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http://hhs.sagepub.com Mind, meaning and metaphor: the philosophy and psychology of metaphor in 19th-century Germany
Brigitte Nerlich and David D. Clarke History of the Human Sciences 2001; 14; 39 DOI: 10.1177/09526950122120952 The online version of this article can be found at: http://hhs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/2/39
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HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES
© 2001 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)
Vol. 14 No. 2
Mind, meaning and metaphor: the philosophy and psychology of metaphor in 19th-century Germany
BRIGITTE NERLICH and DAVID D. CLARKE
ABSTRACT This article explores a German philosophy of metaphor, which proposed a close link between the body and the mind as the basis for metaphor, debunked the view that metaphor is just a decorative rhetorical device and questioned the distinction between the literal and the ﬁgurative. This philosophy of metaphor developed at the intersection between a reﬂection on language and thought and a reﬂection on the nature of beauty in aesthetics. Thinkers such as Giambattista Vico, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jean Paul and others laid the foundations for this philosophy and it was successively reﬁned by Gustav Gerber, Alfred Biese and Friedrich Nietzsche. It inﬂuenced in its turn in various ways the linguistic study of metaphor and the psychology of metaphor as elaborated, for instance, by a lesser-known American scholar, Gertrude Buck. All these thinkers contributed to a philosophy and psychology of the metaphoric according to which metaphors are not only nice, but necessary for the structure and growth of human thought and language. Obvious parallels between this 19th-century philosophy of metaphor and the 20th-century theory of metaphor developed by Lakoff and his followers are examined throughout. Key words: cognition, history, metaphor, philosophy, psychology
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although well aware of the fact that the reﬂections on metaphor have their roots in ancient rhetoric. It was. well before cognitive linguistics came along. 1983). the third. on the other hand. This older approach was only partially integrated into the more modern linguistic current of thought on metaphor and was rejected as mere classiﬁcationism by most of the philosophers of metaphor. more recent one. which. the ﬁrst brought about by the reﬂections on metaphor by Ivor A.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24.1 This philosophy of metaphor developed at the intersection between a reﬂection on language and thought and a reﬂection on the nature of beauty in aesthetics. well before Johnson (1987). well before Lakoff and Johnson (1980).sagepub. 2001). as well as the philosophy and psychology of language. 2009 .40 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) INTRODUCTION Metaphor has had three relatively unrelated waves of fame in the 20th century. psychologists and philosophers of language seem to appreciate just how much research into metaphor was done during the 19th century in the ﬁelds of rhetoric. only a small number of 20th. In this article we want to focus on a philosophy of metaphor. questioned the distinction between the literal and the ﬁgurative. Thinkers such as Giambattista Vico (see Leezenberg. Quintilian and many other rhetoricians that followed in their footsteps. It inﬂuenced in its turn in various ways the linguistics of metaphor and the psychology of metaphor as elaborated. However. philosophy and psychology. for instance. the second provoked by Roman Jakobson’s papers on metaphor and metonymy (Jakobson. by Philipp Wegener. a view (arguably) held by Aristotle. Wilhelm Stählin and Karl Downloaded from http://hhs. the study of metaphor was on the one hand part of historical semantics studying mechanisms of semantic change. and which. debunked the view that metaphor is just a decorative rhetorical device. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. some of which will be discussed here. Whereas the rhetorical and the philosophical approaches to metaphor mostly clashed. such as metaphor (Nerlich. 1956. poetics and stylistics.and 21st-century linguists. proposed a close link between the body and the mind as the basis for metaphor. lexical semantics. Alfred Biese and Friedrich Nietzsche. Jean Paul (Johann Paul Friedrich Richter) and others laid the foundations for this philosophy and it was successively reﬁned by Gustav Gerber. which. They objected strongly to the deﬁnition of metaphor as a shortened comparison. Metaphors We Live By has become a standard text for those interested in cognitive linguistics. In the 19th century. Richards and Max Black published between 1930 and 1960. 1992). part of an ongoing philosophical reﬂection on the relationship between language. thought and reality. triggered by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s book Metaphors We Live By in the 1980s. Wilhelm Wundt. the linguistic and the philosophical ones intersected in the works of certain scholars. But the analysis of metaphor was also still part of the tradition which studied tropes and ﬁgures of speech in rhetoric.
when man was still at one with the world. Nerlich. Gertrude Buck (1971). 2000). One can ﬁnd Downloaded from http://hhs. language and thought. not only nice. 1985. 1893: 12) This seems to have been the spark that ignited a whole bonﬁre of metaphor analyses in Germany and abroad (see Trench. this two-dimensional trope did not yet exist. there is no such thing as an express and direct image of thought. MEANING AND METAPHOR 41 Bühler (see Nerlich and Clarke.2 (Quoted in Biese. but one proclaimed identities: metaphors were.MIND. The whole movement of analysing metaphor in the context of ordinary life. who. necessary synonyms for body and mind. indispensable to the effective communication of truth. but necessary (Ortony. 1831: 214). but was regarded as underlying the structure and evolution of human thought and language. All words are originally tropes. 1975). that is expressions turned . and only after losing its original colour could it become a literal sign.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. It is only by [these] expedients that mind can unfold itself to mind. like her German counterparts. as with children. they are (pace Locke. who had called metaphors a ‘perfect cheat’.sagepub. For the English rhetorician and philosopher Benjamin Humphrey Smart. they are on most occasions. essential parts of the original structure of language. 1890. for example. – language is made up of them. X. 2009 . 1831: 210) For him. Locke. . and that from which whatever is now plain at ﬁrst arose. . Nerlich. metaphor (insofar as it designated relations and not objects) was the ﬁrst word in spoken language. nor just a poetic ﬁction or decoration. seems to have reached a ﬁrst pan-European peak in the 1830s when linguists. (Smart. A similar view had been expressed by the philosopher Jean Paul in Germany in 1804. philosophers. All these thinkers contributed to a philosophy of the metaphoric according to which metaphor was neither just a ‘ﬁgure of speech’. as for many after him. objected strongly to the prevailing way of studying metaphor as a mere poetic device. . literary theorists and some rhetoricians proclaimed that ﬁgures of speech are. and however they may sometimes serve the purpose of falsehood. Originally. 1996. He wrote in his Vorschule der Asthetik: Ingenious ﬁgures of speech can either give soul to the body or body to the spirit. Just as in the case of writing pictures preceded the alphabet. 1): . one did not compare that which showed no resemblance. and extended to others’ (Smart. 1975: III. 1998). This philosophically and linguistically grounded psychology of metaphor was integrated with an emerging pragmatist psychology of language by a lesser-known American scholar. as Ortony was to say some 150 years later. from their ﬁrst purpose. . which began during the 18th century (see Schmitz. tropes and ﬁgures of speech ‘are the original texture of language.
