Books, Brains, and Bodies

Norman N. Holland

© Norman N. Holland, all rights reserved

You've been studying literary theory, but I'd like to take you in a different direction this evening. I'd like to talk about some new discoveries in what is being called cognitive science. They call it cognitive science, and you have to wonder, what would a non-cognitive science be like? You can tell they don't have any English teachers among the people who name scientific things. I'd like to raise some questions about the ways in which the things we are learning in brain science or, more generally, cognitive science, how these things are relevant to literary criticism. Most important, and the question I'd like to leave with you is, How do we put them together, literary theory and brain science or cognitive science?

Now, beneath or behind this line of inquiry is a basic assumption. That is, I believe that whenever you make a statement in literary criticism, you are assuming something, something basic, about human nature. When Aristotle talks about catharsis or Plato about kicking the poets out of his Republic or when Stephen Greenblatt talks about the relation of texts across history or Judith Fetterly about how women read, they are all making some assumption about human nature. They may be assuming that human nature has nothing to do with meaning, or they may even be assuming that there is no such thing as human nature--a common assumption these days--but they are all assuming something about human nature, something about the ways our minds, our thinking and our emotions, work.

Let me remind you that we are living in what George Bush and the Congress have declared is the Decade of the Brain. I suppose there is a certain irony in that, that George Bush and the Congress should advocate brains, but what the heck. We have to take these things where we find them.

I want to call to your attention six things that we have learned about the way our brains work, six things that I believe need to be taken into account when we think about literature.

The first is transformational grammar or generative linguistics--there are lots of names for it. Let me take you back to 1957, when a revolutionary book was published, Noam Chomsky's Syntactic Structures. The book led to two revolutions.

One was linguistic. Chomsky was challenging the prevailing linguistic paradigm which was a somewhat more advanced version of Saussure. One idea current then was that the meaning of a word was a stimple stimulus-reponse proposition. You say the word and the hearer reacts with the appropriate concept. You recognize, I trust, Saussure's signifier and signified combined into a sign. As Saussure put it, when you know a language, what you have is a dictionary in your head.

What Chomsky showed was that this didn't really describe people's behavior with language. You need to know how to put the words together to form grammatical sentences. Can you imagine coming from Albania, say, and speaking only Albanian, then getting off the boat and trying to ask directions in Manhattan with only a dictionary to help you? Fuggedaboudit.

Chomsky was saying, You can't hope to analyze this major aspect of human behavior, language, by simple stimulus-reponse behaviorism. Now, the whole idea of behaviorism, as its name implies, was that you were to look only at overt behaviors and correlate a observable stimulus input with an observable behavioral output, the response. But Chomsky showed that in any sentence in which the end of the sentence depends on the beginning of the sentence, there has to be an underlying structure. For example, consider these two sentences--

Arthur is too angry to talk to.
Arthur is too angry to talk to Dan.

The sentences start out the same and they are the same for seven words, but then when you hear the word "Dan" at the end you go back and understand the beginning of the sentence differently. In the first sentence, "Arthur is too angry to talk to," you understand those seven words--or signifiers--to mean that other people are talking--or not talking--to Arthur. But in the second sentence, "Arthur is too angry to talk to Dan," you understand the first seven words--or signifiers--to mean that Arthur is the one doing the talking--or not talking. Now, how did you know how to interpret those seven words, "Arthur is too angry to talk to"? Answer: you had some kind of deep structure in mind, some structure deeper than the surface of the sentence, some structure that you used to interpret that surface, what Chomsky calls the "rule-governed creativity" of individual speakers and hearers. The mere surface of the sentence is not enough. Saussure, Skinner, Bloomfield, the structural linguists, are not being sophisticated enough. You have to look at what's inside the head of the person speaking or hearing language.

Chomsky's ideas--his proofs, really--contributed to a second revolution, a revolution in psychology. As Chomsky's ideas percolated into psychology, they encountered a change in that department as well. Until the mid-1950s, the dominant paradigm in psychology had been behaviorism. We look only at visible behaviors. Any attempt to talk about processes inside the skull is just speculation and unscientific.

Gradually, however, psychologists had begun to realize that how you perceive things, how you know things, how you remember things, all these depend not just on the stimulus, but on what you bring to the stimulus. What you have in your head to start with. So you have to talk about the contents of the mind and internal mental processes. And over some decades, this so-called New Look in psychology replaced behaviorism as the dominant paradigm. We now have a new concentration in psychology on mental processes.

