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Metaphor In Philosophy

 
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 09:48 pm
How important has metaphor, or figurative language in general, been in the history of philosophy? In the present and future of philosophy?

Do you have any favorite examples of figurative language in philosophy?


Some of mine:

Wittgenstein wants to show the fly the way out of the bottle. Also he offers us a ladder we throw away once we have climbed it.

Nietzsche compares the spirit to a stomach and also himself to dynamite.
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jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 04:13 pm
@Reconstructo,
Think of "family resemblances" as another example from Wittgenstein and the useful picture (of a picture at that) that illustrates a rather difficult concept. I was always struck by his musing whether a philosophy could be constructed entirely of questions.

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" comes to mind. And of course Plato's extended metaphor of the myth of the cave.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 04:29 pm
@Reconstructo,
I think metaphors and analogies are pretty important in how we understand the world.
jeeprs
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 05:05 pm
@Reconstructo,
extremely important but they rest on a great number of presuppositions. If I use a metaphor, I want to be pretty careful as to whether the person I am talking to will understand the symbology being used. By their nature, metaphors can communicate insights that are not directly explainable - in fact that is their main use. But in another sense they are only meaningful within a universe of discourse, or a cultural context, where you and I are disposed to understanding each other. Even then they are often misconstrued. The famous Cave metaphor was mentioned; I don't think I have ever seen what I would consider an accurate exigesis of that metaphor (or maybe I just don't get it.)

Metaphor is strongly connected to myth as well. In fact perhaps myth provides the context for metaphor. Every culture has its myths; many of ours are scientific, and give rise to the metaphorical use of terms such as black holes and light years. Within our current paradigm, some metaphors are always rejected as mythical, while others are instintively embraced as scientific. But metaphors - like the poor - will always be with us....
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 08:53 pm
@jgweed,
jgweed;127140 wrote:
Think of "family resemblances" as another example from Wittgenstein and the useful picture (of a picture at that) that illustrates a rather difficult concept. I was always struck by his musing whether a philosophy could be constructed entirely of questions.

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" comes to mind. And of course Plato's extended metaphor of the myth of the cave.


Thanks for the reply.
1. I think a philosopher could become loved by publishing only questions.
2. It's hard to imagine a personal philosophy that works made only of questions.
3. I like the idea of a picture of a picture. Is this idea the picture of a picture of a picture? And then "picture" is a metaphor. Metaphor cubed.
4. The invisible hand and the cave are two of my favorites.

---------- Post added 02-11-2010 at 10:01 PM ----------

jeeprs;127155 wrote:
Within our current paradigm, some metaphors are always rejected as mythical, while others are instintively embraced as scientific. But metaphors - like the poor - will always be with us....


And paradigms are similar to metaphors. For instance, the representational theory of truth is a sort of buried metaphor. Truth as an accurate picture of reality. Truth is a picture. (Heidegger called this the age of the world-picture.)

Perhaps the most potent metaphors in philosophy are the ones we are unconscious of. We can't see our glasses, you might say. "Science" itself is a metaphor. Sure, it's been literalized a long long time, but look:
science http://www.etymonline.com/graphics/dictionary.gifc.1300, "knowledge (of something) acquired by study," also "a particular branch of knowledge," from O.Fr. science, from L. scientia "knowledge," from sciens (gen. scientis), prp. of scire "to know," probably originally "to separate one thing from another, to distinguish," related to scindere "to cut, divide," from PIE base *skei- (cf. Gk. skhizein "to split, rend, cleave," Goth. skaidan, O.E. sceadan "to divide, separate;" see shed (v.)).
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Feb, 2010 03:57 am
@Reconstructo,
Quote:


A hundred and fifty years ago Dr. Hugh Blair wrote in his Lectures on Rhetoric:
'We are apt, upon a superficial view, to imagine that those modes of expression which are called Figures of Speech are among the chief refinements of Speech, not invented till after language had advanced to its late periods, and mankind were brought into a polished state; and that then they were devised by orators and rhetoricians. The contrary of this is the truth. Mankind never employed so many Figures of Speech, as when they had hardly any words for expressing their meaning.
'For, first, the want of proper names for every object, obliged them to use one name for many; and, of course, to express themselves by comparisons, metaphors, allusions and all those substituted forms of Speech, which render Language figurative. Next, as the objects with which they were most conversant, were the sensible, material objects around them, names would be given to these objects long before words were invented for signifying the dispositions of the mind, or any sort of moral and intellectual ideas. Hence, the early language of men being entirely made up of words descriptive of sensible objects, it became, of necessity, extremely metaphorical. . .'


