Practical cognition

I am currently contemplating the way practical knowledge forms as the very first abstractions as how we can grasp and understand, and that this richness of nonconceptual abstractions lives on in our intelligence and intellect of how we engage and relate. The theoretical understanding makes us engage differently thus we form other kinds of abstractions that is based on conceptual knowledge of meaning, we can easily develop both practical cognition aswell as theoretical cognition without any problems of disturbing eachother what so ever the practical abstractions gathered from engagement and interactions is very helpful for the theoretical cognition to develop a more advanced logical system of thinking. So if you havent explored practical cognition, I advice you to try out kudusama as an excellent way to start! I also like crochet.

I found two interesting papers to this research quest:

Literal meaning and psychological theory by Raymond Gibbs:


Practical cognition, Intuition and the fact of reason by Patrick Kain:


I wonder about what happens to our cognition when we rely on objectification for practical reasons.

I think so often this practical benefit comes at a costly price for how we engage with our surrounding. The objectification projects an idea onto something. When people relies on the objectification for practical reasons they decentisise the intuitive engagement in benefit for higher practical prestanda.

But the problem with this is that objectification is only engaged with the ideas projected onto something. Kind of their priming. They are all in a meta world by objectification. I think this meta world of projected ideas onto things and claiming that this idea is all they is, we get slaves, kings, cattles, etc. They are given access to our meta world in an objectified manner. And by doing so, our engagement with that which we objectified get limited to the idea we project onto it. I definately see it being a very good practical ability to do, but it should know it has limitations to what it truly can grasp in this way or rather what we demands things to be. It should be known that objectification derives from the objectifiers mental projection. It isnt even necessarily meant to be an objectifying tool, but for practical reasons it is. It is using our imaginative capacity wrong I think. Objectification works inhibiting on the way things and beings can be perspectively seen, the theory of mind suffers.


I think you are right about the problem with relying on objectification over intuitive and more intimate, embodied, practical ways of knowing.

Mental maps can be very powerful tools and allies. But the map is not the territory. However, it is good to have a map when one is traveling. But one must know where one is going (i.e., have an ultimate destination or a purpose), otherwise the map is no use, other than for local orientation.

Many territories of experience do not have maps or cannot be mapped by mental models alone. That is where having an experienced guide helps. Or, without a guide, being brave and self-reliant, observant and quick to learn the features of the environment.

In my opinion, objectification in and of itself is not a problem. However, because having a mental model increases the feeling of power (since one believes one can now predict and control events), it is easy to become over-reliant on objectification and use it as a crutch. Then one fails to develop other important ways of knowing, such as empathy, intuition, divination, spiritual knowing (aka gnosis), introception (i.e., internal bodily perception), and bare sensing.

I posit a goal of human evolution to be the harmonious integration of cosmic powers. The power of objectification and mental modeling (including virtualization) is one among a few important ones. But mental objects are not the end all, be all.

Thanks for the essay links. I have been overloaded and will not have time to read them immediately—but the topics are interesting to me and I will save them potentially for when I have the temporal wherewithal.


I am curious if objectification have a concrete operational origin, so that it is possible to apply a mental projection onto an object or subject.
I agree that objectification is important for various reasons, just one should not consider it as a default setting of mental comprehension, I think that it is important to take into consideration various ways of understanding and grasping, and this means also that we learn ways to engage with our surrounding in a less objectified manner, and may only consider objectification a tool for practical instances, not as a default perception and understanding. I have noticed it is easy to use objectification as a psychological vessel that apply a pre established attitude and idea, a person through objectification embodies the idea, the person becomes flattened to a conceptual model, I think there is much more to engage with than this objectification containing roles, and ideals, and its also easy to see that people bound by such principles of judging others also create a negative aspect when the roles and ideals fails to be upheld. I think objectification should be more psychologically explored.

I also would like to explore object of desire and what this objectification relates to in terms of social demands and pressures. (Could romanticism be playing a part?)


In Piaget’s schema, formal operational develops after concrete operational thinking. The difference is the objects which the mind is operating open; these go from concrete to mental phenomena.

