16.326 thinking physically

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Nov 16 2002 - 04:01:08 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 326.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Sat, 16 Nov 2002 08:38:08 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: thinking physically

    In "Perceptual Simulation in Analogical Reasoning", David Craig, Nancy
    Nersessian and Richard Catrambone argue that such similations can be
    especially effective for solving problems by analogical means in that they
    reactivate patterns of neural activity in the perceptual and motor parts of
    the brain initially activated by encountering something first-hand. In
    other words, we have a wealth of "image schemas" that we can put together
    in spatial and kinaesthetic representations to engage our cognitive powers
    with real-world problems. In other other words, thinking physically can
    help. Craig et al. note that diagrams play a useful role in analogical
    thought but that animations are better, or can be, precisely because they
    engage the kinaesthetic powers. So in thinking about visualizing the
    results of our analyses, we are encouraged to go further, to animate them.

    The cited article is one of several interesting pieces in Lorenzo Magnani
    and Nancy Nersessian, Model-Based Reasoning: Science, Technology, Values
    (Kluwer, 2002). I wonder, given Craig et al., if anyone is bothered, as I
    am, by the word "reasoning" in the title of that book? It seems to me to
    identify the wrong sort of cognition.

    The argument in Craig et al. sounds to me quite Heideggerian and very much
    in line with recent work on embodied thought. There would seem to be a rich
    ground here shared by philosophy and cognitive psychology, leading into
    other areas of cognitive science -- as already suggested by Winograd and
    Flores, Computers and Cognition, and by recent writings on the imagination.
    I appeal to any cognitive science types here to recommend books or
    articles, whether or not they deal directly with Heidegger. Am I right to
    think that the notion of "embodied thought" makes the boundaries between
    philosophy, psychology, neuroanatomy etc very difficult to draw?

    On the shelf of books to be read along these lines is Lakoff and Johnson,
    Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western
    Thought (Basic Books, 1999). Other items have been mentioned on Humanist
    before (no, I haven't forgotten! :-). Further recommendations would be
    greatly appreciated.

    And comments, of course, as always.


    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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