The metaphoric process : connections between language and life
- Publication date
- Sprachtheorie, Sprachphilosophie, Métaphore, Philosophie du langage, Language Philosophy, Metaphor, Language and languages -- Philosophy, Interaktion, Metaforen, Lebenswelt, Kognitiver Prozess, Sprache, Metapher
- London ; New York : Routledge
- Digitizing sponsor
- Kahle/Austin Foundation
- Internet Archive
Includes bibliographical references (pages 173-186) and index
1. Connections between language and life -- 2. The life of language -- 3. The interdigitation of fields -- 4. The oppositional metaphor -- 5. The maturation of knowledge -- 6. The relationship between digital and analogic styles -- 7. Detachment and participation -- 8. The awareness of metaphoric projections -- 9. The metaphoric function -- 10. Vicissitudes of self-formation
- 2020-10-10 18:12:24
- Sony Alpha-A6300 (Control)
- Arcadia #4117
- ABBYY FineReader 11.0 (Extended OCR)
- Full catalog record
Subject: Blessed are the Berber-jockeys [Draft]
" In its turn every philosophy will suffer a deposition." ~Alfred North Whitehead (Process and Reality, 1929)
" Thus, the needs to belong and to develop can often be in contrast in our symbolic itinerary. " (140)
~The surrender or theft of one's inner life (from Chapter 10)
" Whenever the exploration of one’s behaviour is consistently taken over, that is, articulated, by others, the sort of intimate language for coping with the vicissitudes of hope and despair, attachments and separations, may not properly develop; this language may be entrusted, or surrendered, to the managers of standard metaphors that are gradually converging into a collective literal vocabulary. And one particular person may have no idea why an inner life is not found in him. Anything such as an inner world is then only to be found in ‘special’ others, recognizable as geniuses, stars or heroes. Such a surrender of profound experiences to the vicarious symbolizing of expert managers of language could be seen as colluding in the theft of one’s inner life. Indeed the territorial and predatory heritage of our hominization is thus transferred from the biological to the dialogic level and enacted in the symbolic domain, in the sense that we now have to cope more with culture than with nature." (147).
" The abstract study of our thinking is as exact and coherent as it is detached from life's vicissitudes "
"Unless we are vigilantly aware of these constraining epistemic dictates we will be tacitly controlled by them in such a way that our thinking cannot properly engage with life itself."
Punish.... or Perish
" In our current procedural style the worst thing that could happen would be to make a mistake, as locally defined, and to have it exposed in one’s intellectual milieu - with no consideration for the different, but sad, prospect of investing whole lives in just saying nothing wrong. In this intellectual climate we almost grow addicted to seeking security from error and potential deterrents of criticism.
And, of course, one of the safest positions is criticism of the errors of others, by means of a progressive refinement of the adversarial techniques generated within the oppositional metaphor. It is possible that part of the ‘attraction’ for clarity arises from a profound revulsion at being exposed as wrong; and, indeed, this is not an irrelevant feeling but a pervasive attitude which shapes the style of our discussions to the point where we are saturated with extenuating logomachies and induced to ask whether it is still philosophy that we are after or a compulsive quest for ‘being right’ - as if it were equivalent to being well and, thus, surviving. And the deceptive alternative that clarity might then be unjustly sacrificed for the sake of peace is yet another instantiation of our immemorial adversarial mentality." (62)
"As is known, the ideas that one generation of scholars regarded as essential and indubitable are subsequently exposed as vague and unproductive by their successors. And yet, however common the turnover in intellectual fashions, we somehow tend to believe that it will not happen again." (Chapter Two).
" It remains a puzzling fact that the theories of meaning and rationality dominant today do not offer any serious treatment of metaphoric imagination. We will not find it discussed in any of the standard texts on semantics or in any of the most influential studies of rationality. These works will of course acknowledge that imagination plays a role in discovery, invention and creativity but they never investigate it as (co)essential to the structure of rationality..."
Don't Look Now
" ...And yet this point has been amply conceded in the sense that it is generally agreed that the entire personality of a scholar is involved in research efforts. But even though this outlook is traditionally admitted, we hardly ever confront the task of thinking out the theory behind it, almost as if the enterprise were too challenging and might have devastating effects on any of our favoured dichotomies, such as, for instance, between affects and reason, cognition and participation. We commonly admit that it takes the whole person to do creative research work, but we are not to ask just how inquiry interdigitates with the live personality of the scholar." (Chapter One)
The Rift Valley
"To the extent that we cultivate an awareness of belonging to the biological history of the planet we might be able to develop the sort of openness that allows us to reconnect our biological and dialogic dimensions." (Chapter Two)
More Honoured in the Breach
" It is equally interesting that in spite of such a clear indication by the celebrated thinker [Aristotle] of what is a salient function of language - ‘by far the greatest thing . . . and a sign of genius’ - the topic of metaphor has been systematically ignored throughout the centuries...."
"...Perhaps in the early stages of our western culture priority has been wisely accorded to the sort of rationality which could generate a productive tradition of objectivity. But our philosophy might now appear sufficiently consolidated to allow itself a fuller reflection on the nature of our specific human ‘genius’ and a more daring approach to the question of rationality and meaning..."
The Edge of the Map
"...Significantly, indeed, Quine argues that ‘the absence of an adequate study of imagination in our theories of meaning and rationality is symptomatic of a deep problem in our current views of cognition. The difficulty is not a matter of mere oversight. The problem is far more distressing, for it concerns our entire orientation toward these issues, based as it is upon a widely shared set of presuppositions that deny imagination a central role in the constitution of reality..."
Under the nose
"The paradigms of rationality are in fact still regarded as organizing forms which transcend the structures of affective experience. And although it is usually granted that metaphorical projections may be part of our mental processes in creating novel connections, such attempts are typically regarded as ‘psychological’ antecedents, ‘obviously’ irrelevant to the construction of our ways of reasoning." -Chapter One.
Jockeys & Handicaps
" If metaphor is indeed ‘a sign of genius’ [Aristotle], the generation of implicit theories is highly to be valued. In order to emphasize the creative agility of the mind striving towards innovative connections, Galileo has had to argue laboriously against opponents who supported their theses with an abundance of quotations from the classics. Galileo claims, in fact, that the discussion of a difficult problem cannot be made analogous to the task of carrying loads: in this case many horses would carry more sacks of wheat than one horse only..."
