At 21:10 22/11/96 +0000, David Lachapelle wrote:
>I would like to take exception to Joseph Milne who sounds the alarm at
>metaphor... that they hide hidden agendas and obscurate discussion.
>They may at times do this... but I think they are necessary as ways to
>link our triune brain functions together. The reptile and the mammal
>and the neocortex have different symbol systems and need to be fed
>simultaneously or else they get real cranky. (try teaching philosophy to
>teenagers without a metaphor some time if you want to see cranky!)They
>are the keys to unlocking understanding which is not processed
>sequentially and involves radical figure ground shifts... your basic aha
>In my experience a good metaphor slips past the defense structure of
>our conscious mind and weaves a basket of understanding which we can
>call the doorway to our soul...
>Metaphor is the only way I think I could possibly approach the absolute
>and survive to tell the story...
>I would suggest a rigorous stroll down the path of Rumi and other Sufi
>poets if you want to come to appreciate the power of metaphor to
>instruct and soothe the heart.
>In the face of technology, which achieves its power based on predictable
>outcomes, metaphor is the savior our humanness, the flower of our
>ability to transcend the obvious and arrive at solutions to dilemmas
>which seem without cure.
Dear David Lachapelle,
Thank you for your comment. I see your point and can only agree. I see now
that I chose the wrong word when I said metaphor. What I was trying to get
at (at 4 in the morning!) was the tendency to redescribe things in term of
other things. For example to describe society in terms of a technology. I
think the word I should have used was 'analogy'. But there comes a point
where it is forgotten that an analogy has been called upon and we then think
we are talking of something in exact language. What we name things embodies
our mode of understanding them. An analogy conceals as well as reveals
things. For example i have heard many people talk of thought as 'just
firing neurons'. Such an analogy may tell us something quite true about the
brain, but the analogy also ends up concealing what the activity of thought
is in direct experience. Do neurons really 'fire'? I do not think so. A
lot is in the word 'just', and it is this word that conceals in that
analogy. So it is the danger of reductive descriptions that I was concerned
with, not metaphore.
At the same time I doubt if the natural sciences ought to use metaphors at
all. This conceals their empirical basis. An example is 'the singularity'
when speaking of the 'big bang'. Neither 'big bang' nor 'singularity'
really describe anything acurately. I have spoken with scientists about
this and have been told that the word 'singularity' was sellected to give an
impressive term for an unknown factor and that it does not actually indicate
anything at all. It is a cover-up word. The problem now is that, because
that unknown something has been given a name, we are led to think that there
is in a fact a singularity and so lay people end up speaking of scientific
knowledge of the singularity. So we imagin we know of something when we do
But you are quite right to defend all the different modalities of language
and communication and I am sorry if I gave the impression I was attacking them.
With all good wishes,