Mental (formal) phenomena are more subtle than concrete (gross, physical) phenomena, which is why it takes longer to develop the ability to act on them; however, development is not purely linear and it is also entangled with cultural context.

Objects of desire also likewise develop over time in some predictable (and unpredictable) ways. Plato, Freud, Irigaray, Loevinger—much ink has been spilled in praise, fear, and loathing on this topic, which fascinates humans and post-human cyborgs alike (if some cinematic visions of the present-future are to be believed)…

Freud called “social demands and pressures” the reality principle, which he thought intervened to curb the blindness of the pleasure principle as the just barely-not-neurotic ego grows up and faces the (naturally, cruel) world.

But what if we could make the reality of our world more pleasurable? Ecstatic (yet well-tempered) by default and even blissful sometimes. That to me would be a worthy object of desire or state of being to aspire to. However, I think it would have to be a collective achievement for it to become a perpetual mood rather than fleeting experience.

The pursuit of individual happiness can only take us so far, before everybody pursuing their objects of desire without taking into account the aggregate effect ends up destroying the context (i.e., world) which the fulfillment of said desire depends on. A rising sea of happiness would lift all ships.


I am currently contemplating the pleasure principle aswell reading Marcuse book Eros and Civilisation. I am contemplating if the lifedrive as a motivating force of eagerness to engage and involve oneself with tasks and interests, and the want for further continuation, thus creating progression within the continuum, for example the craftman sees a progression in the lifedive because motivation is to engage with the craft, not the finished product itself. It is in the craft progress ocurrs.

A person not engaged with the lifedrive will see progress to reach the end of the task, the deathdrive. This is also what “winning” is, a deathdrive not a lifedrive.

The lifedrive is part of the pleasureprinciple, it becomes refined through the reality principle.

"the unconscious, ruled by the pleasure principle, comprises "the older, primary processes, the residues of a phase of development in which they were the only kind of mental processes.

They strive for nothing but for “gaining pleasure; from any operation which might arouse unpleasantness (‘pain’) mental activity drawsback.” But the unrestrained pleasure principle comes into conflict with the natural and human environment.The individual comes to the traumatic realization that full and painless gratification of his needs is impossible. And after this experience of disappointment, a new principle of mental functioning gains ascendancy. The reality’ principle supersedes the pleasure principle: man learns to give up momentary, uncertain, and destructive pleasure for delayed ,restrained, but “assured"pleasure. 'Because of this lasting gain through renunciation and restraint, according to Freud, the reality principle “safeguards” rather than"dethrones,”“modifies"ratherthan denies, the pleasureprinciple.”
Eros and Civilization - Marcuse

The reality principle help us discover the inbetween which the impulsive pleasure principle would have rejected to explore or see as effort or inconvenience, that is exactly there the lifedrive resides it is there craftmanship and artistry is furnaced into intellectual nuances within our dynamic expressions as sociocultural beings. If the pleasure principle rules motivation it is more convenient to search out the deathdrive, and this just keeps arousing as immediate craving (think consumer mentality), the pleasureprinciple refined as the lifedrive is ten times hundred more intellectually capable to explore the abstract curiosities of objective thinking hidden in craft and art processes, thus evolvement within our practical mentalities have abilities to furthering its topology.


That is an interesting observation, and reminds me of the book Finite and Infinite Games, by James P. Carse, previously quoted here: An ideal world: Who's up for a(n ontological) quest?

I am attracted to the idea of refining the lifedrive through evolutionary curiosity—however, I think it is important that we don’t absolutize one drive and condemn the other. It is good to complete tasks and “put things to rest,” for without our ‘death drive’ moving us to do so, our ‘life drive’ would have no fresh, clear space in which to create and grow.

The finite and the infinite thus need each other and seek dynamic balance through our willing submission.