' A horse of that colour ' (Twelfth Night)
" And in this case, of course, he would agree that a profusion of discourses should be more effective than a single one; ‘but a discussion is more like running than carrying, and thus a single Berber horse will run better than a hundred Friesians’ ".
House Rules & Far Horizons
"The characteristics of openness and lucidity through which philosophy legitimizes its status in culture seem to be confined to intra-epistemic concerns; these same features are perplexingly neglected whenever reference is made to extra-epistemic enterprises or to inter-epistemic relations. Significant areas of epistemic agreement ‘should’ ultimately live in isolation from one another in such a way that ‘proper’ philosophy may primarily apply to domestic concerns and be excluded from the preoccupations of foreign affairs. And it is precisely this view that is difficult to conjugate with the idea of a maturing philosophy." (38)
The Chrysalis e-x-p-l-o-r-e-d
"If we ask whether the purpose of intellectual inquiry is to obtain ‘right’ answers or to avoid ‘wrong’ ones, we would prima facie suggest that these two enterprises are quite comparable and even complementary; and yet, however imperceptibly, the two programmes actually diverge. Dominant features of our culture seem to confine us in the sheer avoidance of the wrong answers with a consequent devaluation of striving for the creative ones; and what restrains us from ‘striving for’ usually springs from a boundless admiration for the parsimony, lucidity and consistency commonly admired in our western tradition. We are trained to fear vagueness to the point that we almost think of philosophical probity as of the production of unassailable defensive arguments. We almost come to think of inquiry as consolidating a well-defended position rather than - for instance - as developing and enriching a piece of our intellectual heritage. But of course the latter attitude would fall outside of the belligerent outlook and would thrive instead in the domain of some sort of ‘agricultural’ metaphor. The idea of the quest for knowledge is thus transformed into a quest for intellectual ‘safety’ and for the sort of epistemology that can function as a deterrent...."
"...Research is subconsciously conceived of not so much as the effort to understand something that is of vital importance but rather as the accumulation of discussion that is unquestionably correct, almost regardless of its content and prospects." (61)
Phrygian Caps -Replacing the Id with the Superego
This study may buttress the confidence of independent thinkers, lone tillers in the field, perhaps convincing them if they need convincing that they are not mad (or alone) in their insistence that the individual take seriously their own imaginative emanations as their (perhaps) instinct warned them that there is something fundamentally flawed with our current system.
What number of people have been innocently and unwittingly conscripted into the ranks of the literal pathology with its oppositional model, its gross certainty, its refusal to brook opposition or dissent, and as these conscripts fatten the various legions, who can really blame them for operating as they do as they are performing exactly as they have been trained or indoctrinated to do. I suppose you do wonder why it is you, and not one of them, that is reading (and hopefully comprehending) this review.
This activity (or process) is by definition anonymous, un-remunerated and worthy, where adherents pursue truth by a careful, often lifelong process of tracing our (and others) steps and missteps such that we can build a picture of the extent to which available modes of thinking or arguing (or problem solving) fall short of the mark (ideal). You just knew there had to be more than the tawdry model of standard issue.
And while people may claim that this is hardly new or news, how many people who are in a position to devote the necessary resources, time, energy, etc. to this critically important activity which doesn't yet have a name, isn't yet recognised, can report any real progress. Progress typically relies upon accident and chance as the machinery or infrastructure of progress, like the hereditary principle, rarely achieve expected yields. (The job falls to patent clerks, hospital orderlies and the occasional pastry chef).
We can never accurately measure the value or benefit (if any) of individual effort directed at original thought with respect to metaphor. Beyond the corridors of academic philosophy, the habit or practice of writing poetry is maybe the only semi-formal location where poets and readers actively experiment with symbols though you have to wonder sometimes qua Bradley (FH) whether human beings' 'spare or excess computational capacity' -in that part of their brains which is shared -common to all- and which we are told is not being fully utilised- is not in fact surreptitiously (unawares) employed in assisting the human organism to complete its dizzying calculations, whirring away behind the backs (or under the noses) of the billions of 'terminals', to extend the analogy, who provide or supply that spare capacity. If this sounds radical, its antithesis is even more radical, that humankind is not connected at some deeper level.
Up pops the traditional scientist with the demand for proof, which might sound like a reasonable request except that it typically stymies further inquiry where the onus, the burden of proof is placed on the pioneer at the imaginative stage when the very last thing he or she wants to do is waste time & resources in clarifying his terms of reference. It's a bit like the teacher spending time testing & filling out student progress reports instead of using that time to actually teach the student.
That we can't name or prove the existence of that connection is or should be neither here nor there. While, for example, we flatter ourselves that we understand Natural Selection, do we really. Ontology & Phylogeny. Or, let's just start with the mechanics of the common light-bulb. At attitude of appropriate humility is essential to get the most from this study.
I think (earlier) Bradley was TS Eliot's thesis advisor, so perhaps works like the Four Quartets are interesting not for what they say (they don't say anything, "non-propositional-expressions" Ch2) but for their exploratory value as non-linear exploratory hmm forays into outer, which is to say inner, space (shades of Joseph Cornell). This amounts to praise for the benefits of overtly doing nothing.
'For Poetry makes nothing happen, it survives in the valley of its saying' , Auden ventriloquised (speaking of Yeats). Maybe so but I think it (poetry) does exercise our symbolic muscles in important ways even if the product, the poem doesn't say much or achieve anything. Randall Jarrell talked about this. Paul Ricoeur and people like James Paxson have important things to say about the fictive power of metaphor, particularly anthropomorphism/ /personification, how Plato resisted poetry after recognising its anarchic potential. For anarchy here, read reform of the Athenian slave owning state.
This study observes how Plato thought slaves should not employ metaphoric speech in their dealings with their owners.
" Metaphor directs attention to similarity in structure across realms or events; it represents the logic of evolving organisms, and of structures by which different levels soar to further degrees of complexity, each level in a sense metaphoric for the other, thus creating what Bateson labels the ‘pattern which connects’."
