Thursday, May 29, 2008

Metaphors We Live By 3

Probably two or three posts today... so many goals, so little time.

Today's chapter is a delicious 4 pages and deals with the fact that metaphorical conceptual systems highlight certain things and at the same time hide others. [This is a great Foucaultian recognition].

The example of this chapter is the metaphorical system of how we talk about language, namely, that language is a container, that ideas are objects, and that communication is sending an object through this container to someone else. Michael Reddy calls this the "conduit metaphor" of language. [and it is intrinsic to structuralism]

Examples: "I gave you that idea," "His words carry little meaning," "It's hard to get that idea across."

But this is a metaphor and following it through too closely leads to conclusions that do not hold true. For example, words and sentences do not have meanings in themselves independent of a context or speaker. [as Wittgenstein so aptly has shown. What is the meaning of the word "fire" independent of any context--getting fired, shooting someone, a command to run out of a building for your life, telling a child the name of the orangish-red thing in front of them?]

L and J use the celebrated example, "Please sit in the apple-juice seat." What does this mean by itself?

Another situation is where the same words might mean different things to different people: "We need to explore alternative sources of energy." Is it the President of Mobile Oil talking or the president of Friends of Earth?

The conduit metaphor does not work very well in instances such as these.

Metaphorical structuring is thus partial, not total. [This is the fatal flaw in Aristotle's simplistic definition of a metaphor] At least part of a metaphorical concept will not fit with the other. Accordingly, those parts that fit can be extended even further in a figurative direction, while other parts can't. [Derrida of course spent all his time focusing on the parts that couldn't]

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