I feel that with the pleasure principle you have “fun” , with the lifedrive you are enriched. I feel that the “fun” is the exaltation in itself but it masks the underlying enrichment that happens within engagement itself. People tend to seek out the exaltation derived from engagement, this us empty “thrill” just keeping the pleasure principle addicted to it. The empty exhaltation misses enrichment to happen but it never will if engagement is minimal. Enrichment is not in the thrill but in the will to engage and interact that give rise to a patience and curiosity. If this path is not explored within peoples spirits, then people are stuck with “fun” the pleasure principle seeks after. Then the exhaltation will always end and the person will seek impulsively for the next thrill. I think that this is empty labour, as the quick thrill is simply a recurrent pattern based around exhaltation it simply never lead to any furthering of the consciousness about anything, rather it wants to “consume” the fun. That is, without exhaltation the person feels bored and impatient. This is like abstinence symptom of the exhalted oriented brain. But when you reach the lifedrive so many things grow in depth the more engagement and interaction we have together, it is having its own temporality, the thinking mind is derived from the lifedrive, humans true maturity lies in this transition from the values of the pleasure principle, to the lifedrive. You can not force the lifedrive principles on the pleasure principle because there must always be a transition of maturity towards a lifedrive devotion, and without this maturity on its own form of mind to quirk, you are not growing a mind you shape it to fit a model.

When you find your lifedrive (passion) you can write philosophy about it, you can abstract it to science, you explore that which gives you lust to engage in a concrete kind of way, like the wonderful people I read about in the book Parasite rex, that spend weeks in a swamp collecting flukes from different sources , wow! I would never do that but thanks to their lifedrive devotion (passion), this is an option for them. So much knowledge rests on their shoulders about such intellectual curiosity as studying parasites. Isnt it cool people find things like that curious? :slight_smile:

How would such devotion have started? Probably as an interest in biology and then growing more specific as knowledge developed to end up with specification in parasites. Would he, in the start of his journey have chosen to study parasites as a specification, probably not, the journey took him there. Its awesome.

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Also about consumption of “fun” or “pleasure” Erich Fromm wrote the book To have or to be:

"Society nowadays has completely deviated from its actual path. The materialistic nature of people of “having” has been more developed than “being”. Modern industrialization has made great promises, but all these promises are developed to fulfill their interests and increase their possessions. In every mode of life, people should ponder more on the “being” nature and not towards the “having” nature. This is the truth which people deny and thus people of the modern world have completely lost their inner selves. The point of being is more important as everyone is mortal, and thus having of possessions will become useless after their death, because the possessions which are transferred to the life after death will be what the person actually was inside. "


Im thinking about notions:

Im thinking that notions operates in a orientational way in the mind but often is heavily biased and incomplete, rather just something used for better ‘view’ or ‘grasp’ of or about something. It simply gives a relief to a person once a notion is established and it often spreads amongst people in a kind of superstitious way, that is the notion is enforced within a society so that all people treat things according to the notion.

I think this is related with objectification aswell, the notion preconditions the brain to a certain view with the benefit of quick orientation but with the lack of furthering any knowledge beyound that threshold. The fear of losing control and orientation the notion gives, the person with the notion feels threatened and experience cognitive dissonance once such notion is questioned.

Thats why one must explore this dilemma of notions further without being stuck in ones own blindspots and biases, which is very hard. One must be willing to challenge the stability one consider orientable safe, to find out what notions they are supported by and how developed those views actually are. I think this is important.


Hi Marielle, thanks for your thoughts. I guess “notions” are like “half-baked” concepts? I do not mean that literally, of course, but as in, “unexamined”—accepted pre-reflectively.

Thinking, reflecting, reading, writing, doodling, dreaming—the life drive can be in relationship with real ideas. These are subjective as well as objective, practical as well as notional. They can be universal in a way, but are also highly particular.

I like your thinking on human maturity, craft, and curiosity. This shows concretely in your drawings, where I think your handwriting and cartoons give rich expression to your inner thought processes. Thanks for doing some of your thinking out loud.


I am currently watching a really good lecture serie on Youtube by John Vervaeke:

I highly recommend it!

Thank you for your reply Marco, I decided to purchase a copy of the book that was quoted in your message about infinite play. I am looking forward to read it! You are always receptive and kind to me, I am glad to hang out on this forum.

