because of his creative use of models similar to widespread cultural morality models.

Metaphysics as Metaphor

The Pythagorans held the metaphors Being is Number to be foundational and so began to project mathematical objects onto Being in general. Numbers were considered to be areas of space with different shapes and viewed reality as a puzzle of interconnecting figures. 
Descartes relied on the Understanding is Seeing metaphor and so accepted the mind as a a person inside the brain viewing the objects input by the senses.
Analytic philosophy is based on the metaphors: Thought Is Language,ThinkingIs Mathematical Calculation, The Mind Is A Machine... which our culture shares.

This metaphorical understanding is not an unusual manner of understanding the world, but characteristic of the way in which humans think. 

Philosophical Innovation

Showing that philosophical thinking is metaphoric in nature and built on metonymies and image schemas underlines how marvellous they are. Philosophers are systematic thinkers and they help to provide a sense to a chaotic world by connecting aspects of our experience and enabling us to view it critically. Kant defined our modern view of morality as autonomy, thus delineating in a single-handed fashion our references of moral responsibility.

Constrained Philosophical Imagination

What cognitive science denies in traditional philosophy is not its brillant insights but its claims that it offers literal concepts that reflect reality and that human reasoning is disembodied, transcendent and fully conscious. On the contrary, a belief in these concepts is an obstacle to empirically responsible thinking.

How Philosophy Is Changed

Aristotle's philosophical theories are based on weaving together several metaphors. He viewed logic as formal by placing attributes of things in Categories which are abstract metaphoric containers. His syllogisms used for deductive reasoning work through containers: A is in B, and C is in A, so C is in B:
"All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal."

Aristotle's foundational metaphor was Ideas are Essences. His conceptualisations were categories which state essences, an object's defining attributes. Objects can thus be in the mind as essences but they can’t be their substance so are their forms: Essences are Forms. We reason with the forms of things so logic is purely formal, abstracted from content.
The conclusion is that Aristotle's philosophy is based on a metaphoric logic using a set of conceptual metaphors. 

Of course there are other possible metaphors for understanding logic and reasoning. Aristotle's is only one. The alternative to his formal, disembodied reason is an embodied, imaginative reason.

Descartes' conception of mind and self-reflection follows a similar pattern. It is based on the metaphor Understanding is Seeing together with the submetaphors: Ideas Are objects, Reason Is Light, Knowers Are Seers, Intelligence Is Visual Acuity, and others. Reason somehow shines its light on its own internal reasoning while it is happening. This does not consider the unconscious, assuming that all reasoning is completely conscious. 

Analytic philosophy also relies on metaphors that contribute to the Language is Thought metaphor, such as Thinking Is Mathematical Calculation, Ideas Are objects, and The Mind Is A Machine. The concept is that ideas are symbols which, according to Frege, correspond to things in the world. This held as truth by Anglo-American formalist philosophy.

IV Embodied philosophy

The Person

Traditionally, Western philosophy perceives the human being as having a separation between mind and body, universal reasoning, a literal conceptual system and radical freedom.

On the contrary, the embodied person as viewed by cognitive science presents humans as possessing embodied reason, which conceptualises the world through our sensorial perceptual and motor systems. 

Embodied reason is also metaphoric. Conceptual metaphors enable us to use sensorimotor inference for abstraction in reasoning and conceptualisation. This makes science and philosophy possible.

Our freedom is limited because most thought processes are unconscious and so we have little control over it which makes conceptual change slow and difficult.

Our ethical thinking is metaphoric, not literal, and is sourced in our embodiment, not in a metaphysical entity. Moral concepts are based on our experiences, principally those of well-being and family and are thus multiple, as are our conceptual systems.

Human nature has no essence. It is conceptualised by cognitive science in terms of change and evolution, not static features.

The accepted interpretation of evolution is a competitive struggle to survive and reproduce. This has engendered the Western tradition which views rationality as the efficient pursuit of self-interest. Epicurus focused on pleasure by avoiding pain as the basis for rational behaviour. The Enlightenement understood human motivation as the desire to maximise satisfactions. Enlightenement economists, like Adam Smith, assumed this model and defined means to end rationality as the efficient calculation of means to quantifiable ends, so promoting self-interest. Utilitarianism sought the utopian society where individuals had maximum freedom to pursue self-interest, compatible with that of others. Darwin's theory of evolution was misinterpreted to fit the traditional view of humans maximising self-interest in the 'survival of the fittest', a competitive struggle, (when it actually meant the 'survival of those who best fit/adapt'). The ambiguous concept in English of 'fittest' was interpreted by social darwinism to mean that those who best rationalise their self-interest will win in the competitive fight for survival.
Cognitive science emphasises that our reasoning is mostly unconscious and therefore belief in the conscious determination of our self-interest is highly questionable. 

The Embodied Mind and Spiritual Life

The body is not a container for the disembodied mind. This is a literal belief based on a metaphor such as Descartes' Knowing Is Seeing, which emerged from the experience of knowledge gained through vision. It also has a base in the metaphorical distinction between Subject and Self. This metaphor arises from the experiences of a source domain 'Person' physically controlling objects and being evaluated by others. The independent Person is included in the Subject and so is independent of the Self. This metaphoric duality emerges from the common experience of embodiment. In almost all our acts of perception our senses are not what we pay attention to since when we see a house we do not focus on how we see it through our eyes and our brain's visual system, but on the interpretation of what we perceive. This dichotomy gives us the illusion that mental acts happen independently of the body and so duality seems natural. It is our perceptual system which leads us to conceptualise our minds as disembodied when in fact mind is incarnate in the body.

What Lakoff calls the Subject or the disembodied mind is referred to in religious traditions as the Soul. It is conceptualised as the place of consciousness, subjective experience, moral judgment, reason, will and essence (that which makes you who you are.) The concept of the Soul arises, according to cognitive science, as a result of the metaphors of Subject and Self which create the perception of a Subject independent of the body. This is a universal human experience and so the concept of Soul, or similar, has arisen in many different cultures. This same experience has encouraged the religious traditions of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, as well as the aspiration to achieve pure consciousness separate from the body. 

The Christian theology of a transcendent God also comes from the view of the soul as disembodied, not of this world and destined to return to God in heaven. In this Christian distant-God tradition morality is based on the disembodiment of the soul. Christians are expected to live a life directed towards the otherworldly, focused on the transcendental, above all desires, materialism, fame, success and so on. Human relationship with the environment and the embodied existence is allocated second place. The goal is salvation, finally living with God in a heavenly unity. This is the message of Christian disembodiment.

When we experience dreaming we can feel movements connected to our visual system, yet our muscles are inhibited. When we imitate another person we empathetically imagine ourselves in the body of another, simulating their movements. Both experiences are those of feeling movement without moving. These are forms of transcendence, experiences of bodily disconnection: embodied spirituality.

Empathetic projection is part of Nurturant Parent moral upbringing where the child's capacity to experience another is developed. It is through this empathising that we know our environment and understand that we are part of Nature.

This empathetic connection to a world which is bigger than humans is perceived in many religions as a meeting with the divine, a pantheistic theology, a God who is everywhere, both immanent (everything is in God) and transcendent (God is more than everything). The Jewish mystical tradition, the Kahbalah, is based on the metaphor All existence is God. (That includes stones.)

Metaphor is the mechanism through which spirituality becomes passionate. It is by metaphor that an ineffable God becomes vital: The Supreme Being. The Prime Mover. The Creator. The Almighty. The Father. The King of Kings. Shepherd. Lawgiver. Judge. Mother. Lover. Breath.

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