The Source of Human Reason?


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The Source of Human Reason?

All of our acts and thoughts are based upon philosophical assumptions. Metaphysics is a fancy word for our concern about ‘what is real’. For example, whenever we think or speak about responsibility we are assuming causality. Without causality there is no responsibility. The nature and status of the self is another speculation, and an important one, in most decisions we make daily.

Politics is about forming perceived reality in accordance with points of view. In America we have two parties and each party attempts to move the electorate to perceive that party’s point of view is better than the other’s point of view.

We rely on our unconscious to furnish the building blocks for comprehension of reality. If we examine the cognitive sciences and the human sciences we see a constant emphasis about the unconscious. It is through our conceptual systems, which are unconscious, that we make sense of our every day existence and our everyday metaphysics exists within our conceptual system.

It appears to me that cognitive science has two paradigms; symbolic manipulation, which is also called AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the second paradigm, which might be called ‘conceptual metaphor’, or it might be called ‘embodied mind’, or ‘embodied realism’.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) research began shortly after WWII. Alan Turing was one of the important figures who decided that their efforts would not be focused on building machines but in programming computers.

The new potential paradigm for cognitive science has given us evolution-based realism. This is also called embodied-realism because it has abandoned the mind/body dichotomy that characterizes other forms of realism and is convinced that natural selection is the process by which the human species has developed.

Cognitive science studies our conceptual systems. Cognitive science has, since the 1970s, amassed a great deal of empirical evidence to conclude that most of our conceptual activities fly below our conscious radar. Our unconscious, which contains our stealth conceptual system, has been ignored by our Western philosophical tradition, thereby leading us astray in matters of great importance.

The ‘cognitive’ in cognitive science is used “for any kind of mental operation or structure that can be studied in precise terms. Most of these structures and operations have been found to be unconscious.” Visual and auditory processing--memory and attention--all aspects of thought and language--mental imagery--emotions and conceptual aspects of motor operations--and neural modeling of cognitive operation; all of these are part of the science known as cognitive science.

“Most of what we [SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science)] will be calling cognitive unconscious is thus for many philosophers not considered cognitive at all.” Cognitive for many philosophers’ means that which has truth-conditional meaning, “that is, meaning defined not internally in the mind or body, but by reference to things in the external world.”

This branch of cognitive science, “because our conceptual systems and our reason arise from our bodies, will also use the term cognitive for aspects of our sensorimotor system that contribute to our abilities to conceptualize and to reason. Since cognitive operations are largely unconscious, the term cognitive unconscious accurately describes all unconscious mental operations concerned with conceptual systems, meaning, inference, and language.”

The ‘bible’ for embodied-realism is “Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson. The paradigm of this cognitive science is ‘conceptual metaphor’. The fundamental findings from which all principles flow are:
  • The mind is inherently embodied.
  • Thought is mostly unconscious.
  • Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.

Let us imagine how human reason might have been born. The question seeking an answer is: how can natural selection (evolution) account for human reason?

Somewhere back in time we must encounter the signs of reason within the capacity of our ancestors. What is the essence of reason? The necessary and sufficient conditions for reason are conceptual and inference ability. To conceptualize is to create neural structures that can be used to facilitate making if-then inferences.

Imagine an early water dwelling creature, which must survive utilizing only the ability to move in space and to discriminate light and shadow. The sense of a shadow can indicate a friend or foe and can indicate eat or not eat. Assume that this sensibility has a total range of two feet, i.e. a shadow within a radius of two feet of the creature can be detected.

A shadow comes within sensible range, the creature can ‘decide’ by the size of the shadow whether the shadow is friend or foe and as a possible lunch. If the shadow is large the creature must ‘run’ if it is small the creature might ‘decide’ to pursue.

It seems obvious to me this simple creature must have the ability to reason in order to survive. This creature must be capable of ascertaining friend/foe and eat/not eat. It must also determine how to move based upon that conceptual structure. It must be able to make inferences from these concepts, these neural structures of what is sensed, to survive. This creature must have the capacity to perceive, conceive, infer, and move correctly in space in order to survive.

Continuing my imaginary journey; I have a friend who is the project engineer on a program to design robots. I ask this friend if it is possible for the computer model of a robot in action can perform the essential operations required for reasoning. She says, “I think so, but I will ask my robot simulation to do the things that are considered to be reasoning”.

She performs this operation and tells me that it is within the capacity of the robot movement system to also do reasoning. I conclude that if the sensorimotor control system of a creature also has the ability to reason, then biology would not recreate such a capacity and thus this sensorimotor capacity is also a reasoning capacity that evolves into our human capacity to reason.

Quotes from Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson

Does this imaginary journey compel you to shout with joy at discovering the source of human reason?