Metaphorical meaning

Metaphorical meaning
Hanover
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Posted Jan 28, 2011 - 5:43 PM:

jac3510 wrote:

In the OP's defense, Hanover, the idea that all language is a metaphor doesn't mean that no word has a literal meaning. It is, so far as I understand it, a linguistic expression of certain metaphysical and epistemological commitments. If we suppose along with Descarte, Hume, Kant, etc. that all we really experience is our sense-data, then we can't properly speak of a reality external to our minds. So, to what, then, does a word refer? It doesn't refer to the reality itself. It refers to our mental representation of that reality--to the idea, if you will.


I would think DesCartes would hold that our perceptions do reflect reality, as an all good God would not so deceive us. I would agree that Kant would hold that we cannot know true reality (the noumenal), but we can know it exists through our perceptions (phenomenally). I'd think Hume would hold that we assume reality by association of our perceptions with certain events, but true knowledge cannot be had. But, I digress.

Assuming Kant's view here that our phenomenal states are the result of so much interpretation that we cannot suggest they are aligned with reality, then I think what we are left with is "we don't really know reality." I don't see where the world of analogies, comparisons, similes, and metaphors comes into play with this world view. There is a difference between speaking in vaguaries (as in "I'm not sure what the hell I'm looking at") as opposed to speaking in comparisons (as in "it's hot as hell in here"). The latter assumes an understanding of hell and heat, whereas the former is just an admission of confusion.

If what the OP means is that our words cannot completely capture reality because we cannot fully understand reality, then I would agree with that, but I think to say "all language is a metaphor" is being used overly metaphorical and clearly not literallly, which others have pointed out.
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#22 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 28, 2011 - 5:44 PM:

yffer wrote:
If a dead metaphor is not a metaphor what is it?
It's a dead or forgotten metaphor. The word "literal" is an example of that. It started out as a metaphor based on writing and letters, but now it has a firmly embedded meaning in the language. No one thinks of it as a metaphor, though it's origin is as a metaphor.
Hanover
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Posted Jan 28, 2011 - 5:44 PM:

yffer wrote:


If a dead metaphor is not a metaphor what is it?
It's a personification and a murder.
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Posted Jan 28, 2011 - 6:04 PM:

Hanover wrote:


I would think DesCartes would hold that our perceptions do reflect reality, as an all good God would not so deceive us. I would agree that Kant would hold that we cannot know true reality (the noumenal), but we can know it exists through our perceptions (phenomenally). I'd think Hume would hold that we assume reality by association of our perceptions with certain events, but true knowledge cannot be had. But, I digress.

Assuming Kant's view here that our phenomenal states are the result of so much interpretation that we cannot suggest they are aligned with reality, then I think what we are left with is "we don't really know reality." I don't see where the world of analogies, comparisons, similes, and metaphors comes into play with this world view. There is a difference between speaking in vaguaries (as in "I'm not sure what the hell I'm looking at") as opposed to speaking in comparisons (as in "it's hot as hell in here"). The latter assumes an understanding of hell and heat, whereas the former is just an admission of confusion.

If what the OP means is that our words cannot completely capture reality because we cannot fully understand reality, then I would agree with that, but I think to say "all language is a metaphor" is being used overly metaphorical and clearly not literallly, which others have pointed out.

Again, all this gets much deeper than a simple post or two. But if you decide that we don't have direct access the the extra mental world, then you have much bigger problems with language than I think you might be appreciating here. Let's just use a simple example. Suppose you are looking at a cat, and you declare: "That is a cat."

What do you mean by cat? You have some general conception of "cat" in mind, so the word really doesn't refer to anything more than something in your own mind.

Fine, but what do you mean by "that." This is where it gets sticky. Our normal intuition would tell us that "that" refers to the cat; but it turns out that if we don't have access to the world, then it doesn't at all. It merely refers to our interpretation of our particular sense data. So we take a picture that we have created to interpret the sense data, and we compare "that" with the picture in our head of a cat (which, coincidentally, was somewhere along the lines formed in precisely the same manner!). So what is being compared is not the cat and our concept, but rather one interpretive picture against another.

