Is anything not a metaphor?

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30 Nov 2015 10:25 #210973 by Loudzoo
Replied by Loudzoo on topic Is anything not a metaphor?
In Bareus' thread on "Heaven, Hell and Reincarnation" there was an interesting sub-discussion going on regarding metaphor. I was pondering starting a new thread and then found this one from a couple of years ago (any coincidence that it was my Teaching Master who started it? :) )

Gisteron wrote:

The world doesn't work on metaphors and analogies the way people do.


Bareus wrote:

The world does not work on metaphors no, neither do we



The world may not work on (or through) metaphor but ALL our typical experience of the world (universe) is metaphor, is it not? Art and language are quite obviously metaphorical. It is less obvious with scientific or mathematic endeavours - but no less true. As Timothy Leary is quoted: "Science is all metaphor".
Alan Watts quotes Sir Arthur Eddington (the Quaker astronomer, physicist, mathematician who provided the first observational evidence to support Einstein's General theory) in The Book:
"We see the atoms with their girdles of circulating electrons darting hither and tither, colliding and rebounding. Free electrons torn from the girdles hurry away a hundred times faster, curving sharply round the atoms with side slips and hairbreadth escapes. X-rays impinge on the atoms and toss the electrons into higher orbits. We see these electrons falling back again, sometimes by steps, sometimes with a rush, caught in a cul-de-sac of metastability, hesitating before “forbidden passages".
Behind it all the quantum 'h' regulates each change with mathematical precision….The spectacle is so fascinating that we have perhaps forgotten that there was a time when we wanted to be told what an electron is. The question was never answered. No familiar conceptions can be woven around the electron; it belongs to the waiting list. Similarly the description of the processes must be taken with a grain of salt…
Something unknown is doing we don’t know what – that is what our theory amounts to.

Is it not the case that humans typically 'work' through metaphor - even though we normally don't realise it? Indeed isn't this state of affairs so pervasive that Lao Tzu tackles precisely this topic in chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching?

The world (universe) itself may or may not be a metaphor but all our human ideas and conceptualisations are. But that’s just my opinion. I found the above thread really helpful but if others have different ideas I'd be keen to hear them!



;)

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30 Nov 2015 12:20 - 30 Nov 2015 12:21 #210977 by Khaos
Replied by Khaos on topic Is anything not a metaphor?

The world (universe) itself may or may not be a metaphor but all our human ideas and conceptualisations are


So, what is a plane, a car, a computer, a T.V. etc,etc a metaphor for?

These were all at one time human ideas and conceptualizations.

They were not metaphors for anything however.

Hugs and Kisses.
~Khaos~
Last edit: 30 Nov 2015 12:21 by Khaos.
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30 Nov 2015 12:57 #210982 by Jestor
Replied by Jestor on topic Is anything not a metaphor?

Khaos wrote:

The world (universe) itself may or may not be a metaphor but all our human ideas and conceptualisations are


So, what is a plane, a car, a computer, a T.V. etc,etc a metaphor for?

These were all at one time human ideas and conceptualizations.

They were not metaphors for anything however.


Well, what are you comparing it to?

In a quick definition search, it was wrote: A metaphor is a figure of speech that identifies something as being the same as some unrelated thing for rhetorical effect, thus highlighting the similarities between the two

.

For some, it would depend on the thought(s) surrounding a word "airplane", for example...

"That bird is as high as an airplane."

A word is a group of sound symbols, put together to make another symbol... (Yes, I know you know, but there are other readers... :)..)

When compared to another unrelated object, for similarities comparison, then yes, airplane becomes a metaphor...

For some...

However, some of us have also discussed that you can not discuss something without understanding its opposite...

To talk about an "airplane", when most learned what it was, it was compared to things "not-airplane", so that a thought could form...

So, although we use the word "airplane", our mind also quickly goes to "not-airplane"...

I think, on average, if you walk up to a random person, and point and say "up", with no context, they would point point, and say "down"... Although, a quick check with my co-worker just proved me wrong... :lol:... I know that's what I would do... Maybe I am weird, lol...

For me to answer the OP, which I did, but not outright, lol...

"Yes, everything can be a metaphor", but I would venture further and say that at this time, I limit that to human understanding only...

Remove the human, then "No, nothing is a metaphor, things simply 'are'..."

:)

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Jedi ain't Saints....


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30 Nov 2015 15:17 #210994 by Loudzoo
Replied by Loudzoo on topic Is anything not a metaphor?

Khaos wrote:

The world (universe) itself may or may not be a metaphor but all our human ideas and conceptualisations are


So, what is a plane, a car, a computer, a T.V. etc,etc a metaphor for?