In general, as I understand constructivism in psychology, it says that you construe or construct what you perceive, even down to the most basic things like the color of that wall. Some kind of computational process has to take place before you can adapt the inputs from the blue, green and red sensors in your retina to register that color as that nondescript institutional yellow. We can imagine even a simple filter or transducer as asking a question: Is this the kind of thing that triggers my response? Is this the frequency of sound I let through? Obviously, though, for more complicated perceptions or memories or knowledge, you have to bring more complicated hypotheses to bear. If I say to you "democracy" or "capitalism" or "psychoanalyst," you bring all kinds of preconceptions to bear.

In my own writings, I modeled this process as a kind of feedback. You put out a question or hypothesis or even a simple filter to the world. 1) Is this a red light? 2) Yes, it is red. Then that means stop. Or 2) No, it is green. Then that means go.

In other words, we bring hypotheses to bear on our perceptions, and we get those hypotheses from our culture. In our culture, no normal person would disagree with the proposition that a green light means go and a red light means stop or, in Gainesville, stop and pick your nose. That's a rather fixed hypothesis that we bring to bear. Call it a code.

But if I say "psychoanalyst," I think the hypotheses you bring to bear would be a lot more variable. They would depend a lot on the group to which you belong. Call them canons. If you are a psychoanalyst yourself, you'll bring certain canons to bear. If you are a Freud-basher, you'll bring quite different canons to bear.

And then each of us will bring these hypotheses to bear in different ways, according to our personalities. I might be very dogmatic about psychoanalysts, and you might be very easy-going. You might be quick, I might be slow to judge. And so on. I get the picture of a personal style, an identity that governs and directs these hypotheses onto the outer world. And psychoanalysis helps you to understand that personal style, to articulate it and to get some idea of where it comes from. That's why psychoanalysis is important to me as a literary critic.

At any rate, that is my version of what we might call psychological constructivism, the idea that we use mental hypotheses to perceive, to conceive, to know, to remember the world around us, including, of course, literature.

Chomsky's ideas were one thing that led to the development of cognitive science. The growth of psychological constructivism was another. But there were a number of other developments that focused on mental processes. A third factor was the interest in artificial intelligence. As people developed more and more sophisticated computers, they became interested in the question, Can computers think? And this in turn led to a lot more research into mental processes as opposed to overt behavior.

People began to play with the idea that the brain was something like a computer and that it managed perceptions by means of various programs. We could talk about the software, the programs in the brain, and the hardware or, as people called it, the wetware or meatware. And then we could ask how these programs work.

Something that came into play at that time was another idea of Chomsky's, namely, that we human beings are, so to speak, hard-wired for languge, an idea that is now widely, but not universally, accepted among linguists. The proof is that all human languages appear to be structurally similar in profound and surprising ways. Evidently, then, those structural principles of "Universal Grammar" must be in some sense innate, part of the genetic inheritance of all human beings. As one linguist (Jerry Fodor) puts it, "There may be an alternative to the nativist explanation that linguistic structure is genetically specified; but, if there is, nobody has thus far had a glimpse of it."

Now, if our ability to use language is a kind of self-contained bodily system like that--STORY: Lacan was visiting the United States, and he decided to meet Chomsky. Lacan's English was pretty poor,and Chomsky speaks no French. They had an interpreter, Sherry Turkle, and she told me this story. The two were talking and getting absolutely nowhere, Chomsky the relentless rationalist, Lacan the obscure. Finally, Chomsky burst out, "Language is an organ! An organ like the liver! Surely you as a Frenchman can understand that."

Well, if language is an organ, then maybe vision is, hearing is, smell is--well, we know that's true, smell is--maybe we have separate systems in the brain for seeing, hearing, walking, and so on. Maybe then the mind is made up of a series of modules. Not just a big, global constructivism, but what is now called modularity. That doesn't rule out the psychoanalytic concept of personal style or identity. As one leading modularist (Fodor) puts it, "If . . . there is a community of computers living in my head, there had also better be somebody who is in charge; and, by God, it better be me." In other words, we get the picture of an individual playing a discrete series of instruments, synthesizers, if you will, each with rather specificlly defined capabilities, but the individual plays in his or her distinctive style.