J. just like the philosophers of language of the 1980s. heavily inﬂuenced by European. the 20th-century philosophers of language reacted instead against a view of language and metaphor as ‘deviation’ which had pervaded linguistics in the form of generative grammar and against a correspondence theory of truth which had prevailed in neopositivist philosophy. Buck and many more. . but at the same time the drive toward linguistic renewal. Both reacted against a view of language and metaphor as just a formal mechanism. They reacted against a view of metaphors as philosophical trouble-makers which had pervaded English philosophy since Locke. (Bauer. Downloaded from http://hhs. T H E F U N D A M E N TA L M E TA P H O R I C I T Y O F THOUGHT AND LANGUAGE Every discourse on metaphor originates in a radical choice: either (a) language is by nature. metaphorical.42 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) allusions to the claim that the literal is but the pallid remnant of the ﬁgurative in Gerber.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. Bauer echoes Jean Paul’s view when he writes. 1962–77: 184). Nietzsche. 2000). . But instead of analysing the work of the German psychologists Stählin and Bühler (see Nerlich and Clarke. which was. like many others: Primitive languages are still in the state of un-discoloured imagery. a malfunction. as every word already evoked a poetic impression through its roots and compounds. a machine with regard to which the metaphor constitutes a breakdown.sagepub. 1984: 88) The philosophers of language of the 1880s opted for the ﬁrst choice. reﬂections on metaphor. We shall then brieﬂy turn to the psychological study of metaphor. 2009 . and the mechanism of metaphor establishes linguistic activity . and which from those able to be generated are ‘good’ or ‘correct’. and originally. (Eco. especially German. or (b) language (and every other semiotic system) is a rule-governed mechanism. and every name an attempt to write poetry. . however. or endowed with sense. 1878: I. but a dictionary of pallid metaphors’ (Jean Paul. another peak in a meta-metaphorical wave of activity which continued well into the beginning of the 20th century. an unaccountable outcome. Another of Jean Paul’s aphorisms became even more widely known and has to be quoted yet again in this context: ‘every language is . . Biese. In the following we shall examine how metaphor was studied between 1870 and 1900 in the German philosophy of language. a predictive machine that says which phrases can be generated and which not. we shall examine an American treatise. 9) This was written in 1878 at the beginning of two decades of furious metaphorical research activity. as every intuition was already thought. In those times prose did not yet exist.
1999 for a recent account). for most of his life he worked at the Städtisches Realgymnasium (technical high school) in Bromberg. Despite this Gerber remained an intellectual outsider who was unwilling to conform and compartmentalize his work so as to ﬁt it into the various new branches of philosophy. At a time when . .sagepub. demonstrate clearly that it would be entirely wrong to assume a general Downloaded from http://hhs. and many more post-Kantian or anti-Kantian philosophers of language. Wilhelm von Humboldt and Heymann Steinthal. and religious concepts . linguistics.MIND. moral. well away from the hub of linguistic life at that time. . Gerber’s philosophy of language merges all strands of post-Kantian philosophy and exploits them for a new assessment of the relation between language and mind and for a new theory of semantics. 2009 . 1988). Bopp). In a way. He belongs to those philosophers who criticized Kant’s uncritical attitude towards language and who wanted to supplement Kant’s critique of pure reason by a critique of language (Gerber. G U S TAV G E R B E R ( 1 8 2 0 – 1 9 0 1 ) Gerber had studied in Berlin and Leipzig and had attended lectures in a wide variety of ﬁelds: mathematics. aesthetics and psychology (Vonk. astronomy. He had read Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. it has also become clear that what Kant began to investigate in his ‘Critique of pure reason’ must be continued as a critique of language. MEANING AND METAPHOR 43 One of the central ﬁgures in 19th-century German philosophy of language was Gustav Gerber whose works became a central reference point for many metaphor researchers. he was the Lakoff of his generation. as well as Johann Heinrich Lambert. He wrote three major works: Die Sprache als Kunst [Language as Art] in 1871–4. and Das Ich als Grundlage unserer Weltanschauung [The ‘I’ as the Basis of our World-view] in 1893. and when we call for empirical research to provide creditable foundations to our research activities. two volumes which went into a second edition in 1885.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. Johann Gottfried von Herder.4 He also wished to put the study of language and metaphor on a more empirical footing and to avoid empty metaphysical (Hegelian-type) speculations (see Lakoff and Johnson. The ﬁrst two books were widely reviewed and became quite popular references. The diversity of scientiﬁc. we have become sceptical of scientiﬁc investigations which are based on mere concepts and abstractions. Die Sprache und das Erkennen [Language and Cognition] in 1884. the natural sciences. personal communication). philology and linguistics (Boekh. .3 He was also well acquainted with the British empiricist tradition in philosophy (Cloeren. philosophy (Hegel) and history (Frank Vonk. However. geography. 1884: 190). . 1999: 294). that is.
