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Embodiment and grammatical structure : an approach to the relation of experience, assertion and truth

In this thesis I address a concern in both existential phenomenology and embodied cognition, namely, the question of how ‘higher’ cognitive abilities such as language and judgements of truth relate to embodied experience. I suggest that although our words are grounded in experience, what makes this grounding and our higher abilities possible is grammatical structure. The opening chapter contrasts the ‘situated’ approach of embodied cognition and existential phenomenology with Cartesian methodological solipsism. The latter produces a series of dualisms, including that of language and meaning, whereas the former dissolves such dualisms. The second chapter adapts Merleau-Ponty’s arguments against the perceptual constancy hypothesis in order to undermine the dualism of grammar and meaning. This raises the question of what grammar is, which is addressed in the third chapter. I acknowledge the force of Chomsky’s observation that language is structure dependent and briefly introduce a minimal grammatical operation which might be the ‘spark which lit the intellectual forest fire’ (Clark: 2001, 151). Grammatical relations are argued to make possible the grounding of our symbols in chapters 4 and 5, which attempt to ground the categories of determiner and aspect in spatial deixis and embodied motor processes respectively. Chapter 6 ties the previous three together, arguing that we may understand a given lexeme as an object or as an event by subsuming it within a determiner phrase or aspectualising it respectively. I suggest that such modification of a word’s meaning is possible because determiners and aspect schematise, i.e. determine the temporal structure, of the lexeme. Chapter 7 uses this account to take up Heidegger’s claim that the relation between being and truth be cast in terms of temporality (2006, H349), though falls short of providing a complete account of the ‘origin of truth’. Chapter 8 concludes and notes further avenues of research.
Date January 2014
CreatorsMalt, Alexander James
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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