That brings us to the fourth item I want to pick up from cognitive science. This one comes from medical technology, the development of MRI and PET scans. These enable us to get a picture of someone's brain as it thinks, at least, pictures of the blood and oxygen flow and other things in the brain as that person fears or perceives or reads or listens to languge. Scientists like Gerard Edelman or Hanna and Antonio Damasio are showing how we understand words in our brains. There is no simple correspondence between signifier and signified. Rather, just to understand one word, the brain must bring together a variety of separate features, the sound of the word, its grammatical role, other words that it is like and unlike. Apparently the areas in our brains that process nouns are different from the areas that process verbs. For example, the article in English, an or the, conveys little information, while the article in German conveys a great deal. As a result, the brain processes English articles differently from German articles, and you can see that in the brain scans.

Then, to arrive at a meaning for a word, the brain assembles a variety of information from different places in the brain. Furthermore, and most important for the psychoanalyst, what information there is, where it is located, and what emotions accompany it are all highly personal. For each of us, the meaning of a simple word like "dog" or "cat" results from our unique history with that word. And, of course, for complex words like "democracy" or "psychoanalyst," the results will be even more personal.

We've come to a fifth development in brain science. One of the post-Chomskyan groups of linguists, the cognitive linguists (sometimes called "cognitive semanticists"), has developed what they call "the cognitive science of metaphor" or "the theory of conceptual metaphor." In 1980, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson published Metaphors We Live By. I know that that sounds like a self-help book like Deepak Chopra or somebody of that ilk, but it isn't. This book started a whole new line of inquiry into the nature of metaphor and what it tells us about our brains and minds.

For example, we might imagine a love affair in terms of a journey. That would give rise to all kinds of metaphors:

We're not getting anywhere in this relationship.
It's off the track.
It's on the rocks.
We're sailing along.
We've lost our way.
We've come to a dead end.
We're spinning our wheels.
We're stuck.
This has been a bumpy road, but we've come so far, we can't turn back now.
We've come to a crossroads. We have to go our separate ways.

And so on.

These metaphors can get complicated like this line from a C&W song: "We're driving in the fast lane on the freeway of love." From "fast lane," I surmise that the relationship has gone on rapidly, perhaps a little dangerously, and that the lovers will get to the end very quickly. From "freeway"--no cost, no stopping, easy entrance and exit--I infer other things about the affair. In other words, I use the metaphor to reason with, to try to figure out, so to speak, where the lovers go from here.

For our purposes, we can borrow a simple definition from Lakoff and Johnson. "The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another." Very loosely, we use something that is easy to understand, something immediate and sensual, to understand something harder to understand. The cognitive linguists use mathematical terms and speak of understanding a target domain, the one you want to understand, in terms of a source domain, the domain you get the metaphor from, a domain you already understand.

In the mathematical language the cognitive linguists prefer, the source domain, a journey, is mapped onto the target domain, the love affair. Complex entities in the domain of love (incompatibility, commitment) correspond systematically to the simpler entities in the journey (the travelers, the vehicle, the destination, the path, obstacles, etc.), giving rise not just to a single metaphor but a whole family. One can refer to such a family as the LOVE-AS-JOURNEY mapping.

This is an important general conclusion. The cognitive linguists are showing that metaphor is not simply a linguistic device to be used by poets and advertisers. It is a fundamental way that humans think. Cognitive linguists estimate (perhaps over-enthusiastically) that 95% of our thinking goes on in these common metaphors. Language is non-metaphorical only when there is no interrelation of domains: "This dog has four legs." "The temperature is 20° C."

For example, here are some of the things we say about literature and writing:

I didn't get much out of that book.
I have trouble putting my thoughts into words.
His words sounded hollow, and the speech had little content.
The idea is buried in terribly dense paragraphs.
Try to get more ideas in fewer words.
His promises were empty.
The meaning is right there, in the words.
If you're a reader-response critic, you hear that a lot.