"I am thus arguing in favour of a transition from the cultural narcissism of isolated intracommensurable epistemologies, to a metaphoric weaving of inter- epistemic circuits attempting to connect non-homogeneous domains. The special contribution of an inchoate philosophical culture could help us rethink the terms of an interepistemic debate by creatively providing ever new metaphoric instruments" -Chapter one.
" A misleading philosophical education silently assumes the task of curing students of unprofessional ways of thinking, of that vital epistemophily which is conducive to asking unfamiliar questions. If this ‘correction’ is explicitly attempted, learners can of course detect it and behave consequently. But if it is never made explicit ‘philosophy’ can ultimately be equated to a sophisticated form of epistemological indoctrination. It is difficult for philosophers to realize how much of their restraining influence is conveyed through the subliminal expressions of their guiding assumptions rather than through argument proper. And yet, the measure of the insight which any contribution provides ties primarily in the richness and variety of the novel questions which it forces on our attention, and in its capacity to reveal significant connections between features or fields that previously appeared entirely independent. The disposition to create links between diverse perspectives so as to allow a measure of cross-fertilization is thus one of the functions of our metaphoric potential."
So, having surveyed the various constituent fields of knowledge and established that the connections between them might be otherwise (improved etc.), the author delves into what are our typical ways of communicating (and arguing) with one another where she recognises the limited value of the standard oppositional zero sum "I'm right, your wrong' (territorial phylogenics) approach, and also that much is probably being lost. The value of exposing the combatitive nature of the activity is to get beyond right and wrong. Anyway, this paragraph is written to set up the following nugget from chapter 3 (56).
"The problem with alternative forms of discussion is that they are strikingly inconspicuous in our culture because they deviate from an immemorial way of reasoning, constantly addressed to an antagonist, and because they are by far more complex, profound and ultimately more demanding and much less appealing than the exhilaration of ‘being right’. And although we may succeed in defeating our adversaries by proving their theses wrong, they often do not change their convictions or abandon their enterprises. This may be an indication that they pursue an undertaking or ulterior path of rationality that is just not captured by our customary oppositional paradigm. There is a great deal of residual rationality which is left out of the stringent adversarial tests and which is none the less essential to structure the complex reasoning which we try to scrutinize. Proving an argument wrong, in fact, may be as cogent an enterprise as it is ultimately unconvincing. This dialectic style probably expresses the best cognitive ‘justice’ that we can achieve even though it may be the case that by combating a conviction, we persistently miss the point that determines conviction ".
Gemma Corradi certainly doesn't denounce such (oppositional, combative) activity as an abuse or misuse of power but she does show how language typically serves as the ontological playground and while this is ideally a healthy thing, different perspectives facing off in pursuit of the truth (justice), frequently we are faced with permanent residents of the South Pole who, having only ever sighted monogamous tuxedoed flightless penguins, strive to convince we equatorials of their truth.
(That's my rather awkward metaphor here to assert that local values are not absolute. Later on, she suggests that even bad or unsuitable metaphors have value as they are part of a process. Cute.). Her point (one of them) is that surely much else is lost if we confine ourselves to such limited arenas or styles of engagement. This harks back to her earlier point about the whole personality of the researcher being involved or engaged in the search for truth. One may even ask whether the emphasis on facts (literality) and correctness isn't an elaborate defense against having one's animal self discovered.
The price for not remaining aware of how limited and limiting our current oppositional model (as referred to above) may be is addressed where she points out that "A compulsion to abide by the oppositional metaphor may thus, unnoticed, impoverish our approach to inquiries. This detrimental metaphoric spell even induces thinkers to subdivide into ever smaller groups, which are characterized by a decreasing understanding of each other’s projects. But this is neither a necessary aspect of inquiry nor, of course, an advantage to it. Such an involution of our natural love of knowledge may ultimately be due to a lack of concern for life itself....
...Should we be more appreciative of life we would more easily notice that our hidden, divisive, splitting procedures tend to induce a ‘culture’ of lifeless artifacts. And the illusory ‘alternative’ that comes to mind, that of an encompassing, all-embracing ideology, is once again the outcome of an oppositional compulsion. Unless we are vigilantly aware of these constraining epistemic dictates we will be tacitly controlled by them in such a way that our thinking cannot properly engage with life itself."
Further proof (if proof were needed).
" The adversarial habit, moreover, seems to flow from a convention that the negative approach always wins in prestige. Scholars who cogently reject a position are always at an advantage with respect to those who propose something, and those who can successfully criticize perhaps soar to a higher intellectual status than those who can produce germinative ideas. But controversial zeal leads to divisions, and divisions induce us to either exile the adversary or secede ourselves, with the prospect that a different milieu will be a more purified area of knowledge. As is well known, the emblematic style for this endemic attempt to purify philosophy through adversarial procedures rather than cultivate it by means of some sort of (agri)cultural ‘logic’ is usually traced back to the Cartesian approach: ‘I thought that... I ought to reject as absolutely false all opinions in regard to which I could suppose the least grounds for doubt.' And yet, in a perspective whereby we regard language and philosophy as expressions of human fife, the illusion of finality and transparency, together with the concurrent inclination to abhor ‘the least grounds for doubt’ might instead be regarded as no more than a form of idealization to be tolerated, monitored and lived by. As has been suggested, the need for philosophy arose in the first place out of Socratic attempts to collate some very different ways of practical thinking and, subsequently, out of Plato’s far more ambitious effort to relate all these ways of thinking to the emerging certainties of mathematics — the abstract domain of undisputable connections which so fascinated Descartes." (62)
Plus ca change.
I suppose it's worth saying that the indirection that critics offer us when they critique our ideas, serves to help us 'find direction out' (Hamlet) but to mention this is to make a virtue of necessity as our critics are not surely criticising us in order to assist us or our works in progress. They do it because that's the model and the practice which they have inherited. And we in turn respond to such criticism by occupying the next adjacent (or available) camp, seeking professional security in numbers. So, primitive as the oppositional model may be, it remains indispensable as a resource which augments self criticism in refining our ideas. Silencing our critics may offer short term balm but at the expense of longer term health.
Brave New Weltanchauung.
