Jake vs. Lakoff: The Reckoning

I haven't exactly hidden the fact that cognitive linguist George Lakoff, author of such books as Where Mathematics Comes From and Philosophy in the Flesh, has been very influential to my thinking. His writing challenged and ultimately helped shape many of my views on philosophy, metaphysics, and cognition — views which I have expressed in quite a few blog posts.

My comrade-in-blog and occasional sparring partner Steven Jake, who blogs at The Christian Agnostic, has — to put it lightly — not found Lakoff's views quite so persuasive. So much so, in fact, that he wrote a series of blogs posts on the book Philosophy in the Flesh which more or less lampooned it as a farcical attempt at philosophy by some guy who clearly doesn't understand real philosophy. You can read his three-part series on the book here, here, and here.

Speaking of putting things lightly, it would be fair to say that I was similarly unimpressed by Steven's criticism of the book. In my estimation, it was so poorly researched that it didn't even engage the ideas in the book at all, instead parading around a series of straw-man arguments that betray a failure to charitably represent and accurately comprehend Lakoff's arguments.

Now I know this all happened some time ago, and it'd be perfectly fair to say I'm beating a dead horse. And you know what? I don't care. I'm going to beat the shit out of that horse-corpse. I'm going to respond, finally, to Steven's criticisms of one of my favorite thinkers.

Part 1. The Correspondence Theory of Truth is False

Steven's first objection is to Lakoff and co-author Mark Johnson's contention that given our knowledge of the mind, the correspondence theory of truth cannot be true. The correspondence theory of truth, in a nutshell, says that the concepts in our minds correspond directly to real things in the world. It seems intuitively true, but it is wrong.

To articulate why the correspondence theory is false, the authors describe three levels of embodiment: the phenomenological, the neural, and the cognitive unconscious. The first is our own subjective experience; the second, the biological circuitry of our brains; and the third, the subconscious structure of conceptual systems that shape our reasoning. The authors then employ the example of color, by showing that the statement "the grass is green" is true at the phenomenological level, but false at the neural level:
At the neural level, green is a multiplace interactional property, while at the phenomenological level, green is a one-place predicate characterizing a property that inheres in an object. Here is the dilemma: A scientific truth claim based on knowledge about the neural level is contradicting a truth claim at the phenomenological level. The dilemma arises because the philosophical theory of truth as correspondence does not distinguish such levels and assumes that all truths can be stated at once from a neutral perspective.
This is simple, clear, and actually kind of profound. The statement "the sky is blue" is true on a phenomenological level because we conceptualize the sky as a container with boundaries, but there is no blue "in" the sky. In fact, there's not even blue "out there", in the world — waves of light do not have color. And the sky is not a surface in which color can inhere at all; rather, it appears blue to us because of how visible light is scattered by our atmosphere.

The authors similarly describe the statement, "the butterfly is in the garden":
We just automatically and unconsciously “perceive” one entity as in, on, or across from another entity. However, such perception depends on an enormous amount of automatic unconscious mental activity on our part. For example, to see a butterfly as in the garden, we have to project a nontrivial amount of imagistic structure onto a scene. We have to conceptualize the boundaries of the garden as a three-dimensional container with an interior that extends into the air. We also have to locate the butterfly as a figure (or trajector) relative to that conceptual container, which serves as a ground (or landmark). We perform such complex, though mundane, acts of imaginative perception during every moment of our waking lives.

Of course, those spatial schemas don't exist in the world; they're figments of our cognitive unconscious. "The butterfly is in the garden" cannot be true on the neural level, where no such spatial boundary exists

Steven is having none of this, though: 
[When] us Scholastics say “Grass is green” we don’t mean that there is a single property of greenness that inheres objectively in objects or things—that is, we do not say that color exists formally or actually. Rather, we would say that color exists virtually, or potentially. Therefore a Scholastic would agree with the authors when they say the following: “Colors are not objective; there is in the grass or the sky no greenness or blueness independent of retinas, color cones, neural circuitry, and brains.” Thus, to say that color exists virtually is to say that when all the necessary prerequisites are conjoined—the reflective properties of objects, our bodies and brains etc.—then and only then can we have the actuality of color.

