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From Embodiment to Agency: Cognitive Science, Critical Realism, and Communication Frameworks

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image of Journal of Critical Realism

The primacy of practice in the development of knowledge is one of materialism's fundamental tenets. Most arguments supporting it have been strictly philosophical. However, over the past thirty years cognitive science has provided mounting evidence supporting the primacy of practice. Particularly striking is its finding that thought is fundamentally metaphoric—that images emerging from everyday embodied activities not only make ordinary experiences intelligible, but also underpin our more abstract engagements with the world, elaborated in disciplines such as ethics and science. Cognitive science's implications must now be absorbed into critical realism. Cognitive science bolsters critical realism by providing a scientifically-grounded analysis of the passage from body to mind and the fundamental unity between them, while sustaining their distinctiveness. Its implications for critical realism ripple out in four waves: first, critical realism's understanding of the mind/body relationship; second, its concepts of the process that connects theory and practice, and what that means for critical realism's view of intellectual production, the place of metaphor in scientific theorization, and cultural development; its view of culture as a complex whole; and finally, its theory of human agency as embodied and intentional.


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