Sunday, June 23, 2013

The arc from body to culture

Returning to the current Integral Review issue, this one looks promising in light of recent posts: "The arc from body to culture: How affect, proprioception, kinesthesia, and perceptual imagery shape cultural knowledge (and vice versa)." The abstract follows.

"This essay approaches the complex triadic relation between concepts, body, and culture from an angle rooted in the empirical cognitive research of the past three decades or so. Specifically, it reviews approaches to how the body gives a substrate to and shapes cultural cognition. One main section examines how the body contributes to cultural learning and another how abstract cultural concepts and reasoning are grounded in sensorimotor experience, perception, and inner somatic states. Both sections’ purpose is to survey and briefly critique different theoretical frameworks, probe into their complementarity, and summarily evaluate to what extent higher cognition is embodied. The third main section outlines elements of an epistemological framework that connects culture, concepts, and the body in a sensible way. The paper closes with a discussion of how the embodied cognition paradigm advances a rapprochement of different areas both within cognitive research and beyond."

From the article, akin to some of my points:

"'Stereoscopic theorizing', as I called it earlier, between ecologically valid and controlled methods is imperative. I see particular promise in sub-disciplines that straddle disciplinary fences to begin with. Cognitive linguistics is becoming one such 'hub'. It displays considerable ability for traversing boundaries not least because of its gestalt approach" (338).

"Many quarters within cognitive science are showing great ability to harness together different sources of empirical data in exploring cultural cognition. Lakoff and Johnson (1999) push for this explicitly in their 'convergent evidence' framework. They claim that, since sub-personal cognition is difficult to access, theoretical constructs un-falsified by six or eight independent methods must have great strength" (339).

"In a valiant book-length effort to stimulate an interdisciplinary dialog, Slingerland (2008) recently coined the notion of 'vertical integration' . He claims that the cognitive arc from basic elements to meta-culture implicates a disciplinary arc, where the humanistic or social sciences hold the top position and the natural sciences form the fundament. Slingerland proposes that the humanities are not necessarily incommensurate with cognitive research, despite the doubts of the former. He claims that for a true rapprochement between the often-cited “Two Cultures” embodied cognition research is a key site, a point well worth underscoring" (339).

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