In this paper, I juxtapose the postmodern worldview with neuroscientific literature on metaphor, problem-solving and creativity, prediction, value, and theories of perception. By doing this, I highlight how postmodernism, and thus social constructivism, is a philosophical position that could cause harm to individuals, institutions, or structures that adopt it. Importantly, I highlight how mental processes actually produce legitimate conceptions of value sans linguistic schemas which are recognized as intrinsically valuable and thus produce universal principles for humans that will always be valuable. When these processes are disturbed through philosophical positions like social constructivism and postmodernism, the human organism is at a disadvantage. This disadvantage results from the fact that, as these processes serve an evolutionary function, undermining and disturbing them produces effects that diminish the fitness of the human species. Thus, postmodernism and social constructivism are neither valuable nor true and can cause legitimate harm. In this way, postmodernism doesn’t actually destroy the truth, but it does hide it.
“What is truth?” – John 18:38
Imagine yourself in a small village at the beginning of the agricultural revolution. The stream by your cottage is steadily flowing, the sky is a brilliant blue, illuminated by the life-giving Sun, but there’s a chatter echoing through the air. You go to discover what’s happening and you see that there’s an enormous root buried in the ground that needs to be removed, which is attracting the attention of the village. The group is standing around the knot incessantly babbling. At least three men in the group come forward with an idea to get rid of it. You stand back, listen and consider what they have to say. But wait, do you really know what they’re saying? How do you know that your conceptualization of what they’re saying is the same as what their conceptualization of what they’re saying is? You raise your concerns. The rest of the tribe looks at you and then falls silent. Thanks to your great idea, no one knows how to get rid of the knot now, but you need to get rid of it or your tribe’s farmers will not be able to plow the field.
The farmers look at each other and the rest of the tribe, their tongues tied, yet they begin to work. Slowly but surely, without saying a word, they seem to reach a solution. Through careful observation, exploration of the problem, and unspoken teamwork, the farmers manage to get the root out of the ground, enabling a relatively bountiful harvest. But how did they do this without language? Was the expertise of the farmers really even necessary? How was meaning constituted for the farmers, their goal consolidated and achieved without discussion? A. Metaphor, B. not quite, and C., the beauty of the human brain and mind.
This paper seeks to explore what was represented in the opening paragraph of this paper: Postmodernism. I explore the viewpoints of the postmodernists, deconstructionists, anti-realists, social constructivists, their antithesis, Foundationalism, and the conclusion of the postmodern philosophy, Semantic Holism and Nihilism. To juxtapose this rather dour march through the postmodern worldview, I explore the neural mechanisms of metaphor, the process behind creative ideas and products, how procedural rule discovery refutes anti-realism, how our predictions are ultimately affirmed or refuted by the neurological architecture of humans, how this helps to define what the truth is, independent of any conceptualization of it, how this relates to utility and value, and lastly, how image, metaphor, and language correspond to reality.
Lastly, I review the neurological literature in relation to the postmodern worldview and conclude with a hypothesis about the wellbeing of individuals, institutions, and societies who adopt postmodern frameworks.
To start, I will do my best to define Postmodernism and its constituent parts without coloring any of its concepts too much. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 3rd Edition (CDP), succinctly defines Postmodernism as
“Postmodern philosophy is usually regarded as a complex cluster concept that includes the following elements: an anti- (or post-) epistemological standpoint; anti-essentialism; anti-realism; anti-foundationalism; opposition to transcendental arguments and transcendental standpoints; rejections of the picture of knowledge as accurate representation; rejection of truth as correspondence to reality; rejection of the very idea of canonical descriptions; rejection of final vocabularies, i.e., rejection of principles, distinctions, and descriptions that are thought to be unconditionally binding for all times, persons, and places; and suspicion of grand narratives, metanarratives of the sort perhaps best illustrated by dialectical materialism.” – CDP, 850
This should elicit several questions, e.g., what is Deconstructionism, Anti-Realism, Foundationalism, or Anti-Essentialism? How do postmodernists deconstruct Foundationalism? How does an anti-realist, or a social constructionist reject the idea of accurate representation or truth as a correspondence to reality? What leads or why might a postmodernist reject the idea of universals, or principles, distinctions, or descriptions that are true in all times and places. To begin answering some of these questions, I will begin by defining Deconstructionism.
Deconstructionism tries to demonstrate the incompleteness or incoherence of a philosophical position or structure using concepts and principles of argument from within that structure, such that those concepts and principles are only legitimated by that philosophical position. The concepts or principles that the deconstructionist assaults are known as logi or logoi. Logoi are the interior thoughts and intentions that are embedded into the linguistic structure so that sense and references of terms are true by their nature. The deconstructionist defines this position as logocentric. In this way, logoi are thought to ground all our accounts of intention, meaning, truth, and logical connection.
