III. ON METAPHOR
In the case of metaphor, this redescription [of reality] is guided by the interplay between differences and resemblances that gives rise to the tension at the level of the utterance. It is precisely from this tensive apprehension that a new vision of reality springs forth, which ordinary vision resists because it is attached to the ordinary use of words. The eclipse of the objective, manipulable world thus makes way for the revelation of a new dimension of reality and truth.
FOUR THEORIES OF METAPHOR
The Emotive Theory
The Comparison Theory
The Iconic Signification Theory
The Verbal Opposition Theory
TURBAYNE, WHEELWRIGHT AND METAPHORICAL REALITY
Turbayne and The Myth of Metaphor
Philip Wheelwright’s Metaphor and Reality
Reference: Metaphors and Reality
LYALL AND METAPHORS
The Emotive Dimension
We have seen that Lyall is able to provide the basis for a consistent theory of emotion, even though he did not develop it thoroughly. This is why Sartre’s insight was welcomed. It offered a more advanced theoretical basis rooted in the phenomenological tradition and a more refined set of distinctions which when applied to Lyall’s ideas made it possible for us to see more clearly how it is that through our emotions we are linked to the phenomenal world. However, this is not all there is in Lyall that deserves our consideration.
Besides emotions, there is the intellect which Lyall believed to be divorced from the world. This is where Lyall erred, because the intellect too brings its contribution to our interaction with the world. For Lyall, the mind in the imaginative state is composed of two parts - the intellectual part and the emotional part. In so far as it is intellectual it creates metaphors by having the ability to perceive analogies. The description of our ability to perceive analogies, putting disparate things under a single light in order to create new meanings, is nothing less than an incipient definition of metaphor.
In this chapter I will develop the above idea of metaphor and, by making more careful use of Paul Ricoeur’s theory of metaphor, I will show that Lyall should not have sacrificed the creative power of the intellect for the inherited, Platonic view that keeps the intellect away from anything that involves it in an interplay with the phenomenal world.
This chapter begins with an exposition of various accounts of metaphor. Again, as in the previous chapter, my exposition will have as its goal the development of a theory that brings along not only a cognitive aspect but an emotional aspect as well and pays close attention to imagination. What interests me is finding a consistent relationship between metaphor and phenomenal reality.
The most suitable approach to an adequate theory of metaphor, I consider, is the one offered by Paul Ricoeur. The French philosopher considers that metaphors can be regarded as statements and thus, that we can talk about their truthfulness. Moreover, Ricoeur maintains that metaphors have the capability to reach reality, something that Lyall intuited but did not examine thoroughly.
FOUR THEORIES OF METAPHOR
In his article on “Metaphor” in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy (ed. Paul Edwards, 1972, vol. 5&6), Monroe C. Beardsley considers that we can talk about four distinctive theories of metaphor. They are: the emotive theory, the comparison theory, the iconic signification theory, and the verbal opposition theory. The purpose of going through this typology is to find whether there is a theory that construes metaphors in a way that is adequate to explain and expand Lyall’s ideas on the subject.
The Emotive Theory
The emotive theory is based on the fact that metaphors, in virtue of their deviant meaning, cannot be verified. From Aristotle’s definition of metaphor which will be discussed later in this chapter, we find out that a metaphor is “the application to a thing of a name that belongs to something else”. This ambiguity inherent in metaphor implies that metaphorical constructions are not capable of verification and therefore, they do not bear any cognitive meaning at all. Thus, what tells a metaphor apart from a non-metaphorical construction is the emotive meaning which springs up in the “process of relinquishing its cognitive or descriptive, meaning” (Beardsley 1972a, 285). For example, if we have the following two linguistic constructions: “Time is an uncle” and “Time is, of all modes of existence, most obsequious to the imagination” (Samuel Johnson), we can see that the first one is not a metaphor since there is no powerful emotive meaning attached to it. This is not the case with the second example which is where the emotive theory of metaphor stops. It does not go any further. It can be said that identifying metaphors is as far as it got. It does not say anything about what a metaphor is in itself. For example, the perception of time bowing to imagination, can rouse a certain emotion in ourselves on the basis of a tension between the perception of time and that of imagination. It also tells us that we can elude time by making use of our imagination, whereas seeing time as an uncle does nothing of the sort. Thus, there is knowledge to be gained through metaphor. This is what the representatives of the emotive theory overlooked, which is that metaphors have a cognitive side. They differ from nonsense constructions because they are bearers of cognitive meaning.
In sum, the emotive theory of metaphor, thus fails to provide a good basis for explaining individual metaphors. Emotions alone are not sufficient in this attempt. This theory represents a rudimentary approach “which has been broached, although never very thoroughly worked out”, on Beardsley’s assessment (Beardsley 1972a, 285).
The Comparison Theory
This theory of metaphor, the comparison theory, is the opposite of the one above. It emphasizes the intelligibility of metaphor to the detriment of its emotional tension. Basically, in this view, metaphor does not differ very much from a simile. The only difference lies in dropping the use of words such “as” or “like” in metaphors. Thus, the metaphor “love is a red rose” can be rewritten: “love is like a red rose” and therefore, through the metaphor we compare two terms (“love” and the “red rose”). By doing this we are able to know something about “love”, i.e., that it has some feature in common with the “red rose”. According to Beardsley:
This comparison theory evidently makes the metaphorical attribution intelligible, but it has difficulties in explaining what is so special about it. There are two related possibilities. One is to make a distinction between, say ‘close’ and ‘remote’ comparisons, and explain the tension in terms of remoteness: the tension is present when time is compared to a river (Heraclitus) or to a child at play (or when Bergson says that ‘real duration is that duration which gnaws on things, and leaves on them the mark of its tooth’), but absent when time is compared with space. The criteria of remoteness have not proved easy to provide. A second possibility is to measure the degree of metaphoricalness (so to speak) as the inverse of relative frequency…But that, too, seems insufficient: even if one compared, for the first time, the color of a fruitcake to the color of a newly cleaned Rembrandt, a metaphor would not thereby be established. (Ibid., 285)
Usually, the comparison theory of metaphor is associated with object comparison which means that metaphor focuses on comparing objects. This implies that the connotations of the words used in metaphor derive from “what is generally true of the objects”.
Now there are new difficulties that arise with this new theory which Beardsley quickly points out, this time in the essay The Metaphorical Twist (1972). For example, Beardsley cites from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets: “frigid purgatorial fires/ Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars” (Beardsley 1972b, 74). Beardsley considers that:
some of the important marginal meanings of ‘briars’ in the Eliot poem comes, of course, from the way the crown of thorns figures in the Christian story. And quite apart from its historical truth, the existence of that religion is sufficient to give the word that meaning. If in explicating this line we limit ourselves to what we know about briars, we would not fully understand it. (Ibid., 75)
One has to have some particular knowledge of the world in order to understand it. Not knowing what the connotation of the word “briars” is as it is used in this particular context, makes it impossible to grasp the metaphor. Another difficulty remarked upon by Beradsley is that “once we commit ourselves to finding, or supplying, an object to be compared with the subject of the metaphor we open the way for that flow of idiosyncratic imagery that is one of the serious barriers between a reader and a poem” (Ibid., 75).
These then are the flaws of the comparison theory. Just by comparing terms or objects even though sometimes we can arrive at something that is meaningful, that can be understood, we are not necessarily producing metaphors. It leaves aside any tensional element and any emotional component as well.