already anticipated by Vico. and that all thought and all concepts are linguistically mediated and therefore metaphorical in nature. In the artistic creation of linguistic representations in the act of speaking. For Gerber. ‘that even the most ancient spiritual components of the soul must have been acquired metaphorically. for example: ‘It should be stressed that there are no “literal” [eigentliche] expressions and that there is no real [eigentliches] understanding without metaphor’ (quoted in Schumacher.sagepub. that is by comparing things. language becomes energeia. He stressed that there is.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. Mauthner wrote. they are what Humboldt had called the ergon. who had read Gerber. who claimed with Gerber and then Nietzsche that metaphor structures human knowledge. Gerber considered metaphors as normal and regarded arbitrary signs as degenerate symbols. and Fritz Mauthner. no difference between literal and ﬁgurative speech and that words are tropical in nature from the very start and will always remain tropical (Gerber. as communication (philology) and as cognition (philosophy) (Gerber. it destroys the ﬁgurative or pictorial splendour of each word through the overall sense of the utterance as a whole and forces them into a service in which they are used as mere signs. 244) Such a ‘critique of language’ also ﬂourished in the works of Victoria. 1871–4: I. 117) Downloaded from http://hhs. not only tropes. as Gerber argues that language (at its inception and in its continuous use) is inherently metaphorical and therefore a form of art. what Gerber calls Sprachtechnik (language as technique). 1871–4: I. 1884: 1). This view. 1871–4: I. Metaphor is central to all three. 1997: 18).44 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) system of thought for all people. All linguistic representations. Whereas most rhetoricians regarded metaphors as exceptional poetic expressions which are substituted for other more normal signs. Gerber analysed language from three different perspectives: as art (aesthetics). He wrote. 2009 . (Gerber. that even the most minimal pre-linguistic understanding of the world must have been based on metaphor’ (Mauthner. 1923[1901/2]: 464). what Gerber calls Sprachkunst (language as art). was also adopted by Nietzsche.6 Unlike other philosophers who worked with the image of a mirror when talking about the representation of thoughts in language. for example. Lady Welby.5 Ogden and Richards (1994). (Gerber. The multiplicity of uses gradually transforms the work of art that is language. in principle. 299–300). the lexicon and grammar are the instruments (Darstellungsmittel) that allow us to create verbal art. Gerber compared linguistic representation with representation in the arts. This would be a mere abstraction on the par with a universal system of language. are therefore ﬁgurative depictions (bildlich).
1988: 155). 1990. Let us now look more closely at the very beginning of language. which triggers a sound. 1884: 104).com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. 2009 . they derive from metaphors in a two-stage process of ﬁgurative or pictorial representation.MIND. Here the linguistic or symbolic frame or ﬁeld supplements the situational one. As in the case of the ﬁrst use of a root word. It is certainly not the case. when language is well established. which triggers a mental picture or representation. It combines freedom (choice) and necessity (natural material) which are reconciled through imagination (Phantasie). ‘the relativity of concepts and the pliability of meanings are tied to the living use of language’ (Cloeren. which causes a certain nervous stimulus. who distinguished between the symbolic ﬁeld and the deictic ﬁeld). by reference to our accumulated knowledge of the meaning relations they entertain with other words in the language (Gerber. The sound we choose to represent the mental picture is taken from the sound-material that nature provides us with (we can imitate sounds in nature or we can build on sounds produced by ourselves through reﬂex or emotion).7 After habituating to these pictures born from necessity.. new word meanings are understood only by reference to the context in which they are used. It all starts with the (unknowable) ‘thing in itself’. Later. in this case. 1884: 161–2). Cloeren compares this approach to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ‘theory of family resemblances and the overlapping of meanings. and from this ﬁnally the concept emerges (Gerber. At ﬁrst. we start to play with them more freely and we create a representation (Abbild) of them in a sound. but also. MEANING AND METAPHOR 45 But where do conventional signs come from then? According to Gerber.sagepub. 1884: 104). see later Bühler. This linguistic picture (Lautbild ) is what Gerber also calls a linguistic root (Sprachwurzel). mental pictures (Bilder) are called up or triggered automatically as a last member in an unconscious chain of mental and verbal events which produces a ﬁrst type of conventional signs. in Gerber’s view. Every root is therefore already ‘tropical’ in nature. see Gerber. 1871–4: I. ‘Meaning’ is always adjusted or adapted by reference to both (for a more elaborate psycholinguistic ﬁeld theory of meaning. people can use language itself creatively and produce metaphors and other tropes. such as a gesture. 174). These fresh metaphors then die and can again become mere conventional signs. They once were as ‘ﬁgurative’ (bildlich) as the new ‘ﬁgurative’ meanings. and it can be understood only if it is supplemented by something else. as well as his view of language as a form of life’ (ibid. Downloaded from http://hhs. For Gerber. perception or the knowledge of the circumstances in which it is heard (Gerber. From the root the word develops. And it is also wrong to say that the words which have become conventional through use have a ‘literal’ meaning and that new meanings are ‘ﬁgurative’. that the concept is given and then just labelled with a word. which calls up a sensation. The conventional meanings only appear to be literal through habituation.