Huh. Okay. Not really seeing the point of disagreement here. Steven says that Scholastics agree that color does not literally inhere in objects objectively, but "exists virtually, or potentially". It's difficult (thus far) to discern what exactly his objection is, especially since he enthusiastically concedes that color is a multiplace interactional property and not a thing that exists in the world objectively — which, of course, is the authors' entire contention. Steven's statement, "Thus, to say that color exists virtually is to say that when all the necessary prerequisites are conjoined—the reflective properties of objects, our bodies and brains etc.—then and only then can we have the actuality of color" seems to be more or less a rephrase of the authors' position, infused with the nebulous terminology of some arcane Thomistic metaphysics.

So, all is well, right? But wait! He then argues,
Now, the significance here is that the statement “Grass is green” is still in fact objectively true, as long as what we mean by this statement is that grass is virtually, and not formally, green. However, the authors would still say that this cannot be an objective truth, because the property of greenness does not inhere objectively in the world. But to do so would be to conflate objective truth with truth obtaining objectively. That is to say, since color requires the existence of human embodiment for it to obtain, then color does obtain objectively, by definition. However, this doesn’t mean that the truth “Grass is green” is therefore not objective. Remember that all that’s required for the correspondence theory is for a truth-bearer to correspond to a truth-maker—again, either formally or virtually. And since grass is in fact (virtually) green, then the statement “Grass is green” is objectively true.
This isn't complicated, despite Steven's best attempts to make it so. The concept of "in the garden" does not correspond to an objective truth about the world, because the three-dimensional spatial structure of a garden only exists as a product of our conceptual systems. Similarly, "the sky is blue" requires us to project a spatial structure onto thin air, then further conceptualize blue inhering within this structure. But of course, there is no objective spatial structure and there is no blue objectively "in" the sky — both because there is no "blue" at all outside of our conceptual systems (since light waves do not have color) and because "the sky" is not a spatial structure something can be "in". Since these propositions are emergent products of our conceptual systems, they are not objective truths in the sense understood by the correspondence theory. 

So what on Earth could Steven mean when he says that he agrees with the authors that color does not inhere in the world objectively, but then he says that it is objective "virtually"? Steven appears to be operating on an idiosyncratic and, frankly, ambiguous definition of "objective". Objectivity generally means that the truth of a proposition is not dependent on any subject. Wikipedia:
A proposition is generally considered objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met and are “bias-free”; that is, existing without biases caused by, feelings, ideas, etc. of a sentient subject
 The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
The object is something that presumably exists independent of the subject’s perception of it. In other words, the object would be there, as it is, even if no subject perceived it.
It's quite clear that color, as well as conceptual spaces like skies and gardens, cannot fit any common-usage definition of objectivity. Steven seems to think (as would be the case in the correspondence theory of truth) that embodiment serves to "obtain" objective truths. But this overlooks the fact that our minds actually create and impose conceptual structures onto the world. Colors, skies, and gardens are all examples of things that do not exist in the classical sense of objectivity, but rather are what Lakoff describes as "mutliplace interactional properties": phenomena that only exist as an emergent function of our neurocircuitry interacting with the world around us.

Looking back, Steven's argument is just all over the place. He defines a property inhering "virtually" in such a way that is all but indistinguishable from Lakoff's position, and even concedes that Scholatics like him do not think color exists objectively in the world, just as Lakoff argues. Except then he says it does, if by "objective" we mean "virtually objective", even though virtual inherence (as he's defined it) directly conflicts with classical objectivity. As it stands, Steven's objections so far are just a mess.

