Publication details [#9335]

Rohrer, Tim. 1998. When metaphors bewitch, analogies illustrate and logic fails: Controversies over the use of metaphorical reasoning in philosophy and science. Eugene, Oregon.


I begin by investigating the conventional view of the relationship between metaphor and natural kinds in both classical and contemporary philosophy of science. I argue that Plato and Aristotle originated the conventional view that metaphors are a peripheral and ornamental supplement to philosophical and scientific argumentation proper. On their accounts philosophy and science are supposed to be about tracing the causal and logical (as opposed to the metaphorical and analogical) connections between the objects of knowledge. Because metaphors are seen as improper categorizations made merely for the purposes of rhetorical persuasion, metaphors are considered obstacles to proper philosophical and scientific argumentation. The exclusion of metaphor from argumentation supposedly gives us a realist system of philosophy and science which takes as its objective the discovery of natural kinds alleged to be independent of human conceptualization, thereby 'cleaving nature at the joints' (in Plato's notorious phrase). However I argue not only is that attempt deeply mistaken in light of the contemporary research within the cognitive sciences on metaphor, but that by analyzing the metaphors that Plato and Aristotle in fact use we can see that metaphor and metaphorical reasoning is itself what makes possible their shared view that metaphor is to be excluded from philosophy and science. Having shown how Plato's and Aristotle's treatment of metaphor is caught in a strange loop - where some metaphors in their views of philosophy and science are used to argue for the exclusion of metaphor in general from the future practice of science and philosophy - I reject realism about natural kinds in favor of the embodied pragmatism espoused first by Dewey and currently by Lakoff and Johnson. I argue that Dewey provides an alternative metaphysical framework to realism that is crucial for recent work by the neuroscientists Damasio and Edelman on the role of embodiment in the philosophy of cognitive science. I then use that Deweyan framework to both extend and critique Lakoff and Johnson's hypothesis that human reasoning - including scientific and philosophical reasoning - is constituted by embodied conceptual metaphors. I conclude that neither metaphor nor rhetoric are incidental to philosophical and scientific argumentation. (Tim Rohrer)