In other words, logoi give structures meaning, according to the deconstructionist. This term is also described as, “the idea of a repeatable ideality.” Since meaning is the notion of a repeatable ideality, but “repeatability” is not a feature that can be present according to the deconstructionist – i.e., no mind can interpret the same word twice – meaning cannot be present. We simply suppose that words have meaning. “Without logoi, thought and intention are merely wordlike and have no intrinsic connection to a sense or a referent” (CDP 243). Thus, meaning is only derived from language and structures of language; i.e., meaning is not an emergent property of thought, physical experience, or the world.
“Anti-realism is the rejection that there are knowable, mind-independent facts, objects, or properties. Metaphysical realists make the general claim that there is a world of mind-independent objects. Realists in particular areas make more specific or limited claims. Thus moral realists hold that there are mind-independent moral properties, mathematical realists that there are mind-independent mathematical facts, scientific realists that scientific inquiry reveals the existence of previously unknown and unobservable mind-independent entities and properties. Anti-realists deny either that facts of the relevant sort are mind-independent or that knowledge of such facts is possible.” – CDP, 40
This philosophical position instantiates itself in two different forms: Subjective Idealism and Constructivist Anti-Realism. Subjective idealism “claims that the world consists only of minds and their contents, is a metaphysical realism.” Constructivist anti-realists think subjective idealism is absurd as it defaults to solipsism. Instead, constructivist anti-realists “deny that the world consists only of mental phenomena, but claim that it is constituted by, or constructed from, our evidence or beliefs.”
The deconstructionist and the anti-realist can come to terms with each other in this way. Meaning is derived only from language and language structures, evidence and “beliefs” about evidence, which are communicated through language and are a linguistic construct, inhabit, and are derived from language structures. Thus, meaning for an anti-realist’s beliefs or evidence is derived from a language structure. I.e., the deconstructionists and the anti-realists may both agree.
Before we progress to Foundationalism, I think it would be prudent to discuss and identify what Social Constructivism is first; i.e., the product of the agreement between the deconstructionist and the anti-realist. This will the reader to understand why foundational structures and beliefs are attacked by the postmodernist as being purveyors of false narratives and incoherence.
“Social Constructivists claim that knowledge in some areas is the product of social practices and institutions, or of the interactions and negotiations between relevant social groups. Mild versions hold that social factors shape interpretations of the world. Stronger versions maintain that the world, or some significant portion of it, is somehow constituted by theories, practices, and institutions. Defenders often move from Stronger to Milder versions of Social Constructivism, insisting that the world is accessible only through our interpretations, and that the idea of an independent reality Is at best an irrelevant abstraction and at worst incoherent.” – CDP, 997
This is the product of both the deconstructionist’s and the anti-realist’s position when they are synthesized.
Importantly, contemporary constructivists, a kind of social constructivist, think concepts or practices vary from one group or historical period to another (cf. Kant’s idealism, the categories with which we interpret and thus construct the world are given, not imposed a priori; e.g., emergent). Without independent standards of evaluation, conceptual schemas are deemed relative to social constructivists. This even affects the realm of science such that it leads the social constructivist to oppose scientific realism (which holds that theory-dependent methods can give us knowledge of a theory-independent world) and empiricism (which draws a sharp line between theory and observation). This leads to relativism and strong constructivism – the world is only accessible through our interpretations, which can only be known through linguistic structures, and the idea of reality, which empiricists, positivists, and scientific realists seek to reveal, is an irrelevant abstraction or incoherent; that which exists within the linguistic structure is all that is relevant. But how do two linguistic structures reconcile themselves with each other, can they? To answer this question, we will explore semantic holism. But first, Foundationalism.
Foundationalism acts as the antithesis to the deconstructionist, anti-realist, social-constructivist, and postmodernist who meet it with their own thesis and thus synthesize the two with semantic holism.
“The view that knowledge and epistemic (knowledge-relevant) justification have a two-tiered structure: some instance of knowledge and justification are non-inferential, or foundational; and all other instances thereof are inferential, or non-foundational, in that they derive ultimately from foundational knowledge or justification.” CDP, 376
Foundationalism is upheld mostly by moderate foundationalists who hold the view that “non-inferentially justified, foundational beliefs need not possess or provide certainty and need not deductively support justified non-foundational beliefs. These foundational beliefs are generally called basic but the precise understanding of basic is controversial. In general, foundational beliefs are not derived from other beliefs, although they are left open to whether the causal basis of foundational beliefs includes other beliefs. Non-inferential justified belief may be self-justified, justified by non-belief, non-propositional experiences, and by a non-belief of reliable origin. Self-justified beliefs are those that can justify themselves, with no evidential support elsewhere (necessary beliefs). Non-propositional experiences can be justified by non-belief, sensory or perceptual experiences that validate, explain, or support those beliefs. Non-beliefs of reliable origin are those that are informed by perception, memory, or introspection, and are essential to the belief-forming process; i.e., they produce valid rather than invalid belief.
