Metaphors We Live By
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Conceptual metaphors are seen in language in our everyday lives. Conceptual metaphors shape not just our communication, but also shape the way we think and act. In George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's work, Metaphors We Live By (1980), we see how everyday language is filled with metaphors we may not always notice. An example of one of the commonly used conceptual metaphors is "argument is war".
We use metaphors to think about all the most important things in our life: love, time, ideas, arguments, labor, happiness, health, and morality are all abstract concepts that we think about in terms of metaphors rooted in our day-to-day experience.
This is not something happening consciously, but is a by product of how all humans relate to and use metaphors. Once you are in that metaphor, it shapes your behavior and thinking in ways that are incredibly subtle and powerful.
Once we accept that we have to reason through metaphors, we also have to accept that there is no absolute standpoint from which to obtain objective truths about the world. This does not mean that there are no truths. It means that truth is relative to our conceptual system, which is grounded in our experiences and those of other members of our culture in our daily interactions with other people and with our physical and cultural environments.
Developing an awareness of the metaphors we live by and an awareness of where they enter into our everyday lives, we can start to be more mindful about which metaphors are serving us and which are not.
Is it true that all of us, not just poets, speak in metaphors, whether we realize it or not? Is it perhaps even true that we live by metaphors? In Metaphors We Live By George Lakoff, a linguist, and Mark Johnson, a philosopher, suggest that metaphors not only make our thoughts more vivid and interesting but that they actually structure our perceptions and understanding. Thinking of marriage as a "contract agreement," for example, leads to one set of expectations, while thinking of it as "team play," "a negotiated settlement," "Russian roulette," "an indissoluble merger," or "a religious sacrament" will carry different sets of expectations. When a government thinks of its enemies as "turkeys or "clowns" it does not take them as serious threats, but if the are "pawns" in the hands of the communists, they are taken seriously indeed. Metaphors We Live By has led many readers to a new recognition of how profoundly metaphors not only shape our view of life in the present but set up the expectations that determine what life well be for us in the future. (from introduction in The Conscious Reader)
Primarily on the basis of linguistic evidence, we have found that most of our ordinary conceptual system is metaphorical in nature. And we have found a way to begin to identify in detail just what the metaphors are halt structure how we perceive, how we think, and what we do.
The metaphorical concepts TIME IS MONEY, TIME 1S A RESOURCE, and TIME IS A VALUABLE COMMODITY form a single system based on sub-categorization, since in our society money is a limited resource and limited resources are valuable commodities. These sub categorization relationships characterize entailment relationships between the metaphors: TIME IS MONEY entails that TIME IS A LIMITED RESOURCE, which entails that TIME 1S A VALUABLE COMMODITY.
On the other hand, metaphorical concepts can be extended beyond the range of ordinary literal ways of thinking and talking into the range of what is called figurative, poetic, colorful, or fanciful thought and language. Thus, if ideas are objects, we can dress them?n up in fancy clothes, juggle them, line them up nice and neat, etc. So when we say that a concept is structured by a metaphors we mean that it is partially structured and that it can be extended in some ways but not others.
Such metaphorical orientations are not arbitrary. They have a basis in our physical and cultural experience. Though the polar oppositions up-down,in-out, etc., are physical in nature, the orientational metaphors based on them vary from culture to culture. For example, in some cultures the future is in front of us, whereas in others it is in back. We will be looking at up-down spatialization metaphors, which have been studied intensively by William Nagy, as an illustration. In each case, we will give a brief hint about how such metaphorical concept might have arisen from our physical and cultural experience. These accounts are mean, to be suggestive and plausible, not definitive.
