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Mark Johnson

Philip H. Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Professor Emeritus
College Scholars, Philosophy
Phone: 541-346-5548
Office: 240 Susan Campbell Hall
Research Interests: Metaphor Theory, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, American Philosophy, Kant, Moral Theory, Ethical Naturalism, Aesthetics.


My co-authored book with George Lakoff entitled Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought (Basic Books, 1999) investigated the changes in our conception of philosophy that come from taking seriously the way meaning, concepts, thought, and language are tied to bodily experience. What I find particularly interesting are the ways in which patterns of our sensory-motor experience play a crucial role in what we can think, how we think, and the nature of our symbolic expression and communication. In my latest book, The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding (Chicago, 2007) I tried to delve even more deeply into aspects of embodied meaning and cognition that have traditionally been ignored or under-valued in mainstream philosophy. I’m thinking here of qualities, feelings, emotions, and temporal processes. This attempt to go further into the ways our bodily engagement with our environment makes thought possible has led me to pay special attention to what have traditionally been called the "aesthetic" dimensions of experience, meaning, and action. I have been led in this book to a Deweyan view that aesthetics concerns every dimension of our experience and understanding that gives form, significance, and value to our lives. Currently, working from an embodiment perspective, I am returning to my earlier interest in a non-reductivist naturalistic understanding of human values. Part of this project is an attempt to critically assess the recent upsurge of attention to empirically-based naturalistic conceptions of moral deliberation, judgment, and valuing. It seems to me that, in spite of much exciting work in this area, we still do not have a fully adequate and existentially satisfying overall view of what morality is, where it comes from, and how it changes over time.



A. Books

The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding, University of Chicago Press, 2007. Translated into Korean (2009), Chinese (forthcoming).

Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (co-author George Lakoff), Basic Books, 1999. Translated into Korean (2002), Japanese (2004), Arabic (forthcoming).

Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics, University of Chicago Press, 1993. Translated into Korean (2008).

The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason, University of Chicago Press, 1987. Translated into Japanese (1991), Spanish (1992),  Korean (2000).

Philosophical Perspectives on Metaphor, edited with introduction, University of Minnesota Press, 1981.

Metaphors We Live By (co-author George Lakoff), University of Chicago Press, 1980; second edition with new Afterword, 2003. Translated into Italian (1982), Japanese (1986), French (1986), Spanish (1987), Polish, Portuguese (1998), German (1998), Czech (2002), Norwegian (2003), Russian (2008), Danish (2005), Greek (2005), Slovenian (2005), Turkish (2006), Korean (2007), Chinese (forthcoming).

B. Selected Articles

“What Makes a Body?” Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 22, no. 3 (2008), 159-169.

“The Stone that was Cast Out Shall Become the Cornerstone: The Bodily Aesthetics of Human Meaning,” Journal of Visual Arts Practice, 6, no. 2 (2007), 89-103.

“Mind, Metaphor, Law,” Mercer Law Review, 58, no. 3 (2007), 845-868.

Mind Incarnate: From Dewey to Damasio,” Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 135: no. 3 (Summer 2006), 46-54.

“Merleau-Ponty’s Emboded Semantics: From Immanent Meaning, to Gesture, to Language,” EurAmerica, 36, no. 1 (March 2006), 1-27.

Something in the Way She Moves: Metaphors of Musical Motion,” (co-author, Steve Larson). Metaphor and Symbol, 18, No. 2 (2003): 63-84.

“Architectural Metaphors in Music Discourse and Music Experience,” (co-author, Steve Larson), Yearbook of Comparative Literature, 50 (2002-03), 141-154.

“Cowboy Bill rides Herd on the Range of Consciousness,” Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 16: no. 4 (2002), 256-263.

“Why Cognitive Linguistics Requires Embodied Realism,” (co-author with George Lakoff), Cognitive Linguistics, 13: no. 3 (2002), 245-263.

Law Incarnate,” Brooklyn Law Review, 67: No.4 (Summer 2002), 949-962.

“Architecture and The Embodied Mind,” Translated into Dutch. OASE: Journal for Architecture, 58 (Summer 2002), 75-93.

Cause and Effect Theories of Attention: The Role of Conceptual Metaphors,” (Co-author Diego Fernandez-Duque), General Review of Psychology, 6: No.2 (2002), 153-165.

"Attention Metaphors: How Metaphors Guide the Cognitive Psychology of Attention," (Coauthor Diego Fernandez-Duque), Cognitive Science, 23: No.1 (1999), 83-116.

"Embodied Musical Meaning," Theory and Practice, 22-23 (1997-98), 95-102.

"Why Metaphor Matters to Philosophy," Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 10, No. 3 (1995), 157-62.

"Incarnate Mind," Minds and Machines, 5, No. 4 (1995), 533-545.

"Conceptual Metaphor and Embodied Structures of Meaning," Philosophical Psychology, 6, no. 4 (1993), 413-422.

"Why Cognitive Semantics Matters to Philosophy," Cognitive Linguistics, 4, No. 1 (1993), 62-74.

"Philosophical Implications of Cognitive Semantics," Cognitive Linguistics, 3, No. 4 (1992), 345-366.

"Knowing Through the Body," Philosophical Psychology 4, No. 1 (1991), 3-18.