The Iconic Signification Theory
Out of the comparison theory grew the iconic signification theory which regards metaphor as involving a double semantic relationship. First, the modifier, which Beardsley defines as “the metaphorical predicate or term, whether noun or adjective”, leads us to a specific occurrence or situation. Then, this occurrence or situation is brought forth as an iconic sign of the subject. An iconic sign should be understood in C.S. Pierce’s sense, as a sign capable of signifying through its similarities to what it signifies. “The meaning of the metaphor”, Beardsley explains, “is obtained by reading off the properties thus iconically attributed” (Beardsley 1972a, 285). For example, when saying that “Time is a river”, the word “river” is used here so that it functions as an iconic sign for time, thus conferring on us an insight into the nature of time, namely that it is directed one-dimensionally, that it cannot be reversed, etc.
The trouble here, Beardsley thinks, is that the iconic theory imports a foreign object of a certain kind and thus it is subject to the difficulties arising with regard to what object works best in order to bring forth the full meaning of the metaphor. Moreover, the iconic signification theory, because it is based on the object comparison theory, allows for swaps between the modifier and the modified subject. Thus, in the example above “Time is a river”, we can inverse the metaphor and say “The river is time”. The only difference, Paul Henle, an exponent of the iconic signification theory, thinks is that sometimes, “the feeling tone is different”. Beardsley objects: “I don’t believe this will do: the difference between ‘this man is a lion’ and ‘this lion is a man’ is in what the different metaphorical modifiers attribute to the subjects” (1972b, 78). The examples above are not comparable to each other since in calling men lions and lions men we are not attributing the same properties from one to the other. The properties of lions that we attribute to men are different from the properties of men that we attribute to lions and therefore, the metaphor cannot be inverted.
The iconic signification theory of metaphor presents us with a refinement of the comparison theory in that it brings in a tensive moment created by putting together remote ideas. “Time” and “river”, in the example above, are two remote ideas which are metaphorically connected. However, there is not enough place for a well defined emotive component since there is a difference in the “feeling tone”, as Henle considers, when a metaphor is inverted. This difference however, does not take us too far because, in Henle’s view, we would be dealing with the same metaphor: “this man is a lion” and “this lion is a man” are basically expressions of the same metaphor, even though there might be a slight difference in the “feeling tone”.
There is, however, another attempt to explain metaphor for which the flaws encountered here are not a concern.
The Verbal Opposition Theory
The fourth theory, the verbal opposition theory of metaphor, brings together words or phrases whose central meanings collide. They enter into a logical conflict and this is an indication of a necessary shift, a shift from the central meaning to the marginal meaning. Beardsley’s view of metaphor with regard to this theory is that:
In many common words and phrases, we can roughly distinguish two sorts of meaning: (1) the central meaning, or meanings - what is called designation or (in Mill’s sense) connotation, and may be recorded in a dictionary as standard; and (2) the marginal meaning, consisting of those properties that the word suggests or connotes (in the literary critic’s sense of this term) […] This theory thus rests upon (1) a distinction between two levels of meaning, and (2) the principle that metaphor involves essentially a logical conflict of central meanings. (Beardsley 1972, 286)
This conflict is what alerts us to the fact that the word or phrase has to be taken metaphorically. It is what Beardsley calls “the metaphorical twist”. This approach to metaphor, however, does not allow for words to acquire new meanings because words come into play with a series of meanings which are either central or marginal and as a result of the logical opposition we pick from the “repertoire of marginal meanings (and from the non-conflicting part of the central meaning) those properties that can sensibly be attributed to the subject-thing, and so read the metaphor as making that attribution” (Beardsley 1972a, 286). Foreseeing this problem, Beardsley expanded the theory offering in his essay The Metaphorical Twist a revised version of the verbal opposition theory.
Metaphor, Beardsley considers, brings into play some properties of the words or phrases used in its structure that were not previously in the foreground of the meaning. He explains that there are at least three steps that make up this process:
In the first stage we have a word and properties that are definitely not part of the intension of that word. Some of those properties are eligible to become part of the intension, to join the range of connotation. In order to be eligible they have to be fairly common properties […] When the word comes to be used metaphorically in a certain sort of context, then what was previously only a property is made, at least temporarily into a meaning. And widespread familiarity with that metaphor, or similar ones, can fix the property as an established part of the meaning […] When a connotation becomes so standardized for a certain types of context, it may be shifted to a new status, where it becomes a necessary condition for applying the word in that context. It constitutes a new standard. (Beardsley 1972, 84)
Thus, at first, a word has a definite set of properties that make up the intension of that word. Then, other properties are brought forth inasmuch as they could, potentially, become part of that word’s intension. Then, when that word is used metaphorically, the property actually becomes part of the word’s intension and therefore a new meaning is created.
To illustrate how this works, I will borrow Beardsley’s example. He writes that the word ‘warm’ was extrapolated from the area of sensory experience and employed in describing human personality:
I should think that the first application of ‘warm’ to a person had to change some accidental properties of warm things into part of a new meaning of the word, though now we easily think of these properties as connotations of ‘warm’ - for example, approachable, pleasurable-in-acquaintance, inviting. These qualities were part of the range of connotations of ‘warm’ even before they were noted in warm things, which may not have been until they were noted in people and until someone, casting about for a word that would metaphorically describe those people, hit upon the word ‘warm’ But before those qualities could come to belong to the staple connotation of ‘warm’, it had to be discovered that they could be meant by the word when used in an appropriate metaphor. (Ibid., 85)
Thus, in order to understand the metaphor “she is a warm person”, one has to think of properties of the word “warm” such as inviting, approachable, etc., which initially were not among the connotations of this particular word. Through metaphorical use, the word expanded its range of meanings and became fuller.
Now, the verbal opposition theory of metaphor, even though it does not include an emotive component, seems to be a very elaborate approach to the study of metaphor allowing for metaphor to augment the use of words in a language, allowing for new meanings to occur, allowing for surprising ideas to emerge from the juxtaposition of words. Two exponents of this view are Colin Turbayne and Philip Wheelwright, both stressing the importance of metaphor in bringing forth new meanings for words or phrases. They also represent two opposed views on the relation between metaphors and reality. This controversial relation is of foremost importance because it represents the connection with Lyall’s ideas.
TURBAYNE, WHEELWRIGHT AND METAPHORICAL REALITY
In this section, I will critically examine Turbayne and Wheelwright’s approaches. Through criticism of their views I will arrive at Paul Ricoeur’s theory which I consider is the most comprehensive one. Ricoeur retains what is fruitful from the above mentioned theories and tries to make them part of a very ambitious project which is represented by his monumental work The Rule of Metaphor (1977). In order to give a crude preliminary description of his theory it should be mentioned that he manages to open a new dimension in the analysis of metaphor by linking it through a special use of imagination to the phenomenal world, and by according it the status of a statement by redefining Frege’s sense and reference polarity. The issue of emotional meaning is also an integral part of Ricoeur’s work. This brings us back to the framework of William Lyall’s thought. Moreover, in as much as metaphors have an intellectual dimension, they do improve our relationship with the world. They augment the world itself, an insight that Lyall failed to achieve but nonetheless one which Ricoeur rightly emphasized.
Thus, I will start with the two different views on this issue, first that of Collin Turbayne, who develops a theory of metaphor based on the “as if” prescription and thus brings the whole discussion on metaphor to the field of reflective judgment. Then there is Philip Weelwright’s theory which considers that metaphorical language, through its fluidity and tensiveness, is closely connected to “what is”, that is, to the real. Then, by using these two theories as dialectical counterparts, I will try to bring them together in an act of synthesis, arriving finally at Paul Ricoeur’s theory of metaphor.
The goal of this chapter is to show that metaphors do “reach” reality and that Lyall, instead of referring to the imaginative state as something that defies explanation, could have gone further and thus have realized that the intellect is not completely alienated from the phenomenal world because of its ability to create metaphors. Of course, Lyall’s lack of the philosophical tools necessary to achieve this task, such as those of phenomenology and theory of metaphor, hampered him from developing these ideas. This chapter thus amounts to a critique of Lyall which should also be understood as a continuation of his thought.
