Categories of the Mind

We sort more and less exciting things into consistent, conventional mental categories and subconsciously associate those in each category with each other.

Thermoaesthetics

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Photo by Luca Baggio on Unsplash

“For it is by earth that we see earth, by water water,

By aether divine aether, and by fire destructive fire,

And fondness by fondness, and strife by baleful strife.”

— Empedocles (Kingsley and Parry 2020)

“Primarily on the basis of linguistic evidence, we have found that most of our ordinary conceptual system is metaphorical in nature.”

— Lakaoff and Johnson (2008)

Evidence we relate qualities within categories of higher and lower excitement lies in how we think of and describe hotter temperatures, brighter lights, and faster speeds as “higher” or “up” and their opposites as “lower” and “down.” Verticality is not involved, or apparent in any way when temperature, brightness or speed change. One can see the relationship between qualities in the same category in various words with more than one meaning. For instance, the word “spring” can mean the season of increasing heat, upward movement, sudden movement or a fluid running out of the ground. Heat is like a fluid in “heat wave,” “sunbath,” “meteor shower,” “baptism of fire,” the Egyptian and Christian mythological lakes of fire and the Greek fire river Phlegethon, which Dante described in Divine Comedy as a river of boiling blood, instead of fire, apparently to match the heat in the veins of the people standing in it forever as punishment for evil deeds committed under the influence of “blind cupidity” and “wrath insane” (Aligheri 1982). Disorder is like a fluid in “riptide,” “the fog of war,” and the words “blow” and “winding.” We call the sun coming up disorderly in “the break of day,” “daybreak,” and “the crack of dawn,” and the sun going down orderly in “the evening.” We call the mornings up in “top of the morning,” the sunset down in “nightfall,” the weather getting warmer up in “spring” and getting colder down in “the fall.” Dynamic change is fluid-like in “run like the wind,” “sea change” and “winds of change,” bright in “a flash,” “lightning speed” and “the living daylights,” hot in “a blistering pace,” “a hot clip,” and…

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Thermoaesthetics

A concept of aesthetic complexity based on universal animal preferences for mixtures of simple, more and less exciting physical and psychological opposites.