The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Metaphor As Physiological Organization

Borrowing from the work of the Hungarian linguist Stevan Harnad, who thinks that sensory experience is recorded as a continuous engram whereas a concept derived from sensory experience is recorded by discrete engrams (“Metaphor and Mental Duality”, 1982), the Indian mathematician Bipin Indurkhya thinks that metaphor originated from the interaction between sensory-based and concept-based  representations in the brain, which are structurally different.

He focuses on how metaphor creates similarity. This is, in itself, a paradox. By definition, a metaphor implies that there are at least two different ways to represent a situation. At the same time, we assume that these different representations are not arbitrary but they somehow "interact" (are coherent). Indurkhya points out three level of reality. The "God's eye view" of the world is independent of any cognitive being perceiving it. It’s the world as it is. Cognitive beings interact with it via their sensorimotor system and the interaction yields the second level of reality, whose "ontology" depends on the sensorimotor system of the agent. Since cognitive agents have different sensorimotor systems , no surprise that different cognitive agents perceive a different reality.

The third level is the network of concepts created and used by the cognitive agent. A cognitive model is the mapping of this network into sense-data. The same mind can create different representations of the same reality, yielding different cognitive models. As the cognitive being "grows", there are two ways that it can maintaining coherence. It can restructure the network of concepts to better accommodate new data, a process that frequently creates new concepts; or it can change the mappings from the network of concepts to the sense-data, and basically “reuse” the existing concepts.  The latter process is called “projection”. So the cognitive agent “grows” via a dual process of accommodation and projection.

The latter process is the one that engenders metaphors. A metaphor is the projection of one conceptual network (the source) into another conceptual network (the target). Some concepts of the source maintain their conventional interpretation (the way the cognitive system usually interprets them) but others will require an unconventional ("metaphorical") interpretation.

 


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