Turbayne and the Myth of Metaphor
The classical definition of metaphor is the one given by Aristotle. For Aristotle, metaphors: “consist in giving the thing a name that belongs to something else; the transference (epi-phora) being either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or on the grounds of analogy” (Poetics 1457 b 6-9). For example, the expression “love is a red rose” is a metaphor. To break down Aristotle’s definition, we can see that the noun “love” is the focus of the metaphor. Something happens to it: it is explained, it is made understandable by employing a less abstract and more concrete term, the “red rose”. We are dealing with a movement from an abstract concept to a term which can be grasped more easily by transferring one name onto the other. “Love”, for the person experiencing this emotion is the same as a “red rose” for our experience of beauty: its rich color, its disposition of velvety petals, as well as its perfume make us want to have it as close as possible so we can enjoy its beauty. The same happens when in love - there is a state of intense longing for union with the other where the other represents everything that is beautiful and exciting. In this case, the transference happens “on the grounds of analogy” between love and the red rose.
Collin Turbayne begins his book The Myth of Metaphor (1970) by challenging Aristotle’s definition. Turbayne is not satisfied with it because he identifies cases of metaphors that, in virtue of their existence, require that the definition be either broader or narrower. It should be broader because some metaphors do not have to be expressed in words. There can be metaphors that are expressed through painting, sculpture, dance, etc. Turbayne explains:
Michelangelo, for example, used the figure of Leda, with the swan to illustrate being lost in the rapture of physical passion, and the same figure of Leda, only this time without the swan, to illustrate being lost in the agony of dying. It will also allow the concrete physical models of applied scientists, the blackboard of teachers, the toy blocks of children that may be used to represent the battle of Trafalgar, and the raised eyebrow of the actor that may illustrate the whole situation in the state of Denmark, to be classified as metaphor. (Ibid., 13)
In order to solve this problem, Turbayne takes “name” from the above definition to mean “a sign or a collection of signs” (Turbayne 1970, 13). Thus, for Turbayne, the act of transference (epi-phora) from Aristotle’s definition does not occur from genus to species, or from species to genus, etc. but from a “sort” to other “sort”. A “sort” is a particular kind, class or group and he calls the transference “sort-crossing”. What this means is that now, every act of transference can be perceived as a metaphor. The outcome of building the metaphor on the basis of sort-crossing is that suddenly its whole meaning becomes unstable. “If the term metaphor be let apply to every trope of language, to every result of association of ideas and analogical reasoning, to architecture, music, painting, religion, and to all the synthetic processes of art, science, and philosophy, then indeed metaphor will be warred against by metaphor […] and how then can its meaning stand?” (Bedell 1936, 103). This would mean, as noted above, that every sort-crossing would be a metaphor and thus the definition of metaphor should be narrower. The solution, Turbayne considers, lies in the fact that every sort-crossing is just a potential metaphor. What makes a metaphor to be a metaphor is the “as if”, the “make believe” which is inherently present in it . In the example used above, “love is a red rose” the metaphor exists in as much as the expression is taken to mean that love is “as if” it is a red rose. The “as if” prescription is implicit. It involves a certain level of awareness without which the metaphor does not occur to us. Thinking of love as being literally a red rose does not bring us into the presence of metaphor. What does, is perceiving the similarity and being aware of it, knowing that things happen “as if” they are similar.
Turbayne’s theory of metaphor “represents the facts […] as if they belonged to one logical type or category (or range, or types of categories), when they actually belong to another”. (Turbayne 1970, 18). But this new definition happens to be the very definition that Gilbert Ryle gave, not for metaphor, but for the category mistake (or categorial confusion). The metaphor finds its essence in the act of sort-crossing or duality of sense, but it does that by filling up the “as if” prescription, “fusing two senses by making believe there is only one sense”.
Thus, metaphor on Turbayne’s account shifts from being a category confusion to a “category fusion”. What Turbayne means is that there is no mistake in self-consciously crossing sorts for otherwise all metaphors will be nothing but mistakes. This does not imply that one is right in “presenting the facts of one sort in the idioms of another without awareness” (Ibid., 22). This is plain confusion of disparate senses of a sign which surely does not give birth to a metaphor. If the question is when does a metaphor occur, then Turbayne replies that:
The answer lies in the as if or make-believe feature […] When Descartes says that the world is a machine or when I say with Seneca that man is a wolf, and neither of us intends our assertions to be taken literally but only metaphorically, both of us are aware, first, that we are sort-crossing, that is, re-presenting the facts of one sort in the idioms appropriate to another, or, in other words, of the duality of sense. I say ‘are aware’, but of course, we must be, otherwise there can be no metaphor. We are aware, secondly, that we are treating the world and man as if they belong to new sorts. We are aware of the duality of sense in ‘machine’ and ‘wolf’, but we make believe that each has only one sense - that there is no difference in kind, only in degree, between the giant clockwork of nature and the pygmy clockwork of my wrist watch, or between man-wolves and timber wolves. (Ibid., 17)
Thus there are two different ways for looking at the relationship between sorts: there is sort-crossing, which actually defines metaphor, and there is sort-trespassing which brings forth the issue of being used by the metaphor because in this case the “as if” prescription is overlooked and the metaphor is taken literally (see Appendix).
It follows that being able to “see” the metaphor implies an awareness without which one merely gets lost in the midst of recognizing various senses of a sign. An example would be realizing the difference between “seeing the point of a needle and seeing the point of a joke”. In that moment when only one of the two different senses fused is metaphorical but is taken literally, we are dealing with sort-trespassing, as Turbayne recognizes that:
The victim of metaphor accepts one way of sorting or building or allocating the facts as the only way to sort, bundle, or allocate them. The victim not only has a special view of the world but regards it as the only view, or rather, he confuses a special view of the world with the world. He is thus a metaphysician. He has mistaken the mask for the face. Such a victim who is a metaphysician malgré lui is to be distinguished from that other metaphysician who is aware that his allocation of the facts is arbitrary and might have been otherwise. (Ibid., 27)
For Turbayne, the encounter with a metaphor provokes our awareness. We have to perform three operations in order to understand a metaphorical construction. We must be able, first, to spot the metaphor, to discover it in a text, in a work of art or in music. Then, we have to identify its literal interpretation and we have to point it out in order to get rid of it so that we are left with the metaphorical interpretation. After doing that we are then able to restore the metaphor as a metaphor, as something where the process of sort-crossing happens but this time with awareness of its occurrence.
Turbayne’s theory of metaphor rests upon reflective judgment. His fear of being victimized by metaphor can only be eradicated if we are constantly aware and make use of the above operations. Metaphor is something that is created by breaking patterns, and making new connections instead of preserving old associations. This must be accompanied by the “vigilance of the as if”, as Ricoeur puts it in The Rule of Metaphor (1977).
To summarize, Turbayne is advocating a theory of metaphor in which every single use of sort-crossing must be very lucid and radically intellectual. He underlines this claim in The Myth of Metaphor as follows: “the main theme of this book is that we should constantly try to be aware of the presence of metaphor, avoiding being victimized by our own as well as by others” (Ibid., 217). But how is it possible for a metaphor to present itself in its fullness and with all its power without us believing in its descriptive and representative value? Throughout his book, Turbayne is worried that we not fall prey to “believing” that which metaphor represents which will lead us to take the metaphor literally.