A strong psychoanalytic subtext pervades the abstract argument ('commensal' i.e. mutually beneficial) she is making and the vigilant reader will position (or insinuate) himself in the inferred logomachia (to borrow her phrase) such that he or she will resist having their ideas framed at least exclusively by such oppositional combative models (think of the classic PhD defense) and will insist upon securing space and time for more ruminative research so critical for the production (agricultural?) of a harvest worth its name. This book is subtly addressing the imaginative intellectual spare capacity of researchers who somewhat squander and/or surrender their imaginative potential to an adversarial process which does neither them or their chosen discipline justice.
Don't be that guy.
What I like about this book is its exposure of how predictable the pitfalls are where researchers engage with each other, how the creative faculty can be so easily usurped or derailed, a situation largely determined by traditional academic channels which funnel (or barrack) scholars through its gates on their way to market. Now there's an agricultural metaphor.
The pendulum swings full circle
" In the perspective of our ontogeny, we could even conjecture that the adversarial method is as widespread and appealing as it is as a direct continuation of our inchoate developmental experiences, which may have been felt as rejecting and unreliable ways of structuring interactions. In fact, under the compulsion to be adversarial in order to ‘critically evaluate’ the presentation of a thesis, we are induced to challenge a hugely cluster of ideas by taking each claim separately, while at the same time accepting premisses which we only use in order to beat our antagonists on their own terms. In a phylogenetic perspective, the adversarial pattern has little connection with the philo-sophy we generally advocate inasmuch as it almost appears to be a successful translation of archaic territorial attitudes into a symbolic cultural domain: paradoxically, while it is highly formalized and detached from life it is comfortably similar to the immemorial patterns of our hominization experiences." (63) -This paragraph puts flesh on the bone of the very first proposition (-'The Problem'- at the top of this review) how our current methods 'are detached from life's vicissitudes'.
'Forgive them O Lord'
"Adversarial intellectual orientations actually share one important assumption: the delusive conviction that only one of their positions can survive. This means that they ‘have’ to attack the other and thus they differ only about which front it should be on. The idea of a spectrum, of a connecting ground, on which diversified stances can coexist is hardly conceivable and thus, philosophically, non-existent. The Wittgensteinian suggestion of ‘seeing connections’ and ‘inventing intermediate cases’ could only be sustained by a sufficiently developed metaphoric capacity to generate linkages." (63)
The way ahead
" If we were more in touch with our origins and mortality, we would not automatically privilege arguments about knowledge claims, and would perhaps give new and higher value to the ways in which our language models interactive contexts. In this perspective, terms which we regard as metaphysical hypotheses could be interpreted as the derivatives of our relative blindness to the biological nature of our linguisticity: as living creatures, in fact, we would gladly barter our relatively stable rights for permanent ones and thus extend the same exchange on to our cognitive and symbolic behaviour." (65)
'Less' is often less than adequate
"Parsimony and coherence, at their worst, may unduly encourage lucidity at the price of adequacy, and simply reflect our preference for the clarity of language rather than for the complexity we do not wish to confront. " (65)
"Of course linguistic performance is typically, although not necessarily, a conduit which is sufficiently regular among a ‘large’ number of persons to provide for that community the general notions of rule, correctness and standards. And yet the utility of such notions within any phatic community appears to be independent of the utility of an ultimate meta-epistemology which might guide the translation of one language into another. We thus unwittingly pay tribute to the assumption of the primacy of literalness. When Black asks ‘How does a metaphor work?’, he too may be silently agreeing with a rather mechanistic view of language in which one has already placed irregular and unpredictable uses of language within the orbit of notions such as ‘mastery of the language’ It is precisely this ‘mastery’ that systematically fails to account for metaphoric processes. The idea of a mastery of language seems coextensive to the notion of meaning and thus implies that we may ‘find out’ and explain how a metaphor actually works. Certain domains of normal science and literality usually display a (fascade of) linguistic parsimony which undoubtedly increases their prestige. [And yet the very same modesty employed for external relations is transformed into complacent self-legitimating attitudes in domestic affairs; and when appreciative recognition is somehow delayed, a suppressed irritation may result. And then we go to some lengths to re-assess the central issues of our speciality in order to make those who do not pay tribute seem necessarily ignorant or primitive.] Once the homage has been received, we hasten to decline it in order to display exemplary scientific parsimony"
What shallows allow - Limiting Limits
"An excessive regard for literal meanings constantly intimates that established differences and similarities are ‘good enough’ for us and that we should restrict our understanding to whatever the standard vocabulary allows us to construe". (66)
"Adolescents of all ages" Retracing Missteps
In a ‘juvenile’ approach to any given epistemology we may think that the construal of reality involves the application of literal procedures or algorithims capable of automatically generating reliable solutions; and once our thinking is well ingrained with theories and concepts we may even incline toward being text-dependent readers of the world. An attitude of devaluational hierarchization of inner life and language and a tribute to literality do of course perform a relevant function in an ontogenetic perspective, since the developing mind can thus begin to categorize experience in a stable and consensual manner. And yet, in the process of constructing a consensual reality the person in the making internalises an epistemic structure which downgrades the more personal aspects of inner life. This results in an increasing negation of the sort of life emanating from one’s own depths - all the way to the utmost tolerable atrophy. Inner messages are thus given up in favour of the literal language proposed by the epistemic community. More generally, the higher levels of language development can be accompanied by a decline of metaphoric constructs so that self and reality come to be increasingly defined in terms of the vocabulary of dominant epistemologies and disembodied languages. Labouvie-Vief points out, for instance, that ‘adolescents’ seem to operate within a deductive structure in which problems are seen as unambiguous and not requiring interpretation: ‘These individuals are highly text-dependent, believing that conclusions are immanent in the text rather than emerging from the active thinking process of thinkers.’ Hence for adolescents of all ages ambiguity is attributed to faulty thinking rather than to rationally justifiable qualitative differences between different readers of the text."
This is the sort of book we like
(For you and I are very small),
With pictures stuck in anyhow,
And hardly any words at all.
. . .