this theory of the emergence of words and concepts was directly endorsed by Nietzsche in his philosophy of language. As Gerber wrote: ‘Nothing is more wrong than to suppose that we use language to designate things in the world’ (Gerber. 1884: 60–1) In his philosophy of language Gerber argued against dichotomies such as man and nature. 229. 2009 . 241. both speech act and thought act have their roots in a Lebensakt (life act) (Gerber. Just as Gerber had stressed the importance of context.sagepub. He claimed that what we regard as truth is nothing but a metaphor to which we have become accustomed: The most ordinary metaphors. together with pre-established concepts. He declared instead that ‘the formation of concepts is no less a speech act than a thought act’ (Gerber. (Gerber. Downloaded from http://hhs. . What is left is the insight that truth is conventionalized metaphor and that meaning is use. 241). Furthermore. and nevertheless each and every individual has a limited freedom and power to contribute to the improvement of language and knowledge. the sound nevertheless has only value as a linguistic sound when it has become a common possession. ‘The speech act is thus the completion of the thought act and therefore not simply the thought act’s form. so he also stressed the importance of social language use. quoted by Buck. language and cognition. Created.46 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) As we shall see. (Nietzsche. N2).com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. the usual ones. 1871–4: I. quoted in Cloeren. The treasure of knowledge which is common and accessible to all is transmitted from generation to generation. . 1988: 148): ‘the speaking of language is part of an activity. frequency and rarity. that is to say: the linguistic images or pictures created by the individual can become ‘language’ only if they are acknowledged (anerkannt) and used by a wide circle of people and regarded by them as apt symbols of mental representations. individual and society. recreated. 248). but it is the very existence of the thought act’ (Gerber. freedom and necessity. This is true at the beginning of language as well as in its continuous existence and use. 1971: 10. 1885: I. 1958[1953): §23). 1885 : I. what we have here is nothing but a difference between convention and novelty. 1988b: 491) In this view. at the origin of language. reinterpreted by the individual. In fact. now have the status of truths and are points of comparison for the rarer ones. and speech act and thought act. . or of a form of life’ (Wittgenstein. 1871–4: I. eternal truths and essences go out of the window. as Wittgenstein would later say.
the truth is a poetically elaborated ‘mobile army of metaphors. as for Gerber (and Humboldt before them). drawn. . . 1988. In the beginning. based on the legislation of language . truth and knowledge has been variously noted (e. in fact. colors. 1999: 44. so we become accustomed to lying according to convention. (Eco. metonymies. This image in turn is shaped into a sound! Second metaphor. we think we talk about (and know) trees. according to which concepts are but metaphors gone stale. MEANING AND METAPHOR 47 FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE (1844–1900) That Nietzsche read and appreciated Gerber and integrated many of his thoughts into his reﬂections on language.sagepub. Ungeheuer. This is why Nietzsche liked Gerber’s schema of the emergence of language (Schumacher. Since nature has thrown away the key. language mediates through free poetic creativity between individual and society. . colours. . 1988c: 878–9) In his recent book on language and cognition. . We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we talk about trees. but they are metaphors that do not correspond to the original essences. wrinkled. snow. man and world. Every word becomes concept as its pallid universality takes the color out of the differences between fundamentally unequal things: thus we think that in correspondence with the multiplicity of individual leaves there exists a primordial ‘leaf’ on ‘the model of which all leaves have supposedly been woven. He [the linguistic creator] only designates the relations that things have to man and to do this he uses the boldest metaphors. metaphors which do not correspond in any way to the original essences. 1997: 219) and elaborated it himself: What is a word? The representation of a nerve stimulus in sounds. the only thing we have are metaphors of things. For Nietzsche. and painted – but by a clumsy hand – in such a way that no exemplar would seem to be correct and reliable as a faithful copy of the original shape. Eco takes up this passage and elaborates it in turn. 1992. 1895: 360) Eco continues: In fact. . 1983. entitled Kant and the Platypus (Eco.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. eds. citing Nietzsche. ‘illusions whose illusory nature has been forgotten’ . . snow and ﬂowers. . He shows how Nietzsche developed a new theory of concepts. nature and freedom. Gerhardt. 1989.g. in a style that Downloaded from http://hhs. and ﬂowers.. colored. a nervous stimulus is transformed into an image! First metaphor. Schumacher.MIND. 1997). the intellect plays on ﬁctions that it calls truth. (Nietzsche. circumscribed. . . Meijers. mind and body. when. 1999). or systems of concepts. Gilman et al. 2009 . and anthropomorphisms’ that subsequently gel into knowledge.
constructed entirely by language. metaphors. especially in the works of Johannes Müller. and even more so the images produced by our receptive and creative imagination. placing our actions under the control of abstractions. ALFRED BIESE (1856–1930) Like Gerber. irregular. that the literal is only the latest stage in a process that starts with the ﬁgurative. this is only possible through ‘a permanent poetic revolution’ (Eco. 1893: 76) and Rudolf Hermann Lotze. 1893: 111). we shall deal with another follower of Gerber’s who developed a rich philosophy of metaphor but hated Nietzsche because of his metaphorical use of language. (Eco. an immense ‘Roman columbarium. presenting new transcriptions. devoid of consequences. 1999: 45) How can one escape from this conceptual prison built out of dead metaphors? According to Eco. which cannot really be separated from sensual perceptions’ (Biese.’ the graveyard of intuition.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24.48 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) is binding for everyone. and metonymies. it continuously reveals the desire to give the subsisting world of waking man a ﬁgure so multicolored. because. had been hinted at by Jean Paul (see above) and was later investigated psychologically by Buck. as Nietzsche noted. laws and delimitations. This conﬂuence of ideas on perception and (neuro)physiology with ideas about metaphor has striking parallels with modern developments in this ﬁeld. Hermann von Helmholtz (Biese. incoherent. especially his metaphors of the super-man and the super-race which he regarded (rightly.sagepub. This literary and linguistic philosopher was Alfred Biese. Biese and Gerber (when he writes about nerve excitation) were certainly aware of the progress made in the physiology of neural pathways and the psychology of perception. exciting and eternally new. for example (see Reed. 1999: 46). In his major work Die Philosophie des Metaphorischen [The Philosophy of the Metaphoric] (1893) Biese synthesizes the philosophical and linguistic Downloaded from http://hhs. philosophy and the natural sciences. He therefore brought to the study of metaphor certain insights from the theory of perception and optics: ‘The images produced by our retina are transformed mirror images. and having reduced the metaphors to schemata and concepts. 2009 . The assumption that every ‘word becomes concept as its pallid universality takes the color out of the differences between fundamentally unequal things’. 1893: 223). Biese was well versed in philology. 1895: 369). as it turned out) as very dangerous (Biese. Thence a pyramidal order of castes and ranks. which is that provided by the world of dreams’ (Nietzsche. Before we come to her treatise on metaphor. 1997). Gustav Fechner (Biese. art ‘continuously muddles the rubrics and the compartments of concepts. 1889: 319).