However, Ricoeur asks, “can one create metaphors without believing them and without believing that, in a certain way, ‘that is’?” (Ricoeur 1977, 254). Should the creative dimension of language be divorced from the creative aspect of reality itself? Turbayne’s prescription for metaphor limits imagination. It subjects it to the “philosophy of the as if”. The spark fired by the metaphor in poetry, for example, is promptly put out the moment we become “aware” that it is just an artifice which, once spotted, cannot have the power to lift us up on reverie’s summit. When thinking about the ‘love is a red rose’ metaphor, Turbayne would like us to enjoy the cleverness of the construction. He remarks that “the invention of a metaphor full of illustrative power is the achievement of genius” (Turbayne 1970, 57). On his account there should be nothing beyond this. The sole joy that we retrieve from metaphor should only be delivered by our capacity for reflective judgment. But there is more to metaphor than this. A lot more!
Philip Wheelwright’s Metaphor and Reality
It is Philip Wheelwright’s position, developed in his book Metaphor and Reality (1973) that there is a very strong relationship between language and phenomenal reality, and metaphor is that which illustrates it the best. Wheelwright adopts a position contrary to that of Turbayne. If Turbayne is prone to draw attention to what the metaphor is not, to make it clear that everything that pertains to metaphorical creation happens within the limits determined by the “as if”, Wheelwright leans toward emphasizing what the metaphor is, how it is so very strongly intertwined with phenomenal reality. With Wheelwright, metaphor offers more than the kind of pleasure resting entirely on our capacity for reflective judgment. Through metaphor we become capable of being intimately connected with “What Is”, as he writes, with what is reality and how it presents itself to us.
For Wheelwright, reality can be described as having three important features: it is presential, it is coalescent and it is perspectival. The fact that reality is presential means that there is a sense of presence which can be felt with regard to another human being, another person, and toward inanimate beings as well. The other is present for us not as an object, not as something out there, out of reach, but rather as something with which we are linked. We experience the presence of the-other-than-us and we connect with it:
Every presence has an irreducible core of mystery, so long as it retains its presential character. Explanations, theories, and specific questionings are directed toward an object in its thinghood, not in its presentness. An object in its thinghood is characterized by spatio-temporal and causal relations to other objects in their thinghood: we inquire about its name, its place,its why and whither, its status according to some system of values….When, on the other hand, two persons meet and their meeting is one of mutual presentness, the essentiality of their meeting has nothing to do with names and addresses…No multiplication of such details, however full and meticulous, can be a substitute for the real meeting….The same is true when no other human being is involved, and hence no assured mutuality. The sense of presence that occurs to one who catches a sudden glimpse of, say, a certain, contour of hills or of a red wheelbarrow in the rain, defies explanation; for when explanations are begun or sought the sheer presentness diminishes or disappears. (Wheelwright 1973, 158-159)
Being open to sensing the presence of the surrounding world, means that the Cartesian dualism between mind and body does not hold any longer. As a consequence, there is something more here than just the mind as perceiving subject and the body as perceived object. Both of them are blended together, both of them are united; they are nothing but the two sides of a coin. Reality, for Wheelwright, surpasses distinctions like subject and object, or mind and body. Reality, he writes, “is That to which every […] category tries to refer and which every philosophical statement tries to describe, always from an intellectual point of view and always with ultimate inadequacy” (Ibid., 166-167).
The aspect of reality which emphasizes its unity, Wheelwright represents by using the term “coalescent”. To coalesce means to grow together or into one body; to unite, join together. What Wheelwright seems to point out is that we are part of the world and we grow together with the environment. The mind/body dichotomy, or the subject/object split have unfortunate consequences. Wheelwright considers that it:
gives undue prestige to certain aspects of experience (those which we call collectively the ‘physical’ aspects) at the expense of other and perhaps intrinsically more important aspects; moreover, it generates artificial questions. To ask (as philosophical aestheticians often do) whether the beauty of a rose is in the rose or in the eye and mind of the beholder is palpably an unreal question, for the concrete answer is ‘Both’; and if the answer looks contradictory, so much the worse for the dualistic structure of thought that makes it look so. The I who am aware and the that of which I am aware are but two aspects of a single sure actuality, as inseparable as the convex and the concave aspects of a single geometrical curve. (Ibid., 166)
What Wheelwright means is that the world is not an inert mechanical object but a living field, an open and dynamic landscape. The world does not derive from an impersonal or objective dimension of scientific facts. It is not a collection of data “from which all subjects and subjective qualities are pared away, but it is rather an intertwined matrix of sensations and perceptions” (Abram 1997, 39). Thus, we are not mere observers. We participate in reality.
The last feature of reality discussed by Wheelwright refers to it as being perspectival. The fact that reality possesses a perspectival and contextual character, implies that its nature is constantly problematic, it cannot be corseted within formulas or systematized. We, as complex human beings are diverse and we are also in the presence of a reality itself diverse and complex, we are part of it and thus we cannot postulate “a single type of reality as ultimate”. For Wheelwright, it is evident that:
The communication of presential and coalescent reality is not possible by relying on words with inflexible meanings; if it is to be achieved at all (and the achievement is always imperfect at best) the common words must be chosen and contextualized with discriminating suitability. Much of the context is constructed in the act and by the manner of saying forth; it is not all previously given. The fresh context may be regarded as an angle of vision, a perspective, through which reality can be beheld in a certain way, a unique way, not entirely commensurate with any other way. (1973, 170)
This brings us to the issue of language and, implicitly, to metaphor. Language, Wheelwright considers, in as much as it is used to express the complexity and tensivity of the physical world and also the complexity of human nature, is itself intricate, engulfed in tensions between suitable word combinations used to “represent some aspect or other of the pervasive living tension” (Ibid., 48). On Wheelwright’s approach, language is itself alive, in continuous change because those who use it try to find better and simpler ways to express themselves or to reflect their relationship with the surrounding world. Wheelwright argues that:
language that strives toward adequacy - as opposed to signs and words of practical intent or of mere habit - is characteristically tensive to some degree and in some manner or other. This is true whether the language consists of gesture, drawings, musical compositions, or (what offers by far the largest possibilities of development) verbal language consisting of words, idioms, and syntax. (Ibid., 46-47)
At the core of this strife within language is the metaphor. Quoting John Middleton Murry, Wheelwright refers to metaphor as being “as ultimate as speech itself, and speech as ultimate as thought”. Metaphor is that which reflects best the tensive nature of language and, at the same time, that which provokes our thinking and imagination.
As we have seen above, where we presented Aristotle’s definition, the metaphoric process implies a transfer, a movement within the semantic field of a specific sort to the semantic field of another. This transfer (“phora”) has, as Wheelwright notes, two distinctive characteristics, a “double imaginative act of outreaching and combining that essentially marks the metaphoric process” (Ibid., 72). But these two components of metaphor appear, in the most eloquent cases as working together and thus, they should not be regarded separately but rather as two dimensions of metaphor. However, in order to better understand them, Wheelwright names and analyzes them one at a time. Their names are epiphor, which stands for “the outreach and extension of meaning through comparison” and diaphor, meaning “the creation of a new meaning by juxtaposition or synthesis”.
The metaphor as epiphor in its essence does nothing more than express a similarity between two different terms where one of them has a commonly known sense and is used as a vehicle to shed light on a more important but, at the same time, more difficult to comprehend term, the tenor. Thus, by easily bringing in a context, epiphoric metaphor make-believes something about something else which is usually obscurely known. For example, when Seneca said that “Man is a wolf”, he did not mean that the sort “man” is included in the sort “wolf”, but rather by transferring the name “wolf” to the name “man”, he asserted something about human nature, namely that it shares some characteristics with the nature of the wolf. This is a metaphor because here there are two distinct ideas between which, through the act of transference, a connection is realized which is not valid in the case of “the Tasmanian wolf is a wolf” where “the Tasmanian wolf” is a sort included in a larger sort, the one of “wolf” with which it shares similar characteristics. It is in the latter instance when the word “wolf” is taken in its literal meaning while it is in the former where it is taken metaphorically.
