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1.4. Ch4.Brain_sRole - Lakoff The Political Brain The...

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Lakoff, The Political Brain The Brain’s Role in Political Ideologies Chapter 4 The Brain’s Role in Political Ideologies Our moral narratives have two parts, both of which are physically in our brains. The first is the dramatic structure of the narrative, with roles like hero, villain, victim, helper, and so on performing actions and undergoing effects. The second is the emotional structure, what Damasio has called “somatic markers,” linking the dramatic structure to positive and negative emotional circuitry. They provide the emotional texture of simple narratives. Because they are neurally bound, the emotional structure of the narrative (anger, fear, relief) is inseparable from the dramatic structure (villainous action, battle, victory). And when simple narratives are neurally bound together into complex narratives, simple emotional textures become emotionally very complex. As we have just seen in the case of metaphor, what is complex for us to explain is part of the learned structure of the brain that is easy for the brain to use. Narratives are brain structures that we can live out, recognize in others, and imagine, because the same brain structures are used for all three kinds of experiences. Moral narrative is physical through and through. The Brain’s Morality Morality is fundamentally about well-being — the well being of oneself, others, and the groups one belongs to: family, community, business, nation. Our feelings of well-being and ill-being correlate with the activation of the positive and negative emotional pathways. Our brains are wired to produce experiences of well-being and ill- 04 - 96
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Lakoff, The Political Brain The Brain’s Role in Political Ideologies being. These are linked to sites in the forebrain, the prefrontal cortex, which embody our ability to make moral judgments and do moral reasoning, both conscious and unconscious. The mechanisms for moral judgments in the brain are bound to the mechanisms for positive emotions (well-being) and negative emotions (ill-being): joy and satisfaction versus anger, fear, anxiety, and disgust. Primary metaphors, as we have seen, arise when two different kinds of experiences regularly occur together and activate two different brain areas at the same time, over and over. As it turns out, our experiences of well-being and ill-being correlate regularly, especially in childhood, with many kinds of other experiences. In general, if an experience of well-being regularly occurs together with another experience, X, then there will be a reasonable probability that we will acquire a metaphor of the form Morality is X. For example, we typically feel disgust when we eat rotten food and good when we eat pure food. This leads to the conceptual metaphor: Morality Is Purity; Immorality is Rottenness. We commonly feel fearful in the dark and relieved and happy when it becomes light out. This leads to the conceptual metaphor: Morality is Light; Immorality is Darkness.
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