He concludes:
This is all to say that by claiming color exists virtually is to do damage to the phenomenological level of embodiment upon which color seems to exist formally. But my retort is this: so what? On the phenomenological view we can only talk about how we perceive sense qualities, and just because we perceive something does not mean it is there, or that it’s there in the fashion we perceive it to be, or that it inheres in the world.
The authors are not asserting that the correspondence theory of truth assumes the phenomenological level to be true all the time — indeed as Steven notes, the authors point out that the correspondence theory fails to even acknowledge these different (and sometimes conflicting) levels of truth, and that is the central issue. Steven then uses the worst possible example: a hallucination.
A perfect example to knock down the authors’ claims here is the experience of hallucinations. At the phenomenological level a hallucination is very real, in that we experience qualia with regards to said hallucination. But it is only at the neural level that we know that the hallucination is not actually real. And the crucial point is that everybody, including the authors, would take a “science-first strategy” here and claim that when somebody hallucinates a dead relative (for instance), the statement “my dead relative appeared to me” is unequivocally false.

I'd actually argue that it's impossible to show that a hallucination is "unequivocally false". No one can conclusively, unequivocally prove that grandma (say) didn't see a dead relative when she was near death herself. What we do is posit more plausible explanations — preferably the type that can be studied and replicated, such as those employed in the science of neurocognition.

But I digress. The authors do not at any point either state or imply the ridiculous assertion that all phenomenological claims must be taken at face value (Steven said, "just because we perceive something does not mean it is there",with which the authors would of course concur). And importantly, the authors do not assert that different levels of embodiment are equally true at all times. When one level of embodiment produces stable truths that contradict unstable truths of another, the level of embodiment producing stable truths is privileged. That is why we're skeptical of hallucinations of dead relatives: we know from neuroscience that people in certain conditions experience a wide variety of hallucinations that may or may not include deceased relatives. The results from neuroscience are replicable, stable truths; visitations from dead relatives are not. When multiple levels of embodiment produce stable truths — as in our study of the mind through neurobiology, neurocomputation, and cognition — they create an overlapping and complimentary understanding — the kind that allows to us to learn that the correspondence theory of truth is, in fact, wrong.

2. Embodied Truth

Now Steven is going to try to tackle the authors' concept of embodied truth, and it ain't pretty. This is one of those cases when most of his arguments are actually addressed in the book by the authors themselves, and I'll certainly provide the references when appropriate. I realize that it's often viewed as uncharitable to ask someone if they even bothered to read their source material, but in this case the errors are so obvious and egregious that I simply can't fathom how anyone could have actually read the book and still come to the conclusions Steven did. It seems more plausible that he skimmed it for some old-fashioned quote-mining, or perhaps just read the preview on Amazon.com. He begins:
Before I explicate what exactly the tenets are of embodied truth, I want to survey a quote about truth that the authors make: 
Any truth must be in a humanly conceptualized and understandable form if it is to be a truth for us. If it’s not a truth for us, how can we make sense of its being a truth at all? (p. 106) 
This is quite strange. The authors are question-beggingly assuming that there are truths “for us.” But this is not something a classicist would concede. The proposition “the earth is round” is true regardless of how we conceptualize and understand it. In fact, said proposition in no way relies on human cognition in order to ground its truth.

Steven is already so far off the mark here that I'm just gobsmacked. The authors are not claiming there are no objective truths, or that truths do not exist independently of us. They are certainly not arguing that something is, for example, "true for me" in the form of pure subjectivism. Rather, they're talking about how human beings conceptualize truth, and how shared truths become stable truths.

What's especially noteworthy is that the authors actually use the same example that Steven does (the roundness of the Earth), in another section on scientific realism:
Science, as Kuhn rightly observed, does not always proceed by the linear accretion of objective knowledge. Science is a social, cultural, and historical practice, knowledge is always situated, and what counts as knowledge may depend on matters of power and influence. Accordingly, we reject the simpleminded ideas that all science is purely objective, that issues of power and politics never enter into science, that science progresses linearly, and that it can always be trusted. Moreover, we strongly reject the myths that science provides the ultimate means of understanding everything and that humanistic knowledge has no standing relative to anything that calls itself science. 
But this does not mean that there is no reliable or stable science at all and that there can be no lasting scientific results. Now that we have photographs of the earth from the moon, any lingering doubts that the earth is round have been removed. We are not likely to discover that there are no such things as cells or that DNA does not have a double-helix structure. Many scientific results are stable. Indeed, we believe that we have some insight into what makes scientific results stable, and we will discuss those insights below in our treatment of embodied scientific realism.

