Metaphor and Heidegger's Kant

Article excerpt

Both Paul Ricoeur in The Rule of Metaphor and Carl Hausman in Metaphor and Art draw on Kantian ontology to explain how a metaphor can create new yet appropriate meaning.(1) Hausman, on the one hand, explains new metaphorical meaning by the direct proposal of an ontology. This is made up of unique, extraconceptual particulars akin to Kant's things in themselves which, Hausman maintains, stand as the referents of inventive metaphors and, therefore, as the items which guarantee their appropriateness. Ricoeur, on the other hand, turns indirectly to ontology via an allusion to Kant and the transcendental functioning of the mind which determines, prior to experience, the ontological order of the world. Ricoeur suggests that new metaphorical meaning is achieved as a result of the tension between creative and claim-making discourses where the operation of the latter proceeds "from the very structures of the mind, which it is the task of transcendental philosophy to articulate."(2)

The appeal to ontology is made by Hausman and Ricoeur in order to overcome a paradox. The paradox is that, on their interactionist understanding of the trope, a strong metaphor creates a meaning which is in some way objective or truthful, yet this meaning is new, which is to say that, prior to the metaphor, the independent subject terms could neither suggest the new meaning nor signify the concepts which would support it. If the meaning is new, what is it that supplies the feeling of appropriateness?

The relation between metaphor and Kant is not merely the product of a coincidence of reference in the two scholars' work. The phenomenon of inventive metaphor is a concentration of the problem faced by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason.(3) One of the premises adopted by Kant is that experience, to be experience, must be experience which belongs to a subject. From this premise he attempts to determine the principles of organization which the subject must apply a priori in order for intelligible experience to be possible. The problem to which this arrangement gives rise, however, is how to secure objectivity given the investment of the possibility of experience within the subject. Kant does not want to assert that the mind creates its own subjective reality but that it merely supplies the conditions which enable experience of an objective reality to be possible. He has somehow to project himself out of his self-made subjective prison.

Heidegger is relevant here. His contribution is to suggest ways in which structures already present in the Critique allow Kant to confirm the objectivity of experience.(4) Kant asks how it is possible for empirical intuitions to be subsumed under pure, ontological concepts, and introduces the notion of a schema as the mediating condition.(5) Unfortunately, the manner in which a schema reconciles the two natures is not clearly defined and, ultimately, Kant dismisses the possibility of their subsumption as "an art concealed in the depths of the human soul."(6) I explicate Heidegger's interpretation of Kant and, with supporting material from the Critique, show that what Kant perceived as an incongruity is in fact the tension in virtue of which the categories receive objective application. It is this tension between the ontological and the empirical, I argue, which consolidates both Ricoeur's appeal to transcendental philosophy and Hausman's notion of a unique metaphorical referent.

Both Hausman and Ricoeur are working from the perspective of the interactionist theory of metaphor developed by Black.(7) In con trast to the comparison theory, which asserts that a metaphor simply makes explicit what was already implicit, interactionism promotes the creativity of metaphor by stressing the trilogistic nature of the trope. A metaphorical expression is made up of two subjects: (in Black's idiom) the primary subject, the word used literally, and the secondary subject, the word used nonliterally. The third element which completes the metaphor is the interaction which occurs between the two subjects. …