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A cognitive semiotic perspective on the nature and limitations of concepts andconceptual frameworks.
University of Skövde, School of Bioscience. University of Skövde, The Systems Biology Research Centre. (Cognitive Neuroscience)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1221-6699
2016 (English)In: Meaning, Mind and Communication: Explorations in Cognitive Semiotics / [ed] Jordan Zlatev, Göran Sonesson and Piotr Konderak, Oxford: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2016Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Known under the potentially misleading rubric of “knowledge representation” in cognitive science, theories of concepts represent both a subfield within philosophy of mind and an application area for cognitive semiotics. They describe the properties of conceptual thought, typically through a listing of those properties: minimally taken to include systematicity, productivity, compositionality, intentionality, and endogenous control. Beyond that point, most things are up for grabs. Debate rages over such questions as whether concepts are representations or abilities; likewise unclear is whether they are essentially public or largely private, discrete or continuous, stable or dynamic, transparent or translucent or opaque. Cognitive semiotics helps clarify discussion over an inevitably abstract area in a number of key ways: through its grounding in semiotics, showing how concepts both are entwined with language (intrinsically public) and pull apart from it; through its roots in phenomenology, showing how concepts both are and are not representations; through its focus on meaning as a dynamic process, showing how concepts’ relative stability belies an underlying dynamics; through its deep resonance with enactive philosophy, showing how concepts impose seemingly sharp boundaries onto underlying continuities; through its bold refusal to shy away from apparent contradictions and paradox, revealing how concepts both reveal the world and simultaneously hide it from us. As a concrete example, I discuss the conceptual nature of metaphor from a cognitive semiotic perspective. I show how – given the problematic nature of so-called literal meaning – the crucial distinction is not between literal and metaphorical meanings, but between tertiary/novel meanings and primary/secondary ones: between meanings that call attention to themselves and those that do not, where only the former are appropriately termed “metaphors”. The lesson is not that all meaning is metaphorical but rather that the line between metaphor and non-metaphor is pragmatic rather than absolute, conceptual rather than ontological.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2016.
Keyword [en]
concepts, conceptual frameworks, knowledge representation, cognitive science, cognitive semiotics, enactivism, dynamic systems, metaphor
National Category
Research subject
Humanities and Social sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:his:diva-13249ISBN: 9783631657041OAI: oai:DiVA.org:his-13249DiVA: diva2:1058294
Available from: 2016-12-20 Created: 2016-12-20 Last updated: 2016-12-20

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