Foundational justification relies or is based upon the idea that if a belief can be defeated or defeats all defeaters itself, then respectively it is an unjustified foundational belief and justified foundational belief. There is always room for whether or not a belief can become unjustifiable, but generally, as long as there is a legitimate absence of genuine defeaters, the foundational belief stands. Foundational justification is often flexible, as well; i.e., it allows for merely probabilistic inferential connection, which transmit the justifiability of the belief. Nothing requires that foundationalists restrict their beliefs to the apparent or what “seems” either, but rather, can even go further than that, allowing one to state what is, de facto.
Posterior Analytics, which is the logical rules that govern whether a belief is justifiable or not, is the means by which alternative accounts can be judged as failures or successes (i.e., defeaters) of a foundational belief were established or revealed by Aristotle. These rules are based on Inferential Justification, which is justification wherein one belief B1 is justified on the basis of another belief B2. The rule is that we cannot have a circle here; i.e., where B2 is justified by B1 (tautology); nor can there be a chain of support for B1 (affirmation of the antecedent); nor can there be a chain of support that extends endlessly, with no ultimate basis for justification (i.e., an endless regression). B2 must also be justified (at least probable).
If the reader is keeping track, they might be able to identify why Foundationalism is attacked by the postmodernist. The postmodernists attack Foundationalism for suggesting that it has access to the truth and that the truth can be conveyed to the interpreter of the belief being presented, without access to the mental state of the individual presenting the belief or absolute comprehension of the semantic structure used to constitute the belief’s meaning. By doing this, foundational semantic structures are deconstructed, allegedly shown to be self-refuting, and identified as incoherent. This does not mean that postmodernists do not inhabit structures or believe that their structures exist independent of this socially constructed and tautological worldview. Rather, they acknowledge it and believe that all semantic systems and their structures are thus incoherent and that they can only present truths that are relative to their own system; i.e., “There is no truth, only truths.” The absurdity of this maxim, or mantra in some sense, as self-defeating simply affirms the postmodernist worldview. But how do they do this? Semantic Holism.
“Semantic Holism (Nihilism): a metaphysical thesis about the nature of representation on which the meaning of a symbol is relative to the entire system of representations containing it. Thus, a linguistic expression can have meaning only in the context of a language; a hypothesis can have significance only in the context of a theory; a concept can have intentionality only in the context of a belief system.” – CDP, 969
Semantic holists split into two distinct groups, who believe in two separate theories. For the notion of truth or truths, the first theory does not state whether they are holistic to a linguistic system or not. However, other theories argue that “the correct form for a semantic theory for a natural language L is an absolute theory for L (i.e., any theory of truth for L is only a theory of truth for L; it’s self-contained); i.e., there are only truths.
Semantic holism then constitutes three responses: Semantic Atomism, Semantic Molecularism, and Semantic Nihilism. Semantic atomists believe the meaning of any representation (e.g., x), linguistic, mental, or otherwise, is not determined by the meaning of any other representation (e.g., x(n)). There are very few semantic atomists. Semantic molecularists believe that the meaning of a representation in a language L is determined by its relationship to the meanings of other expressions in L. However, unlike holists, not by its relationships to every other expression in L. Semantic molecularists also believe that for any expression e in a language L “there is an in-principle way of distinguishing between those representations in L, the meanings of which determine the meaning of e and those representations in L, the meanings of which do not determine the meaning of e”; i.e., those representations in L that constitute meaning for e are analytically connected to e and those that do not constitute meaning are “synthetically” connected to e. Semantic nihilists believe that there are no semantic properties; i.e., there are no mental states, words lack meaning. This view necessitates that we abandon the idea that people are moral or can be moral or rational, logical agents, and that they act out of their beliefs or desires. At most, their beliefs or desires can only be known to the holder of any belief or desire themselves. However, the meaning of those beliefs or desires, because the words that describe them lack meaning, are illusory.
We can see how semantic holisms leads to the disintegration of essentialism, which is a product of and the means by which social constructionists, deconstructionists, and anti-foundationalists attack the foundational beliefs or logoi of any language, linguistic structure, semantic structure or schema. Essentialism can best be described by the concept of haecceity, or thinness; i.e., cutting a thing down only to its necessary parts. Mereology is also attacked by semantic holism, deconstructionists, and social constructionists, dissolving any meaningful and thus essential distinction between all entities; i.e., all things are utterly indistinguishable and unknowable; an observer couldn’t even distinguish a meaningful difference if he tried.
In summation: Postmodernism is an incoherent philosophy (by its own admission) which can simply be boiled down to the idea that there is no Truth, only truths, and that those truths are self-contained concepts, trapped in a web of meaning, which cannot be extended beyond that web of meaning, and thus it attacks Foundationalism, Essentialism, and Positivism, at least.
Foundationalism is attacked by the deconstructionists via the concept of logoi, or structurally self-contained units of meaning, which no one has real access to, by turning their ability to create meaning into a circular, self-affirming, or infinitely regressive argument, thus defeating the foundationalist’s position.