Metaphor - Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More


Quote:

The belief in meaning as a relationship of designation holding between an arbitrary sign and some aspect or constituent of reality given with absolute simplicity and perspicuity to the mind has, of course, been widely criticised in the present century, by Wittgenstein, Saussure, and Merleau-Ponty among others. But Derrida' s critique, while dependent to some extent and in differing degrees on the latter two, remains unique to him in its main outlines. One way of understanding it, at least in the form it takes in 'White Mythology', might be to see it as articulating an attack on 'the classical opposition of concept and metaphor' (') ('MB', p. 314; 'WM', p. 263). According to the terms of that opposition, a name used to designate a concept brings some aspect of reality, some part of the truth of things, before the mind; whereas a name used metaphorically merely establishes some link, based on some perceived similarity or analogy, between two names. The link established by metaphor, in other words, is a linkage between linguistic entities--a linkage forged entirely within the sphere of language. The name-concept link, on the other hand, is not ultimately a linguistic relationship at all. It is a link between Mind and World, which language merely represents or expresses. Metaphorical discourse may have some value nevertheless but only if it serves to put us on the track of a new concept (the final section of the essay offers a critique of this familiar story in Nietzsche and Gaston Bachelard; Max Black would furnish an equally good target). 19 Metaphor is thus admissible in philosophy, but only to the extent that it promises a return, with augmented resources, to the literality of the concept:
[INDENT]Metaphor . . . is determined by philosophy as a provisional loss of meaning, an economy of the proper without irreparable damage, a certainly inevitable detour, but also a history with its sights set on, and within the horizon of, the circular reappropriation of literal, proper meaning. ['WM', p. 270] 20The concept of metaphor is not a concept alien to metaphysics. It is a metaphysical concept.21As such, like other metaphysical concepts, it emerges from a network of such concepts: a system of terms whose meanings, in their relationships to one another, are mutually explicating.
Thus the aim of Derrida's discussion of Aristotle, beginning in section 3 of the essay, is to show how the distinction between proper and elliptical discourse, central as that is to the claim of philosophy to constitute a discourse of the former kind, emerges from a network of distinctions--which 'seems to belong to the great immobile chain of Aristotelian ontology, with its theory of the analogy of Being, its logic, its epistemology, and more precisely its poetics and its rhetorics' (WM', p. 236).20
3. Hence any attempt to set up the contrast between the metaphorical and the literal (or proper) in a language which transcends that distinction, which distinguishes, from a standpoint outside language, between the direct relationship between a name and its bearer and the indirect relationship between name and name involved in metaphor and periphrasis, will fail because the terms in which it operates will prove to be themselves explicable only, at some point, by dint of metaphor and periphrasis.
This is, in effect, the move in the argument which dominates Derrida's discussion, in part 2 of the essay, of the failings of specific attempts to offer putatively nonmetaphorical classifications of Plato's metaphors. Later on, in 'The Ellipsis of the Sun', the same theme is taken up again in his discussion of Aristotle's derivation, in Poeticsspeirein] ('MB', p. 289; ['WM', p. 242). Here Derrida's point is that since the analogy between sunshine and sowing is not 'seen' [vu23Hence there is no such thing as 'an essence'--the meaning of a term, that is--'rigorously independent of that which transports it'. What an expression EE belongs. And hence,
5. The 'detour' of metaphor or periphrasis, that argosy which Western metaphysics traditionally pictures as returning freighted with new literal meaning, ceases to be conceivable as one following a closed curve. Ellipsis, as the term occurs in the title of the third section of the essay is, in rhetoric, among other things, the omission of one or more of the words necessary to express the full sense of a sentence. But--and this is Derrida's point--if the full sense of a sentence must be given not by relating its terms one by one to essences given externally to language, but by relating them to other terms within the 'chain' of language, then the notion of a fully expressed, non-elliptical sense evaporates into vacuity; for since the chain of such explications is potentially endless, the accretion of supplementary (another favourite term of Derrida's) layers of meaning is potentially endless also.


harrison
0 Replies
 
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 12:25 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;126910 wrote:
How important has metaphor, or figurative language in general, been in the history of philosophy? In the present and future of philosophy?