to each of these topics he devotes a chapter in his book. Goethe who had said that language anthropomorphizes reason and reality. 1893: 14.). Arthur Schopenhauer who had argued that all primitive thinking is carried out in pictures (ibid. metaphor is mainly based on anthropomorphization. on analogies between the inner and the outer. Summarizing what he had learned from all these philosophers and psychologists. the internal and the external. 1893. He pointed out that rather than comparing something with something else. but the literary intelligentsia of the time much preferred Biese’s Downloaded from http://hhs. 1898: 218) and Leo Spitzer (see ibid. 1893: 8). metaphor equates something with something else (Vischer. Lambert who had claimed that metaphor is an important tool in constructing the architecture of a language (ibid.: 16 and passim). Biese agrees with all those who no longer say that metaphor is an abbreviated comparison. 1893: 15). see Nerlich and Clarke. 1856–64. such as Ernst Elster. also paraphrased by Stählin.: 13 and 23). MEANING AND METAPHOR 49 discussions on the nature of metaphor carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries (Biese. It bridges the gap between man and world.MIND. the Aesthetik oder Wissenschaft des Schönen [Aesthetics or Science of the Beautiful] which was widely read up until the beginning of the 20th century. 2009 . the body and the mind.sagepub. quoted in Biese. He therefore praises Gerber. 1914: 310. 2000). 1889). Biese declared: ‘Metaphor is not a poetic trope but an original form of cognitive perception. For Biese. 1226. and that reasoning and categorization are inherently embodied (ibid. The old Greek term of ‘schema’ or ﬁgure and the Kantian term of ‘schema’ are brought to a linguistic synthesis by Biese so as to analyse the role of metaphor in child language.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. also Biese. the macrocosm and the microcosm (terms made popular by the philosopher and psychologist Lotze. 1893: VI). 1857: III. and that the image or ﬁgure of speech is a kind of linguistic painting (quoted in Biese. religion.: 104). Biese followed in the footsteps of Vico who had rejected the literal/ﬁgurative distinction and regarded metaphor as a necessary form of intuition (Biese. but also Wilhelm Dilthey who had written around 1880 (in some of his reﬂections on aesthetics) that ﬁgures of speech are not mere decorations of speech but are an integral part of poetic creativity. art and philosophy. Vischer had analysed metaphor as a mixing or blending of spheres or domains. that language is a treasure chest of discoloured images. 1893: 4–5). This focus on anthropomorphization was criticized by some literary theorists. Biese also refers to the 1857 work by Friedrich Theodor Vischer. myths.: 113). Emil Stern (Stern. see Biese.’ Metaphor is ‘the most important inner schema used by the human mind’ (Biese. and Gerber with whom Biese agrees that it is fundamentally wrong to say that literal meaning is different from non-literal meaning on the basis that the latter is ‘ﬁgurative’ (ibid.
and MAUTHNER has stressed with real passion that in principle all language development is based on metaphor. 1897: 395. 1892). has demonstrated this quite vividly.] are not there for ‘entertainment’ or ‘ediﬁcation’. 1893: 105). especially in philosophy and in the sciences. philosophy and psychology respectively. 1873. . A similar warning was issued by Lady Welby in her article on metaphor and meaning. But GERBER criticised already the general validity of this view. three major ﬁgures in the ﬁelds of philology. a view still held by many of the rhetoricians. They also agreed that Biese had rightly stressed the subjective character of metaphor and therefore of cognition. 1898: 217. 1911: 119) and even stylistics: In former times one used to regard metaphor merely as a shortened comparison. see Elster. but was widely quoted and criticized by the philosophers of metaphor). such as ‘(vital) force’. might pose a problem for explanation and understanding.sagepub. Elster (1897. But like Gerber and others. where certain metaphors. . . . which was more kindly received (Stern. and G. 1897: 384). the [tropes and ﬁgures of speech. can illuminate as well as adumbrate. although essential to human language and cognition. BIESE. ‘soul’ or ‘faculty’. 1971: 71). (Meyer.).g. von Kohfeldt’s article on the aesthetics of metaphor (Kohfeldt. Dilthey and Wundt.50 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) philosophy of metaphor to the hair-splitting trivialities reiterated over and over again by rhetoricians of the type of Wilhelm Wackernagel (Wackernagel. 1930: 117) Teachers of poetics and stylistics began to stress that metaphor was fundamental to human thought and language (Elster. 1897: 376): . .com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. but they continue the process by which language itself was originally created (compare e. (Meyer. For Stern in particular (fresh) subjective metaphors are the very expression of the speaking and writing subject. 250 f. . for example. then adduced that metaphor usually emerges through focusing on one feature or personiﬁcation without making the ‘detour through the image’. . B. Stern (1898). . 1893). ﬁnally. . . Biese also warned that metaphor. This new view of metaphor gradually made its way into handbooks of literary theory (see Elster. ‘the struggle for survival’. not all of whom can be treated here. . 1930: 108–9) Downloaded from http://hhs. More minor contributions to the debate were Friedrich Brinkmann’s (1878) book on metaphors in modern languages (which still stood with one leg in the tradition of the rhetoricians. All later readers of these major and minor works agreed on the fact that metaphor could no longer be regarded as a shortened comparison. which was published in the same year as Biese’s treatise on metaphor (Welby. to the works of Wilhelm Scherer. . 1911) and Richard Moritz Meyer (1930) refer. Biese stands in a long line of thinkers on metaphor. . Buck. SCHERER . 2009 .N. knowledge and truth (Biese. GERBER 2.