Positivism is attacked by contemporary constructivists, which argue that our epistemological frameworks, particularly scientific epistemologies, vary from one group, or historical period, to another, resulting in dependent standards for evaluating conceptual schemas, leading to relativism. This view of science is in opposition to both scientific realism (which holds that theory-dependent methods can give us knowledge of a theory-independent world) and empiricism (which draws a sharp line between theory and observation).
Lastly, Anti-realism attacks both Positivism, Foundationalism, and the idea of Essentialism or Haecceity by attacking our ability to know anything about the world. By arguing that the world is constituted by or constructed from our evidence or beliefs (which only an individual with access to what they think about that evidence or belief understands), the anti-realists boil all knowledge down to self-contained concepts, or logoi, which become tautological, self-affirming, or infinitely regressive. By doing this, mereological sets, the concept of haecceity, or essential states of objects are impossible, as any member of a set, constituted by any number of parts, can only be known by that set, and thus has no differentiating identity, cannot have an essence, cannot be differentiated, and thus the idea of essentialism falls apart from a foundationalist’s perspective as tautological or self-affirming (i.e., the foundational beliefs B2. simply affirm the antecedent B1.); there is nothing special about the entity or part and there’s no way to even identify if there were. The reader may now see how this leads to Nihilism.
Semantic Holism states that the meaning of a symbol is relative to the entire system of representations containing it. This thought process is derived from the deconstructionist perspective, the contemporary constructivist's perspective, and the anti-realist's perspective. This view can be resolved in three different ways: semantic atomism (which is not widely held); semantic molecularism (that meaning can only be synthesized within a given linguistic system, limiting meaning to the symbols of that system); and semantic nihilism, which is closest to the conclusions reached by the postmodernist, especially in relation to their attack on reason, logic, and the “dissolution of the autonomous, rational subject” by stating that “there are no mental states, words lack meanings; we must abandon the notion that people are moral or rational agents and that they act of their beliefs or desires.”
Thus, all languages have meaning that is self-contained and self-affirming, but this limits the ability to make meaning of that language, and thus different domains of science cannot communicate with each other, unless they know the other’s language (which may only be truly accessible to a single individual, whose mind’s completely inaccessible, even to himself), and thus findings cannot become parsimonious; i.e., there can be no over-arching theory of theories or domains. Thus, the explanatory power of all domains is limited to the specific domain, and cannot be understood outside that domain. This neuters the explanatory and creative power of any individual, field, domain, language, or system of meaning.
The response to this is Semantic Nihilism – linguistic systems are not related to our thoughts, mental states, words lack meanings, and people are irrational. If the explanatory power of any domain is limited to and within the domain, people outside the domain who assess the domain for meaning must either embed themselves into the meaning (become specialists) or adopt semantic nihilism, recognize the words lack meaning, the system and people engaging in behaviors permitted by that system are irrational; their desires and beliefs are incoherent; there is no real way to know them, i.e., they can communicate nothing about their essence or any thing’s essence.
I.e., there is no truth, not even truths, just irrational conceptions of meaning, which are unknowable.
This statement is the ultimate conclusion of a post-modern perspective which limits meaning, deconstructs it, and then neuters its ability to be transmitted, resulting in an irrational world where nothing makes sense, there’s no real structure, and the structures that seem to make sense are really incomprehensible.
But how does this relate to the neuroscientific literature on creativity, problem-solving, prediction, and value?
Juxtaposing Postmodernism: What does the Neuroscientific Literature Suggest about the Postmodern Worldview?
First, are concepts only contained within the structure they reside within; i.e., does concept e and concepts associated and built from e only exist in language system L? To answer this question, it would be prudent to know what language systems are in the first place. I think it is appropriate to define language systems, semantic systems or structures, or frameworks of meaning as systems of metaphor.
Language systems can primarily be identified as systems of metaphor, which in their more substantive state, are analogical (1., 2., & 3.). Analogy and Metaphor can be respectively identified as convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Divergent thinking primarily relies on flat semantic models (4.), which can flexibly and fluently relate disparate concepts and identities together. Convergent thinking primarily relies on rigid, steep, or closed semantic models, which enable an idea to be coherent, applicable, or appropriate. Together, via the Fronto-Parietal Network (FPN) and the Default Mode Network (DN)(5.), at least, which respectively enable convergent and divergent thinking, flexible, fluent, or unique characteristics (6. & 7.) can become applicable or appropriate, i.e., usable or valuable (8.). With Metaphor, which does not rely on a closed semantic model, but is a non-linguistic based way of providing schemas with meaning, concepts are not limited to a linguistic system or scheme L, concepts associated and built from e are not limited to being associated with other concepts in L but both can be loosened to interact with other linguistic systems L(n) and any concept e(n) in those linguistic systems by non-linguistic metaphor, imagery, or sign. Thus, concepts are not limited by L. Semantic molecularism and semantic nihilism are false. This is how I can relate the Sanskrit term, Rasa, with the Latin term, Haecceity, and its Franco-Germanic (English) counterpart, Essential. Despite the fact that these terms all have different roots, applications, or senses, they can be conceived of through metaphor, associated with each other through analogy, and then recognized as semantically similar, analogous, or for most intents and purposes, the same. But what would happen if we weren’t able to do this; what happens when we limit our understanding to a single semantic structure or language?