Therefore, the epiphoric metaphor assumes a similarity between the modifier (wolf) and the modified (man) and it is primarily based on their comparison. But, as Wheelwright points out, these two elements of similarity and comparison need not be obvious, nor explicit. If they are, the tension provoked by the transference would be diminished and the metaphor would lose its depth. “A tensive vibrancy can be achieved only where an adroit choice of dissimilars is made, so that the comparison comes as a shock which is yet a shock of recognition” (Ibid., 75). This is what gives “freshness” to the epiphoric metaphor at its best. When saying that “Time is a river”, there are no obvious similarities between “time”, which is an abstract notion and “river”, which has a concrete, empirical experience. Connecting these two terms comes as a surprise at first but soon, when considering the flow of the river as being similar to the flow of time, we realize the depth of the metaphor.
Another source for vitality is offered by synesthesis, a term which expresses the working together of different sense organs. Synesthesis leads to creation of metaphors, Wheelwright considers, “since the comparison of one type of sense-impression with that given by a different sense-organ stirs the reader to reflective contemplation along two of his avenues of sense at once” (Ibid., 76). Examples of synesthetic expressions are “bitter colors”, “gray whispers”, “green smells”, etc.
Besides this kind of transference through comparison, there is another one which Wheelwright calls “diaphor” (from the Greek dia - through). In this case, the semantic movement takes place not by comparing, but by juxtaposing distinctive sorts. Taken alone, as parts, the elements of the metaphor do not say anything but at the moment when they are put together a whole new meaning is unveiled. As an example, let us take Descartes’ rhetorical statement in The World, chapter VI, where he writes about the world as being a machine: “Give me extension and motion and I will construct the world” (Cited by Turbayne 1970, 67).
Descartes presents us with a relation between the world as extension and the world as motion which put together, juxtaposed and metaphorically interpreted gives us an idea about the world’s essence. There can be detected a contrast between extension and motion. But only when they are put together can they give us something new. Leaving aside whether Descartes perceived this as a metaphor or not, it is obvious that by using the combination of expressions he was able to produce a new meaning for the concept “world”. The world, for Descartes, is that which has not only extension but motion as well.
However, the best examples of diaphoric metaphor are to be found in an area of artistic production such as abstract painting, where combinations of colored lines or brush strokes or paint spills open up different spaces transforming canvas’ bidimensional space into a four dimensional continuum, where tridimensional coordinates are enriched with the addition of an inner, personal time or music, where the juxtaposition of various instruments and voices creates an emotionally meaningful state in the listener. Thus, for Wheelwright:
[t]he essential possibility of diaphor lies in the broad ontological fact that new qualities and new meanings can emerge, simply come into being, out of some hitherto ungrouped combination of elements. If one can imagine a state of the universe, perhaps a trillion years ago, before hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms had ever come together, it may be presumed that up to that time water did not exist. Somewhere in the later vastitude of time, then, water first came into being - when just those two necessary elements came together at last under the right conditions of temperature and pressure. Analogous novelties occur in the sphere of meanings as well. As in nature new qualities may be engendered by the juxtaposition of previously un-joined words and images. (Ibid., 85-86)
However, pure diaphoric metaphor can hardly be found. It rather exists in combination with epiphoric metaphor. Together, they can bring different sorts close.
Through the comparison virtues of epiphor and through the fresh juxtaposition of “several vehicular images” of diaphor, new meanings emerge. As an example, the following text from the reflective poetry of Egyptian Pyramids can illustrate the collaboration of epiphor and diaphor:
Death is in my eyes today:
As in a sick man beginning to recover
From a deep illness. (Erman 1927, 10)
Thus, the phrase “death is in my eyes today” represents an epiphor. However, taking separately the rest of the verse: “As in a sick man beginning to recover/ From a deep illness” we will find that it is not a metaphor. Only in combination with the first part it can be regarded metaphorically. The whole verse is a diaphor.
The essential character of the metaphor, as Wheelwright sees it, is the ability to provoke a tension which, as Ricoeur put it, “guaranties the very transference of meaning and gives poetic language its characteristic of semantic ‘plus-value’, its capacity to be open towards new aspects, new dimensions, new horizons, new meanings” (Ricoeur 1977, 250). The epiphor and the diaphor are the revolving electrons around the nucleus of metaphor’s meaning.
To sum up, it can be affirmed that throughout Metaphor and Reality, Wheelwright continuously stresses the “tensive” character of language. To illustrate this, he makes use of words like “living”, “alive” or “intense” which all are meant to cast a light on the fact that language is so similar to life, to what is real, to “What Is”. Language and “What Is” have analogous ontological features and this entitles Wheelwright to think of metaphor, since it represents best these features of the tensive language, as having the power to reach reality.
However, Wheelwright’s account of the connection between reality and language reflected through metaphor cannot surpass the trap of an “ontological naiveté”, Ricoeur considers in The Rule of Metaphor. The power of the dialectic between diaphor and epiphor which started Wheelwright’s analysis fades away when the “intuitionist and vitalist tendency” is disclosed toward the end of his book. Ricoeur thinks that:
Wheelwright is not wrong to speak of ‘presential reality’, but he neglects to distinguish poetic truth from mythic absurdity. He who does so much to have the ‘tensional’ character of language recognized misses the ‘tensional’ character of truth, by simply substituting one notion of truth for another; accordingly, he goes over to the side of abuse by aproximating poetic textures simply to primitive animism. (Ibid., 255)
Thus, Ricoeur reproaches Wheelwright arguing that his account, even though bold in its attempt, is disappointing in its outcome. For Wheelwright, Ricoeur thinks, the border between language and the world is blurred to such an extent that it has almost vanished. Words and therefore, metaphors and things are essentially similar. In this respect, Wheelwright went too far, abusing the tensional use of language, overemphasizing the strong correlation between metaphor and reality and thus failing to observe the differences between the two. Now Ricoeur uses Wheelwright’s approach to metaphor in opposition to Turbayne’s and considers them as steps of a dialectical process. He brings them together in order to shape his own theory of metaphor. We pointed out what he finds unsatisfactory in Wheelwright’s approach. As regards Turbayne, “abuse is […] the ‘myth’ of his title, in a more epistemological than ethnological sense, scarcely differing from what we just called ontological naiveté” (Ibid., 251). Turbayne’s thesis, that metaphorical constructions are purely intellectual constructions, implies that they do not refer to reality differently than scientific formulas. Turbayne’s approach is always concerned with truth from an epistemological perspective which makes his endeavor very similar to the positivism that he criticizes. Turbayne leaves no room for poetic language which breaks through “the very notions of fact, object, reality and truth, as delimited by epistemology. Turbayne’s metaphor still belongs to the order of the manipulable. It is something we choose to use, to not use, to re-use. This power to decide, coextensive with the absolute hold of the ‘as if’, is without analogue on the side of poetic experience, in which imagination is ‘bound’” (Ibid., 253).
Thus we have Turbayne’s position on the one hand, and Wheelwright’s, on the other. Turbayne stresses what metaphor is not by emphasizing that metaphorical constructions are purely intellectual products with no real reference whereas Wheelwright emphasizes what metaphor is by stressing the fact that metaphors are deeply rooted in the natural world. The former wants us to be aware of the “as if” prescription of the metaphor; the latter discovers deeper connections between metaphor and “What Is”.
After the analyses of metaphor by writers such as Collin Turbayne, Philip Wheelwright and, as we will see, Paul Ricoeur, metaphor does not allow itself to be regarded as a simple ornament that conveys no new meaning, that has nothing to do with reality or with our relationship to it. Ricoeur breaks away from the traditional understanding of metaphor which started shortly after Aristotle and culminated with Romanticism.