"Image-schematic Bases of Meaning," RSSI (Recherches Sémiotique Semiotic Inquiry), 9, Nos. 1-2-3 (1989), 109-118.

"Embodied Knowledge," Curriculum Inquiry, 19, No. 4 (1989), 361-377.

"Imagination in Moral Judgment," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 46, No. 2 (1985), 265-280.

"Metaphorical Reasoning," Southern Journal of Philosophy, 21, No. 3 (1983), 371-389.

"The Metaphorical Structure of the Human Conceptual System," (co-author George Lakoff) Cognitive Science, 4, (1980), 195-208. Reprinted in Perspectives in Cognitive Science, Donald A. Norman, ed. Lawrence Erlbaum ) (1981), 193-206.

"Conceptual Metaphor in Everyday Language," (co-author George Lakoff) Journal of Philosophy, 77, No. 8 (1980), 453-486.

Kant's Unified Theory of Beauty," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 37, No. 2 (Winter 1979), 167-178.

C. Chapters in Books

“Cognitive Science and Dewey’s Theory of Mind, Thought, and Language,” The Cambridge Companion to John Dewey, M. Cochran (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, in press.

“What Cognitive Science Brings to Ethics.” Morality, Ethics, and Gifted Minds, D. Ambrose & T. Cross (eds.). Dordrecht: Springer, 2009, 147-150.

“The Meaning of the Body,” Developmental Perspectives on Embodiment and Consciousness, W. Overton, U. Mueller, & J. Newman (eds.). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2008, 19-43.

“Philosophy’s Debt to Metaphor,” The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, R. Gibbs (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, 39-52.

“The Embodied Mind and the Illusion of Disembodied Thoughts,” The Mind, the Body, and the World: Psychology After Cognitivism?, B. Wallace, A. Ross, J. Davies, T. Anderson (eds.). Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2007, 33-48.

“We are Live Creatures: Embodiment, American Pragmatism, and the Cognitive Organism,” (co-author, Tim Rohrer), Body, Language, and Mind, Vol. 1: Embodiment. T. Ziemke, J. Zlatev, R. Frank, R. Dirven, (eds). Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, 2007, 17-54.

“Cognitive Science,” A Companion to Pragmatism, J. Shook and J. Margolis (eds.). London: Blackwell (2006), 369-377.

“The Philosophical Significance of Image Schemas,” From Perception to Meaning: Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics, B. Hampe (ed.). Mouton de Gruyter, 2005, 15-33.

“Metaphor-based Values in Scientific Models,” Model-based Reasoning: Science, Technology, Values, L. Magnani and N. Nersessian, (eds). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2002,1-19.

"Metaphors of Value", Center 11/Architecture and Design in America, Michael Benedict, ed. (Austin: The Center for American Architecture and Design, 1999), 5-15.

"Embodied Reason," Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture, Gail Weiss and Honi Haber, eds. London: Routledge, 1999, 81-102.

"Ethics," A Companion to Cognitive Science, W. Bechtel and G. Graham, eds. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998, 691-701.

"Metaphor," Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998, 208-212.

"Embodied Meaning and Cognitive Science," Language Beyond Postmoderism, David Levin (ed.), Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1997, 148-168.

"How Moral Psychology Changes Moral Philosophy," Mind and Morals, L. May, A. Clarke, M. Friedman (eds), (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1996), 45-68.

"The Imaginative Basis of Meaning and Cognition," Images of Memory: On Remembering and Representation, S. Küchler and W. Melion (eds.). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991, 74-86.

"Some Constraints on Embodied Analogical Understanding," Analogical Reasoning: Perspectives of Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science, and Philosophy, David Helman (ed.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988, 25-40.


I have been fortunate to teach topics in several areas of philosophy and to be involved in a considerable amount of interdisciplinary collaboration. One cluster of courses centers on issues of cognition, meaning, and language and includes courses on Philosophy of LanguageMetaphorConcepts, and Philosophy and Cognitive Science. My Philosophy of Language course includes speech act theory and recent work on the embodied and imaginative character of meaning and language. The seminar on Philosophy and Cognitive Science is an ongoing investigation into the implications of empirical research from the cognitive sciences for our understanding of the nature of mind, self, thought, meaning, and values. I take an “embodied cognition” approach to issues of mind, thought, and language, and I have twice taught courses on Embodiment, and another on Sources of the Self.

One offshoot of this exploration of mind and values is my ongoing concern with the nature of moral understanding and thinking. For years I have taught Kant’s Moral Theory, but more recently I’ve become more interested in all of the exciting empirical work that is currently reconfiguring recent moral theory. In my course on Naturalized Ethics, I examine naturalized approaches ranging from Aristotle and Dewey up to a broad range of contemporary empirical studies of moral judgment.

A third growing interest over the past two decades has been American philosophy, especially in its Pragmatist manifestations. I have offered courses on Dewey’s Experience and Nature and also his Human Nature and ConductJames’ Principles of PsychologyPutnam, and Rorty’s neo-pragmatism.

A fourth focus is aesthetics, including courses in Philosophy of Art and Music and Meaning. I also regularly teach Kant’s Aesthetic Theory, with an emphasis on his treatment of imagination.