The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding

The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding

by Mark Johnson


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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226401928
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 08/01/2007
Pages: 326
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Preface: The Need for an 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

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