Metaphor brings remote ideas together into a unity and it does that by following the guidance offered by their likeness, as we have seen above, for example, when “time” and “river” were brought together in the metaphor “Time is a river”. The fact that the remote ideas are alike implies that they are, at the same time, similar and different. In a metaphor, different ideas melt and their likeness acts as a catalyst. In this way, metaphor acts like a screen or a filter in the discursive process. Finally, Ricoeur brings us face to face with a new structure of reality. This new structure made visible by the metaphor emerges on the ruins of the previous structure to which the remote ideas previously belonged, as we will see below.
Reference: Metaphors and Reality
Metaphors are philosophically relevant, argues Ricoeur, because they create new meanings, because they are innovative. With Ricoeur the approach to metaphor implies a change of view inasmuch as he brings forth a new understanding of sense and of reference, of imagination, to which he adds an emotive dimension.
Ricoeur upgrades Gottlob Frege's distinction between sense and meaning (where the sense is what the proposition states; the denotation, or meaning, is that about which the sense is stated) into one between sense and reference. For Ricoeur, sense results from a largely horizontal, semantic proceeding and identifies an entry in the imaginary cultural encyclopedia constituting what can be called a metaphoric proposition. Reference is “[metaphor's] claim to reach reality” (Ricoeur 1980, 140), even if often a redefined reality. It adds to sense an emotional and imaginative and pragmatic verticality. For Ricoeur, “the literary work through the structure proper to it displays a world only under the condition that the reference of descriptive discourse is suspended. Or, to put it another way, discourse in the literary work sets out its denotation, by means of the suspension of the first level denotation of discourse” (Ricoeur 1977, 221). Thus, for Ricoeur, there are two distinct possibilities to refer to the issue of reference, or denotation with regard to metaphorical statements.
In The Rule of Metaphor, Ricoeur contrasts Gottlob Frege’s approach, with Emile Benveniste’s. He begins with the question: “What does the metaphorical statement say about reality? This question carries us across the threshold from the sense towards the reference of discourse” (Ibid., 216). In other words, in order to know how metaphors relate to reality we have to find out first to what they refer.
Following Frege’s article On Sense and Reference (1960), we realize that the reference, as Ricoeur puts it, “is communicated from the proper name to the entire proposition, which, with respect to reference, becomes the proper name of a state of affairs” (Ibid., 218). Proper names “pick up” objects in the world, they stand for or designate their reference and, because their reference is communicated to the entire proposition, that is, the entire metaphorical statement, we cannot talk about metaphors without referring to proper names. Thus, when we use a proper name, like “the Moon”, we do not refer to our idea of the moon nor to a specific mental event corresponding to it. Nor do we refer to some kind of ideal object “irreducible to any mental event” which we “presuppose besides a reference”. It is Frege’s understanding that:
The sentence ‘Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca while sound asleep’ obviously has a sense. But since it is doubtful whether the name ‘Odysseus’, occurring therein, has reference, it is also doubtful whether the whole sentence has one […] For it is of the reference of the name that the predicate is affirmed or denied. Whoever does not admit the name has reference can neither apply nor withhold the predicate. (1960, 62-63)
Thus, once a name in a sentence has no clear reference then the whole sentence lacks reference. Frege considers that our quest for truth, our “intention on speaking and thinking” demands a reference, it demands that we “advance from sense to reference”. However, this demand causes us to err, Ricoeur thinks. “This striving for truth suffuses the entire proposition, to the extent that it can be assimilated to a proper name; but it is via the proper name as intermediary that, for Frege, the proposition has reference” (Ricoeur 1977, 218). Thus, because Odysseus has no reference, the sentence “Odysseus is a journey” or any metaphorical statement that has the word Odysseus in it, would have no reference either which means that they are mere intellectual productions. This Ricoeur considers to be a limitation of Frege’s position.
However, Ricoeur brings forth Emil Benveniste’s theory of reference in order to break away from these limitations. In the second volume ofProblèmes de linguistique générale (1974), Benveniste writes: “Le sense d’un mot consistera dans sa capacité d’être l’integrant d’un syntagme particulier et de remplir une fonction propositionelle” (Benveniste 1974, 227). Moreover, for Benveniste, the sense of the words in a sentence “résulte précisément de la manière dont ils sont combinés” (Ibid.). What does this mean? Benveniste considers that taken in isolation, words have only a potential meaning which is only actualized when it is used in a sentence. The potential meaning is made up of all the marginal meanings that a word can have depending of the diversity of contexts in which they can be used. Then, when they are put together in a sentence this multitude of potential meanings is reduced to just the meaning functioning in the “instance of discourse”, i.e., a given sentence.
It is now obvious why Benveniste’s view is contrasted with Frege’s. For Frege the sentence would play the role of a proper name. By this I mean that the sentence itself being composed of words with specific meaning designates its reference. On the other hand, for Benveniste, the reference of a sentence attributes meaning to the words in its composition. Ricoeur explains that:
These two conceptions of reference are complementary and reciprocal, whether one rises by synthetic composition from the proper name towards the proposition, or whether one descends by analytic dissociation from the sentence to the semantic unit of the word. At their intersection, the two interpretations of reference make apparent the polar constitution of the reference itself, which can be called the object when the referent of the name is considered, or the state of affairs if one considers the referent of the entire statement”. (1977, 218)
By bringing Benveniste’s position into discussion, Ricoeur is able to distinguish between two sorts of reference - there is the first level reference, represented by Frege’s approach and the second level reference recognized in Benveniste’s approach. The metaphorical statement is the most adequate illustration of this split between levels of reference or denotation. Metaphors acquire their metaphorical meaning and achieve their reference on the ruins of literal meaning and literal reference. Ricoeur explains that: If it is true that literal sense and metaphorical sense are distinguished and articulated within an interpretation, so too it is within an interpretation that a second level reference, which is properly the metaphorical reference, is set free by means of the suspension of the first level reference. (1977, 221)
For example, if we take the metaphor “Odysseus is a journey”, then we can see that, literally interpreted (i.e., following Frege), it would have no impact on the way we perceive or relate to reality because Odysseus has no reference. On the other hand, taken metaphorically, “Odysseus is a journey” describes a new way of relating to reality, a new way of looking at human beings and their struggle to arrive “home”.
If metaphor is this dialectical corrective of all analytical language centered on concepts then, as all language it also refers, among other things, to what a given culture and ideology consider as reality. This means that some conclusions to which any metaphor can lead are pertinent to or culturally “true” to given understandings of relationships in practice. Metaphor can affirm such an understanding or, in the best case, develop “the before un-apprehended relations of things” in ways at that moment not otherwise able to be formulated. For example, saying that “love is a warm feeling” we use warm in a different way than it is usually used and thus, we establish a new relation between “love” and “feeling”.
Such is the split between the two kinds of reference. However, Ricoeur does not stop here. When talking about the re-descriptive power of the intellect which makes it possible to claim that metaphors do reach reality, we have to ask ourselves how do they come to light? What is it that makes it possible for the intellect to create, to bring forth novel ideas, novel meanings? In order to answer this question we have to see how Ricoeur understands imagination to work.
We have seen above that in the metaphorical use of language we come across an innovation at the level of reference. Now, metaphor relates our image of reality given to us through perception to the image of reality that is offered by language.