He's barely started his critique, and Steven has completely failed to engage the authors' concepts of stable truths and failed to charitably represent their concept of embodied truth. He sneers,
Basically the authors are putting the cart before the horse. They’re trying to define truth in light of their idiosyncratic scientific “results” of embodied cognition. But before one can even embark in scientific investigation one already needs a theory of what truth is! So, the authors have their philosophy backwards[...]

But of course, the authors discuss at length the assumptions underpinning scientific realism to which they adhere. The results of embodied cognition do not, as Steven asserts, constitute an a priori theory of truth, but rather illuminate how human minds conceptualize, understand, and share truths. The authors state, "A person takes a sentence as 'true' of a situation if what he or she understands the sentence to be expressing accords with what he or she understand the situation to be." Steven replies,
The authors here are explicating why a person identifies a statement to be true. But the problem here is that nowhere is it articulated regarding what truth actually is. To simply explain why a person recognizes a statement as true is all well and good, but it is not any type of theory of truth in and of itself—that is to say, what a person takes to be true is not the same as what truth actually is.

Well, duh. The authors are not claiming that our understanding of truth in itself constitutes a theory of truth. Rather, they say, "We will be using the results of second-generation cognitive science to rethink philosophy. In doing so, we are committed to at least some form of scientific realism." (Emphasis mine.) In other words, the authors are fully aware that they are committing to a form of realism, including the tenets that "There is a world independent of our understanding of it" and "we can have stable knowledge of it".
Simple overview of embodied cognition
The crux of their argument is that convergent evidence from different disciplines of cognitive neuroscience show that a third tenet of scientific realism — "Our very concepts and forms of reason are characterized not by our bodies and brains, but by the external world in itself. It follows that scientific truths are not merely truths as we understand them, but absolute truths" — is false. The meat and potatoes of why this is so is far too complex to summarize here, but that's why the authors wrote a book about it. For the sake of this post it's sufficient to summarize that:
  1. Embodied truth does not constitute an a priori theory of truth, though it can show that some forms of a priori philosophy are rooted in false assumptions.
  2. The authors acknowledge they are committed to scientific realism (or, a form of it).
  3. Convergent evidence from cognitive neuroscience regarding our conceptualization of truth is not intended to substitute for basic assumptions underpinning scientific realism.Ignoring all these crucial points and having totally failed to engage the authors' thesis, Steven continues nonetheless,
To run with the example above, we currently believe the earth to be round and spherical. Yet there once was a time when individuals believed the earth to be flat. Now obviously the two statements “the earth is round” and “the earth is flat” are mutually exclusive. Yet, on embodied truth they can both be true. Why? Because the individuals who affirmed the flatness of earth took the sentence “the earth is flat” to accord with what they understood the situation to be.

This is of course flatly contradicted by the authors' own statements, quoted above, regarding stable scientific truths. It also totally ignores the authors' thesis regarding shared embodied and (thus) shared truths. And lastly, it ignores the authors' own explanation of the assumptions underpinning their perspective of scientific realism.

Steven brashly concludes that embodied truth is "a form of relativism", quoting the following from the authors,
Embodied truth is not, of course, absolute objective truth. It accords with how people use the word true, namely, relative to understanding. 
Embodied truth is also not purely subjective truth. Embodiment keeps it from being purely subjective. Because we all have pretty much the same embodied basic-level and spatial-relations concepts, there will be an enormous range of shared ‘truths’[.]
And replies,
Uh, what? So, truth isn’t objective, but it isn’t subjective either. Apparently there’s a third choice between the two that we’ve missed, despite this violating the laws of logic—those are just metaphorical don’t you know?

