Metaphor: Implications and Applications

Metaphor: Implications and Applications

Metaphor: Implications and Applications

Metaphor: Implications and Applications

Synopsis

Research on metaphor has been dominated by Aristotelian questions of processes in metaphor understanding. Although this area is important, it leaves unasked Platonic questions of how structures of the mind affect such processes. Moreover, there has been relatively little work on how metaphors affect human behavior. Although there are numerous postdictive or speculative accounts of the power of metaphors to affect human behavior in particular areas, such as clinical or political arenas, empirical verification of these accounts has been sparse.

To fill this void, the editors have compiled this work dedicated to empirical examination of how metaphors affect human behavior and understanding. The book is divided into four sections: metaphor and pragmatics, clinical uses of metaphor, metaphor and politics, and other applications of metaphor. Chapters contained within these sections attempt to merge Aristotelian questions with Platonic ones.

Excerpt

With language, as with much of cognitive psychology, one can contrast an Aristotelian and Platonic approach to the understanding of the world. The Aristotelian approach emphasizes how one represents and presents external reality. The goal of the cognitive system is to perform these functions with efficiency, and accuracy (i.e., match of the internal world with the external world) is the mark of the fully functioning efficient system. The Platonic approach, on the other hand, argues that our understanding of reality is at best a faint reflection of a more enduring truth. In effect, analysis of how we understand the world does not give us an indication of accuracy, but rather gives us insight into how our mind organizes the world. From the perspective of language, the Platonic approach places the workload in the organization of our conceptual world, and not in the processing modules that deal with linguistic input alone.

Until very recently, the study of metaphor and other instances of figurative language was very much localized within the Aristotelian tradition. The guise taken was that of modern concerns with computational questions: Namely, how do people recognize that a given statement is intended as a figurative expression (and not, as is often the case, the literal expression that is being asserted) and, once recognized, how does one actually compute the intended figurative sense? For instance, if one heard the statement, "Juliet is the sun," the modern question of interest was in understanding how one recovered the intended meaning. Assuming that the cognitive system evolved to accurately represent the world, statements of this sort pose a problem, because it is unlikely that the speaker of such a statement intended us to recover . . .

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