Do you have any favorite examples of figurative language in philosophy?


Some of mine:

Wittgenstein wants to show the fly the way out of the bottle. Also he offers us a ladder we throw away once we have climbed it.

Nietzsche compares the spirit to a stomach and also himself to dynamite.
In buisness there are some metaphors:

- what we lost on the swings, we gained on the carusell.

- one man's trash, is another man's fortune.

If metaphors doesn't take overhand, then it can be good, or of great value.
0 Replies
 
Pyrrho
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 12:34 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;126910 wrote:
How important has metaphor, or figurative language in general, been in the history of philosophy? In the present and future of philosophy?

Do you have any favorite examples of figurative language in philosophy?


Some of mine:

Wittgenstein wants to show the fly the way out of the bottle. Also he offers us a ladder we throw away once we have climbed it.

Nietzsche compares the spirit to a stomach and also himself to dynamite.


Metaphors are important in the history of philosophy in two ways. First, metaphors can help illustrate ideas, in order to make them more easily understood. Second, they can be used to hide the fact that one is speaking nonsense when one literally does not know what one is talking about. A metaphor is no substitute for a literal explanation of something. Generally speaking, one can tell the difference between these two sorts of cases by whether or not there is ever a literal explanation. If there is no literal explanation, it is prima facia nonsense.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 12:50 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;139079 wrote:
Metaphors are important in the history of philosophy in two ways. First, metaphors can help illustrate ideas, in order to make them more easily understood. Second, they can be used to hide the fact that one is speaking nonsense when one literally does not know what one is talking about. A metaphor is no substitute for a literal explanation of something. Generally speaking, one can tell the difference between these two sorts of cases by whether or not there is ever a literal explanation. If there is no literal explanation, it is prima facia nonsense.



Yes. Unless a metaphor can be explained literally, it is always suspect nonsense. Take Plato's famous metaphor of the cave. Unless that could be explained literally, it would make no sense.
0 Replies
 
rhinogrey
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Mar, 2010 10:47 am
@Reconstructo,
All philosophy is metaphor, insofar as the conceptualization is a creative action spurring from presence. The creation of new concepts has accompanied an historical opening-of-the-mind-into-reality (being-through-itself).

[CENTER]([SIZE="4"][SIZE="5"]W[/SIZE][/SIZE]e have seized certain freedoms, but most are unwilling to accept the accompanying responsibilitie[SIZE="4"][SIZE="5"]S[/SIZE][/SIZE].)[/CENTER]

Now, I leave you with a quote for further elucidation:

Deleuze wrote:


So go out and create, you new philosophers! Live effortlessly! See the world in new ways!
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 09:42 pm
@rhinogrey,
rhinogrey;139608 wrote:
. The creation of new concepts has accompanied an historical opening-of-the-mind-into-reality (being-through-itself).


I would go so far to say that man lives in his concepts, that his own concepts are the intelligible structure of his reality. So a new concept is a new piece of the world, something (at best) truly new beneath the sun.

I like Deleuze when he talks of the invention of concept. I don't know if it's the translation, but I wonder if he really thinks we can think without concepts? From my understanding of the word concept, thinking and concepts are the same animal.

Would you care to elaborate on being-through-itself? Is this related to time penetrating time in the metaphorically Hegelian sense? A self-penetrating system of concepts?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 09:55 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;141765 wrote:
I would go so far to say that man lives in his concepts, that his own concepts are the intelligible structure of his reality. So a new concept is a new piece of the world, something (at best) truly new beneath the sun.

I like Deleuze when he talks of the invention of concept. I don't know if it's the translation, but I wonder if he really thinks we can think without concepts? From my understanding of the word concept, thinking and concepts are the same animal.