But once again, for someone displaying such haughty self-assuredness, Steven has not even begun to engage the authors' thesis. They assume that objective truths exist, and state as such forthrightly. But embodied truth represents how humans conceptualize, understand, and share truths; accordingly, it cannot be purely objective (since it is dependent on human conceptual systems), nor can it be purely subjective (since truths are a shared, social construct unified by a common embodiment). Importantly, understanding embodied truth helps illuminate some of the assumptions underpinning classical analytic philosophy and shows them to be false. It is not intended to be a purely a priori theory of truth that summarily eradicates any and all such assumptions; rather, it's meant to be a complimentary perspective that employs convergent evidence to demonstrate that certain a priori assumptions, such as some of those in classical metaphysical realism, are false.

The discussion on the correspondence theory of truth in the previous post is just one such example. Statements like "the grass is green", "the sky is blue", or "the butterfly is in the garden" can only be true in a level of embodied understanding that imposes conceptual structures onto reality. This doesn't mean, of course, that objective reality does not exist; rather, it means that what we accord to be true is a contextual proposition, dependent on different levels of embodiment that may or may not be complimentary. On the correspondence theory, "the butterfly is in the garden" cannot be true because the three-dimensional spatial representation of the garden, with boundaries at the top at sides, does not objectively exist. But the statement is still true on the phenomenological level, because such spatial metaphors are integral to our process of reasoning and — because of our shared embodiment — crucial to our ability to understand stable, shared truths. As the authors note, there is not a contradiction here; this is exactly how it should be. These levels of understanding provide a complimentary framework by which we understand truth.

Most tellingly though is the fact that the authors directly address Steven's objection right in the book:
Since embodied realism denies, on empirical grounds, that there exists one and only one correct description of the world, it may appear to some to be a form of relativism. However, while it does treat knowledge as relative — relative to the nature of our bodies, brains, and interactions with our environment — it is not a form of extreme relativism, because it has an account of how real, stable knowledge, both in science and the everyday world, is possible. That account count has two aspects. First, there are the directly embodied concepts, such as basic-level concepts, spatial-relations concepts, and event-structure concepts. These concepts have an evolutionary origin and enable us to function extremely successfully in our everyday interactions in the world. They also form the basis of our stable scientific knowledge.

Second, primary metaphors make possible the extension of these embodied concepts into abstract theoretical domains. The primary metaphors are anything thing but arbitrary social constructs, since they are highly constrained both by the nature of our bodies and brains and by the reality of our daily interactions.

When I first read the second part of Steven's review, I had some pretty harsh words. I stand by them. Steven's post was not a response to Lakoff and Johnson's theses at all; it failed to even engage them, instead erecting a poorly organized series of non sequiturs and straw men that, like the jumbled and confused arguments in his first response, are not even wrong. I would love to see a robust criticism of embodied truth and embodied realism that cuts to the heart of the authors' ideas and poses provocative challenges to them, and I think Steven is a smart enough guy to pull it off. But as it stands, his ham-fisted treatment of the material leaves much to be desired.

3. Embodied Realism (Is it realism at all?)

After a recap and summary, Steven goes for the jugular:

Not only can we make absolute predications of reality from a privileged perspective, but we must do so. In fact, the author’s own theses contradict their very claims. When they say, for instance, that we cannot know “things-in-themselves”, or that we cannot have objective and absolute knowledge of the world, the authors are predicating these propositions as objective predications of reality from their own privileged vantage point! That is, they’re saying that it is an objective fact that we cannot know things in themselves, and it is objectively true that we cannot have objective knowledge. This is, to say the least, self-refuting.
He further expounds on his position toward the end of the post:

[If] we truly cannot know reality-in-itself, and can have no objective or absolute knowledge of this reality, then we cannot make those very same claims—i.e. that we cannot know reality-in-itself and that we cannot have objective knowledge of the world. That is to say, if we can’t know objective reality, then the statement “we can’t know objective reality” is also false, since it is predicated on a knowledge claim about the nature of reality.

This is a common theme in Steven's criticism of both embodied realism and its cousin, Stephen Hawking's model-dependent realism. Both schools of thought contend that there is no model-independent or purely objective understanding of reality; rather, our conceptualization of reality is necessarily a product of our cognitive unconscious and neural biology interacting with the world, and what we take to be "real" or "true" is contingent upon the model from which we are working. Steven sees this as self-defeating, that such propositions are themselves claims of privileged, objective knowledge about reality-in-itself.