You will not understand a word
Of all the words, including mine;
Never you trouble; you can see,
And all directness is divine—
Stand up and keep your childishness:
Read all the pedants’ screeds and strictures;
But don’t believe in anything
That can’t be told in coloured pictures
-GK Chesterton for Randolph Caldecott
Mental 'Muscle Memory'
" Even recreational activities may ultimately come to lack playfulness and to be performed with the same demanding attitude as any other productive activity. These literalistic styles, moreover, tend to shape the quality of life in ways which are difficult to identify because our usual methods of observation largely depend upon the literal vocabulary of our dominant epistemologies. The prevalence of a literalist inclination could thus be viewed as a life-damaging compulsion to be ‘normal’. We can perceive this inclination whenever there is a tendency to paraphrase or translate our metaphoric attempts into objective utterances even at the cost of annulling original meanings and de-symbolizing our own linguisticity. Should this tendency become dominant to the point of discarding our emergent thoughts, we would then become permanently constrained into the boundaries of literalness. And whenever forced to confront complex life situations, or ‘foreign’ areas of literalness, the atrophy of our metaphoric capacities would inevitably be betrayed."
(Note: The end of this last sentence may need amending, i.e. 'Atrophy' & 'betrayed'.
"In the potential dominance of conventions and literalness we can discern a novel method for somehow assessing an inconspicuous form of human pathology which we could name the ‘literalist distortion’, for lack of a better term. As we know, we commonly regard as mentally ill those who do not have a sufficiently good sense of reality and of interpersonal transactions. But then, this generalized approach could be integrated, by converse, with a concern for those who are so firmly in contact with standard reality that they ultimately forsake a contact with the deeper sources of their subjectivity, and thus with a more creative participation in reality."
'I am spoken for...'
Impersonal Pronouns (& Fugitive Ergatives).
" The self-propagating power of languages which have been crystallized into epistemologies induces a cultural climate which, in extreme cases, makes it impossible for us to advance to the level of being speaking individuals, and confines us instead in ‘spoken subjects’ - in the sense that language actually speaks through us. The unquestioned literalness of language seems to possess a robotic autonomy of its own, such that it expands with no regard for the subject’s efforts of self-creation. In this sort of linguistic life ‘acting’ appears as preferable to any form of elaboration and creativity; substitution of situations, persons, and things thus becomes preferable to any form of laborious repair and transformation. Broken relations are replaced with fresh relations, discarded objects with new objects in a general style derived from the consumption of standard goods and world-views, rather than from a personalized generation of culture." (68)
The tyranny of Clarity
" The unquestioned literalness of language seems to possess a robotic autonomy of its own, such that it expands with no regard for the subject’s efforts of self-creation. In this sort of linguistic life ‘acting’ appears as preferable to any form of elaboration and creativity; ....derived from the consumption of standard goods and world-views, rather than from a personalized generation of culture. And indeed, a literal language would hardly allow us to fathom our own depths and recover resources for responsibly coping with the world. Once a more personal language is discredited in favour of a more literal one, whose power is guaranteed by a background of epistemological commensurability, the instruments for dealing with our own selves are still more endangered."
On being 'formulated in a phrase' (Eliot)
" It is possible that new forms of pathology are now emerging, or else that we are now gaining an awareness of painful styles of life which have always existed. Life-damaging inclinations may be detected in a tendency to gravitate towards literalness in such a way that the more personal non-literal expressions are increasingly atrophied.' What is left is a mute distress due to the annulment of one’s inner life, or the need to search for ways of symbolizing such inner void in response to the rare occasions when someone may try to construe our irrepressible metaphoric attempts. In some cases it is almost as if a literalistic vicarious personality were at work, capable only of objective transactions and virtually incapable of authentic relations - almost an inclination to be an object among objects. Experiences are privileged to the extent that they are amenable to expression through the literal language which prevails, at the cost of inducing an even greater discrepancy from the experiences emanating from a ‘silenced’, concealed part of the self. At the level of verbalization a situation is created whereby language may be recruited to endorse a potentially increasing gap between a private ‘true’ self and a social ‘false’ self; and because a false self can be reinforced by means of dialogic responses, it will increasingly establish its dominance. Literal language might even become the almost exclusive means for being with others and sharing life’s vicissitudes: it may sadly be the case that whenever a more personal language is used, the environment tends not to respond, as if the individual were non-existent. To adhere to a literalist language is perhaps to try desperately to be normal. And we can envisage a common literalist danger in the form of a massive transfer of inner conditions upon standard expressions so as to increasingly de-symbolize inner events. If this attitude predominates and is used to get rid of unbearable inner states, we inevitably move in the direction of a literalist pathology. And by depending upon such literalness we can also increasingly entrust our inner functions to concrete objects and tangible situations. However well we use and coordinate these extemalized inner functions, we may in fact construct for ourselves a life space of meaningless abundance." (69)
Close to the Edge
" There is perhaps a need for therapeutic metaphors to exorcise the effects of the unpleasant ones which tend, deceptively, to solidify into our so-called human nature. Major transformations need in fact to be expressed in an extraliteral language capable of indicating potential structures other than those which have become so stable as to appear ‘logical’ or ‘natural’. The salient question is what could be the nature of interactive relations depending upon epistemic literality." (71)
I knew a man who wasn't there
" The individual excludes himself from creative life by passively adhering to whatever theories are there to be utilized. Such outright normality may in fact conceal a benumbing pathology - a nameless one - which is so perfectly camouflaged as to remain unnoticed and thus not amenable to any form of articulation." This may be what George Eliot was driving at in her depiction of Casaubon in Middlemarch. The real Casaubon (Isaac) was considered the smartest man in Europe in his day.
