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Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought
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Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,202 ratings  ·  63 reviews
What are human beings like? How is knowledge possible? What is truth? Where do moral values come from? Questions like these have stood at the center of Western philosophy for centuries. In addressing them, philosophers have made certain fundamental assumptions-that we can know our own minds by introspection, that most of our thinking about the world is literal, and that re ...more
Paperback, 640 pages
Published October 8th 1999 by Basic Books (first published December 20th 1998)
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Aug 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“The understanding, like the eye, whilst it makes us see and perceive all other things, takes no notice of itself: and it requires art and pains to set it at a distance and make it its own object....” - Locke

“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something because it is always before one’s eyes.) The real foundations of his inquiry do not strike a man at all.” - Wittgenstein

The hardest thing to see is
Loring Wirbel
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the late 1980s, I read Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things by Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff, and he almost made me forget my Noam Chomsky psycholinguistics obsession, with the book's intriguing study of categorization and language. Throughout the 1990s, I studied neural networks in vertical perception domains such as vision processing. So how did I manage to miss the fact that Lakoff and his University of Oregon cohort Mark Johnson published a massive work in 1999 that made the case ...more
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
How to make philosophical tripe.

1) Take a page and a half of Wittgenstein,
2) Mix with tedious philosophical platitudes
3) Add yeast and bake until it rises to over 500 pages.

Maybe I'm being unfair-there are some interesting insights, but I'm irritated to the extent that they claim to contribute anything new to the discussion.
May 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
It's funny that, given the authors' explication of metaphors in all the world's philosophies, they should blatantly ignore the metaphorical assumptions which they make themselves. Specifically, they denounce all the metaphysicians for assuming that "there is a category of all things that exist", while they make much the same assumption when they defend the aims of neuroscience against the critiques of post-structuralism - that there is only a single container (the findings of science) which enca ...more
Nov 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
Being a student of the Western Philosophical canon and positively fascinated by Psychology, this book - which puts a spotlight on the canon consisting of what we've learned through the study of the human mind - is fascinating, illuminating and - in my opinion - required reading. The questions that make Philosophy so necessary and so fascinating are deeply and significantly impacted by facts about how our brains function.
Joshua Stein
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mind, philosophy
So, I realize that most of the reviews of Lakoff's book are positive [normally I don't look at other goodreads reviews before writing my own, because it helps to be in the dark] but I think that's reasonable, given what the book is. The book is an account to give an alternative account of what philosophy should be (Lakoff's "empirically responsible" programme) given a set of facts of the matter in cognitive science. Lakoff attempts to show that the historical tradition of western philosophy, fro ...more
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it

Philosophy in the Flesh is the cooperative effort of a cognitive psychologist and a philosopher. It begins by introducing modern cognitive psychology, and explaining how it is much more experiment-based than the previous generation of psychological explanation. This is followed by an overview, with examples, of many of the metaphors that dominate our lives: viewing time as a stream, viewing goals as places to go to, and so on.

The second half of the book, roughly, discusses various Western philo
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
The book contains several interesting ideas worth exploring (spatial metaphors and time, for example) but literally everything else can be derived from more sophisticated thinkers such as Dewey, James, Maturana, Varela or Kelly. Also, Lakoff's arrogance is occasionally nothing short of stunning. Most notably in the very beginning of the book where he imagines to have proven wrong the 2500 years of philosophic tradition by employing a highly reductionist take on Aristotle, Descartes, and analytic ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
In a recent discussion, a friend of mine identified a conspicuous lacuna in our cultural conversations about the human mind and technology. This lacuna, he said, arose from a tendency to treat the brain as a discrete, self-contained information-processing and experience-producing system. When we do this, it becomes easier (albeit still daunting), to imagine successfully simulating a brain using computer software. It also becomes easier to nail down the provenance and primary executor of human na ...more
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is welcomed counterweight to much of Western philosophy and the idea of a split between mind and body. "Reason is not disembodied, as the tradition has largely held, but arises from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily experience," the authors write early in the book. The book points out that our explanations of the world, particularly philosophy but even science, are mostly metaphorical.
My biggest problem with the book is not a dearth of good ideas but its numbingly dull pro
Marijn Meijles
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to finish this book. It was worth every minute though.

The central tenet of this book is that the mechanisms by which we understand and reason about the world are shaped by our bodies. This implies that there is no "a priori philosophy" whatsoever.

