Gallese and Lakoff - COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY, 2005, 21...

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T HE BRAIN’S CONCEPTS: T HE ROLE OF THE SENSORY-MOTOR SYSTEM IN CONCEPTUAL KNOWLEDGE Vittorio Gallese Università di Parma, Italy George Lakoff University of California, Berkeley, USA Concepts are the elementary units of reason and linguistic meaning. They are conventional and rela- tively stable. As such, they must somehow be the result of neural activity in the brain. The questions are: Where? and How? A common philosophical position is that all concepts—even concepts about action and perception—are symbolic and abstract, and therefore must be implemented outside the brain’s sensory-motor system. We will argue against this position using (1) neuroscientific evidence; (2) results from neural computation; and (3) results about the nature of concepts from cognitive lin- guistics. We will propose that the sensory-motor system has the right kind of structure to charac- terise both sensory-motor and more abstract concepts. Central to this picture are the neural theory of language and the theory of cogs, according to which, brain structures in the sensory-motor regions are exploited to characterise the so-called “abstract” concepts that constitute the meanings of gram- matical constructions and general inference patterns. COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY, 2005, 21 (0), XXX–XXX © 2005 Psychology Press Ltd 1 http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/pp/02643294.html DOI:10.1080/02643290442000310 Correspondence should be addressed to Vittorio Gallese, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Sezione di Fisiologia, Università di Parma, Via Volturno 39, 43100 Parma, Italy/(E-mail: [email protected]). For many of the ideas put forward in the present paper the authors are indebted to, and would like to thank, the following members of the NTL Project at the International Computer Science Institute of the University of California at Berkeley: Jerome Feldman, Srini Narayanan, Lokendra Shastri, Eve Sweetser, Nancy Chang, Shweta Narayan, Ellen Dodge, Keith Sanders, and Ben Bergen. Many thanks also to Giacomo Rizzolatti and Maria Alessandra Umiltà, for their most valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper. Vittorio Gallese, who was George Miller Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, would like to thank the Miller Institute for awarding him the fellowship that made this work possible. He was also supported by the EU Mirrorbot Project, and by the Eurocores Project “The Origin of Man, Language, and Languages.” INTRODUCTION Concepts are the elementary units of reason and linguistic meaning. They are conventional and rel- atively stable. As such, they must somehow be the result of neural activity in the brain. The questions are: Where? and How? First-generation cognitive science was strongly
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This note was uploaded on 03/14/2010 for the course COGSCI 101 taught by Professor Lakoff during the Spring '10 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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Gallese and Lakoff - COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY, 2005, 21...

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