At best, then, what we have are approximations, which is to say, similes of various degrees. At worst, we have nothing but a word game with no connection to reality. This all gets even more complicated when you add a second party to the mix and start trying to think about conversation. Language, after all, communicates, but communication requires other people. So now we don't just have your two pictures being compared, but their two pictures as well, and you have no way of knowing if your two pictures line up with theirs. You can't even assume that their interpretation of reality is the same as your own. Again, all we are left with on this view, when it gets down to it, are approximations of pictures that represent mental concepts. Reality never enters the picture; typically, we understand a word that doesn't refer to reality to be, in some sense, figurative. And thus, you can, in some sense, properly say that on the view being discussed, language is purely metaphorical.

Now, as an aside, I don't want you to think that I am arguing this view necessarily leads to absolute skepticism. It does seem to make objectivity impossible; it seems to imply certainty is impossible as well. There is a certain force to the argument that language, however figurative and approximate it is, [i]works[/oi], and so shy of any metaphysical reasons to think we have any grasp of reality, we at least have pragmatic reasons for doing so. I admit that to work on some level.

Personally, I think Kant was wrong, anyway, and that we do have access to reality. But that's really another debate.
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Posted Jan 28, 2011 - 6:17 PM:

jac3510 wrote:
Personally, I think Kant was wrong, anyway, and that we do have access to reality.
Yes, but mediated by and limited by our senses and our technologies, methinks.
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Posted Jan 28, 2011 - 6:25 PM:

Veritas Vincit wrote:
Yes, but mediated by and limited by our senses and our technologies, methinks.

More specifically, mediated through our senses ("by" of means or agency). And, yes, our grasp on reality is limited by them as well, but that by nature. What I would object to is the common thought that all we really have access to is our mental representations of reality.
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Posted Jan 28, 2011 - 6:55 PM:

jac3510 wrote:
More specifically, mediated through our senses ("by" of means or agency).

Darn! I think I just tripped over a metaphor. wink

And, yes, our grasp on reality is limited by them as well, but that by nature. What I would object to is the common thought that all we really have access to is our mental representations of reality.
I agree that the notion that all we have access to is in our heads is, well, wrongheaded. grin
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Posted Jan 29, 2011 - 7:12 PM:

jac3510 wrote:
What do you mean by cat? You have some general conception of "cat" in mind, so the word really doesn't refer to anything more than something in your own mind.
When either of us say we see a cat, what we mean is that we have a phenomenal state of what appears to be a cat. Whether our representation of the actual cat is correct is a metaphysical quandry, but it's not a linguistic one. In each instance where we reference a cat, we reference the same image, which may or may not really be how the actual cat really is. It seems indisputable that our brains interpret data, so I'm not sure how anyone gets around the question of whether the interpretation has overly corrupted reality unless one just takes the dogmatic view that perception = reality.
At best, then, what we have are approximations, which is to say, similes of various degrees. At worst, we have nothing but a word game with no connection to reality. [quote]When we say "I see a cat," we don't mean that we have a perception that is like a real cat in reality. What we mean is that our perception is of what we take to be a cat. I just don't think we have these metaphysical concepts in our mind when we speak. Our language is coveying our thought without regard to Kant's (or anyone else's) metaphysical quandries.[quote] So now we don't just have your two pictures being compared, but their two pictures as well, and you have no way of knowing if your two pictures line up with theirs. You can't even assume that their interpretation of reality is the same as your own.
This problem is not the consequence of my belief that all language is not metaphor. This is a basic problem in the philosophy of consciousness. I believe (although some do not) that phenomenal states are ineffable. A subjective experience (as is the image of the cat in your mind) is not fully conveyable. You cannot know whether my experience of the cat is like yours. You also cannot convey purely subjective thoughts that have no objective correlate, like pain.
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Posted Jan 30, 2011 - 3:37 AM:

I must admit to being provocative, I don't argue that all language is metaphor simply because that defines the presence of metaphor as purely linguistical. Visual meatphors and feelings are expressions of meaning and information related to our present experience. Which is why I consider things in terms of presence.

"The challenge would seem to be less a matter of showing it's truth, and more in demonstrating it's usefulness."
Thanks Veritas Vincit you've raised this point and I have my own opinions but what would you, or others view as useful, in an inquiry of the human mind and experience? What would or wouldn't a theory or approach involve. My own feelings are that meaningful ideas would have a strong correspondence with more 'experience' than current theories offer.