The authors explain in detail how our bodies influence our ways of thinking. A large part of this is devoted to an exploration of our use of metaphors in our reasoning. The fascinating part for me is that it sounds extremely logical,
Eric Shaffer
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
George Lakoff is my favorite philosopher, and here, he impresses me most of all with his critique of the Western philosophers, from Greek to contemporary, most of whom have annoyed me with their relentless mysticism and/or abstractions about existence when daily there is already enough to do and more than enough to worry about. I love the basic notion that metaphor is the basis to our understanding of the world. From the time I can remember, that seemed plain, but Lakoff is the only one who says ...more
Dave Peticolas
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. The stuff happening in cognitive science these days blows my mind.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was one of 2 books I read for a Topics in Thought and Cognition class. Lakoff and Johnson weave some of the findings of modern cognitive science into a coherent philosophy with profound implications for the way we understand ourselves, reality, and our relationship to it. The theory is fascinating and its impact immense, so the authors can hardly be criticised for explaining both meticulously, but the book can get a bit repetitive, especially if you already have a background in the field(s) ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
Those who wasted years of their lives to qualify as the King's philosophers always end up masturbating their inflated egos by telling that philosophy has anything to do with reason. This book, is yet another example of philosophy as a lyrical genre in which nothing happens and the author wallows in contemplation, usually of his own navel.
Alex Delogu
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
While some of the main theses of the book are enlightening the book suffers from overreaching by applying itself to multiple major branches of philosophy, from Aristotle to Chomsky. The best moments of the book are when they lay out the positive elements of their philosophy in the flesh, the first few chapters and the last. The main theses are that cognition is embodied, largely unconscious and also metaphorical. These are all fascinating. However the over-reliance on a critical philosophical en ...more
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This hefty volume employs the empirical findings of second generation cognitive science to challenge the Western philosophical belief in a rational disembodied mind. The primary method of critical examination utilizes the theories of "unconscious embodied conceptual metaphor" and its origins in sensorimotor experience, to explain how philosophers (old and new) have arrived at their conclusions using a metaphoric logic they mistakenly thought was literal.
As you'd expect in a book written by car
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I read this book on a plane trip half on the way there half on my way back. I cannot say if I took a lot from it then, but I know I read it again and took something completely different from it. It is a challenging philosophy that I had a grasp of at a young age and I am not sure how it is argued otherwise, but in some general way I could say that it states that mind and body are one not separate and what you have wrong w/ one you have in the other because it is all interconnected...point being ...more
Jury Razumau
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Some chapters are frustratingly almost correct, some are just godawful (no, you can’t say that since models are like metaphors, mathematics is of no use; and no, a 20-page rant about incorrect models leading to environmetal issues and wars in Iraq doesn’t make all the rational philosophy irrelevant). In the end, the main issue is that “it seems like we think using metaphors” is not equivalent to “metaphors are the only way of thinking and getting results.”
Feb 07, 2011 marked it as to-read
I expexted this to read as a text book but I was optimistic that it would be introductory level. It seems to have been written for experts in the field and so was difficult to follow in parts and failed to maintain my interest. I'm still interested in the premise of the book and may still go back and finish it.
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-thesis
Philosophy in the Flesh is a glowingly easy book to read. This philosophical theory of the embodied mind provides a nice theoretical framework to look at literature, culture, and science. The heft of the book is kind of intimidating but once you get into it, there's a lot of rich and detailed metaphorical fun to be had. Biggest problem: George Lakoff self-cites himself a bit too much.
Mark Hollingsworth
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This is one of the ten most influential books in my life (and thought). I used something I learned from it in my sermon yesterday. Much of this book served to clarify and integrate what I had already been thinking about language and thinking, some of it was new and wondrous.
May 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I full-heartedly agree with the review excerpt on the cover, "A ground-breaking work that radically changes the tenets of traditional western philosophy." For anyone interested in the mind, metaphorical thought, philosophy, language, psychiatry/psychoanalysis, etc.
Apr 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
a very important book that was a mind opener for many traditional semanticists who still clung to truth-conditional semantics. Introduces cognitive semantics that deals primarily with categorization and prototypes.
John Patrick Morgan
Definitely took some work to get through parts of this book. ‘Reading Is Work’ 🤣

However I’m glad I stuck with it. Th technical parts were enlightening once understood and the less technical parts were thoroughly enjoyable and also enlightening.

So much of my experience in accessing and upgrading personal conceptualizations was validated in read this book. I have also gained a clearer understanding of how and why upgrading my conceptualization works.

I have taken to using metaphorical mapping sta
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
I didn't review this when I read it. It's criminally overrated, as is Lakoff. I found myself skipping huge chunks. I wonder if that was some kind of psychological intervention? Fluff the book into being 500 pages too long and I'll think it's more important?

I never think about anything Lakoff has written or said in the publically available lectures/videos of him that I've watched. I probably think about Nietzsche more often, which is saying a lot seeing how I refer to my memories of what he wrot
[used in paper & thesis]

Hugely provocative, possibly wrong in many areas, illuminating and inspirational in so many other ways. Best read together with the original book by Lakoff & Johnson 'Metaphor We Live By' and the newer work by Mark Johnson, like 'Morality for Humans: Ethical Understanding from the Perspective of Cognitive Science'.
Amazing. Provides a good basis for the argument that the majority of our abstract thought and arguments are rooted in basic conceptual metaphors, which are themselves rooted in sensorimotor data. One of the best books I've ever read, and a groundbreaking work in philosophy and cognitive science.
Heather Dawn Stowell
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Take away --- there is no real disembodied anything. Everything is connected thru landscapes of meaning/metaphor.
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved every bit of it. I've already written review on it here.
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Philosophy in the flesh 1 27 Feb 02, 2008 05:56AM  

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George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley and is one of the founders of the field of cognitive science.

He is author of The New York Times bestseller Don't Think of an Elephant!, as well as Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, Whose Freedom?, and many other books and articles on cognitive science and ling

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43 likes · 19 comments
“The mind is inherently embodied.
Thought is mostly unconscious.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.”
“We categorize as we do because we have the brains and bodies we have and because we interact in the world as we do.” 7 likes
More quotes…