p11 Why "Cognative" Unconscious?
The term cognative has two very different meanings, which can sometimes create confusion. In cognative science, the term cognative 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. Thus, visual processing falls under the cognative, as does auditory processing. Obviously, neither of these is conscious, since we are not and could not possibly be aware of each of the neural processes involved in the vastly complicated total process that gives rise to conscious visual and auditory experience. Memory and attention fall under the cognative. All aspects of thought and language, conscious or unconscious, are thus cognative. This includes phonology, grammar, conceptual systems, the mental lexicon, and all unconscious inferences of any sort. Mental imagery, emotions, and the conception of motor operations have also been studied from such a cognative perspective. And neural modeling of any cognitive operation is also part of cognative science.
Confusion sometimes arises because the term cognative is often used in a very different way in certain philosophical traditions. For philosophers in these traditions, cognative (109 helped Inda) means only conceptual or propositional structure. It also includes rule-governed operations on such conceptual and propositional structures. Moreover, cognative meaning is seen as truth-conditional meaning, that is, meaning defined not internally in the mind or body, but by reference to things in the external world. Most of what we will be calling the cognative unconscious is thus for many philosophers not considered cognative at all.
As is the practice in cognative science, we will use the term cognative in the richest possible sense, to describe any mental operations and structures that are involved in language, meaning, perception, conceptual systems, and reason. Because our conceptual systems and our reason arise from our bodies, we will also use the term cognative for aspects of our sensorimotor system that contribute to our abilities to conceptualize and to reason. Since cognitive operations are largely unconscious, the term cognative unconscious accurately describes all unconscious mental operations concerned with conceptual systems, meaning, inference, and language.
The Hidden Hand That Shapes Conscious Thought
The very existence of the cognitive unconscious, a fact fundamental to all conceptions of cognitive science, has important implications for the practice of philosophy. It means that we can have no direct conscious awareness of most of what goes on in our minds. The idea that pure philosophical reflection can plumb the depths of human understanding is an illusion. Traditional methods of philosophical analysis alone, even phenomenological introspection, cannot come close to allowing us to know our own minds.
There is much to be said for traditional philosophical reflection and phenomenological analyses. They can make us aware of many aspects of consciousness and, to a limited extent, can enlarge our capacities for conscious awareness. Phenomenological reflection even allows us to examine many of the background prereflective structures that lie beheath our conscious experience. But neither method can adequately explore the cognitive unconscious-the realm of thought that is completely and irrevocably inaccessible to direct conscious introspection. It is this realm that is the primary focus of cognitive science, which allows us to theorize about the cognitive unconscious on the basis of evidence. Cognitive science, however, does not allow us direct access to what the cognitive unconscious is doing as it is doing it.
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.
The cognitive unconscious is vast and intricately structured. It includes not only all our outomatic cognitive operations, but also all our implicit knowledge. All of our knowledge and beliefs are framed in terms of a conceptual system that resides mostly in the cognitive unconscious.
Our unconscious conceptual system functions like a "hidden hand" that shapes how we conceptualize all aspects of our existence. 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 entities 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.
For example, let us return to our commonsense understanding of the self. Consider the common experience of struggling to gain control over ourselves. We not only feel this struggle within us, but conceptualize the "struggle" as being between two distinct parts of our self, each with different values. Sometimes we think of our "higher" (moral and rational) self struggling to get control over our "lower" (irrational and amoral) self.
Our conception of the self, in such cases, is fundamentally metaphoric. We conceptualize ourselves as split into two distinct entities that can be at way, locked in a struggle for control over our bodily behavior. This metaphoric conception is rooted deep in our unconscious conceptual systems, so much so that it takes considerable effort and insight to see how it functions as the basis for reasoning about ourselves.
Similarly, when you try to find your "true self," you are using another, usually unconscious metaphorical conceptualization. There are more than a dozen such metaphorical conceptions of the self, and we will discuss them below. When we consciously reason about how to gain mastery over ourselves, or how to protect our vulnerable "inner self," or how to find our "true self," it is the hidden hand of the unconscious conceptual system that makes such reasoning "common sense."
Metaphysics as Metaphor
A large part of this book will be devoted to exploring in detail what the hidden hand of our unconscious conceptual system looks like and how it shapes not only everyday commonsense reasoning but also philosophy itself. We will discuss some of the most basic of philosophical concepts, not only the self but also time, events, causation, essence, the mind and morality. What is startling is that, even for these most basic of concepts, the hidden hand of the unconscious mind uses metaphor to define our unconscious metaphysics-the metaphysics used not just by ordinary people, but also by philosophers to make sense of these concepts. As we will see, what counts as an "intuitive" philosophical theory is one that draws upon these unconscious metaphors. In short, philosophical theories are largely the product of the hidden hand of the cognitive unconscious.
Throughtout history it has been virtually impossible for philosophers to do metaphysics without such metaphors. For the most part, philosophers engaged in making metaphysical claims are choosing from the cognitive unconscious a set of existing metaphors that have a consistent ontology. That is, using unconscious everyday metaphors, philosophers seek to make a noncontradictory choice of conceptual entities defined by those metaphors; they then take those entities to be real and systematically draw out the implications of that choice in an attempt to account for our experience using that metaphysics.
Metaphysics in philosophy is, of course, supposed to characterize what is real-literally real. The irony is that such a conception of the real depends upon unconscious metaphors.
Empirically Responsible Philosophy: Beyond Naturalized Epistemology
For more tha two thousand years, philosophy has defined metaphysics as the study of what is literally real. The weight of that tradition is so great that it is hardly likely to change in the face of empirical evidence against the tradition itself. Nevertheless that evidence, which comes from cognitive science, exists and raises deep questions not only about the project of philosophical metaphysics but also about the nature of philosophy itself.
Throughout most of our history, philosophy has seen itself as being independent of emprirical investigation. It is that aspect of philosophy that is called into question by results in cognitive science. Through the study of the cognitive unconscious, cognitive science has given us a radically new view of how we conceptualize our experience and how we think.
Cognitive science-the empirical study of the mind-calls upon us to create a new, empirically responsible philosophy, a philosophy consistent with empirical discoveries about the nature of mind. This is not just old-fashioned philosophy "naturalized"-making minor adjustments, but basically keeping the old philosophical superstructure.
A serious appreciation of cognitive science requires us to rethink philosophy from the beginning, in a way that would put it more in touch with the reality of how we think. It would be based on a detailed understanding of the cognitive unconscious, the hidden hand that shapes our conscious thought, our moral values, our plans, and our actions.
Unless we know our conitive unconscious fully and intimately, we can neither know ourselves nor truly understand the basis of our moral judgments, our conscious deliberations, and our philosophy.
-Philosophy In The Flesh, George Lakoff