perceptual and interactional) experience are inextricably linked. It has come to stand as the linguistic representative of a certain stage in the development of thought.: iii. In so doing it has. obedient to no laws save those empiric ones whose validity extends no farther than itself. and thus an expression perfectly natural and universal. that mind and language are embodied. Buck states that metaphor is not just a mechanical rhetorical device but an organic principle or procedure underlying thought and language: The purpose of this study is to explain metaphor in terms of the contemporary psychology. such as Lakoff. 1995. where meaning is equated with mental representation and language with the pure expression of thought. even pragmatist. 1996). Lady Welby. perhaps. Following him. see Nerlich and Clarke.9 especially with George Herbert Mead. From a mechanical structure it has become a biologic organism. 1923: 328. Inﬂuenced by work in experimental and developmental psychology. 21) (who. 1996). nor an artiﬁcial perversion of non-ﬁgurative statement. This she did in her dissertation The Metaphor: A Study in the Psychology of Rhetoric (1971)8 for which she received her doctorate of philosophy in rhetoric from the University of Michigan in 1898 (see Kitzhaber. she regards metaphor as ‘the expression in language of a certain stage in the development of perception’ (ibid.: iii). the insight that language and human (bodily. Downloaded from http://hhs. They did not develop theories of metaphor of their own. but the necessary stage through which speech must pass on its way to literalism’ (Buck.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. namely that developed by the pragmatist psychologist John Dewey (ibid. was inﬂuenced by Darwinian evolutionary theory). but shared with metaphor researchers inﬂuenced by them. Dewey shared with many thinkers of the turn of the century a ‘pragmatic Weltanschauung’ (Malinowski. 1971: 10. footing by Gertrude Buck (1871–1922). somewhat artiﬁcial and wholly unique. 1990).sagepub. (1971: iii) She takes up Gerber’s thoughts about the development of language (Buck. situated interaction and rejected theories of meaning where words just stand for concepts or objects. MEANING AND METAPHOR 51 A P S Y C H O L O G Y O F M E TA P H O R The view that metaphor ‘is no extraneous adornment ﬁtted upon plain language. like all American pragmatists. Alan Henderson Gardiner and John Rupert Firth in Britain (see Nerlich and Clarke.MIND. 1971: 69) was put on a psychological. been inevitable that a new face should be put upon this ﬁgure. N2) but brings a new type of psychology to this issue. 2009 . Grace Andrus de Laguna and Jacob Robert Kantor in the United States and Bronislaw Malinowski. such as Buck. They all saw language as a form of contextual. and those inﬂuenced by 1970s linguistic pragmatics. rather than as a literary device.
52 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) Building on both Dewey’s philosophy of language and the European tradition of metaphor research. poetic metaphor. Teeth are pearls. This was the stage when. M. On the contrary: ‘The two are one so far as his perception can testify’ (1971: 13) The same is true for children. Buck therefore postulates three stages in the growth of metaphor: radical metaphor. but for a somewhat inchoate perception of a whole situation. Whereas Gerber distinguished between the general ﬁgurative nature of all language. situation and human interaction. the details of which have not yet disentangled themselves so as to be projected sharply against the consciousness’ (1971: 13). and the special use of ﬁgures of speech in ordinary language and literature. gradually.’ The third represents a later stage of perception in which the two objects. This is expressed by saying ‘pearly teeth.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. The actual perception of resemblance is therefore an activity comparatively late in the development of mankind and of children (ibid. glistening and all but translucent. Buck argues that metaphor helps in the construction of language and thought by establishing bridges between perception. It exists continually but can not be recognized as such until the stage of homogeneity for any given perception has been passed’ (ibid. ‘social consciousness’ passed from homogeneity or identity to complexity (ibid. just beginning to draw apart from one another in the second period.sagepub. white. 2009 .: 17. The one name stands for a single sensation produced by a row of vaguely-perceived small objects.: 16). Rejecting the resemblance or comparison theory of metaphor. a distinction which had been well known to Gerber himself. Müller. Buck. Buck claims that ‘in the early stages of thought-development words stand not for some unique clearly-deﬁned entity in the world. there came a stage when people began to perceive differences between situations which were designated with the same word and therefore ‘the use of the same word to represent them had become metaphoric’.: 15). Both primitive man and children do not compare. This means that ‘radical metaphor is observable only in past stages of the growth of a language. 1877: 388. this connection being commonly expressed in language by the words ‘as’ or ‘like’. have separated so far that a connection is visible between them. N6). see Jean Paul above). 1971: 3. The second is that representing the stage of perception at which it has begun to differentiate into two main constituents. and simile (1971: 39–40): The ﬁrst represents that stage of perception in which the ﬁgure is still homogeneous.: 36–7) Downloaded from http://hhs. but equate. Buck argues that there are not two objects of thought which primitive man then compares so as to extract a resemblance. (ibid. However. Buck goes back to Friedrich Max Müller’s10 similar distinction between radical and poetical metaphor (F.