Would you care to elaborate on being-through-itself? Is this related to time penetrating time in the metaphorically Hegelian sense? A self-penetrating system of concepts?


It seems to me that we had better first worry about thinking straight. After that, we can worry about whether we can think without concepts.
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Mar, 2010 08:40 pm
@Reconstructo,
Not only philosophy but discourse in general is rife with fresh or mummified metaphor. Else we could not invent so many new words. We just use an old word in a new way, until the new way is the only way we are using it. But then of course some uses this same word in yet a another way. Etc. Etc.
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Mar, 2010 10:24 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;142397 wrote:
Not only philosophy but discourse in general is rife with fresh or mummified metaphor. Else we could not invent so many new words. We just use an old word in a new way, until the new way is the only way we are using it. But then of course some uses this same word in yet a another way. Etc. Etc.
Don't see the great importance of inventing words, as it only confuses more than helps.

Many metaphors can be misleading, since they'r based on naivity.

We have metaphors such as "military/surgical precision" neither is very good as surgence are by it's nature involes humans which can't even draw a 100% straight line.
In military there are many incompetent leaders, just look at the recent gulf wars, as most allied casualties was caused by friendly fire.
Razzleg
 
  2  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 04:52 am
@HexHammer,
Metaphor is vital to philosophical discourse, and developing new ideas, if not discussing ideas in general, would be nigh impossible without it. Of course, metaphor isn't a way of creating new words, but of attributing new meanings to existing words by demonstrating analogous relationships.

Plato's use of the word idea was itself a metaphor. He took a word that referred to the visible aspect of an object, it's appearance, to refer to something invisible to the eye. He used the term to refer to something perceptible only to the mind.

As is the case with many metaphors, as the usage became more common the existence of the analogy became less important in understanding that meaning of the term.
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 01:40 pm
@Razzleg,
Razzleg;142944 wrote:
Of course, metaphor isn't a way of creating new words, but of attributing new meanings to existing words by demonstrating analogous relationships.


Perhaps it would better to say that the word is new, as it's meaning is new.

---------- Post added 04-10-2010 at 02:42 PM ----------

Razzleg;142944 wrote:

As is the case with many metaphors, as the usage became more common the existence of the analogy became less important in understanding that meaning of the term.


I agree. I would say that the meaning is learned via context rather than analogy. And yet analogy is often the more potent way to learn meaning. Historicism in regards to words, you might say.

---------- Post added 04-10-2010 at 02:42 PM ----------

Razzleg;142944 wrote:


Plato's use of the word idea was itself a metaphor. He took a word that referred to the visible aspect of an object, it's appearance, to refer to something invisible to the eye. He used the term to refer to something perceptible only to the mind.



This is a great example. I find it quite interesting to see the raw material that Plato made his terms from.
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  2  
Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2010 10:26 pm
@Reconstructo,
I still vote Metaphor for half-President of Philosophy.
0 Replies
 
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jun, 2010 05:02 am
@rhinogrey,
rhinogrey;139608 wrote:
All philosophy is metaphor, insofar as the conceptualization is a creative action spurring from presence.
I have to disagree, very little philosophy can be metaphors.
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Sep, 2010 03:27 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo wrote:


Do you have any favorite examples of figurative language in philosophy?

"Faith is like floating in water that is 70,000 fathoms deep" ... Kierkegaard
0 Replies
 
demonhunter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Feb, 2012 09:14 pm
@Reconstructo,
If I think of an analogy as a symbol, then it becomes clear to me that this is how our understanding works. Every letter is a symbol. Every word is a symbol. Every sentence is a symbol. So on and so forth. Everything is a symbol of some concept and every type of reasoning analogous reasoning.
I am not really the type to make "all or nothing" statements, but, I find it hard to think otherwise. Furthermore, I am convinced that analogous arguments (that is, the types that make use of metaphor or the sort) are the most difficult types to counter argue. The reason being is that through metaphorical language, it becomes very clear how difficult "true and accurate" communication might actually be. However, through metephors, we feel like we understand better!
While all of this stuff sounds rather simple, it actually says much about us. I believe it does, anyway.
 

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