Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department of Philosophy, University of Oregon
My co-authored book with George Lakoff entitled Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought (Basic Books, 1999) investigated the changes in our conception of philosophy that come from taking seriously the way meaning, concepts, thought, and language are tied to bodily experience. What I find particularly interesting are the ways in which patterns of our sensory-motor experience play a crucial role in what we can think, how we think, and the nature of our symbolic expression and communication.
In my latest book, The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding (Chicago, 2007) I tried to delve even more deeply into aspects of embodied meaning and cognition that have traditionally been ignored or under-valued in mainstream philosophy. I’m thinking here of qualities, feelings, emotions, and temporal processes. This attempt to go further into the ways our bodily engagement with our environment makes thought possible has led me to pay special attention to what have traditionally been called the "aesthetic" dimensions of experience, meaning, and action. I have been led in this book to a Deweyan view that aesthetics concerns every dimension of our experience and understanding that gives form, significance, and value to our lives.
Currently, working from an embodiment perspective, I am returning to my earlier interest in a non-reductivist naturalistic understanding of human values. Part of this project is an attempt to critically assess the recent upsurge of attention to empirically-based naturalistic conceptions of moral deliberation, judgment, and valuing. It seems to me that, in spite of much exciting work in this area, we still do not have a fully adequate and existentially satisfying overall view of what morality is, where it comes from, and how it changes over time.