Now, this is a completely conventional way of talking about language and meaning, so conventional that we mostly don't notice that it is metaphorical. But it is. It's called the CONTAINER metaphor for language or the CONDUIT metaphor. In fact, it draws on three different metaphorical mappings:

1. IDEAS (OR MEANINGS) ARE OBJECTS.
2. LINGUISTIC EXPRESSIONS ARE CONTAINERS.
3. COMMUNICATION IS SENDING.

Yet common sense tells us--and certainly our excursion into what the brain scientists tell us about how we interpret words--that these are pretty doubtful metaphors. They say nothing about the active role of the audience in understanding something. They don't allow for the fact that a single sentence can mean quite different things to different people. If I say, "You're not dealing sensibly with the drug problem," that means altogether different things to the head of the DEA and to the doctors who deal with addicts. Is communication sending down a pipeline, then? Or would it be more accurate to say that I put some words out there between us, and you take those words and actively interpret them? I think the latter, and I think generally, a lot of contemporary literary theory simply takes over these metaphors and works them into very complicated generalizations. I would say, for example, that both Derrida and Lacan do that.

One can distinguish primary metaphors and secondary. Primary metaphors are those that all cultures share, presumably because they come from immediate bodily and mental experiences: up, down, left, right, balance, symmetry, hot, cold, higher, lower, inside, outside, near, far, blockage, flow, counterforce, similarity, and so on. In no known culture is anger cold. In no known culture is love distance.

Secondary metaphors are those that occur only in some cultures. For example, metaphors that use computers or subways or roller coasters might make little sense to someone in an underdeveloped country who had never seen such things.

There is some indication that the primary image-schemas hold for many, perhaps all, languages, including American Sign Language. Hence they are like Universal Grammar: they say something about how our physical bodies structure our minds or, in the title of Mark Johnson's 1987 book: The Body in the Mind. We take bodily experiences like containers, inside and outside, to reason about language. We take ideas like near-far or blockage or journeys to talk about love affairs. These clearly derive from physical experiences available to human beings in general.

The idea that metaphor plays a nearly exclusive role in our understanding of the world breaks up the old logjam of "subjective" and "objective. In the 1980 book and in later writings, Lakoff and Johnson challenge what they callthe "myths of objectivism and subjectivism." These myths hold that either you believe in absolute truth or you are making the world in your own image. To the extent you are not objective, you are subjective. It is plus-minus, a zero-sum game. Truth is propositional: All men are mortal. e=mc².

Rather, these cognitive linguists argue, our understanding is "experientialist." Truth is metaphoric and bodily and fuzzy. We are looking at a "real world" that constrains our understanding of it, but our understanding is embedded in our bodily and cultural experience. The "experientialist myth" thus acknowledges that meaning is always meaning to someone, but it does not reach the Romantic extreme, that understanding is completely unrestrained. Rather, we understand the world through the physical experience of our bodies (as in a metaphor like LOVE IS A JOURNEY) and in the concepts that our culture provides us (as in the extension of that metaphor to fast lanes and freeways). Again, this confirms a long-established psychoanalytic idea, that every kind of thinking, even the most abstract and disciplined (like philosophy or mathematics), has an unconscious dimension, a personal, and now bodily, meaning to the thinker. When I talk about balancing my checkbook, for example, I probably mean more or less what you do. But what does that metaphor mean to someone who has chronic vertigo or who has only one leg? Our metaphorical thinking is grounded in our bodies, and each of our bodies has a different personal history.

Finally, I come to the sixth and last way in which personal history is important, perhaps the most important way of all. That's why I left it for last in my brief scan of five ways that cognitive science might touch on literary theory. I call it the growng and ungrowing of the brain.

We used to think that the brain is inherited (like any other organ), and the sites and features of that organ come from our genes. In just the past few decades, however, brain scientists have added some startling facts to that picture.

Research in the last few years has evolved the picture of a changing brain that first grows in infancy and then ungrows in adolescence. In one researcher's image, nature is like a sculptor of the brain. First, to an armature provided by genetics, nature applies plaster, more than is needed but in roughly the shape that is desired. Then nature chips the excess away until the adult brain appears.

The child's brain develops virtually all its potentially useful neural interconnections by the age of two, and then goes on to develop a lot more. The brains of children from three to eleven use twice as much energy as adults' brains. Specifically, in the first year of life, the metabolic rate of the baby's brain (established by PET scan) is about two-thirds that of an adult brain. By the age of two, the rate equals the adult's. During those two years, the neurons have been branching and interconnecting. Indeed, during the first year of life, "dendritic and synaptic elaboration" increases by a factor of 20. Then, by three or four, the metabolic rate becomes twice that of an adult's. By the age of six or seven, a child's brain equals in weight and volume an adult's, but it uses twice as much energy, and it has twice the number of synaptic connections. The brain stays "supercharged" until early adolescence. Then, from eleven to fourteen, the metabolic rate begins to fall until it subsides to the adult level. Similarly, there are twice as many synaptic connections in the cortex of a child's brain as in an adult's. Then that number falls by half in early adolescence. Young children experience twice as much deep sleep as adults, and then from eleven to fourteen years of age, children move into adult sleep patterns.