The Disappearing Man
" The sort of literal language which is appropriate within certain areas of human culture can easily tend towards territorial expansion inasmuch as it comes to be seen as the most valuable of languages - the only one linked with objectivity and thus rightfully entitled to be exported. Such honorary extensions may be fatal to the inner lives of humans as they can result in a form of literalistic control so severe as to damage the joint evolution of affects and cognition. Ontogenetically, stereotyped ways of literal discourse may become ossified into categories which claim to define life itself even though they only embody remote caricatures of life; the result is a mental apparatus which only serves the purpose of excluding the individual from life or else of producing a lifeless imitation of it. Attempts at introspective life are blocked inasmuch as the metaphoric resources of the subject have been repeatedly ‘corrected’ and reduced to a literal language which ‘denies’ the innumerable subtleties of the individual’s personal existence. The continued prevalence of literal language may then stabilize in a sort of behaviour more suited to the simple discharge of affects than to the communication and use of inner events." (72)
Archaeology in the Now
" To the extent that we can appreciate the metaphorical features of psychic life, recognize that they also have implications for the epistemology of psychological studies. In this perspective, then, psychological research cannot discount endeavours to recover what lies forgotten beneath the literalizing attitudes of whatever epistemologies are in force. The effort to reconnect literalness and metaphoricity is not a question of generating revolutionary ideas but of recovering a culture’s neglected but not quite forgotten stories."
" That the central task of adulthood is the reorganization of affectual life is a salient aspect of most theories of the self. Jung anticipates this view in his claim that a major goal of maturation is to go beyond exclusive identifications with the conscious ego and to re-link one’s inner world with archetypal structures from which the ego originally emerged."
Symbols of Transformation
" The relevance of human metaphoricity may also be highlighted in connection with our enduring hopes for transformational changes. And yet it is not always clear whether we seek authentic changes or the continuation of an archaic relation with something or someone, which signifies for us the experience of transformations coming to us from an external source. As we know, our whole advertising system thrives on a powerful ambiguity whereby anything such as goods or theories are presented as capable of producing changes that will significantly transform our inner world. Bollas suggests that these metaphorically advertised items are not so much noteworthy as genuine instruments of transformation but rather for their evocative force: they somehow re-link us with experiences that we may have never properly thought about, but which we have nevertheless ‘known’ by living through them. The captivating promises in areas ranging from commodities to ideals may resonate with those phases in our development in which major life-enhancing transformations were vividly expected from external Inures. The intense quality of these experiences and expectations, which we somehow ‘know’ but cannot clearly think about and articulate, is what renders the call effective. Promotional calls of any kind thus seem to rely on promises which connect with early episodes in our itinerary, rather than upon thoughts or even fantasies emanating from our maturing selves."
Render unto Herod
The world of advertising perhaps opens a door on how fragile our skepticism on the one hand and our vulnerability with regard to being acted upon when exposed to aspirational objects, on the other. However much a violinist might privilege his conscious, cognitive awareness during a musical performance, his fingers (cerebellum) quite autonomous of his mind (his cerebrum) know where to go without conscious direction as something non cognitive is in large part making the entire performance possible. We reluctantly concede this semi autonomous practice as we reluctantly cede self control where advertising is concerned. Where we learn to render unto metaphor autonomy over its symbolic domain, the space we allow it pushes back against our over-literal tendencies (if I understand this argument).
To we non-specialists who embrace and feel excited about the broad assertion that attention to one's inner
processes wasn't or hasn't been a wasted labour (after all), how even if others could not put a price or ascribe a value to such attention (probably a critical ingredient as an external agent might in fact corrupt the necessary solitude or privacy of this activity) it's probably worth mentioning that this broad assertion is a synecdoche for an entire planet for which we now have an address, this study representing a postcard from that planet, offering encouragement and a concrete ' proof' of the value to the kind of anonymous culture it signposts.
You're not alone in being alone
When the thought criminal Winston Smith discovers he is not alone, the relief he feels is palpable, a bit like the apocryphal woman who finds relief in discovering that after all, there is a name for the affliction she is suffering, i.e. that her condition could be found in the DSM manual meant that she officially existed and while that in itself did not cure her symptoms, it did represent a start as it relieved her of the burden of not being the sole authority of her illness. 'The girl in the Fiction Department' likewise relieves Winston's solitude or isolation as it (her deviance) helps him to stop doubting his own interpretation(s) of events, (that humans were being brainwashed by Big Brother).
On being wed to tradition.
"The persistent search for ‘perfect’ cognitive theories not only represents a longing for ideal mutative objects but can also be an indication of deficiencies in the experience of one’s capacities in world assessment. The question also arises whether an insatiable demand for more clarity and stability than can ever be obtained from the intellectual side of life could derive from a sense of insufficient visibility of primal interactive rules. The weaker the salvational power of early interlocutors the greater the disposition to adhere to implicit or explicit transformational promises emanating from prestigious theories."
To witness a phalanx of syllogisms prosecute the case against the (a) kingdom or tyranny of literality is a joy. (As the shadows in a putative courtroom catch their breath).
Where Gemma Corradi states a little further on that ' the complexity of life is thus easily sacrificed clarity', various theories of Reading come to mind, how for example Auden asserts that the clear sentence permits no dissent, how its perfectly tailored or sculpted meaning is anti-democratic in that the reader functions as a docile interpreter, a mere functionary and not as an active agent whose reading of the sentence requires input. This is quite radical today (though first posited in the 1970s) as it challenges whether indeed clarity represents tyranny if the reader is reduced to 'docile auditor' (see John Boly) implicitly denied any role in participating in translating the sentence. A more democratic role for the reader would see her play an active part in deciphering content. Newspapers like the Guardian have championed below-the-line reader responses and while much of it is not pretty, its overall impact, perhaps enabling a vox populi, a post and riposte, augments the article or editorial being commented on, thereby enriching the entire process by supplying the reader with a multiplicity of voices representing different points of view.
What transcendence looks like
" Recent developments in diverse fields indicate that intellectual maturity could be the major result of balancing operations allowing for a metaphorical conversation between diverse epistemologies and real life events. Rooted in a defensive idealization of pure thinking, the classical distinction and valuational dualism separating formal thought from the rest of our intelligence may finally come across as a limiting condition interfering with maturation and creativity." (Chapter 5, 75) -Amen.
Chapter Six (Digital & Analogic Styles)
" And the reason why our cognitive theories frequently run into trouble could be due to the fact that we are inexorably embedded in a primal cognitive basis in which experiences escape from the limits imposed by words."