I have ordered these interesting books which also relates much to practical cognition aswell:

Also in the lecture serie they discussed this book:


How close are the categories ‘value’ from ‘meaning’? Can meaning develop the idea of value or vice versa? I am thinking that for example using a price creates a meaning to us but that this meaning is totally different from meaning to value, for example sentimental value cannot be defined in a clear value system. [With clear value I mean categorical value , quality, quantity, measurements etc]

The clear value system perhaps prefer easily confined meanings to how value is understood in terms of commodity for example. This predictability to a value -meaning structure of association and cognition might be hindering many to look at meaning as valuefree and that value is something we firstly place on things we like rather as a transaction method, I think intuitively the meaning of transaction method means a payment for loss, a moral issue of “taking” someones thing and therefore “compensating” with money. It seems to enforce this akward value-meaning structure with the result that we prime such meaning between ourselves when we consider value, if something is liked, it automatically gets a higher moral meaning value. The interesting thing would be that the higher moral value things are experienced to have the more territorial a person becomes and protective and cautious, like the moral value somehow indicate a sertain kind of loss occurr similar to someone killing another person and wants compensation in the form of moral debt. A moral value meaning cannot at all see meaning as various values not just as one, by connecting value to commodity we lock meanings in a moral value compensation meaning, “I will pay for what I took with these money”.

Often transaction between people happens for other meaningful reasons which in themselves carry values not as easily discriptive mean but values of enjoyment and satisfaction give it meaning. When something becomes valued from a moral meaning we get alot of sacrifices to our time/effort/money we want to be compensated for our “jobs” we start to measure meanings in such way that only on this moral scale of value to meaning do we tie ourselves in a constant moral compensation behavior.


Hi Marielle, it is my pleasure to interact with you and I appreciate you bringing attention to these interesting topics of meaning, value, cognition, etc.

I fully agree with you that price of commodities and the value of things don’t necessarily match up—and that while a price (entailing a compensation-exchange) may have a meaning (cheap! expensive! fair! rich! poor! indicating the status of the object or the holder), the domain of what we find meaningful is not reducible to these terms of exchange.

What I value means something to me. If I value it enough, I am willing to pay for it. But my available money is a limited resource, so it has to mean enough for me to part with a portion of this power I have as a consumer to buy things. However, there are many things I value which I don’t necessarily have to pay for. In fact, it is better (they retain their meaning) when I don’t pay for them. However, there may be another kind of exchange entailed…

For example, a conversation is an exchange of valuable information, ideas, feedback, or simply a feeling of shared resonance and presence. Maybe that is what we are doing here?

I am glad you have posted your “Movement in the Static” scribezines, which I referred to above. I enjoy the quirkiness and braininess combined in exploring theories of mind.


It is, to be sure, an interesting relationship, and the matter is addressed rather extensively in the discipline known as philosophical hermeneutics. The seminal text here is Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method (Reprint Edition, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), of course, but it is a dense and challenging read. More accessible (and shorter!) introductions are Jens Zimmermann’s Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) and Richard E. Palmer’s Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthy, and Gadamer (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1969).

On the notion of “notion”, I would like to add one thing: Marco’s “definition” of “notion” as a “half-baked concept” isn’t a bad one, in my view. Concepts are products of what Gebser calls the Mental structure of consciousness, and one of their most admired characteristics is that they can be, more or less, clearly and precisely defined. This is one of their advantages, but at the same time, one of their greatest drawbacks. I like to think of them more along the lines of “hypotheses”, if you will: a current best-guess at what one’s driving at. True, they are more vague, less determined than concepts per sé, but they are still open, and I think that is their primary advantage. The downside here is that they can be used carelessly, of course, but as long as the conversation is continuing, they can be seen as vehicles to keep it going. Just a thought.

Also, thanks for the link to the Vervaeke talk. It looks like an interesting series. I think I’ll give it a look.


I also enjoy the John Vervaeke video, especially the focus on ancient civilizations and the difference between Bronze and Axial ages civilizations, and the role of alphabetical literacy in developing/unfolding our sense of deep interiority and thus selfhood. For more on the Axial revolution, see this series of talks: "Second-order" culture & the Axial Age: an overview

Regarding “flow” I found some interesting/alternative perspectives this talk with Dr. Andrew Huberman, a Harvard researcher who also comes across to me as extremely personable and self-aware. The interview starts off with him telling about his childhood as a feral skateboarder. My brother, who was also like that, sent me this video.

