Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another Invisible Hand...

Lakoff and Johnson's Philosophy in the Flesh opens with a couple of chapters pummeling the traditional philosophical notion that pure conscious reflection is the way to discovering truth, particularly epistemological truth. In Chapter 2, on "The Cognitive Unconscious," they write (with some emphasis added),
Conscious thought is the tip of an enormous iceberg. It is the rule of thumb among cognitive scientists that unconscious thought is 95 percent of all thought--and that may be a serious underestimate. Moreover, the 95 percent below the surface of conscious awareness shapes and structures all conscious thought. If the cognitive unconscious were not there doing this shaping, there could be no conscious thought.


Our unconscious conceptual system functions like a "hidden hand" that shapes how we conceptualize all aspects of our experience. This hidden hand gives form to the metaphysics that is built into our ordinary conceptual systems. It creates the entities that inhabit the cognitive unconscious--abstract entitites like friendships, bargains, failures, and lies--that we use in ordinary unconscious reasoning. It thus shapes how we automatically and unconsciously comprehend what we experience. It constitutes our unreflective common sense.
The more we learn about the world, the more we realize how little we consciously control--even in ourselves.

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