When scientists or artists limit the domains they explore, do not engage in analogical reasoning, or metaphorical thought, and limit the creative works they can produce to a single domain or field, or contributions from a single domain or field to the work, they are less likely to produce creative works and the works are likely to stagnate. This finding negates the relativistic nature of the postmodern argument, and implies that there is a universal process that results in scientific discovery and advancement, across domains, which is known and communicated within and without those domains. I.e., the scientific realists and the empiricists are correct.
It has been shown that when scientists search as many domains as possible, with as much effort as possible, they produce the best scientific experiments (9). Importantly, this process of discovery, which involves multiple L can be measured in a historiometric manner and is observable throughout history, in multiple cultures and peoples (10.). This process is specifically achieved through blind variation and selective retention (BVSR), which is a theoretical model and equation that helps to explain how highly creative scientists and artists incorporate ideas from across domains, some of which ostensibly contradict each other (i.e., paradoxical), resulting in novel developments and works that are both unique and appropriate (11.). Studies that support the BVSR model (12.) are also confirmed by functional connectivity studies, which imply that the brain accesses multiple nodes in a network, or networks, with multiple edges, to incorporate the most information as possible (from as many domains as possible), in a small world-like manner, to create the most unique and appropriate work that’s possible (13.). Thus, when as many domains as possible can be consolidated for the solution of a problem or the production of a work, the more creative that product will be. The inverse is also true, which means that postmodernism limits creative production and problem-solving. But does this really mean that the anti-realists position is unjustified?
Ideas emerge through interactions with a problem or object, are tracked via the limbic system (28.), and enable procedural processing and problem-solving without an a priori or complex semantic structure (14.). This processing is acted out in a physical manner (15.), leading to the integration of a problem within the cortical architecture and the conceptualization of that problem through embodied and physicalized cognition, which can then be imposed on the problem via top-down control mechanisms (16.). The solutions can then be stored as memories, which can be accessed via a semantic control network (e.g., ventral and dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (17.)), or be used to form analogical relationships (18.) from different domains within the brain; e.g., concepts in the motor network may be associated with concepts in the verbal, or visual network and then integrated via the semantic control network or fronto-parietal network, which can then be embodied and used for experimentation to engage in creative thinking or problem-solving (19. And 20.), even without a complete conceptualization of the solution. This form of network-level task switching is observable via fMRI imaging and likely EEG (21. & 22.) (alpha and gamma wave activity) and DTI (23., 24., & 25.) (observable changes in the functional anisotropy of the axons or grey and white matter volume) in the executive network (EN) and the default mode network (DN) (26.).
Arguments against this position would likely present themselves as suggestions that any such position is merely a matter of belief or observation, which is a form of logoi that limits the understanding of these systems to the linguistic schemas they inhabit, leading to an incommunicability of concepts or ideas; i.e., defaulting to semantic molecularism or, more likely, semantic nihilism (e.g., how would I know that the brain state matches the analog for, or is close enough to the brain state, can be reproduced via stimuli and observed via a response, and that it’s not an artifact of the semantic schema used to observe and measure the phenomenon; a conditioned response subject to the tautological nature of the semantic structure?. I.e., isn’t the Social Constructivist still correct? I believe the answer is in our ability to predict and the physiological and psychological consequences of our predictions.
Our ability to make predictions based on the development of concepts from embodied abstractions (27.) and the association of concepts via analogy and metaphor (28.), which produces new ideas, applicable within and without domains (10.), and can be tested in an exploratory manner (29.). Whether or not we succeed in making an accurate prediction would be and is tracked via our limbic system producing either a sensation and behavior that reflects regret, disappointment, jubilation, or intrigue from the outcome relative to what did or did not occur (30. & 31.). Disappointment or psychological duress incurred from a loss may be seen as the Salience Network (SN) tracking activity in the EN, or SCN, which draws on information via the DMN, to produce a solution that is tracked via the Limbic System, to assess whether the multi-network activity produced a positive or negative outcome based on the conceptual solution that was embodied and performed (32.). In other words, the proof is in the pudding; the outcome determines whether the schema is true or not, not the internal consistency of the schema or a binary that determines whether a conclusion is valid or not; hence, why natural experimentation is intrinsically explorational but also hypothesis-driven; i.e., observations, hypotheses, and experimentation need not be socially constructed or a matter of authoritative experience but instead can be a matter of relatively undefined and unrefined exploratory investigation and play. Thus, conclusions drawn from tested and observed hypotheses are not necessarily tautological, do not affirm the antecedent, or are not subject to infinite regression. Thus, they can become or may be foundational beliefs. I.e., they can be or are true.