The answer is simply that Steven has failed to grasp the context in which these statements are being used. Remember that Lakoff and Johnson clearly established themselves as scientific realists, concurring with most normal humans that "an objective reality exists" and "we can have stable knowledge of it". At first blush, stating that we can have stable knowledge of an objective reality would seem to flatly contradict the idea that we cannot have purely objective knowledge of the "world-in-itself". So what exactly do the authors mean?
When the authors say that there is no "purely objective" understanding of reality, they mean "objective" in the unembodied sense of classical scientific realism: the idea that our mind directly grasps objective truths, and that things like concepts, abstractions, metaphors, and logic are part of the rational structure of reality. The authors' thesis is that those phenomena are emergent properties of the embodied mind, so that while indeed we can safely and reasonably assume that we can attain knowledge of an objective external reality, we cannot do so in a manner that is itself untethered from the cognitive framework through which we necessarily view the world. From the introduction:

If we are going to ask philosophical questions, we have to remember that we are human. As human beings, we have no special access to any form of purely objective or transcendent reason. We must necessarily use common human cognitive and neural mechanisms. Because most of our thought is unconscious, a priori philosophizing provides no privileged direct access to knowledge of our own mind and how our experience is constituted. 
In asking philosophical questions, we use a reason shaped by the body, a cognitive unconscious to which we have no direct access, and metaphorical thought of which we are largely unaware. The fact that abstract thought is mostly metaphorical means that answers to philosophical questions have always ways been, and always will be, mostly metaphorical. In itself, that is neither good nor bad. It is simply a fact about the capacities of the human mind. But it has major consequences for every aspect of philosophy. Metaphorical thought is the principal tool that makes philosophical insight possible and that constrains strains the forms that philosophy can take.
Steven's approach has been to claim that embodied realism is relativism (which is directly addressed by the authors in the book) and, as we see above, to claim that the authors reject knowledge of an objective reality altogether. That is not the case; the authors are rejecting a very specific conceptualization of objectivity — one proffered by philosophers from Aristotle to Chomsky — that the mind directly grasps objective truths and meaning from the rational structure of reality. Rather (again from the introduction),

[There] is no real person whose embodiment plays no role in meaning, whose meaning is purely objective and defined by the external world, and whose language can fit the external world with no significant role played by mind, brain, or body. Because our conceptual systems grow out of our bodies, meaning is grounded in and through our bodies. Because a vast range of our concepts are metaphorical, meaning is not entirely literal and the classical correspondence theory of truth is false. The correspondence theory holds that statements are true or false objectively, depending on how they map directly onto the world-independent of any human understanding of either the statement or the world. On the contrary, truth is mediated by embodied understanding and imagination. That does not mean that truth is purely subjective or that there is no stable truth. Rather, our common embodiment allows for common, stable truths.
The real conundrum is this: can cognitive science really say anything about how we fundamentally conceptualize reality, since science itself requires us to make philosophical assumptions?

It's science, bitches.

Embodied cognition is an empirical result of scientific inquiry across multiple disciplines; it is not up for philosophical debate. Embodied realism is a philosophical position which follows from the results of embodied cognition — it is an empirically-informed philosophy. And it's very, very difficult to dismiss the philosophy of embodied realism without dismissing embodied cognition as well, and indeed dismissing the whole enterprise of cognitive neuroscience.

It seems reasonable to conclude from his objections that Steven believes empirically-informed philosophical insights to be self-defeating — since those empirical results themselves rely on some set of philosophical assumptions in the first place. But as the authors have argued, only a minimal set of methodological assumptions is necessary for scientific inquiry to proceed. From those basic assumptions, we can gain insight into how our minds construct and interpret data, and we only need to make a very minimal few assumptions along the way. For example:
  • Objective reality exists, and we can have stable knowledge of it
  • Other minds like our own exist
  • These minds can be studied empirically
  • The empirical results of those studies can be generalized to all human minds
These assumptions are unlikely to be controversial, save for the staunch scientific anti-realists. But the point is this: I cannot know my own mind through introspection alone. I do not have access to my own cognitive unconscious or the metaphorical structure of my own processes of reasoning, nor can I empirically study the neural composition of my own brain. Instead, I simply recognize that I am one human among many, and we share a common biology. When cognitive scientists study human minds — conceptual systems, metaphor, spatial schemas, etc. — those results can teach me something about the workings of my own mind.