In this paper, I will, after discussing the conceptualisation of metaphors, start by addressing aspects of mechanistic philosophyFootnote 1 that form an important historical backdrop for the current use of machine metaphors. I argue that the living machines metaphor contributes to an idea of radical human control of the living world and that the success of synthetic biology in spreading visions of how its engineering approach will change life as we know it means that the machine metaphor becomes further ingrained in societal perceptions of living organisms. I discuss how design in synthetic biology is perceived to enable us to shape natural beings to our will, and briefly consider ethical, epistemological and ontological implications of the prevalence of this. I argue that other metaphors do not currently serve to properly balance the living machines metaphor, and we urgently need to search for such balance in the face of the dominant metaphor. Therefore, I look to artworks that set out to challenge the notion of life as machinery for quite other, equally spectacular visions.Footnote 2 The evocative, embodied presence of art can, I argue, serve as a counterbalance to the predominance of a metaphor that frames life in a rather reductive and inaccurate manner. I discuss three artworks that are themselves concerned in various ways with control, but that problematize the extent to which we can control and understand living organisms. Drawing on artworks in the discussion of synthetic biology is particularly appropriate, since a subsection of this field, whose efforts to engineer biology is focused on creativity, play, and the spectacular, explicitly values aesthetics and the creative input of artists and designers [6, 7].
The machine metaphor is highly helpful in synbio for analysing parts and their function within the whole, and in some cases for understanding how to create novel, useful organisms based on known principles. However, it also leads to systematic under-appreciation of qualities of organisms that do not fit the language of this master metaphor, such as evolutionary development and ecosystem interactions. This may result in underestimating the side effects of synthetically created organisms in an environment , over-confidence in technological fixes, and missed opportunities for scientific understanding [10, 22]. Therefore, the persistent use of these metaphors can be considered an ethical issue that needs to be dealt with responsibly .
Taught by the Rev. Michael Lemaire, February 26, March 5, 12, and 19 at 10:10 in the Parish Hall and on Zoom (click here to enter Zoom call). Metaphors shape our understanding of the world by describing one thing in terms of another. Metaphors are pervasive in our language but we often miss how they both enrich and limit our understanding. This is especially true when it comes to religious language that seeks to describe a world unseen. In this class, we will explore how metaphors function in our daily communication, how metaphors shape our understanding of ourselves, how Jesus used metaphors and in some ways is himself a metaphor of God, and how metaphors can become idols. The goal of the class is to both liberate and enrich our God talk so that we can better find the needed images and metaphors of God that will serve us through the various seasons of our spiritual life.
I found the book incredibly insightful, and in large agreement with many of my recent thoughts on the philosophies of mind and science. After taking a few flights to finish the book, I wanted to take a moment to provide a mini-review. The hope is to convincing you to make the time for reading this short volume.Lakoff and Johnson present over 58 different metaphors with a series of examples. For instance, their opening metaphor, and one they return to frequently, is Argument is War. They present it with a series of examples:
I went to a talk by Siddhartha Mukherjee (the medical doctor who wrote The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, -Emperor-All-Maladies-Biography/dp/1439170916) and he mentioned that the metaphors and narratives used for a disease matters significantly to how people react to diseases and how treatments are developed. I agree with him wholeheartedly and thought that it is quite relevant to what you are describing here in this post.
The problem is that their work suggests metaphors get defined outside and thus more stably than general linguistic convention, while I would on the contrary enroll metaphor as a gear of linguistic evolution.
I became interested in metaphor and analogy as a graduate student in philosophy of science in the 1970s. Important scientific ideas such as natural selection and the wave theories of sound and light were built from metaphors and made to work by analogical thinking. In the 1980s, I started building computational models of analogy. So when I got interested in balance because of a case of vertigo in 2016, I naturally noticed the abundance of balance metaphors operating in science and everyday life. Once the pandemic hit, I was struck by the prevalence of the powerful metaphor of making public health decisions while balancing lives and livelihoods.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Keith Holyoak and I collaborated on a series of articles and books about analogy, which is the underpinning of complex metaphors. His new book is a delightfully insightful discussion of metaphors in poetry, drawing not only on his deep knowledge of cognitive psychology but also on his experience as a highly published poet. Through analysis of great poems by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and many others, he illuminates how metaphors contribute to beautiful poems and to creativity in general. 781b155fdc