Carson, Luke. “The Malady of Ideality”: Mallarmé’s Igitur in John Ashbury’s “Fragment”. Texas Studies in Literature and Language. Vol. 59. No. 1: Spring, 2017.
Lakoff, George. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. The Chicago University Press. 1987.
The title of this book has little to do with the concepts it presents; what concerns Lakoff is the “chain of inference—from conjunction to categorization to commonality” initiated by the set of words (xii). Such inference is based on a central component of reason, categorization, which carries a traditional implication that things are grouped together based on common properties (an everyday idea rooted in technical theory and philosophy). Lakoff addresses a new (late 80s) shift in cognitive science which seeks to dismantle firm philosophical beliefs about reason as transcendental, or beyond the physical world, in order to understand categorization as a bodily experience. While the notion that categories are based on commonality does carry validity, it remains a small portion of the overall process of categorizing. This text revolves around Eleanor Rosch’s prototype theory, roughly paraphrased by Lakoff throughout:
. . . human categorization is essentially a matter of both human experience and imagination—of perception, motor activity, and culture on the one hand, and of metaphor, metonymy, and mental imagery on the other. As such, human reason crucially depends on the same factors, and therefore cannot be characterized merely in terms of the manipulation of abstract symbols (8).
Like Rosch, Lakoff is interested in the full range of this capacity. Specifically, Lakoff seeks to problematize unconscious categorization. I’m interested in the way language demarcates categorical boundaries and am experimenting with how to address this limiting problem in my practice.