Of course, this requires us to ask the necessary question, what is True? We must ask this question, for Truth is no longer subject to the web of meaning produced by any given schematic structure, resulting in semantic molecularism or, more likely, semantic nihilism. Rather, Truth is an emergent property of a semantic schema’s (or overlapping semantic schemas’) relationship to the real world, which naturally manifest themselves through interaction with the world via procedure (exploratory play derived from observation and proto-hypotheses) from our cytoarchitectonics, which drawn upon concepts in semantic and procedural form from memory (previous experiences), and is thus a product of the world and our interactions with the world.
This is supported by George Lakoff’s work (33.) Metaphorical thought, according to Lakoff, is separate from language, and thus when it gives rise to ideas from remote associations (e.g., analogy) via divergent thinking (i.e., metaphor), which can become subject to extended analogy, an individual can integrate previously extraneous, unintegrated information into a seemingly closed system or linguistic schema, resulting in novel phenomena becoming observable and or testable, even within, from, and upon previously encountered stimuli. I.e., metaphorical cognition loosens the binds schemas have on concepts (34.), increasing the capacity to be creative across tasks (3.). By engaging in less semantically constraining mental processes, i.e., through metaphorical thought, expanding the semantic schemas at our disposal, which broadens an individual’s analogical horizons (35.), an individual’s thought processes observably alter how they see stimuli (36.), think about stimuli, and interact with those stimuli in the future (37.); i.e., they are no longer subject to a linguistic schema’s authority, or semantic limitations. When this occurs, when new ways of seeing the world manifest themselves via novel interactions with the world, we get closer to seeing the world as it really is (nothing is lost and something is gained); i.e., we get closer to the Truth and are not subject to the closed schemas postmodernists imply that we are.
Thus, when these novel concepts are then embodied and tested out on an unnegotiable aspect of reality, the previously mentioned processes involving the SN and Limbic System give rise to psychological, or physiological pain or reward responses. These responses indicate to the subject whether their activity was conducive to their flourishing, or useful.
In a paper by Miyapuram and Pammi (38.), the limbic system, which includes areas such as the amygdala, striatum, nucleus accumbens, ventral tegmentum, and substantia nigra, helps to facilitate inhibitory and excitatory mechanisms that calibrate an individual’s attention towards or away from stimuli to extract value from that stimuli. In Miyapuram and Pammi’s paper, value can be identified as that which is in demand (e.g., wealth or capital) and more importantly, that which is useful. Utility is tracked in the form of psychological indicators, such as regret (39.), which help the individual and group to recognize whether the stimuli are valuable or not, i.e., useful or not. If the stimuli had too little or no value, there would be diminishing returns, psychological duress, and potentially physiological duress, i.e., pain and even death. If the stimuli had value, there would be fewer diminishing returns (models of the value of stimuli may be expressed as asymptotes but remain useful), affirmation of the value of stimuli through consistent positive reinforcement, which would be self-sustaining and stable, and the stimuli would be conducive to the organism’s wellbeing. Both of these aspects of value would be true for individuals and groups. Again, this is communicated to the DN, SCN, EN, and FPN via the SN (19. & 31.) and limbic system, which helps an individual to semantically map the value of stimuli from one concept to another through analogy, or metaphor, which can be expressed through imagery or language. In other words, value is that which is conducive to the long-term success, or fitness in the Darwinian sense, of people within and without as many environments as possible.
Importantly, from a philosophical view, this means that certain principles emerge from our interactions with reality and are only linguistic analogs to the unstated procedures necessary to maintain stability within the real world for the organism, which emerge from the world and are not imposed on the world. Their value is derived from their utility, conducive to their ability to survive within a given environment, and more useful if they can be applied in a variety of environments or domains, i.e. if they are parsimonious. I.e., it may not be easy to identify universal principles, and some stated principles may not be universal, but certain principles may, in fact, be applicable to all humans in all places. Of course, the deconstructionist’s notion of logoi that are enclosed within a single linguistic schema was shown to be unsound, but more than this, their notion that there are no universal principles or values can be shown to be false or potentially false. It is merely up to adventurous scientists to discover whether or not values can be deemed universal or not. Such work, I believe, has already begun by individuals like Jonathan Haidt (40. & 41.) It is also incumbent on such scientists to more completely discover how principles emerge from the world and are not simply imposed on it via semantic schema, languages, and thus narratives.