The Heart of the Matter
" Although the modes of digital and analogic thinking cannot be exclusively related to literal and metaphoric interactions, even Bruner has recently recast an awareness of such non-integrated duality in terms of a distinction between ‘narrative’ and ‘paradigmatic’ modes of knowing, which construe and verify reality in rather different ways. The ‘narrative’ orientation to reality may be exemplified by stories in which a ‘truthful’, meaningful account is based on figurative language and psychological causality of human experiences, whereas the ‘paradigmatic’ way depends upon exact rules and deductive reasoning. Although affects and deductions are frequently --inter[t]wined--, they never fuse, or combine, to form one inclusive type of experience, or a super-logic, which would comprise both modes as components of a more general logic. In Matte Blanco’s view it is not impossible to conceive of a higher-dimensional logic which would have the logic of deductions and the logic of affects as substructures of it. Should such a logical frame ever be available, instead of defining the analogic symmetrical structure of affects in terms- of the violations of the classical logic of asymmetries, we could define it in terms of this much wider conception of our mental functions. Perhaps this ‘new’ logic would not be obvious in an intuitive way to our intelligence as the familiar logic underlying our ratiocination; it might require a noteworthy evolutionary advancement for us to regard it as familiar and hence intuitively logical. In Matte Blanco’s perspective, however, it is a question of a higher number of dimensions which makes our lower-dimensional thinking incapable of grasping the unconscious ‘just as a painted tray cannot be a recipient for real apples’ and this is the reason why we cannot be aware of them and why they are unconscious in us. Thus if we had a consciousness capable of a higher number of dimensions than that required to think in terms of classical logic, then we would be aware not only of our propositional thinking but also of our symmetrical, unconscious thinking. In Matte Blanco’s view our everyday thoughts and feelings about persons, things and their interactions mean different things to us at what may be called deeper levels in our minds. Such differences in ‘depth’ may be conceptually differentiated according to the degree of symmetrization routinely present at that level. In these terms, experience can be viewed as typified by the interwoven proportion of symmetrical and asymmetrical logic. Differing qualities, or phases, of experience can be characterized by the prevailing combination of the two modes of logic. As remote derivatives of the principle of non-contradiction, requirements for a-temporal succession of distinct events and for a location of separate objects seem to be tacitly propagated in our culture. In our current forms of communication, the analogic elements may be internal to them, while the digital components utilize previously selected signals which somehow constrain the communicative event. While a ‘digital’ language can be isomorphically translated into another equivalent, the underlying ‘analogic’ modes only allow for a greater local resonance between different elements; and yet, even when it carries a truth claim and an objective referent, a statement at times includes enigmatic and contradictory features. Our complete experiences, and our ways of conceptualizing them, are thus only partially separate and somehow influence one another." (77)
This dyad finds comparison with the Aristotelean and Platonic approaches to truth which in turn compare with the Civil and the Vatic styles of poetry, the former being usually the bearer of a message, a moral, a purpose while the latter, the Vatic is carefree, lacks an or any targeted audience or social function. When Athens was in danger, Dinonysus organised a contest to locate the appropriate style of poetry which might save the city, opting for the Civil but horses for courses, this means nothing except perhaps to recommend a division of labour (see the Library scene in Joyce's Ulysses) as both the literal-logical-positivist-Comtean Aristotelian (or Cartesian) digital has its uses and applications just as the Pascalian, Platonic, circular, perhaps Vicoan, Analogic has its. (Vico may not be the best exemplar here as he decried anthropomorphism in a very un-Vicoan way).
The Limits of Logic. Boolean nightmares.
The Aristotelian approach is no help with respect to the sun rising and setting (neither of which it actually does) as, from the vantage point of say a Bedouin (shorthand for one solely influenced by visual data) in the desert, it does look like the sun rises over there and sets over here, ergo the sun must circle the earth, which it doesn't. The Platonic approach while unable to solve the conundrum, is somewhat better equipped to ascertain certain truths or facts as it privileges polysemous (to borrow a word from this study) multi-lateral non-Exceptional approaches.
A mobile army.
Nietzsche's dictum, mentioned earlier in this study, in response to the question of questions -"What is truth, a mobile army of metonyms, anthropomorphisms and metaphors" so on is a little tongue in cheek as he certainly wasn't arguing that an objective reality or truth did NOT exist, he was signalling that truth is what people make of it (verum, ipsum factum) i.e. the truth is what people perceive to be the truth but unlike Descartes who saw an x y axis, Walter Heisenberg asserted that we as the perceiver are the z in the equation, so one cannot detach the observer from the thing observed. While we can all agree that this is a dagger I see before me, the swordsman, the carvery chef and the martial arts chap see a very different object. It is a dagger but each brings his own gaze to bear on what it represents. Each has a truth but of course, it isn't a truth, it's a subjective truth, only shared by adherents who share a similar world-view.
[The lack of distinction (in English) between subjective and objective truth may well cause us to be undone. Korean or maybe Japanese makes the distinction between actions which occurred and those which the speaker him or herself witnessed. This grammatical failure to discriminate has also perhaps underwritten major religions and imperial projects. That private experience has to or tends to commit itself to whatever language the speaker speaks suggests that personal experiences are framed by a grammar which is anything but personal or private. Seamus Heaney's book 'The Government of the Tongue' does not explore this fascinating concept.]
All out of step but my Johnny.
Galileo (above) had to contend with scripture and all those who supported an earth centered world around which the sun rotated. Wrong.
Bishop Berkeley is often dismissed for suggesting that the kitchen vanishes when we leave it for the living room but of course he wasn't suggesting it does anything of the sort, rather he was addressing the problem or asking the question whether things possess an objective truth, independent of our senses. On the personal level, how can we be known or know others if we and they can only be understood within our (and others') limited perceptions.
The dangers of success
If there has been no evolution of the language faculty in recent times (Chomsky), waiting for one is less preferable (surely) to an institutionally driven one, (assuming such assisted change would produce predictable and, crucially, beneficial results) that might accelerate greater awareness of: the dangers of literality, and: the benefits of expanding one's epistemological discourse, as this study implicitly recommends. Should awareness of such issues be advertised promoted or should it be left to interested parties to discover it.
Re-reading sections of this book is an exciting way of trying to imagine the direction arguments may take. This may not be everybody's cup of tea but a subject so important as demands readerly participation. (To witness for example, the arrival or mention of Carl Jung and Dionysus confirms at least for this reader the value of such participation). Perhaps the literal (digital) can be augmented by the discursive (analogic). 'The world of publishing and writing typically focuses on the text's contents or on the writer when in fact, arguably the most important relationship, that between text and reader, is neglected' -Auden (from memory).