Ricoeur takes imagination to mean what Kant meant when he used this concept. The act of imagination is that which puts the spatial-temporal determination of phenomena in correspondence with the conceptual determination of phenomena. Spatial-temporal determinations are blind on their own. Conceptual determination is empty when taken by itself. The act of imagination is fusing them together and thus allows us to grasp the phenomena. With Kant, imagination is no longer the faculty with which we reproduce images. It is no longer just reproductive imagination. Gilles Deleuze, discussing the process of imagination as understood by Kant, considers that “When I say: I imagine my friend Pierre, this is the reproductive imagination. I could do something else besides imagine Pierre, I could say hello to him, go to his place, I could remember him, which is not the same thing as imagining him. Imagining my friend Pierre is the reproductive imagination” (Deleuze 1978). However, Kant recognizes that imagination has another function. It is also productive, working as a kind of synthesis. Deleuze explains Kant’s concept of productive imagination as:
determining a space and a time in conformity to a concept, but in such a way that this determination cannot flow from the concept itself; to make a space and a time correspond to a concept, that is the act of the productive imagination. What does a mathematician or a geometer do? Or in another way, what does an artist do? They're going to make productions of space-time. (Deleuze 1978)
Thus, in productive imagination, spatial-temporal determinations do not merely follow conceptual determinations. There is a “production of space and time”, as Deleuze put it, that goes beyond the space and time of any given phenomena and that is how the imagination is productive.
Now, when Ricoeur distinguishes image as replica from image as fiction, this distinction corresponds to that between Kant’s reproductive imagination and productive imagination. These two refer to different things and to mistake the one for the other is a fallacy. The image as replica, as portrait, is the image that we get through perception. It refers to a specific something that exists in the realm of reality. Thus, I can imagine my dog, the one I used to have a couple of years ago. The image I have here and now rests upon the corresponding perception of the real dog I had. The same dog whose presence used to be given in the past is now given in absence. Or, as Ricoeur puts it, “absence and presence are modes of givenness of the same reality”. Now, the other sort of image, the image as fiction, does not rest upon a given model. It does not refer to anything that was already given as original. In the image as fiction, again, we deal with an absent thing, but this time the absent thing represents nothingness. We imagine the centaur but it exists nowhere. It is unreal, even though we can have an image of it. Thus, the image of my dog rests on the absence of its object, whereas the image of the centaur rests on the unreality of its object. My dog is real; the centaur is unreal. Ricoeur considers that “the nothingness of absence concerns the mode of givenness of a real thing in absentia, the nothingness of unreality characterizes the referent itself of the fiction” (1991, 120).
The image as fiction refers to reality in a new way. This is why we have to distinguish it from the image as replica. The image as replica “reproduces” reality, whereas the image as fiction “produces” reality. There is a productive reference at work in fiction. Ricoeur considers it to be the case that: fiction changes reality, in the sense that it both ‘invents’ and ‘discovers’ it, [which] could not be acknowledged as long as the concept of image was merely identified with that of picture. Images could not increase reality since they add no referents other than those of their originals. The only originality of the image had thus to be found in the spontaneity characteristic of the production of the image. (Ibid., 121)
Imagination is thus productive, not only reproductive. And it is productive in as much as thought is involved, in as much as language is challenged. When I imagine my dog and reproduce his image, there is no further labor involved in the process. However, when I produce an image, when I describe an unreal object, when I tell a story, when I make a plan or make a model, I have to make use of my intellectual capacity. Imagination is productive not only of unreal objects, but also of an unexplored vision of reality. “Imagination at work - in work - produces itself as a world” (Ibid., 123).
To sum up, metaphor is that which relates reality and language, an expanded reality and a dynamic language, that is. This takes place with the help of imagination which does not reproduce images but rather produces new ones. Inasmuch as imagination is productive, it allows us to see similarities between the remote ideas that make up metaphors. “Man is a wolf”, says Seneca. We can only understand what he meant not by simply having a mental picture of a wolf-like man but by emphasizing relations in a depicting mode. Moreover, imagination is helpful when it comes to putting in brackets the first level reference, the literary reference, allowing for the projection of new possibilities of redescribing the world.
LYALL AND METAPHORS
Now, let us see how Lyall fits into all this. For Lyall, a human being as a whole is both capable of intellectual effort and capable also of emotional experience. Thus it would appear that in the imaginative state one would assert one’s existence in full. Why? Because in this case, one is re-affirming one’s presence in the world by re-describing it and living it from within. We see that for Lyall, imagination has to do more with the production of images and less with their reproduction:
The ghosts and fairies, the gnomes and other imaginary beings of a rude state of society, owe their origin to the activity of this principle, united with the suggestions of a superstitious fear. In certain circumstances the imagination is ready enough, in the most cultivated age, to body forth these imaginary creatures, and to entertain a certain dread which it requires some effort of reason to counteract. It is in those very places where the imagination has most scope to operate, or most suggestives to its action, that we find the superstitions prevailing which are connected with the existence and the exploits of the beings of imagination. (Lyall 1855, 275)
As we can see, for Lyall, imagination is “ready enough to body forth these imaginary creatures”. It is the act of producing them which is the big task of imagination. By doing that, in this particular example, it stirs our emotions and it makes us participate in a new aspect of reality. But it also “requires some effort of reason” to counteract. It involves thus our intellect in as much as it has to relate to and deal with expanded reality, a reality which was created in the first place by the mind in its activity of perceiving analogies, of animating and personifying nature. However, Lyall does not fully analyze his findings. He is content with just exposing the difficulty of understanding the inner workings of the imagination. “Why [does imagination works as it does]? It is impossible to say”, he writes (Ibid., 274).
However, it seems that Lyall, linking the intellect and the emotions in the imaginative state took a step further from the Romantic mainstream. For the Romantics, understanding rests upon the connection with the spirit that is behind any creation. Lyall embraces this attitude but, if he had developed his ideas, he could have come to the conclusion that imagination not only connects with reality but also augments it, makes it fuller, more meaningful and diverse. Through language, through the creation of metaphors, which is a feature of the intellect, one improves one’s relationship with the world and not only mirrors it. Through our emotions we are intimately connected with it.
In a lecture given in 1825 at the opening of the Free Church College of Halifax later to be Dalhousie University, Lyall talks about the “philosophy of thought” and he says, when drawing on the importance of language:
What an adaptation between the mind and its modes of expression! How the one fills the other with life and meaning! - while the latter, again, suits every varying idea and emotion of the former - now rouses with energy, and now soothes with pleasure, or transports with delight. Having found such a vehicle, mind freely expatiates in every region. How much we owe to language perhaps cannot be told, for the excursiveness of mind - for the fineness of its imaginations and the subtlety of its conceptions. (Lyall 1853, 5)
Moreover, “a thought often lies in the state of a feeling till a word, or words, evoke it from its recess” (Ibid., 5). As can be seen again, emotions which connect us with phenomenal reality are also linked with thoughts.
It is Lyall’s opinion that the only way for these connections among emotions, phenomenal reality and thoughts to be expressed linguistically is when we make use of our imagination:
There is a period of its history when Imagination has to do with outward forms and semblances, as expressive of inward thoughts and feelings: but there comes a time when the most subtle and evanescent feelings or conceptions are made the symbols of material objects or ideas; or, these objects or ideas are expressed or conveyed under the most subtle conceptions of the mind. Between Homer and Wordsworth, or Shelley, there seems the interval to which we have here alluded: Shakespeare may be said to unite to two periods. Terms are applied to objects or circumstances to which they could never have been suitable, but for the abstract sense that has been assigned to them, from the subtle analogies which the mind can perceive between even the most material and the most spiritual circumstances or objects. (Ibid., 6)
Poetic creations, as those of Homer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth or Shelley, built on the extensive use of metaphors are thus at the center of Lyall’s attention. He is able to realize that metaphorical language, mastered by the intellect, under the spell of productive imagination has the power to creatively improve our relationship with the world.
