Lakoff and Johnson

Background on George Lakoff, professor linguistics at Berkeley; and Mark Johnson, professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon: 


Important points from "Metaphor and War:  The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf" (Part 1):

Questions for the whole class:

1.  Think back to Plato: 

2.  How does metaphor shape your reality at Winthrop University?  Have you encountered metaphors for education?

Writing activity and discussion:

3.  Writing in class and discussion:  Here is a story from the GNED website:  Zen Activity.  Spend 5 minutes writing about the significance of this little story for you.  Do you see connections to types of education that Plato identifies?  What is YOUR metaphor for education?  Share your answers with the rest of the class.

Group activity and discussion

4.  Do the following:

Several more questions for large-group discussion:

5.  Do you, as a member of particular groups, use different metaphors than other class members who are part of different groups?  What groups are represented in this class, and how does each bring a different set of metaphors to the table (the question itself, of course, is a metaphor)?

6.  How can we establish common ground with people who think in terms of different metaphors?  Example:  One man's terrorism is another man's jihad.

7.  What has today's discussion taught you about the self in general and YOUR self in particular?

* * *

The following questions are from the GNED website:

Discussion Questions

1. How does the authors’ understanding of metaphor differ from the conventional understanding?

2. Consider how we understand argument through metaphor.  How does the metaphor of war affect how we think about argument?

3. Think about understanding argument as war vs. dance.  Identify several ways in which these different metaphors lead to different behaviors.

4. Can we understand anything without metaphor?  Explain.

5. How does the following passage from Lakoff and Johnson relate to the prisoners in Plato’s Cave: “Our conventional ways of talking about arguments presuppose a metaphor we are hardly ever conscious of" (7)?

6. What does the war metaphor reveal about argument?  What does it conceal?

7. What does your metaphor for education reveal and conceal? 

8. What metaphor for education was demonstrated in the Zen exercise?

9. How does your major function as a metaphor?

10. Discuss the metaphors present in American Beauty.

--from GNED 102 webpage


Mark Johnson (professor)

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Mark L. Johnson (born 24 May 1949 in Kansas City, Missouri) is Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. He is well-known for contributions to embodied philosophy, cognitive science and cognitive linguistics with George Lakoff, but he has also written extensively on philosophical topics such as John Dewey, Kant and ethics.

In his 1987 book The Body in The Mind he developed a theory of image schema as the basic building blocks in cognitive linguistics for conceptual metaphor, as well as language and abstract reason generally. He argued for a revised version of Kant's notion of the schema as the crucial imaginative link between our concrete perceptions of an object (e.g. my dog Fido) and our experience of categories (the class of things called dogs). However, where Kant wanted schemata to serve as a bridge between the empirical and logical (or phenomenal and noumenal) worlds, Johnson maintained that image schema are regularly recurring embodied patterns of experience that are acquired during the course of early child development. Such schemata are image-like in that they are analogic neural activation patterns which preserve the topological contours of perceptual experience as a cohesive whole. Thus they are images in a sense similar to how Kosslyn showed the rotation of Shepard and Metzler-like mental images preserves the visual contours of the 2D picture of the 3D object. However, image schemata are not restricted to visual modality and can be kinesthetic, auditory and cross-modal as well.

Johnson argues that his and Lakoff's recent research on the role of such bodily schemas in cognition and language shows the ways in which aesthetic aspects of experience structure every dimension of our experience and understanding. In his interpretation of John Dewey, he claims that all our abstract conceptualization and reasoning, all our thought and language -- all our symbolic expression and interaction -- are tied intimately to our embodiment and to the pervasive aesthetic characteristics of all experience.