: 45) Gerber and Biese had freed the philosophy of metaphor from Hegelian abstractions and tried to put it on a more empirical basis (Gerber. Though one metaphor may die into abstract speech. Simile is a half-way house for the metaphor-process on its way to plain statement’ (ibid. But this is not the end of the story of how human thought and language develop: There is thus no limit to the new situations of which our expanding universe and our expanding selves are capable. Metaphor. As Lakoff and Johnson wrote in their book Metaphors We Live By. 244. (2) a new conception of truth and knowledge. 2000 [on-line]) in the 1970s she was impressed by Dewey’s experiental and pragmatic philosophy of language. ﬁrst we have the ﬁgurative (radical. namely the comparison theory’ (Lakoff and Johnson. 1871–4: I. it can actively create new realities. but metaphor shall endure. ‘Metaphors perish. M E TA P H O R I N T H O U G H T A N D L A N G U A G E : THEN AND NOW The 19th-century reﬂections on metaphor and truth. then simile.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. and meaning. MEANING AND METAPHOR 53 Buck stands the venerable tradition of deﬁning metaphor as an abbreviated simile on its head and in doing so she also overturns the old assumption that literal meaning comes ﬁrst and ﬁgurative meaning comes later: ‘The relation between these [three types of] ﬁgures is more than merely verbal. In Buck’s thesis on metaphor we ﬁnd this more empirical approach supplemented by a pragmatist theory of situation. Downloaded from http://hhs. must as certainly recur in a new perceptive process.MIND. Like Lakoff (see Brockman. perception. 2009 . then poetic metaphor). 1980: 153).and 20th-century research into metaphor. According to Lakoff and Johnson. but unlike Lakoff she also knew about the rich German tradition of metaphor research. So. It is a fundamental relationship of thought. 1893: 104).’ (ibid. and (3) the rejection of the literal–ﬁgurative dichotomy.11 This also goes against the traditional view of metaphor. Her work can therefore be regarded as one of the missing links between 19th. We shall concentrate here on three points of overlap: (1) the rejection of the comparison theory of metaphor. metaphor does not only passively exploit pre-existing similarities via comparison. To paraphrase Swinburne’s assertion. Biese.: 40). while a stage in the perceptive process which must always be superseded by plain statement. on conceptualization and perception. another rises out of the very extension and complication of experience which the former process of growth and death has afforded.sagepub. then the literal. and on the literal–ﬁgurative distinction have some counterparts in the modern philosophy of metaphor. their theory of metaphor ‘runs counter to the classical and still most widely held theory of metaphor.
Our view also accords with some of the key elements of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy: the family-resemblance account of categorization .: 145). The greatest degree of generative entrenchment for a conceptual connection occurs when it becomes established as a central part of basic category structure: for example.’ Here we are dealing with ‘metaphors’ which. have been reduced to schemata and concepts. Turner points out that in his previous work he . they do not refer to fundamentally different cognitive operations. 1998).N. such as the rejection of epistemological foundationalism [see Nietzsche. laws and delimitations. and the emphasis on meaning as relative to context and to one’s own conceptual system [see Gerber. but they overlooked how old it actually is: It should be obvious from this description that there is nothing radically new in our account of truth. Figurative Language and Thought (Turner et al. (Lakoff and Johnson. 1980: 182) Let us now brieﬂy look at one of the more recent books on ﬁgurative language. ‘Thence a pyramidal order of castes and ranks. Lakoff and Johnson conceded that this ‘new’ metaphorical theory of truth and knowledge is not so new. . Metaphor is seen instead as ‘a means of structuring our conceptual system and the kinds of everyday activities we perform’ (ibid. according to Nietzsche (and Jean Paul. and they are motivated. an immense “Roman Downloaded from http://hhs. offered demonstrations that the commonsense dichotomy between ‘literal’ and ‘ﬁgurative’ is a psychological illusion. B.: 154).. and the importance of that structure in understanding. Finally.N. and Buck).]. similarities are no longer regarded as objectively given. ‘Literal’ and ‘ﬁgurative’ are labels that serve as efﬁcient short-hand announcements of our integrated reactions to the products of thought and language. He argues that we judge a mental or verbal connection to be literal or ﬁgurative depending on ‘the degree to which the conceptual connection or the linguistic expression is generatively entrenched.N. B.sagepub. but as subjectively constructed. and Gerber. written by some eminent scholars in this ﬁeld. devoted to the ‘literal versus ﬁgurative dichotomy’ (see Turner. B. as based on the experience of people (ibid. a woman is a human being. constructed entirely by language. but these motivations do not come from fundamental differences of cognitive operations.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24.]. the stress on the centrality of the body in the structuring of our experience [see Biese. . It includes some of the central insights of the phenomenological tradition. This view goes against the grain of any objectivist theory of cognition. There is no doubt that some products of thought and language feel literal while others feel ﬁgurative. We have reactions.54 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) especially the view that metaphor is merely a linguistic or poetic device. 1997 [on-line]). . . 2009 .]. In his chapter.
In both traditions there was opposition to an objectivist world-view. both traditions rebelled against a philosophy of language which divided language use between the straightforward. . the creative aspects of language.” the graveyard of intuition’ (Nietzsche. which had Downloaded from http://hhs. a ‘freak’ in literature. perhaps. as we have been taught. frequency and rarity’ (Nietzsche. and why did it have to change again at the end of the 20th century? Why did metaphor become so important to linguists. metaphor is not. 2009 . but not quite dead. consonant with the ordinary laws of psychology and interwoven with all our common experiences. 1971: 69. And ﬁnally. italics added) CONCLUSION To close this article a ﬁnal question must be asked. with category structures that are so entrenched that they seem ‘literal’ at one end and others that appear to be ‘ﬁgurative’ at the other. it was therefore argued that we can only understand how our conceptual and semantic knowledge is structured and how it changes with use if we accept that . MEANING AND METAPHOR 55 columbarium. metaphors in between. also a reaction against more and more mechanistic views of life and language. to language as a mere transfer of thoughts. psychologists and philosophers at the end of the 19th and again at the end of the 20th century? In both cases interest in metaphor. . an isolated phenomenon. what we have here is nothing but a difference between convention and novelty. Why did the conception of metaphor change at the end of the 19th century.sagepub. Some metaphors are more active than others. Like Nietzsche. 1999: 45). ﬁrst after the industrial revolution.MIND. Turner assumes that conceptual entrenchment is graded. quoted by Eco. (Buck. just as at the end of the 20th century. As Nietzsche said: ‘In fact. and to a conception of metaphor as a mere rhetorical ‘device’. some more dead than others. was aroused in reaction against more formal approaches to language. developed on the one hand by some historical comparative linguists. an arbitrary ‘device’ of the writer. and then again after the information technology revolution. In the 19th century. and certain well-worn. but a genuine expression of the normal process of thought at a certain stage in its development. There was. 1988b: 491). more or less inexplicable. that is. At the end of the 19th century. philosophers of metaphor reacted against this division.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. logical and literal expression of thought and truth and the ﬁgurative and deviant expression of emotions and passions. Gerber and Buck. on the other by some structural and transformational linguists.
