The Abstraction Engine
Extracting patterns in language, mind and brain
The main thesis of this book is that abstraction, far from being confined to higher forms of cognition, language and logical reasoning, has actually been a major driving force throughout the evolution of creatures with brains. It is manifest in emotive as well as rational thought. Wending its way through the various facets of abstraction, the book attempts to clarify – and relate – the often confusing meanings of the word ‘abstract’ that one may encounter even within the same discipline. The unusual synoptic approach, which draws upon research in psychology, neural network theory, child language acquisition, philosophy and consciousness studies, as well as a variety of linguistic disciplines, cannot be compared directly to other books on the market that touch upon just one particular aspect of abstraction. It is aimed at a wide readership – anyone interested in the nature of abstraction and the cognitive processing and purpose behind it. (series A)
[Advances in Consciousness Research, 94] 2017. vi, 192 pp.
Publishing status: Available
© John Benjamins
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction: Abstraction all the way down
Chapter 2. Language, abstract and less abstract
Chapter 3. Cognitive linguistics: Language embodied
Chapter 4. Abstraction, metaphor and cultural context
Chapter 5. The abstraction of events in narrative and memory
Chapter 6. Pre-linguistic abstraction and projection: Perception and imagination
Chapter 7. The feel of things: Abstract emotion
Chapter 8. Neurological underpinnings: The world seen through hidden layers
Chapter 9. Abstraction at work: It’s child’s play
Chapter 10. The philosophical approach
Chapter 11. Abstraction all the way up: Its evolutionary purpose
“Abstract, abstractness, abstraction: we know more or less what we mean by these terms. Or do we? Michael Fortescue, in this provocative and compelling book, analyzes types of abstraction and processes that involve them, in a wide-ranging survey of theories in linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology; placing them in the context of cosmological and evolutionary considerations.”
Chris Sinha, Hunan University
“The ability to abstract patterns from the particular is central to human thought and language. In this important and engaging book, Fortescue argues convincingly that abstraction is the hallmark of human cognition. Both compelling and insightful, the book brings together different approaches and findings from across the language and cognitive sciences. The result is a new and exciting perspective on the not-so-small matter of what makes us so smart.”
Vyvyan Evans , www.vyvevans.net
“In sum, The Abstraction Engine is an impressive piece of work that thoroughly examines the importance of abstraction and projection in language, the mind and the brain. While hinging on one central concept, the book spreads out into an extensive discussion of abstraction as pertaining to various fields of scientific interest, including psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and various linguistic disciplines.”
Wout Van Praet, UNamur and KU Leuven, in English Text Construction 11:2 (2018)
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