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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


STRAUSS, DFM. Conditions of possibility for the use of metaphor. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2012, vol.52, n.4, pp.613-628. ISSN 2224-7912.

Faced with the vast literature on the nature of metaphoricity, this article restricts its investigation to some of the prominent conditions underlying and making metaphors possible - thus pursuing a transcendental-empirical approach - where the word transcendental does not have an epistemological but rather an ontic meaning. Making a distinction between literal and figurative language-use does not elevate the former above the general interpretative nature of all language-use and at the same time does not mean we have to accept the view that all language is metaphorical. A brief explanation of the etymology of the word metaphor is followed up by referring to the well-known fourfold distinction made by Aristotle. In particular, the fourth element of Aristotle S reflection on the nature of metaphor generated attention for the connection between logos, analogon and alogos - terms pointing towards the difference between concept and word and to the fact that a metaphor contains something nonsensical ("Sinnwidrig" or "Widersinnig," a "meaning-contradiction" - αλογον). Boyle (Black 1998:21) alludes to the "mystery" of a metaphor which is "simply that, taken as literal, a metaphorical statement appears to be perversely asserting something to be what it is plainly known not to be". An analysis of the relationship between comparison (as a simile) and a metaphor in particular, highlights the nature of similarities which, in connection with Aristotle's approach, also bears upon identity. Within the context of his distinction between discrete quantity and continuous quantity, Aristotle discerns an equality of ratios. Just like a comparison contains four elements - where the element of comparison is taken twice, every point of division on a continuum is also taken twice - as end-point of the one part and as starting-point of the other. An assessment of the nature of a comparison and a metaphor brings to light that although the former is foundational to the latter, the two cannot be equated, because the words employed in a comparison maintain their meanings without any transfer of meaning. A metaphor differs from a simple comparison in that it actually at once has two different meanings. Yet, while a comparison merely identifies something similar between different things, something more complicated is at stake when it concerns differences which are shown in what is similar. This complication is underscored where Leezenberg explains the view of Jurjáni: "Only the metaphor can describe Zayd as if he is really a lion." (Leezenberg 2001:53) It was already in the Iliad of Homer that the word lion was used metaphorically. Reflecting on this feature of metaphors highlights the "hypothetical-fictional" side of a metaphor - as it comes to expression in the explanation that only a metaphor can describe a soldier "as if" he "really" is a lion (notice the tension between the phrase "as if" and the word "really"). Could it be asserted that Zyad is a real lion and at the same time alleges that Zyad is merely viewed as if it is a lion? This gives rise to the question as to whether metaphors contain a fictitious element. Although one may relate this question to Vaihinger's (1949) philosophy of the "as if," it is not necessary to succumb to his view that fictions are internally antinomic. What is antinomic or contradictory appeals to the validity and application of logical principles, such as those of identity and non-contradiction, which serve as the foundation for lingual phenomena. In addition, the 'as if' character relates to a hypothetical element entailed in metaphoric language use. It is subsequently argued that the distinctness of a concept and a word enables the very existence of typical semantic phenomena. According to Ricoeur the literal meaning of a word cannot be equated with its supposed "proper" meaning, because the lexical value of a word is a literal meaning, while the "metaphorical meaning is non-lexical: it is a value created by the context." Furthermore, what is apparently logically contradictory in a metaphor, viewed from the perspective of a logical-analytical assessment, turns out to be unproblematic, when observed within a lingual context. The discussion also reveals the role of the imagination as a human capacity involved in the use of metaphors. In the final section, attention is given to the role of genuine analogies - surfacing whenever what is given is similar in that respect in which they are different. A significant element in our discussion concerns the relationship between metaphor and analogy, which, according to Ricoeur (2006), is indeed one of the most difficult problems confronting an understanding of metaphor. He pursues the path of "analogous attribution" present in the medieval doctrine of "analogia entis". The two levels alluded to by Ricoeur actually require the introduction of a new distinction, namely that between conceptual knowledge and concept-transcending knowledge. A brief investigation of analogies between different ontic domains shows that differences are shown in what is similar. For example, both mathematical space and physical space are extended (their similarity), but within this similar element the difference evinces itself, because whereas mathematical space is continuous and infinitely divisible, physical space is neither continuous nor infinitely divisible. These examples open the way to a definition of a proper analogy: whenever two things or properties are similar in that respect in which they differ, or differ in that respect in which they are similar, a genuine analogy is at stake. The distinction between the modal aspects of reality and concrete events and entities functioning within them, enables a fourfold distinction between analogies, namely between aspects (A-A), between entities (E-E), between aspects and entities (A-E) and between entities and aspects (E-A). It is argued that only the last three possibilities should be designated as metaphors. In conclusion, the eleven conditions discerned in the analysis are briefly summarised.

Palabras clave : Metaphor; comparison/simile; concept and word; thought and language; interpretation; meaning-contradictory; analogy; concept and idea; metaphors are exchangeable.

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