In 7 Quotes or Less: The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner

Posted on May 11, 2009 by


For this one, 8, because this book was all over the place.

The Book: The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’ Hidden Complexities, Basic Books, 2002


We do not ask ourselves how we can see on thing as one thing because we assume that the unity comes from the thing itself, not from our mental work, just as we asssume that the meaning of the picture is in the picture rather than in our interpretation of its form…We divide the world up into entities at human scale so that we can manipulate them in human lives, and this division of the world is an imaginative achievement (8).

A quote that does two things:

a) Questions what we consider “gestalts”, or completed wholes, or completed entities.

The computer is a whole in the popular perception and for our practical uses. But for the microchip makers, mining companies, programmers, Microsoft, the computer is not a whole, but rather a synthetic blend of parts. Parts which they make and sell to ultimately complete the computer as this whole for the popular perception and imagination to consume.

Even something simple like a wall or a basketball may not be a whole, one thing to somebody. For example, Richard Nisbett in his book Geography of Thought noted that what might be a “wall”, an object to be focused upon for Americans might be merely a haphazard “slab of concrete” to Chinese people (82).

b) The quote emphasizes and reinforces the “human scale”, that is the limits of human perception and sensory abilities.

We oversimplify and manipulate much more than we like to understand, not that oversimplifying and manipulating is a bad thing lest we hate the innovations in technology. However, should we keep objectifying


The meanings that we take most for granted are those where the complexity is best hidden (25).

A way of saying, that the most procedural, most simple-looking activities are actually deceptively difficult to understand. Something that was kind of the point in the User Illusion by Tor Norretranders.


Reductio ad absurdum — the mathematician sets up as true what she wants to prove false and manipulates it as true, in the hope of arriving at an internal contradiction that is taken as proving the original assertion’s falsity (31)

Something I always observe when people argue on message boards. This phenomena would fall under the category of “Building a strawman argument” where someone misrepresents what you are saying and claims you think that what they absurdly misrepresented is something you think is true.


It is evolutionary advantageous to be able to unite cause and effect in our understanding. It’ s good to see potential effects in a cause, and it’s good to see potential causes in an effect—it’s probably a tiger behind that roar (76).

First off, I disagree with the idea that evolution works intentionally, as if it just naturally selects the best traits and those traits get passed on. No, evolution is more haphazard, and slapdash than that. The traits we see now aren’t necessarily the best traits, but probably the traits that were reproduced the most.

For all we know and inexplicably absent in archaeological evidence, early humans had motherfuckin’ wings to account for the weight of our bones, but nobody wanted to reproduced with those weird-ass humans who happened to have wings and so that shit died off, so now were just permanently chained to a terrestrial, bi-pedal existence.

Secondly, the unity of cause and effect. One thing automatically equalling another. Like that “roar” indicating a tiger. But maybe the “roar” is not just that? Maybe there are different kinds of roars? Like a celebration roar, a mad roar, and a neutral roar? No idea.

I think this unity of cause and effect works mostly if you plan to be in one context for the rest of your life where you can get as close as possible to controlling everything.


Although many participants may lack belief in the efficacy of a ritual, they have a shared interest in achieving optimal correspondence between the performance of the ritual and the reality it is meant to capture. The performance can label the participants, and the labels can have social effects over time, making the performance ultimately self-fulfilling (86).

Labels and self-fulfilling prophecies.

Can be metaphorized to the maxim “the more you say something, the more it becomes true.”

Labels can have the same effect. In basketball, you call attention to the fact that someone is strictly “a jumpshooter”, then in your mind and perhaps the mind of others, that someone becomes almost strictly a “jumpshooter”, and pretty soon all you notice is that they shoot jumpshots, reinforcing your observation and your label. You may notice other things they do, but usually, you won’t let that get in the way of your label. I guess it’s quite easy to observe someone shooting tons of jumpers and label ’em a jumpshooter, but depending on the make-up of your own mental categories and milieu, WHY they are a jumpshooter will vary widely from reasons as simple as because “he sucks” to the overbrooding because “he’s grown up a passive player.”

Labels are a convenient, often useful tool to identify objects and other inanima, but taken as full representations of people and their regularities, they seem to do a lot more bad than good.


Mental spaces are small conceptual packets constructed as we think and talk, for purposes of local understanding and action. (102).

The word “spaces” makes me think of the construction of externalized pubic spaces. Spaces in general appear to be social phenomena in urbanized contexts of our construction.

There’s plenty of “space” in Llano, CA. A whole bunch of it in California’s Mojave Desert. But they aren’t exactly the spaces that people want to be contained in. With properties of over 12 acres, seems like people out there have their fill of space. In contrast, local Angeleno politicians with steady community pressure have sought to build parks around the newly-revived Los Angeles River, downtown LA, south LA, to create common grounds, publicly available spaces for communal, externalized congregation in relatively neutral and safe quarters. Those public spaces serve local interests.

I think space in that function in the urban context is less a void, or a blank slate, but more a connective hub.


Historically, the leap to the money network has always required elaborate cultural steps, especially the intermediate step of selecting as the object that will count as money something thtat is easily measured and transported and also easily incorporated into the exchange system of goods (203)

This quote bring back memories of the book Money in an Unequal World by Keith Hart.

Money means “interdependency”, which means “exchanging with other people” because money is actually useless by itself.

I don’t think I will ever fail to be fascinated by that.


Expressions like “the missing chair”, “a tooth”, a proposal,” and so on seem to be pointing to something, but what they point to looks like a gap in the real world. Is this phenomenon just a convenience of language, or does it say something about the way we think (241)? The history of the development of numbers is a history of reconstruing the number system so that we see “gaps” in it that are themselves reconstrued as numbers on their own. The numbers 0, 1, 2, 3…were reconstrued as having gaps between them, and these gaps were reconstrued as fractions like one-half.”

The part about numbers having gaps between them. Arithmetically speaking, numbers can have gaps to infinity. From 4 to 5, there are numbers like 4 1/32, 4 1/16, 4 1/8, 4 1/4, 4 1/2, 4 1.9999999999/2, when does it stop?! Technically when we round it, but we compromise some accuracy when we do that.

And so the human story goes, we’ve got to simplify something so we could manipulate it.