These were all at one time human ideas and conceptualizations.

They were not metaphors for anything however.


They were all at one time human ideas and conceptualisations - and they remain so, even after they are built and while their used. The word 'plane' is a metaphor for the object of our sensed experience of a 'flying machine with wings' but the metaphor goes much deeper than that. The divisions we see between objects, may be consistent but they are arbitrary. You can't split the plane from its fuselage. You can't split the fuselage from the Aluminium (say) its made from, and you can't separate the Aluminium from the people that mined and refined the bauxite, or from the supernova that created the Aluminium in the first place, or from the rest of the whole universe. In this sense the concept of a 'plane' is a shorthand metaphor for the whole history of the universe manifested in that particular place and time as a 'flying machine with wings'.

As John Muir is quoted "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe".

Communication would be dreadfully laborious without these metaphors - but the reality of a plane as an independent distinct thing doesn't really exist. Its just a reasonably efficient way to make sense of things - its not the reality.

Its only my opinion but I suspect the layers of metaphor go much deeper again. I've probably not explained myself clearly so far, and the rest will be even less clear . . . but I'll try and grasp some of Jestor's comments . . .

Say you see an aeroplane - where is the actual aeroplane? Its clearly not outside the aeroplane. Also no individual part of the aeroplane is the aeroplane itself. The aeroplane is an emergent phenomenon of all its various components. As I really think about this it eventually gets to the point that I realise that the aeroplane has no independent status - except in my mind - if I choose to see it that way. That's why any conceptualisation I have of anything (including an aeroplane) is a metaphor for the reality of whatever the aeroplane actually is.

I'm not sure that's the slightest bit clear but by all means kick the tyres again Khaos :)

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30 Nov 2015 17:30 #211006 by Gisteron
I think we need to distinguish between symbols and placeholders and proper metaphors.
The Oxford Dictionaries define a metaphor as

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable

This is not true of labels which are just shortcuts we use to refer to things rather than producing them in front of our eyes every time we wish to communicate a concept. The word tree is not a metaphor for the wooden plant, it is the name we chose to associate with the real thing.
Same goes for more bizarre things like the aforementioned electron. The word isn't a metaphor for the real thing, it is a label for it. Now, do we know what the electron actually is? It is an elementary particle, more specifically a fermion, and yet more specifically still a lepton, since it is one of the particles that make up matter. It has a mass of about a two-thousandth of an atomic mass unit, a spin of one half and one negative elementary charge. Now, do we know what it is? Arguably not, but that matters naught, because at the end of the day, we know it is something and we can tell it from some other things and rather than list all of the properties and behaviours of the thing, we sum them up with just one term - "the electron".
Of course, we are entitled to use metaphors to simplify or help illustrate all kinds of circumstance and so long as we keep in mind the limitations of any one given metaphor it may help us understand the weird by treating it as similar to the familiar - which is, admittedly, a rather sound reason to use metaphors every now and again. Not all of language is metaphor by that definition or by the one Jestor quoted, however. Neither is all of science or math.

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30 Nov 2015 18:00 - 30 Nov 2015 18:07 #211010 by Khaos
Replied by Khaos on topic Is anything not a metaphor?

Loudzoo wrote:

Khaos wrote:

The world (universe) itself may or may not be a metaphor but all our human ideas and conceptualisations are


So, what is a plane, a car, a computer, a T.V. etc,etc a metaphor for?

These were all at one time human ideas and conceptualizations.

They were not metaphors for anything however.


They were all at one time human ideas and conceptualisations - and they remain so, even after they are built and while their used. The word 'plane' is a metaphor for the object of our sensed experience of a 'flying machine with wings' but the metaphor goes much deeper than that. The divisions we see between objects, may be consistent but they are arbitrary. You can't split the plane from its fuselage. You can't split the fuselage from the Aluminium (say) its made from, and you can't separate the Aluminium from the people that mined and refined the bauxite, or from the supernova that created the Aluminium in the first place, or from the rest of the whole universe. In this sense the concept of a 'plane' is a shorthand metaphor for the whole history of the universe manifested in that particular place and time as a 'flying machine with wings'.

As John Muir is quoted "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe".

Communication would be dreadfully laborious without these metaphors - but the reality of a plane as an independent distinct thing doesn't really exist. Its just a reasonably efficient way to make sense of things - its not the reality.

Its only my opinion but I suspect the layers of metaphor go much deeper again. I've probably not explained myself clearly so far, and the rest will be even less clear . . . but I'll try and grasp some of Jestor's comments . . .

