What are “concrete concepts”?


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What are “concrete concepts”?

I remember having watched, on TV, a high-jumper performing an obvious mental imagery of his up-coming jump just before he actually performed his physical feat. I could watch his gaze going through the running to the bar and lifting himself up and over the bar. It was obvious that he was doing a practice jump in his mind just before he actually performed the jump.

I have discovered since that time that this is somewhat standard practice for athletes.

What do these practices, plus the recent empirical evidence regarding neural cognitive science, tell us about the nature of conceptualization and knowledge?

One can analyze the nature of our psyche from the phenomenological and from the neurobiological aspect. SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) has, in the last several decades, developed theories about both of these aspects of human activity.

“A central tenet of an embodied cognitive theory of concepts is that concrete concepts (that is, concepts for concrete objects, events, and actions) are processed using sensorimotor areas of the brain…The guiding idea here is that thinking using a concrete concept involve activating many of the same sensorimotor neural clusters that would be activated in actually perceiving something, manipulating an object, or moving one’s body.”

Such ideas as one finds in the above quote seem to me to be obvious if one considers Darwin’s theory of natural selection. If natural selection is a true theory then there must be continuity throughout the chain of being. Thus humans, like their non-human ancestors, must be expected to use these sensorimotor neural networks for concrete experience.

We generally speak about knowledge from a phenomenological perspective; recent developments in neuroscience, however limited, suggest some of the neural bases for conceptualization.

“Concepts are neural activation patterns that can either be “turned on” by some actual perceptual or motoric event in our bodies, or else activated when we merely think about something, without actually perceiving it or performing a specific action.”

Have you ever performed this mental imaging of an athletic performance just before attempting to do it?

If you have learned to type have you ever, like me, asked your self where on the key board is “y” and discovered you had to depend upon your fingers for that information?

If all concrete concepts result from sensorimotor aided experience does this mean that all concepts, either concrete or subjective, are grounded in sensorimotor aided experience?

Quotes from The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding by Mark Johnson