He thinks “flow” is really secondary to focus, or conscious/intentional behavior. For me, the big takeaway here is the necessity of deep sleep and restful states to enable learning and growth—as well as the role of pain, discomfort, stress, and the sense of urgency in motivating action. There are also some breathing techniques and strategies for chunking big projects down and rewarding small victories discussed in the video. This refined my understanding of how dopamine works.

Regarding “concepts” and “notions,” well, there is sometimes a great notion—and I think Ed’s right that the big benefit of notions is that they are open and can lead us in the right direction by suggestion, especially when fuzzy is the best that we can do. That’s a notion I have, anyway. And now I have a clearer concept of this notion. :slightly_smiling_face:


I like to take time to think things through properly before responding, so no need to feel rushed to respond quickly. :slight_smile:

Half baked truths makes me think of oppinions and attitudes being touched by notions in some sense. I wonder aswell if it can be involved with heuristics?

I think value is a very curious thing;
If a commodity is broken, it is not valued as much as a whole commodity, but say you have a torn money bill, what if it would be worth less as a means of payment? Or as Robert Sapolsky said in an example:

“My friend is such a good painter! He can paint with 20 colours”.
We do not have such distinction of valuating a painter based on that criteria so it becomes absurd claim. It doesnt mean that you cannot do it, its just that its unusual to value painters talents like that.
I was contemplating the difference of valuation between functionality (strong, effective, able) and instrumentality (easily manageable, affoardable, good quality, available, useful). It is used quite often in discourses.

I was also thinking about Vervaeke’s lecture of agape being interesting. I often felt afraid of the affect of Eros as I am a person that prefer deeper friendship in terms of affection.
It made me compose this:
"Instead of Eros, how about agape being the love we share, not the love we own.
I want to know you through atopos not as object of desire "

Fun note! There is also a species of slugs called atopos apparently :grin:

I am also thinking about semantics in philosophy being study of meaning aswell as hermeneutics mentioned by you, Ed. I wasn’t aware of that term before so thank you!


I would like to discuss feedback loops in terms of practical cognition.

Sometimes when I dream, I feel like the mind takes you through an action or behavior dream sequence just to reach a certain feedback to that act or behavior, it is not indicated dreamwise that so is the case, because the dream feels like a successive flow of fictive content, but it feels like progression in dreams occurr in some sense by these feedbacks to dream acts and behaviors.

Also interestingly, when I dream that I am calling someone and I cannot properly dial the number it seems to indicate to me that the practical feedback you get when dialing in real life is not available to the dream state, thus one cannot dial numbers that properly. Or when you try to run and you cannot move properly, I think is a similar feedback error, the fictive dream content cannot reproduce the practical feedback of running in real life.


The psychology of editing.
One thing that we as humans have learned to apply to cognition is the ability of editing. We want to “correct” our mistakes, “Hide” that which we are not satisfied with. There are many many other examples.
I often felt Im editing myself when I put on make up or try to live up to social expectations. If I compare editing to my sense as an artist, the editing of a drawing (erazing lines etc) is part of the drawings’ realization as a finished work. To reach this realization of the drawing I must both create and destroy. The editor seeks the presentable conclusive, it follows guidelines of preference which dictates in part how my art turns out, what style, motive etc, I decide to draw aswell as aesthetic considerations.

The editor is not the creation process, but rather the way we study the art process to see how we can improve it after the creation process is finished.
We are therefore I think dividing the practical behaviors to finished experience, this is because there is a cognitive shift occurring between executing an act and considering the act. I must have a finished act to work with as I edit, this helps me study how I will continue the realization. If the act is a kind of concretization and the edit reconsider parts of the concretization to furthering the continuation process of my realization, I might easily develop such a feedback where I need a concretizating act aswell as an editing ability to feel something have progressed in a realized manner.

Say you want to open a lock, first you dont find the key, so you edit the plan, now you choose a hair pin trying to force the lock open, but you fail, new edit of plan, now you take a rock to bash it open with , you succeed. You used both concretization aswell as editing to realize the goal of opening the lock.

I think the editing also exists in problem solving of different kinds, when we ask how we can “fix the problem” we are employing editing to the problematic conditions in attempts to solve the issue.

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