A Cognitive Semantics Approach to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

5 1. Theoretical Background: Cognitive Semantics knowledge: if “what the mind knows are its own interpretations, or ideas” then “how can we ever be sure that they do indeed accurately represent what exists in external reality” (Johnson 1987: xxvii)? Descartes’s theological answer that God is no deceiver could not solve this challenge. The dichotomy between the body and the mind survived in Kant’s separation of the cognitive faculties into two essentially different components: the material component associated with bodily processes, and the formal component consisting of spontaneous organizing activities of our understanding (in Johnson 1989: xxvii). Even though Kant acknowledged the bodily capacity for receiving sense impressions, he believed such “sensibility” to be “passive and lacking in any active principle or synthesis” (in Johnson 1989: xxviii). Consequently, Kant’s philosophical system assumed that human rationality transcends the body and is independent of any bodily determinations and experience, which reinforced the gap between reason and bodily experience (in Johnson 1989: xxix). The mind and body dualism proved to be consequential to semantic theories. Johnson (1987: xxx–xxxviii) gives examples of Fregean semantics, model-theoretical semantics, and Davisonian semantics, all of which assume that meaning and rationality are independent of human imagination and structures of bodily experience, and that they can be studied from the perspective of the correspondences between abstract symbols and the elements of the world. Johnson’s embodiment hypothesis grounded in phenomenology overcomes the mind-body dualism by proposing that “understanding typically involves image-schematic structures of imagination that are extended and figuratively elaborated as abstract structures of meaning and patterns of thought” (1987: xxxvi). 1.1.2. Image schemas Drawing on Talmy’s (1985) proposals on the role of force-dynamic patterns in grammatical constructions, Johnson argues for the existence of image schemas: recurring, dynamic patterns of our perceptual interactions and motor programs that give coherence and structure to our experience (1987: xiv) that “emerge primarily as meaningful structures for us chiefly at the level of our bodily movements through space, our manipulation of objects, and our perceptual interactions” (1987: 29). Further cross-linguistic and cross-cultural studies have confirmed the surprisingly limited inventory of such patterns. These image schemas are, following Rohrer, preconceptual in two senses.