Of course, we must deal with the critique that image, metaphor, or language are not accurate depictions of reality. To this, the best response is, no they’re not accurate, they’re super accurate. What do I mean by “Super Accurate.” In the work of Ramachandran and Hirstein (42.) the peak-shift principle highlights the fact that humans, like most animals, do not simply respond to all aspects of the entity before us, but identify, isolate, and exaggerate the most important aspects of an entity. We can see this in caricatures of presidents or politicians, the representations of women and men in contemporary forms of art and media throughout history (e.g., Disney Princesses and Princes), or archetypes throughout world literature. These exaggerations are not real, per se. Rather, they are more than real, they’re super real, they’re super accurate. Thus, image, metaphor, analogy, and linguistic schemas may not completely encapsulate any entity, but they shouldn’t either according to Ramachandran and Hirstein. If they were to completely encapsulate any entity, i.e., not rely on heuristics that highlight the most valuable, useful, or relevant information about that entity, those schemas would likely be redundant or inapplicable because of their insoluble complexity; Miyapuram and Pammi might say they’re not valuable (38. & 39.). Thus, the claim that image, metaphor, or our linguistic systems are not accurate depictions of reality is absurd. Yes, depictions of reality or entities in reality are accurate, but not simply accurate, super accurate in so far as they highlight the most relevant information for the organism.
However, let’s say that process is hijacked, as is the case for the baby bird in Ramachandran and Hirstein’s paper (42.) Does this imply that images that highlight or capture the most important aspects of an entity are not really depicting the entity as it is? No, but rather, more so that you and your sensory system are not focusing on the whole entity. It is widely recognized that our sensory systems compete for attention (43. & 44.), i.e., our neurological systems, our brains have evolved to increase our fitness by engaging in complex problem-solving; if we couldn’t attend to the most important aspects of information in the environment, which is achieved through competition within our sensory network, which includes the visual system, sensory system (post-central gyrus), and dorsal and ventral pathways, at least, we would be overwhelmed by the stimuli within and of our environment and could not focus on the stimuli that were most conducive to our fitness, to our ability to solve complex problems. Thus, hijacking of the peak-shift principle or mechanism does not negate the fact that we are seeing reality as it is, even when it is exaggerated or super accurate, but rather, it proves the rule. And if we were not seeing the world in a way that was conducive to our fitness because we were focusing on the wrong parts of it, our bodies and our society would communicate this to us in a semiotic, spoken and unspoken manner; i.e., we would begin to recognize that our perceptions were askew even if we could not consciously communicate what it was that was incorrect.
Discussion and Hypothesis
Metaphor acts as a non-linguistic mechanism for the constitution of meaning, which can be used to associate non-linguistic concepts with each other through analogy to solve problems, come up with novel ideas, and alter how we see the world. This nullifies the arguments provided by the semantic molecularists and nihilists, as they didn’t incorporate non-linguistic conceptions into their argumentation on meaning, only concepts within a linguistic structure.
This process is achieved through divergent, metaphorical-like thinking via flat associative networks and convergent thinking, via more rigid associate networks. These two networks combine to engage a process known as BVSR. By effortfully exploring as many domains as possible via this BVSR process, a person may produce the best product amongst his contemporaries. This demonstrably refutes the idea that meaning is limited to any given linguistic structure.
The creative avoids accusations of acting purely from closed models of belief or evidence, resulting in relativism and semantic nihilism through a process known as embodied cognition or abstraction. Via procedural processing, which does not depend on expertise and thus fluency within any one domain, the creative consciously and unconsciously extracts rule-sets or solutions that he embodies and performs to produce a solution. Because he is neither an expert nor capable of utterly defining the problem before him, the stimuli are acting upon him and altering his goal-oriented behavior, which he cannot fully express the process of nor the evidence for while engaged. Thus, something outside of him is redirecting the course of his behavior; his beliefs or the evidence he has is not the sole or even main driving force behind his problem-solving behavior; and thus, there is something real, beyond the linguistic structure or his own mind affecting the behavior required to provide him with a product that solves a problem or that can be called creative. I.e., the anti-realists and the social constructionist arguments are insufficient for proving the realists and non-social constructionists’ arguments false.
We can confirm this through our ability to predict in both a suppositional (imagination-based, anti-fact based) and de facto manner. Outcomes of our predictions are tracked via neuro-architectonic structures, such as the limbic system, which produces positive or negative reinforcement responses, indicating to us whether our behavior is in line with reality, i.e., if we are grasping at the truth. Thus, truth is an emergent property of a semantic schema’s (or overlapping semantic schemas’) relationship to the real world, which naturally manifest themselves through interaction with the world via procedure (exploratory play derived from observation and proto-hypotheses) from our cytoarchitectonics, which drawn upon concepts in semantic and procedural form from memory (previous experiences), and is thus a product of the world and our interactions with the world. This process draws upon concepts in semantic and procedural form from memory (previous experiences), and is thus a product of the world and our interactions with the world, which confirm our unconscious (un-stateable) and conscious (stateable) conceptions of the world.
