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Reality is not a Ding-an-sich

“Knowing is the way in which we ‘have a world’ that we inhabit together with other organisms. We evaluate our knowledge communally in the context of how well or how poorly it allows us to function and to flourish within an ever-changing environment that in varying degrees resists some of our attempts to understand and act within it. Reality is not a Ding-an-sich hiding forever behind an opaque veil of representations that prevents us from gaining any access to the way things ‘really are.’ Instead, reality is what we experience in our knowing interactions. It asserts itself in our developing encounters with it. It may assert itself by resisting or frustrating some of our attempts to structure or make it determinate for certain purposes, by transcending particular definitions, and by resisting all attempts to fix it once and for all. There is not and never has been an autonomous reality from which we are inescapably divorced; we have always existed only in and in relation to our evolving environment. We are what we are at this instant, and our world is what it is at this instant, only because of our embodied interactions.”

Johnson, Mark. “Knowing through the body.” Philosophical Psychology 4.1 (1991): p,8.


Understanding is the way we have a world.

From page 102 of Mark Johnson’s book The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason.

A crucial point here is that understanding is not only a matter of reflection, using finitary propositions, on some preexistent, already determinate experience. Rather, understanding is the way we “have a world,” the way we experience our world as a comprehensible reality. Such understanding, therefore, involves our whole being – our bodily capacities and skills, our values, our moods and attitudes, our entire cultural tradition, the way in which we are bound up with a linguistic community, our aesthetic sensibilities, and so forth. I  short, our understanding is our mode of “being in the world.” It is the way we are meaningfully situated in our world through our bodily interactions, our cultural institutions , our linguistic tradition, and our historical context. Our more abstract reflective acts of understanding (which may involve grasping of finitary propositions) are simply an extension of our understanding in this more basic sense of “having a world.”



Metaphors are not merely words

From page 14 of Mark Johnson’s book The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason.

A metaphor is not merely a linguistic expression (a form of words) used for artistic or rhetorical purposes; instead, it is a process of human understanding by which we achieve meaningful experience that we can make sense of. A metaphor, in this “experiential” sense, is a process by which we understand and structure one domain of experience in terms of another domain of a different kind.



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