Academic journal article Style

Cognitive Science Applied to Pauline Metaphors in 1 Thessalonians: Conceptual Blending and the Sleep and Death Motif

Academic journal article Style

Cognitive Science Applied to Pauline Metaphors in 1 Thessalonians: Conceptual Blending and the Sleep and Death Motif

Article excerpt

In Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, the possibilities of interpretation are opened by way of his iconoclastic destruction of the language of philosophy. Rather than assume the objectivity of objects directed through language, Wittgenstein does not want to penetrate phenomena but to open up numerous possibilities through language, since "language is a labyrinth of paths" (para. 203). By doing so he is destroying "nothing but houses of cards and ... clearing up the ground of language on which they stand" (para. 118). Terms with fixed meanings are limited by human language in culture. For example, linguistic descriptions of objects by a given culture do not necessarily correspond to a shared objective reality for every member of the culture. The meaning of the object and its consequent interpretations within the culture are at best approximate. The objective forms of philosophy are not quite as objective as they may have seemed to earlier philosophers. As Kant seriously challenged the arguments for the metaphysical existence of an infinite being by reminding us that we are finite, so Wittgenstein created a new understanding of words and their meanings and complicated the world of our language so that the simplest word could be construed in a variety of ways. One could not assume that there is a direct correspondence between a word and its object. Our finite existence within a particular culture colors every word that we use depending on the context in which we use it.

Even the word is becomes open to interpretation. I use this word since so much press revolved around former President Clinton's argument in his alleged perjury in the well-known scandal that plagued his presidency. The often-quoted phrase "it depends how you define is," in referring to the sexual relationship between him and Monica Lewinsky, seemed absurd. It would not have seemed so to Wittgenstein, who argues:

   What does it mean to say that the "is" in "the rose is red" has a
   different meaning from the "is" in "twice two is four"? If it is
   answered that it means that different rules are valid for these two
   words, we can say that we have only one word here.--And if all I am
   attending to is grammatical rules, these do allow the use of the
   word "is" in both connexions.--But the rule which shews that the
   word "is" has different meanings in these sentences is the one
   allowing us to replace the word "is" in the second sentence by the
   sign of equality, and forbidding this substitution in the first
   sentence. (para. 558)

This argument applies to current metaphor theory and cognitive science.

Wittgenstein's legacy is found in modern metaphor theory. In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, like Wittgenstein, reject terms with fixed meanings and opt rather for the idea of family resemblances. Chickens, ostriches, and penguins are not prototypical birds, but they share enough family resemblances with the bird category that we include them within the bird family conceptually (Lakoff and Johnson 71). Like language, metaphors are more than mere objective terms. When we categorize we do so out of our interactional experience both with both the physical world and our cultural environment. Metaphors create conceptual systems by drawing from two gestalt experiences we have in world and culture and by viewing one or the same aspect of something in relation to another (10). Since language is imbued with metaphor, the aversion to objective concepts continues in work on metaphor theory. But the concepts are not arbitrary or reduced to subjectivity because they are created within the constraints of our physical world and the culture in which we live (14).

For my purposes, I wish to focus on the novel metaphor that Lakoff and Johnson discuss and on Mark Turner's improvement in understanding how novel metaphors operate. The concept of death as sleep in Thessalonians will validate the importance of novel concepts, or what Turner calls creative blends in metaphor theory. …

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