Further, as is well known, a child's style of thinking differs from an adolescent's or an adult's. Young children can often propose brilliant concepts, but they cannot take them further. They cannot concentrate for long. They daydream, perhaps because too many neural connections interfere with sustained logical thought. Indeed, it is only in adolescence that we can learn to solve complex, abstract problems at all.

In effect, nature first grows and then prunes away vast numbers of neurons, axons, and synapses in the course of bringing us from infancy to adulthood. Moreover, this growth and ungrowth results from activity--from early experience. Well-used neurons and synaptic connections seem to release nerve growth factors, substances that help insure their survival. In general, neural circuits that get lots of use generate substances that help them to survive. Neural circuits that get little or no use are sacrificed, probably in the interests of stabilizing the brain itself and reducing the energy consumption that the supercharged childhood brain had required.

In effect, to survive, nerves compete for a limited supply of such things as NGF (nerve growth factor), and since those nerve cells and brain cells that survive are those we use the most, we grow nerves and brains suited to the environment in which we live. For an infant, that is the whole process of mothering. In other words, we are seeing how early experience begins to outline the adult personality, how the child is father to the man, how as the twig is bent so grows the tree, how your relationship with your first caretakers begins to grow you into the personality you now have.

Your experiences as a child are literally written into your brain, and they become some of the hypotheses by which you read the world or read literature. The result is, Every human brain differs from every other. To be sure, there will be structures in common, the hippocampus or the cerebellum or the corpus callosum. But within those structures or organs, the synaptic connections come from a history of personal experiences that will be different for each human being.

Further, what the brain scientists have found dovetails with the discoveries of the "baby-watchers" in the U.S. and the U.K. They have found in early infancy something considerably more complex than the simple self-object differentiation of infant from mother that I had been excited to discover in mid-century psychoanalysis. Instead, infant and mother both experience a complex, interrelated web of cognitive and emotive feedbacks on which grow into the even more complex interpersonal feedbacks of the adult. It's a kind of emotional dance in which the baby and the caretaker, the mother, relate around feeding, gazing, being given a bath, changing diapers, being left to sleep or to cry. In all these behaviors, the baby and the mother relate in complex physical and emotional ways. The mother brings her characteristic style to bear, but the baby also brings its proto-personality, its temperament, into the relationship. There are two partners in the dance.

We used to think, in particular, psychoanalysts and psychologists used to think, that the baby was a tabula rasa, an unshaped piece of clay, on which the parents and the rest of the environment imposed a shape. Now we believe that babies are, like adults, beings who construct and shape their perceptions. From earliest infancy, the baby personalizes the ways its environment will affect it psychologically.

I've covered a lot of ground. Let me summarize as briefly as I can the six aspects of cognitive science that I've tried to put before you as interrogations of contemporary literary theory. First, there was Chomsky's proof that we use and understand languge by means of internalized deep structures beneath the surface of the sentence. Second, I mentioned the psychologists' conclusion that we interpret the world by active computation. We try out a series of hypotheses on the world and we get the feedback and then we act accordingly. Third, I mentioned the theory of modules, the idea that the brain works by a series of modules with a personal identity in charge. Fourth, we have the pictures of the brain at work, processing language in complicated ways, drawing on different modules in the brain, and the individual's personal history with a given word. Fifth, I've mentioned the theory of metaphor and our use of metaphorical reasoning grounded in sensory experience and in the body. Sixth and finally, I mentioned the growing and ungrowing of the brain, the way our personal experiences and histories are written into our synapses.

It's my impression that contemporary literary theory has not considered these discoveries. What do they imply for literary theory? I don't know, frankly. That's the question I want to leave with you. These six things do, however, make me rather skeptical of some of the statements I hear: that the author is dead; that the subject is disappearing; that the only politics is identity politics; that texts deconstruct themselves, and so on. I think we can draw some small conclusions. Six occur to me. (That seems to be my number tonight.)

