Academic journal article et Cetera

Metaphors We Live By

Academic journal article et Cetera

Metaphors We Live By

Article excerpt

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Sherman said, "War is hell," but the rest of us speak as if "argument is war." We also talk as if "ideas are food" and "up is good." In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson present a carefully constructed discussion of the way we incorporate metaphors into our language at the most fundamental levels of conception and understanding. They contend that without the structure and concepts that metaphors provide, we would find our understanding of the world severely limited.

The metaphors they highlight pervade daily conversations, but without the conscious knowledge of most speakers. "Up is good," for example, comes from our upright physical position, our awareness of the sky and the ground, and other related concepts. When happy, we stand up and hold our heads high; when sad, we droop and our gaze drops to the ground - obvious once you hear it, but more widespread than you might think. "The market is up today," "support is growing," "are you up for this?," "the sky's the limit," etc. The authors point out that the presence of these deeply embedded metaphors can explain why some statements never ring true - they employ concepts of a metaphor that does not match with our cultural upbringing and the way we see the world working.

In traditional Western philosophies, metaphor belongs in the realm of poetry - useful for evoking specific images or perhaps a vivid emotion, but not important to our conceptualization or understanding of the world. Indeed, objectivism views metaphorical language with great suspicion, as a tool for obscuring objective truth and elevating the "abhorred subjective." On the other side of the traditionally two-sided Western paradigm, subjectivists reject the idea of absolutes and contend that only through metaphor can we discover and describe our uniqueness and individuality, the only truth worth knowing. …

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