“if you take care of the syntax…”

Recently I have been chewing on the concept of the mind as software and as thought as computational expression, so encountering these ideas in the Clark reading was quite captivating.

A week or so ago, I actually wrote this poem as a means of working through my own thoughts as a method of computation.

1.9999999

Machines can miss the meaning in messages. Semantics can complicate computational expression. Maybe I’m like a machine.

Input, output. Something doesn’t add up.

1 + 1 should equal 2, but I’m missing something.

All I’m getting is 1.9999999.

This week’s section theories on symbolic cognition are quite different from the models of communication that we learned about during the first week. The fact that cognition is being taken into account alone symbolizes an energetic shift away from the lexicon of the words we use and instead, the reasoning that goes into choosing those words, and how we as humans make meaning of them. This week’s readings begin to uncover the process of understanding at a level beyond the basic “sender/receiver” model in which the sender encodes and the receiver decodes. Now we are examining how exactly a receiver would decode a message, based on his or her conceptions of the words themselves.

The notion of “formal logics,” described in Clark’s reading, stood out to me as a huge deviation from the original, non-interdisciplinary communication theories, as it describes how meaning can be transferred from person to person without being understood. The example he gives is one of following the instructions to build a bookshelf. Thinking about the concept more, it reminds me a lot of legalistic interpretations of religion, and how people are prone to following rules without understanding the meaning behind them. In medieval times, the Catholic church took advantage of this phenomenon, because as Clark writes, formal logics are advantageous in that the end goal is reached (constructing a building, paying indulgences, etc.) even without the person having an understanding of the symbols embedded within the message conveyed.

I really enjoyed the examples of conceptual metaphors that we read–the relation of love, life, and career to the concept of a journey. Lakoff writes about the difference of contemporary communication theory and the cornerstone theories–that contemporary theories incorporate the importance of the image as a symbol and as a retainer of meaning.

Overall, it makes absolute sense that we as scholars would incorporate cognitive studies into our analysis of communication as it relates to meaning making.

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George Lakoff, “Conceptual Metaphor.” Excerpt from Geeraerts, Dirk, ed. Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2006.

Andy Clark, Mindware: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. (Excerpts from Introduction, Chapters1-2)