If we accept these assumptions — as most all of us do — then the philosophical implications of convergent empirical evidence across multiple scientific disciples cannot be ignored. When convergent scientific evidence informs us that most of our reasoning is unconscious and metaphorical, or that cognitive metaphors are crucially tied to our embodiment, we have to acknowledge that these results undermine classical conceptualizations of metaphor, reasoning, and indeed truth itself. This should not be at all surprising, since philosophers of antiquity did not have access to empirical cognitive sciences but instead attempted to gleam truths through introspection alone. Understanding how unconscious conceptual systems shape our process of reasoning ought to cast doubt upon those arcane musings.

Literally wrong

One final criticism Steven hurls at embodied realism is the false claim that it rejects literal predications altogether. In a comment following the post, he claims,
In order for Lakoff’s thesis to be valid, it needs to be predicated literally. That is, he has to say that our conceptual mapping is literal, and that our cognitive limitations are literal. Yet he uses these very literal promulgations to then turn around and say that our predications are actually metaphorical. But then this means that his thesis itself is actually metaphorical, and not literal.
But once again, Steven doesn't appear to be reading the source material. The authors do not claim that meaning is never literal, but that it is not entirely literal. As quoted previously from the book,

Because a vast range of our concepts are metaphorical, meaning is not entirely literal and the classical correspondence theory of truth is false.

The authors note first that we have quite a few concepts with literal meaning:
As we have seen, there is a vast system of literal concepts, for example, the basic-level concepts and the spatial-relations concepts. All basic sensorimotor concepts are literal. Cup (the object you drink from) is literal. Grasp (the action of holding) is literal. In (in its spatial sense) is literal. Concepts of subjective experience and judgment, when not structured metaphorically, are literal; for example, “These colors are similar” is literal, while “These colors are close” uses the metaphor Similarity Is Proximity. “He achieved his purpose” is literal, while “He got what he wanted most” can be metaphorical. Without metaphor, such concepts are relatively impoverished and have only a minimal, “skeletal” structure. A primary metaphor adds sensorimotor inferential structure.

Further, even metaphorical concepts can have literal entailment:
Take, for example, the Love Is A Journey metaphor. Consider the expression “We’re going in different directions” as said of a marital relationship. Given that Common Life Goals Are Destinations in this mapping, the metaphorical idea of going in different directions entails that the spouses have different life goals that are incompatible with the marriage. This is a metaphorical entailment that can be literally true or false.
Aristotle: Original Hipster?
Over three posts, the bulk of Steven's criticisms have stemmed from characterizations of the source material that are simply false: that the authors reject that we can have stable knowledge of an objective reality, that embodied truth allows all subjective claims to be equally true, that one level of embodiment can never be privileged above another, or that the authors reject literal predications altogether.

It bears repeating that virtually all of Stevens objections over his three posts are addressed, in detail, in the book itself — which is why I was able to reference the book so much in the posts. And it also bears repeating, as I concluded in the previous post, that I would love to see someone provide a thoughtful, provocative critique of embodied realism. But Steven's approach of quote mining and caricaturing the authors' theses results in a critique that utterly fails to even engage the ideas book at all. Embodied realism is compelling. It ought to help us reflect on the assumptions underpinning many classical schools of philosophy, and it provides a terrific opportunity to demonstrate how science can, and should, inform philosophy. Perhaps Steven, being a Scholastic, is made uncomfortable in how embodied realism undermines many of the assumptions of Aristotlean metaphysics (indeed the 18th chapter of Philosophy in the Flesh is dedicated entirely to Aristotle). But a dispassionate search for the truth means we must go where reason and evidence lead us, even if it leads us away from our most cherished beliefs.


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