The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Mental Spaces

A similar change in perspective was advocated by the French linguist Gilles Fauconnier.

Fauconnier's focus was on the interaction between grammar and cognition, i.e. into the interaction between syntax/semantics and “mental spaces”. The mind is capable of making connections between domains and Fauconnier investigates the kinds of cognitive connections that are possible: pragmatic functions (such as that between an author and her book), metonymy, metaphor, analogy, etc.  Some domains are cognitively accessible from others and meaning is to be found in these interactions.

A basic tenet of Fauconnier's theory is that linguistic structure reflects not the structure of the world but the structure of our cognitive life. 

The idea is that, as the speaker utters one sentence after the other, she is in fact constructing mental spaces and the links among them, resulting in a network of mental spaces. Language builds the same kind of mental spaces from the most basic level of meaning construction all the way up to discourse and reasoning. While logic-based semantics (whether Chomsky’s or Montague's) assumed that language provides a meaning that can be used for reasoning, Fauconnier maintained that mental spaces facilitate reasoning.

Furthermore, mental spaces allow for alternative views of the world. Fauconnier thinks that the mind needs to create multiple cognitive spaces in order to engage in creative thought.


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