1978). collaborated for some time with Ogden. 5 Lady Welby was a philanthropist. 1993)? According to Serhii Wakulenko. Nerlich and Clarke. interpretation and experience (see Makkreel. knew all the main philosophers and psychologists of her time. who studied in Berlin between 1862 and 1863. philologist and semiotician. 1992). Soyland. they also have a good understanding of contemporary advances in philosophy. for example. and so should Gerber’s be. to some extent. which Lady Welby had called ‘signiﬁcs’ (see Schmitz. but we are aware that similar theories were proposed in other disciplines. the correspondence view of truth. 4 Ironically. 2000). Ortony. see also the review by Mark Johnson. for example. conceived of language as dynamic activity. 1996). such as Lakoff. Potebnia. 2000: 419). One can almost say that the followers of Lakoff and Johnson are. in his 1862 work on thought and language (Potebnia. such as psychology (see. wrote treatises about meaning as use in the tradition of a future linguistic pragmatics and had a big following in the Netherlands. as in the case of Gerber. Nietzsche. Steinthal. and the ﬁrst Wittgenstein. 3 Is it more than coincidence that another reader of Humboldt.56 HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES 14(2) been promoted in the works of John Locke as well as the Port-Royal grammarians and logicians. 1993. Moritz Lazarus and Lotze (see below) developed. In the 20th century. NOTES 1 We shall focus on the theory of metaphor developed by cognitive linguists. Herbart. 2009 . She corresponded with Charles Sanders Peirce. for example. Like Gerber and Humboldt he saw in metaphor the most basic linguistic procedure by which man can appropriate the world via language (Wakulenko. unless otherwise indicated. a theory of language as verbal art. 1992. philosophers of metaphor in turn reacted against the works of the neopositivists. which he wrote in reaction to certain excesses of structural linguistics. it was Kant who had shown in his aesthetics what role productive imagination played in perceptual experience and had laid the foundations for a new aesthetics of imagination.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. including (neuro)physiology. Thanks to Pedro J. Biese and Buck. based on a similar division of linguistic labour. 6 One can ﬁnd a modern echo of this view of the close link between language and art in Nelson Goodman’s 1968 work Languages of Art. but. psychology and the natural sciences. 2 All translations are by Brigitte Nerlich. 1990. 1990. the new romantics of linguistics. where philosophers of language developed their own type of pragmatic semiotics. namely Aleksandr Alexandrevic Potebnia. a theory of the relations between ‘speech act’ and ‘thought act’ and between art and language. Leary. Chamizo Dominguez (University of Málaga) for alerting Downloaded from http://hhs. just like Gerber. His theory of language included. like Gerber.sagepub. 1994) and philosophy (see the special issue on metaphor in Critical Inquiry. Goodman’s work is now being rediscovered by cognitive scientists (see McIver Lopes.
humans are equipped in such a way that if struck.] (Accessed. This phrase was quoted by Dewey in an interesting footnote to his chapter ‘Nature and Communication’ in his book Experience and Nature (1929: 206. ed. (1990) Theory of Language: The Representational Function of Language. Brinkmann. sensation. This theory might have some of its roots in Müller and Steinthal’s reﬂex theory of the origin of language. Bonn: A. Biese. and so on (see below). [http://www. Müller became Deputy Professor at the University of Oxford in 1851 and was later appointed Professor of Comparative Philology. 27).org/3rd_culture/ lakoff/lakoff_p1. image or feeling’ (Dewey. PA: Folcroft Library Editions. A. Downloaded from http://hhs. (1889) ‘Das Metaphorische in der dichterischen Phantasie’ [The Metaphorical in the Poetic Imagination]. Müller’s books on the origin and evolution of languages (partly inﬂuenced by Darwin) became bestsellers of their time and Müller became an international celebrity. 1889) Das Bild in der Sprache [The Image in Language]. Biese. by the perception of an object. Donald F[raser] Goodwin. (1878. John (2000 [on-line]) interview with George Lakoff on the occasion of the publication of ‘Philosophy in the Flesh’. sensations.edge. (1971) The Metaphor: A Study in the Psychology of Rhetoric. Hamburg and Leipzig: Leopold Voss. Ansbach. De Laguna and Malinowski quoted in turn a passage from this book in which Dewey characterizes words as ‘a mode of social action – with which to realize the ends of association’ and not as ‘an expression of a ready-made. note 4). Folcroft. mental state. 57 7 8 9 10 11 BIBLIOGRAPHY Bauer. 2009 . J. MEANING AND METAPHOR us to this similarity. (1878) Die Metaphern: Studien über den Geist der modernen Sprachen [Metaphors: Investigations into the Spirit of Modern Languages]. they have to emit certain sounds (Steinthal. so to speak. Bühler. trans. Which seems to repeat Humboldt who wrote that language is not really the instrument we use to represent already established truths but a means to discover not yet known ones (Humboldt. by Achim Eschbach. 1871: 363). According to this theory. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Litteraturgeschichte NF 2: 318–39. N1). Marcus. 1911: 111. 2 January 2001) Buck. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 1929: 184). G. A. For more background material on modern philosophical theories of metaphor see Johnson (1981).html. exclusively individual.com by Amr Elsherif on October 24. F. 1968[1903–36]: IV.MIND. and intro. 2 vols. Which Elster in Germany regarded as a very valuable contribution to the metaphor debate (Elster. It is also possible that Gerber was referring to the new physiology developed by Müller dealing with neural pathways.sagepub. K. (1893) Die Philosophie des Metaphorischen [The Philosophy of the Metaphoric]. Brockman.
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