Say you see an aeroplane - where is the actual aeroplane? Its clearly not outside the aeroplane. Also no individual part of the aeroplane is the aeroplane itself. The aeroplane is an emergent phenomenon of all its various components. As I really think about this it eventually gets to the point that I realise that the aeroplane has no independent status - except in my mind - if I choose to see it that way. That's why any conceptualisation I have of anything (including an aeroplane) is a metaphor for the reality of whatever the aeroplane actually is.

I'm not sure that's the slightest bit clear but by all means kick the tyres again Khaos :)


No reason to kick the tires.

None of that is metaphor.

A flying machine with wings is a plane.

There is no metaphor.

This is a metaphor

"As gentle as a lamb"

Now, when speaking of a lamb, we are not using it as a metaphor for what a lamb is, in that it could be described as a "four legged animal" in which case, given how many others there are in the animal kingdom, wouldnt explain anything much less be a metaphor for anything. Which is only going to work as a metaphor if animal itself isnt, and so, not everything can be a metaphor or else you couldnt use them to make points for discussion.

a lamb is not separate from its organs, the universe, etc...

All that is irrelevant, not even remotely the point.

However, the metaphor for " As gentle as a lamb" is "A Person that has a kind and mild nature or either character. "

Aeroplane is not a metaphor, at all.

What you described is not a metaphor, but a list of names used to describe different parts of what make up a plane.

So, is anything not a metaphor?

Yep, lots of things arent.

Hugs and Kisses.
~Khaos~
Last edit: 30 Nov 2015 18:07 by Khaos.
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30 Nov 2015 18:12 #211015 by Khaos
Replied by Khaos on topic Is anything not a metaphor?

Hugs and Kisses.
~Khaos~

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30 Nov 2015 21:23 - 30 Nov 2015 21:23 #211055 by Adder
Replied by Adder on topic Is anything not a metaphor?
Now I'm wondering if the label of aeroplane is a metaphor for something which uses aerodynamics to 'plane' in said medium :S

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Last edit: 30 Nov 2015 21:23 by Adder.

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30 Nov 2015 21:25 #211056 by Gisteron

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30 Nov 2015 21:57 #211070 by Loudzoo
Replied by Loudzoo on topic Is anything not a metaphor?
When discussing such matters I understand the need for linguistic precision so thank you Khaos and Gisteron for tidying that up.

Without wishing to blunder on blindly - I will probably now do so! The position I have proposed is that the metaphors are much more pervasive than I have typically thought. Normally it might get a bit tiresome getting bogged down in definitions but I agree it is very important here.

Metaphor definition 1:
"A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable"
A label is not literally applicable to the thing it refers to anymore than a metaphor is. I would argue a label is a metaphor. A label is a linguistic shortcut that certain groups of people mutually agree to use, but that doesn't make it literally applicable to the object. The word 'aeroplane' means nothing to someone who speaks solely Japanese. There is no literal connection between the object and the word.

Metaphor definition 2:
"A metaphor is a figure of speech that identifies something as being the same as some unrelated thing for rhetorical effect, thus highlighting the similarities between the two."
Again the word 'aeroplane' is unrelated to the object - other than through a mutual agreement between a group of people to make it so, purely for rhetorical effect.

I'm guessing we'll probably agree to disagree on that, but many others have written in great detail on this. Nietzsche, for instance states that "we possess nothing but metaphors for things - metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities.". See here for further discussion:
www.ayling.com/content/documents/Academi...20and%20metaphor.pdf
Conclusion: To conclude, metaphor structures our thought in unexpected ways. Metaphor
proposes a “can be thought of as” relationship, and this proposal is the basis for all
systems of categorisation, all culturally endorsed impositions of meaning. It is a primary
tool of cognition and a means by which we build conceptual, epistemological knowledge.
I have argued that in as literal an utterance as language will permit, language is metaphor.
Metaphor is an appropriate means for seeking to understand language, because it is the
creator and the begotten, the stuff of language itself.


If language is metaphor then anything we speak of or think of in linguistic terms is metaphor (including mathematics and science). Incidentally when Leary said/wrote "All Science is metaphor" I suspect he was knowlingly playing with the words - his statement is a metaphor after all ;)

Whilst this is interesting it's only really the first layer of metaphor I was considering. If we can permit a small expansion of the definition of metaphor from merely being a figure of speech to the reality that everything we sense is not literally applicable to the subject/object in question (e.g. colour, smell, touch), or at least the use of the word 'metaphor' as a metaphor, then we can perhaps we can begin to realise how shaky the ground beneath our feet is - metaphorically speaking of course!

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