The Meaning of the Body
Aesthetics of Human Understanding
University of Chicago Press, 2007
Cloth: 978-0-226-40192-8 | Paper: 978-0-226-40193-5 | Electronic: 978-0-226-02699-2
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS
ABOUT THIS BOOK
In The Meaning of the Body, Mark Johnson continues his pioneering work on the exciting connections between cognitive science, language, and meaning first begun in the classic Metaphors We Live By. Johnson uses recent research into infant psychology to show how the body generates meaning even before self-consciousness has fully developed. From there he turns to cognitive neuroscience to further explore the bodily origins of meaning, thought, and language and examines the many dimensions of meaning—including images, qualities, emotions, and metaphors—that are all rooted in the body’s physical encounters with the world. Drawing on the psychology of art and pragmatist philosophy, Johnson argues that all of these aspects of meaning-making are fundamentally aesthetic. He concludes that the arts are the culmination of human attempts to find meaning and that studying the aesthetic dimensions of our experience is crucial to unlocking meaning's bodily sources.
Throughout, Johnson puts forth a bold new conception of the mind rooted in the understanding that philosophy will matter to nonphilosophers only if it is built on a visceral connection to the world.
“Mark Johnson demonstrates that the aesthetic and emotional aspects of meaning are fundamental—central to conceptual meaning and reason, and that the arts show meaning-making in its fullest realization. If you were raised with the idea that art and emotion were external to ideas and reason, you must read this book. It grounds philosophy in our most visceral experience.”—George Lakoff, author of Moral Politics
Mark Johnson is the Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. He is the author of The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason and Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics and coauthor, with George Lakoff, of Metaphors We Live By and Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought.
“In The Meaning of the Body, Mark Johnson does an amazingly good job showing the philosophical import of the notion of embodied cognition. Many authors get caught up in the details and forget to come back to the broader philosophical issues. Johnson, in contrast, paints strokes that outline the implications for our philosophical understanding of meaning, reason, abstract conceptualization, truth, beauty, and the very nature of philosophy.”
— Shaun Gallagher, author of How the Body Shapes the Mind
“Mark Johnson demonstrates that the aesthetic and emotional aspects of meaning are fundamental—central to conceptual meaning and reason, and that the arts show meaning-making in its fullest realization. If you were raised with the idea that art and emotion were external to ideas and reason, you must read this book. It grounds philosophy in our most visceral experience.”
— George Lakoff, author of Moral Politics
“This is a marvelous book that offers a spirited defense of the importance of bodily-based feeling in human meaning-making. Grounding his argument firmly in the philosophy of John Dewey, Johnson creates a new vision of the aesthetics of human understanding that is supported by contemporary research from linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience on the embodied nature of human cognition. Yet Johnson also provides beautiful examples of how artistic practices exhibit and extend the embodied mind. The Meaning of the Body is a cutting-edge treatise reflecting the newest developments on the mind-body and mind-world problems and properly places aesthetics center stage in the study of meaning and understanding. Read this book and feel what it means!”
— Raymond W. Gibbs Jr., author of Embodiment and Cognitive Science
"This book continues a lively and interesting debate about the nature of human beings and their awareness of themselves and the world around them."
"A courageous and ultimately successful book. Not only does Johnson attack a number of problematic core assumptions in analytic philosophy of mind and cognitive science, but he moves beyond them to offer an insightful theory of how we can still talk meaningfully about meaning. For any philosopher interested in philosophy of mind, language, or aesthetics, this book has a number of important lessons about how these disciplines are in need of revision."— Lucas Keefer, Metapsychology
"This fine book is a welcome extension of Mark Johnson's important research about the embodied nature of mental life. It is energetically argued, clearly written, well-structured, admirably wide-ranging, and impressively well informed with respect to current theories in neuroscience, linguistics, and cognitive science. It is also enriched with artistic examples and reinforced with the personal passion of earnest commitment to making philosophy relevant to life and to fostering aesthetic values."
— Richard Marc Shusterman, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
"Johnson has laid out the foundations for a theory of meaning which has the potential to unite the purposes and preoccupations of certain strands from both analytical and continental philosophy. . . . This is not to suggest that Johnson retreats from commitment to any one position: quite the contrary. Well-entrenched approaches to a number of philosophical problems are upended. . . . This book should be of intrest to all philosophers as it attempts to reconnect analytical philosophy with lived experience."
— Jennifer A. Mcmahon, Mind
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface: The Need for Aesthetics of Human Meaning
Introduction: Meaning Is More Than Words and Deeper Than Concepts
Part I: Bodily Meaning and Felt Sense
1. The Movement of Life
2. Big Babies
3. "Since Feeling Is First": Emotional Dimensions of Meaning
4. The Grounding of Meaning in the Qualities of Life
5. Feeling William James's "But" : The Aesthetics of Reasoning and Logic
Part II: Embodied Meaning and the Sciences of Mind
6. The Origin of Meaning in Organism-Environment Coupling: A Nonrepresentational View of Mind
7. The Corporeal Roots of Symbolic Meaning
8. The Brain's Role in Meaning
9. From Embodied Meaning to Abstract Thought
Part III: Embodied Meaning, Aesthetics, and Art
10. Art as an Exemplar of Meaning-Making
11. Music and the Flow of Meaning
12. The Meaning of the Body