One, the idea of signifier-signified, the process of signification, the idea that language signifies--that just doesn't seem to hold any more. Texts do not do things to people or to themselves. The notion that there is a process called signifying which is a simple stimulus-response is false. So too the idea that texts generate meanings or impose meanings or deconstruct meanings is false. People generate meanings, people impose meanings, people deconstruct meanings. If common sense alone did not tell us this, the brain studies do. I tell my students, the minute you hear the word "signfier" or "signified," you've come to the weak point in the argument. They don't like to hear that, because so much of current literary theory seems to hinge on the notion that language signifies, but I can't help it. That's what the cognitive scientists, with virtual unanimity, conclude, that signifier-signified is a woefully inadequate account of language, a kind of flat-earth theory that looks reasonable at first, but fails when you really explore it. We need to rethink literary theories that rest on that premise.

Two, the picture we get from contemporary literary theory is of a rather passive human being, someone on whom language or "discourse" imposes various ideas and meanings. In literary theory, human nature is arbitrarily plastic and minds are social constructs. Here again, this is not at all what the cognitive scientists find. They find that a lot of what's in the modules seems to be there innately.

They describe a person who has a variety of inherited abilities that are not touched by culture but are universal among all human beings, notably, the ability to use and understand language, but other things as well, for example, the ability to reason metaphorically on the basis of bodily experience. The cognitive scientists describe an active person, someone who is constantly busy hypothesizing about--constructing--the environment.

If this is so, then we need to use the term discourse very carefully. Discourse is not something floating around in the atmosphere. Discourse is anchored in our bodies, in our early experience as helpless infants, in our personal history through adolescence and on into adulthood, but most particularly in our physical bodies and brains. Human knowledge is bodily knowledge. Again, how do we fix literary theory to take this into account?

Three, discourse in the literary theory model imposes itself on this rather passive person. Culture constructs us willy-nilly. Now, it is clearly true, as literary theorists insist, that culture does impose itself on us. But how?

Again, the cognitive scientists complicate that question. They describe a human being who actively constructs or construes the world, including the texts of that world. They describe people who have innate characteristics, a cultural inheritance, and personal traits and experience, all of which they bring to bear on the percpetion and understanding of their world. If much of our mental endowment is innate, then how is culture, stereotypes, if you will, imprinted on us?

I would suggest that what we inherit is our feedback method for perceiving and understanding the world. I understand human nature as a personal identity that tries out hypotheses and acts according to the results. What our culture imposes on us are the hypotheses by which we try out the world in that feedback process. A politically aware critic should make us aware of those cultural hypotheses, should question those cultural hypotheses, should offer alternative hypotheses.

If that's true, then human individuality is alive and well, despite all rumors to the contrary. And that would be my fourth point. The subject is not dead. The author has not disappeared. Rather, the new things we are learning about the mind confirm reader-response theory. The uniqueness of you and of me plays a big part in how we write and how we read books. That is one reason, maybe the main reason, I'm a reader-response critic.

Then there are some larger questions addressed by cognitive science. My fifth point would address the matter of objective and subjective. A lot of literary theorists draw a line between objective and subjective. This is particularly true of an older school of textual or formalist critics, who might say, "The meaning is right there in the text." The general thrust of the cognitive scientists is that there is no clear dividing line between subjective and objective. Rather, we come out with what the metaphor people called experientialism. Our understanding of the world "out there" is all bound up with our bodily experiences "in here."

And finally, the sixth and last point at which I see cognitive science raising questions about contemporary literary theory, and perhaps the largest issue. Philosophy vs. science. As I read the theorists, they are doing a kind of philosophy, working entirely from reasoning and introspection as philosophers rightly do. But they are drawing conclusions about the world, about the way people relate to literature or advertising or television. Is this not a misuse of philosophy? That is, as the philosopher Charles Stevenson used to suggest, isn't philosophy good at framing questions, but poor at arriving at answers? The classic example is Immanuel Kant, perhaps the greatest of philosophers, who "proved" in his doctoral dissertation that there could only be seven planets. Typically, philosophy frames a question and then scientific inquiry begins to work with that question and eventually, we hope, provides answers, provisional answers of course, as scientific conclusions always are, but answers that enable people to better form subsequent questions to be investigated.

For centuries, philosophers have been asking, What is mind?, and finally we are beginning to get some answers because psychologists have new ways of inquiring empirically into the ways the mind does things. I would suggest that literary theory would be a lot better if it took those into account, and that is what I have been trying to do and what I have been trying to urge you to do this evening.