However, Lyall does not follow up this discovery of the enormous creative capacity of imagination. He does not spend much time explaining how it works because of the limits of his exposition and because of he considered the faculty of imagination to be incomprehensible as such. Imagination avoids a purely intellectual approach since it is a composite of both intellect and emotions. Another reason would be his presupposition that the intellect itself is divorced from reality. Therefore, instead of sacrificing the Platonic view about the intellect i.e., considering it as transcending the world which is given to us in space and time, instead of sacrificing the intellect as representing order and as being an eternal principle, he sacrifices the creative power of the intellect.
The Emotive Dimension
For Lyall though, in the imaginative state, the intellect works together with the emotions. Moreover, Ricoeur, in his theory of metaphor, links the two as well. However, he talks about feelings:
To feel, in the emotional sense of the word, is to make ours what has been put at a distance by thought in its objectifying phase. They [feelings] are not merely inner states but interiorized thoughts… Its function is to abolish the distance between knower and known without cancelling the cognitive structure of thought and the intentional distance which it impels. Feeling is not contrary to thought. It is thought made ours. (Ricoeur 1980, 154)
Now, we have seen that Lyall does not distinguish drastically between feelings and emotions and that his basic idea at work in the theory of emotion is that emotion is not opposite to thought. Quite the contrary, emotion is that which informs the intellect about what, for the intellect “is at a distance”, i.e. the phenomenal world. Through emotion we become closer to the world.
Thus, Lyall and Ricoeur seem to be in agreement with regard to the idea that through emotion we become closer to the world, with the difference that Ricoeur develops this idea and completes his theory of metaphor. By following Ricoeur’s thought I intend to expand Lyall’s insight and make it more complete along the lines of Ricoeur’s theory.
For Ricoeur, feelings accompany imagination by adding to the “seeing as” what Ricoeur calls the dimension of “feeling as”. In imagination, as shown above, we “see” similarities in remote ideas, we grasp the “mixture of like and unlike, proper to similarity”. Feeling is thus not just something that pertains exclusively to what happens to the body, or just something that rests on a state of mind. Feeling, by accompanying imagination, is part of us as knowing subjects. “We feel like what we see like” (Ibid., 154). Through feelings we are involved in the process of grasping similarities between remote ideas, we participate in the intellect’s discovery of a new meaning. Without it, we would probably fall into merely appreciating the fineness of the metaphorical construction, as Turbayne would have liked us to do.
Ricoeur then recognizes that, feelings “accompany and complete imagination as picturing relationships” (Ibid., 155). This aspect of feeling is what Northrop Frye, in The Anatomy of Criticism calls “mood”. The mood is the consequence of us being affected by a poem as a whole, as a unique chain of words. Thus, the mood of that poem is the iconic representation of the poem being felt. Now, Ricoeur refers to metaphor as being a poem in miniature. If this is true, then seizing the metaphor is not a complete process without the element of feeling which is “the iconic as felt”. (Ibid., 155)
Finally, Ricoeur talks about feelings as they bring their contribution to the split reference of poetic discourse. Through imagination thought can suspend its direct reference to reality as we have seen. Besides reproductive imagination, where thought just reproduces reality, there is productive imagination, where thought has the ability to produce something new. This way, in imagination, thought augments our possibilities to read reality. Correspondingly, feelings, Ricoeur says, “are ways of ‘being-there’, of ‘finding’ ourselves within the world … Because of feelings we are ‘attuned to’ aspects of reality which cannot be expressed in terms of the objects referred to in ordinary language” (Ibid., 156).
To sum it all up, Ricoeur considers that a metaphor includes, besides its cognitive dimension, an imaginative and an emotional element as well. All of them are intimately connected. The full cognitive intent of a metaphor would be incomplete without the contribution of imagination and feelings. In Ricoeur’s own words: “there is a structural analogy between the cognitive, the imaginative, and the emotional components of the complete metaphorical act and that the metaphorical process draws its concreteness and its completeness from this structural analogy and this complementary functioning” (Ibid., 157).
Ricoeur’s theory of metaphor is often referred to as a tension theory of metaphor. The reason for employing the term “tension” is obvious if we take into account the fact that Ricoeur brings forward two levels of reference, as we saw when he analyzed the differences between Frege and Benveniste’s approaches concerning this issue that make up the foundations for a split reference in which the metaphorical statement is rooted. Then, there are two different ways of looking at the concept of an image: there can be talk about the image as replica and the image as fiction and they both act together in a metaphor with one being surpassed by the other. Finally, feelings come onto the scene attached to and completing the metaphorical utterance. Moreover, the linguistic elements that enter into the makeup of a metaphor are connected by the copula “is”. The copula itself should only be taken together with its correlate “is not” because a metaphor points out not only the similarities between remote ideas but also their differences, preserving the tension between them.
Through metaphor we discover a new creative dimension in language. Metaphor, as Ricoeur puts it, has an heuristic function. Metaphor relates to reality by bringing forward new aspects of it. By improving our language we are likely to discover in the world something that could not be previously described. Thus, metaphor does not mirror reality but it re-describes it, it makes it more diverse and fuller. And through that it changes our way of relating to it, it changes “our way of dwelling in the world”.
Lyall did not develop his ideas on metaphor to the extent that Ricoeur did. However, as shown above, there are similarities between his thought on the subject and Ricoeur’s. Unlike Ricoeur, Lyall did not have at hand the findings of phenomenology, such as the importance of subjectivity in the attempt to describe the way the world makes itself present to awareness, or the idea of the importance of returning to the things in themselves. Thus Lyall did not have an incentive for walking in uncharted territory, preferring to stay on the path lighted by traditional European views on this matter. Nevertheless, he foresaw the importance of language and stressed the use of metaphorical language which, complemented by emotions in the imaginative state has the ability to open up new dimensions in our interaction with the world.
The same sort of connection is emphasized by David Abram in his book The Spell of the Sensuous (1997) where he asserts that:
At the heart of any language then, is the poetic productivity of expressive speech. A living language is continually being made and remade, woven out of the silence by those who speak… And this silence is that of our wordless participations, of our perceptual immersion in the depths of an animate, expressive world. (1997, 84)
By being immersed in the natural world we have the opportunity to improve our language, and metaphor is the best tool that we can use in order to achieve this.
The world, as Abram sees it, is animate and its “wild, participatory logic ramifies and elaborates itself in language” (Ibid., 84). We cannot pick up a single phenomenon, as John Muir once said, without “finding it hitched to everything else” in the universe. Abram continues this same line of thought:
It is this dynamic, interconnected reality that provokes and sustains all our speaking, lending something of its structure to all our various languages. The enigmatic nature of language echoes and ‘prolongs unto the invisible’ the wild, interpenetrating, interdependent nature of the sensible landscape itself. (Ibid., 85)
This means that everything is connected, everything is part of the immense unity which cannot be grasped by the rigid use language.
In sum, metaphor is of tremendous importance if we are to establish a relationship between human beings as language users and reality. The purpose of metaphorical language is neither to “improve communication, nor to ensure univocity in argumentation, but to shatter and to increase our sense of reality by shattering and increasing our language […] With metaphor we experience the metamorphosis of both language and reality” (Ricoeur 1991, 85). We do not use metaphors for the sake of communication, nor do we use them as mere ornaments. Metaphors do not help us to reduce ambiguity or to attain univocity. Instead, they break apart the structures of language by bringing together remote ideas that, at the same time, exhibit similar and different traits, as in the metaphorical assertions that “Time is a river” and “Odysseus is a journey”, etc. Such assertions grasp kinship and build similarities on dissimilarities. Moreover, metaphors change our way of being-in-the-world. They do not merely describe reality any longer. The reality they bring forth is completely new and unexpected. Metaphors do not imitate reality. Rather, they redescribe it, they re-present it through words. With the metaphorical assertion “Time is a river” we are prepared to understand time in a new way, as something continuously flowing and forever changing. Thus, reality becomes novel because we changed our way of relating to it.