Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 326.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Sat, 16 Nov 2002 08:38:08 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com>
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
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 || firstname.lastname@example.org
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