How can one compare things using only associations of associations and no things. Wow, that makes it sound like quantum physics.sticking out tongue. You have touched on part of the purpose of my post, by 'things' I take it you mean things we experience. So the realness of experiece is the 'rule of thumb' that governs the associations we make with that reality, emotional attachement to concepts allow for a kind of analogue governance in the relationship between the terms(of description) and the conditions(experienced). This leads into Banno's logical statement.
"So in order to use language metaphorically, we must first be able to use it literally. A metaphorical use is defined in comparison to a literal use."

True, especiall if what we mean by using language is idealising information, The danger is that we take our own thoughts literally, when our figure of speech become a spectre in thought.

If I might use this Representational Theory of Meaning as a contrast to metaphorical meaning and maybe realise some advantage to this terminology. The theory is that meaning is wrought from mental representations, so it's reasonable to assume that; that which is meaningful is always represented, not always the case. Also, that meaning can't come from what isn't represented, since a finite amount of information is contained in any single representation the view is always flawed. Metaphorical meaning is a view that an expression is associated meaning and that any idea is open to association with other information, 'relative' assocations that inform as well as the main bodies of attention. Metaphorical meaning doesn't require the 'process' of representation, simply that associations are brought to life, that information is used rather than making something more of it. Metaphorical, associated, meaning is relative to other ideas regarding association, theories from linguistics to behavioural and learning studies. It's a form of understanding that fields concrete and abstract ideas in a metaphorical surface, a context, to study connectivity.

Veritas Vincit has started another thread related to this issue, the embodiment of meaning. This is an important question in terms of the substance we discuss here and in Epistemology. You may your self have thought of ideas being conceived, brought into some sort of being. At this point the form of understanding occupies most attention, to perceive and define what we behold.Yes there is probably something figurstive to build on but the drama is also an 'expression of nature' and should shed light on the enquiry into the mind. This doesn't mean discounting any substance so far realised and associated to the mind, the meaning of any idea can be given presence in attention, similarly to how, a presence-of-mind, is communicated. Metaphor seems the only logical way of exploring the animation given that literal meanings relate to something substantial, in terms of concentration and influence, only by making things questionable can we enquire as to their meaning.

jac3510 wrote:
At best, then, what we have are approximations, which is to say, similes of various degrees. At worst, we have nothing but a word game with no connection to reality. This all gets even more complicated when you add a second party to the mix and start trying to think about conversation. Language, after all, communicates, but communication requires other people. So now we don't just have your two pictures being compared, but their two pictures as well, and you have no way of knowing if your two pictures line up with theirs. You can't even assume that their interpretation of reality is the same as your own. Again, all we are left with on this view, when it gets down to it, are approximations of pictures that represent mental concepts.


In the OP's defense, Hanover, the idea that all language is a metaphor doesn't mean that no word has a literal meaning. It is, so far as I understand it, a linguistic expression of certain metaphysical and epistemological commitments.

Thanks this mostly sums up my impressions and ideas, the further 'creativity' being that one item of information, has a literal place in thinking, conceiving a word-meaning may involve bringing the whole world to life to define one thought relative to it. Yes, part of the problem is that meaning is a kind of conditioning and objects/subjects grow more defined with concentration. This is where the metaphorical surface comes in, where ideas are structured and held together. As a metaphor the plane isn't physical but it is imaginable and fabricated from the presence and depth of perception and objects in attention. Because we use metaphor the subject is mutable and can be contined in a sense of movement and mass there are no broken metaphor jus ones that can or can't be associated with matters in mind. Attention is an energrtic input but it gets mystical if we begin talking in such terms, but if we think of that energy being stress this makes pressure, tension and friction part of the surface we work with, accessible to the senses and relative to governance of how things appear as we move from high to low stress states of animation.

It's a little more than symbolism because Metaphor is both a process and product of assocation and communication and doesn't necessitate all the work of shaping, modelling or otherwise manufacturing meaning. By considering energy as stress none of the dynamism is lost in translation and the terms can be associated from observer attention, right through ecology to the quantum fluctuations that may be associated with reality, the present.

Edited by atticusII on Jan 30, 2011 - 3:52 AM
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Posted Feb 2, 2011 - 9:05 AM:

I can imagine that there's some doubt about my use of the term metaphor and you'd probably have to be a cognitive linguist to appreciate there's much unknown about the metaphorical process.

This link http://theliterarylink.com/metaphors.htmlgives a few examples of how I try and describe metaphor as more than a linguistic or literary device.

Or you can see Miichael Reddy's Conduit Metaphor on line here. www.biolinguagem.com/biolin..._1979_conduit_metaphor.pdf
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