Ultimately, we seek truth because it is useful. Similar neurological structures to those related to predictive structures track the effect stimuli have on our personhoods, e.g., the limbic system, producing either positive or negative reinforcement indicators, tracked via areas such as the salience network (insula, cingulate cortex). These effects could be as positive as the long-term success of the individual or as detrimental as the death of the individual. Therefore, Value can best be described as that which is conducive to the long-term success, or fitness in the Darwinian sense, of people within and without as many environments as possible. This conception of value implies that there are universal values or principles. These principles would be true in all times and all places and exist as a function of the real world affecting the physiological structure of the human organism over hundreds of thousands of years, resulting in behaviors and conceptions of reality that contribute to and will always contribute to human flourishing and wellbeing. Thus, some values will be true in all times and all places for humans as both an emergent and intrinsic function of Man in relation to the real world.
Lastly, our representations of reality, whether they’re linguistic, imagistic, or conceptual do correspond to reality. The peak-shift principle or process indicates to us that our representations of reality are “super real.” I.e., caricatures of the real thing that highlight the relevant components of an entity for it to be identified and interacted with. Examples of this include literary archetypes, representations of men and women in art and media, or even cartoons. Arguments against the fact that we see the world as emphasized by what’s useful or valuable to us are confirmed by how our sensory organs engage in competitive processes that highlight what’s relevant to us in the environment and of objects; not the whole thing. This doesn’t mean that we do not see the whole thing or entity, or that the entity or reality is an emergent property of our observation or our perception, but rather that we simply accentuate the key components that are relevant to our ability to function in the world. This process can be updated by metaphor and analogy, resulting in reconceptualizes of the entities we see in the real world and how we represent them. Therefore, the hijacking of this process proves we see the world as it is and only highlights what’s important about the real world. This ensures us that we are, in fact, representing the world as it is, only in its constituent parts; if we are not, as noted above, we would incur negative reinforcements which could be as bad as death or merely psychological pain or duress.
What then can we predict will be the consequences of postmodernism?
A hypothesis that might be derived from the information presented here is that, when subjected to a culture that has adopted a postmodern philosophy, when postmodernism has led to a society without foundational institutions, where everything is relative and thus meaningless, individuals within this postmodern culture would likely suffer from mental health issues, be more inclined to engage in damaging behavior, or even be affected by or succumb to suicide. Why? Because they would be seeing the world in an incoherent manner. Postmodernism, as I think I have shown, explicitly alters neurological function, disturbing and undermining the cytoarchitectonics that help us solve problems, create rules from procedure, reveal the truth, come to a fuller understanding of reality and thus the truth, and engage in valuable, goal-driven behavior, i.e., useful behavior. There is some evidence for this in a culture whose foundationalist institutions have been grievously deconstructed (45., 46., & 47.), but I do not think, based on what I’ve explored here, that proximate factors like increased screen-time, lack of sleep, or bullying can accurately explain the increase in mental health disorders. Rather, I think this issue goes far deeper, to the root of who we are as humans and from where we come.
Increased screen-time, lack of sleep, or bullying as issues may be described as issues caused by an evolutionary mismatch from the environment of evolutionary adaption, but none of these can be the ultimate cause of the problem observed here. Instead, how can they cope with a mismatch, what tools do they have at their disposal derived from their consciousness and from their culture? Here it should be obvious that in a culture that has adopted and been affected by postmodernism, whose cultural foundations have been dissolved, that the mental tools that one may use to overcome the mismatch would also be dissolved or much more difficult to access; i.e., they would have to be rediscovered by individuals who have lost millennia of accumulated experience to semantic nihilism, depriving them of the meaning that might improve their problem-solving and survival skills. It should be obvious that, without these tools, suffering, pain, and mental health issues would increase with the inculturation of postmodernism, the murder of truth, and the neutering of meaningful communication.
The ultimate issue here is that postmodern structures, at least, consign one to semantic molecularism if they’re unwilling to accept the anarchy of semantic nihilism, and thus a socially constructed perspective, whose truths, logoi are self-contained, self-defined, and separated from the biological root of their creator’s origin; separated from the emergent reality that constitutes who they are, which affects their personhood, independent of what they think. Any structure instantiated in this manner would be too closed to see the world in a truly valuable and useful way and would thus be unable to adapt as it would be unable to integrate new, non-linguistic information that was not already factored into the semantic schema. The narratives derived from the closed semantic structures would rapidly succumb to either a positive or negative feedback loop and thus any institutions or structures derived therefrom. And at least, its purveyors and acolytes would be blind to the effects reality is having on them or explain it away with tautological, self-affirming, or infinitely regressive explanations, which (because postmodernists and social constructionists believe all semantic structures behave this way) ignore that these result in absurdities that manifest as suffering, pain, and their demise.
It would thus be useful, at least, to try to correlate whether institutions or societies that have succumbed to postmodernism or theories of social constructivism have higher rates of mental illness, drug abuse, and suicide than those that have not.
At least it is good to know that the postmodernists, who are essentially sophists, cannot murder the truth, only hide it, leaving it to be revealed by those whose spirit and heart yearns to live and explore the wonders that this world has to offer.
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