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Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Shay Welch
Pages 84-106
DOI: 10.5840/pcw20192518

The Cognitive Unconscious in Native American Embodied Knowing

In this paper, I address only one small parallel between one subsection of Western epistemology and cognitive theory and Native American epistemology. I draw the connection between the recent theories of embodied cognition and distinctive Native modes of embodied implicit procedural knowing, such as blood memory, vision questions, and non-binary logical systems. My reason for doing so is twofold. First, I show how these distinctive ways of knowing within Native worldviews are not mere mystical claims that can be cast aside in favor of more ostensibly “rational” knowing practices. To do so, I utilized Mark Johnson’s account of the cognitive unconscious to demonstrate how and that Native embodied knowing practices and knowledge sources are easily explicable when examined though a phenomenological cognitive lens. Second, I highlight one small respect in which Native epistemologies are conceived of procedurally. Embodied forms of knowing are merely one facet of the procedural performative nature of Native American epistemology but they are highly demonstrative of the fact that procedural ways of knowing—knowing-how—account for deeply implicit ways of knowing that are lacking from other procedural knowledge accounts that are often hamstrung without such an accompanying account of knowing-how beyond counterfactual knowledge.

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