Biting the Hand
"And yet, to the extent that epistemic literalness ‘refuses’ to integrate elements deriving from the affectual pole of life it silently becomes prone to the self-defeating irrationality of obsolescence and isolation.' An awareness of such potential irrationality deriving from a divisive approach, and the irrepressible quest for integrated forms of ratiocination, seem imperceptibly to reaffirm the germinal strength of what we call a humanistic culture."
" As metaphors create links which overcome categorical distinctions such as animate/inanimate, cosmic/biological, human/animal, they constitute a fascinating domain in which we may closely observe the procedures we actually use to move from one way of reasoning to another. There is much talk about the vivacity of metaphors probably because they make it possible for the mind to move from the use of abstract and circumscribed principles operating at the propositional level, to the ‘concrete’, holistic images which thrive in the analogic domain. Metaphors provide a mediation between these levels and thus appear ‘alive’ because they enliven the mind through the creation of contacts between separate domains" (69)
~ 'Everyone talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it' (Mark Twain)
" A succession of analytic advances may be conducive to a conception of reality that leaves our personal perspective further and further behind, possibly sacrificing our ‘natural’ propensity for completeness and integration. We cannot accept forgetting about our subjective starting-point indefinitely for, indeed, our early experiences belong to the complex reality we seek to understand...
...Connecting difficulties are in fact likely to obtrude whenever the analytical approach confronts the life of the mind and tries to encompass subjectivity in its cognitive scope. This linkage between available knowledge and the activities of the mind is frequently attempted outside philosophical scholasticism since it finds the material intractable and usually opts for more conceptually homogeneous issues...
...Nagel suggests that the content of an objective view and its claims to completeness are inevitably affected by the attempt to combine them with the view from where we are; similarly, the subjective standpoint and its claims are modified in the attempt to coexist with the objective. And yet whenever the two outlooks cannot be satisfactorily integrated it is philosophically honest to recognize their incompatibility and to refrain from putting the whole problem out of sight by cognitively suppressing one of the two sides. Indeed, issues belonging to a no man’s land between different faculties are confusing and thereby threatening to the executive powers of the mind."
'Cognitive suppression', shades of Hayden White. Non creative writing is quite creative in its efforts to diminish or conceal the analogic contribution to the edited sentence, the perfect declension, the perfect performance. The edited text or verbal declaration is surely a form of impression management, i.e. deriving from the social. Just a thought.
" But then, while the concept of an unconscious dimension is intricate, it is not quite ‘mysterious’; taking one’s total capacity for granted and regarding it as unsurprising is in fact the rule, rather than the exception, among human beings."
Shades of Hegel's Owl
" And while we concede that some aspects of this belligerent method may produce valuable insights and a refinement of theses, we must also recognize that in our culture we frequently incline to opposition for its own sake....
...The sensible person looking at cultural events past and present often remarks that what was occupying the minds of an epoch and what prevented the people from seeing the problems they might have been tackling was a constant unprofitable warfare among intellectual factions. Similarly the reasonable person reflecting upon current world vicissitudes often remarks that if only the immense investments in ‘defence’ enterprises were avoided, major impending problems could be profitably confronted. In view of the unprecedented amount and organization of knowledge we could probably perform much better in both practical and theoretical questions if we could control the proliferation of disputes inducing a style of chronic ‘philosophical’ waste." -Philosopher, Heal thyself.
Over the Hill !
" Epistemic and linguistic maturity could in fact dispense with the ‘conviction’ that propositional and affectual modes of operating constitute incommensurable domains of cultural functioning, separated by inviolable boundaries. Usually attempted by means of metaphoric expressions, the crossing of such boundaries often entails a thorough recontextualization of problems and thus new, relatively stable, conglomerations of literality. And yet, to the extent that epistemic literalness ‘refuses’ to integrate elements deriving from the affectual pole of life it silently becomes prone to the self-defeating irrationality of obsolescence and isolation.' An awareness of such potential irrationality deriving from a divisive approach, and the irrepressible quest for integrated forms of ratiocination, seem imperceptibly to reaffirm the germinal strength of what we call a humanistic culture."
Loaves & Fishes Inc.
How to sideline non-productive however immediately satisfying discourse of an oppositional nature again makes the case for a re-evaluation. As the Feds focus on the economic losses incurred by the failure of inclusivity, in terms of a greater range of voices which might attend to the problems posed by philosophy, it's interesting to note that James Paxson in his study of personification identified marginal groups as those more likely to deploy personification (metaphor) in their attempts to reconstitute reality, ostensibly to improve their status by re-figuring the world in their image and not in the image of orthodox groups who, increasingly, are unaware but are being made aware of their privilege. This tendency (according to Paxson) is driven by a dissatisfaction with the status quo so either philosophers need to become more radical and extend the range of discursive stratagems currently available, or more marginal voices should be encouraged to study philosophy. Being on the social margins is not something we normally associate with those who study philosophy, not at least in formal, institutionalised settings.
"Hoffman concludes that the fallacy at work is the assumption that any theory suspected of being metaphorical is necessarily inadequate and in need of being replaced by some better and literal theory, even though what is usually substituted is yet another metaphor. In a metaphoric approach rooted in serious listening we may then work on the assumption that categorical distinctions typically invoked by professional philosophers are useful as long they appreciably enhance discussion and research, and that conceptual terms should be abandoned as soon as they are no longer productive. ‘Unfortunately’ in this approach there is no exciting victory since there is no way to identify wrong philosophical approaches to blame and ban, and no way to create something which will once and for all abolish binary oppositions in philosophy. It is hard work, none the less, inasmuch as it requires the creation of new abilities to cope with the emerging events that a listening approach allows us to heed."
His Master's Voice
"The more honestly we listen, the less we can regard the central beliefs of our doctrines as necessary and natural and consider peripheral ones as contingent or cultural." -Now, there's the rub.
‘It is a mistake, then, to think of linguistic usage as literalistic in its main body and metaphorical in its trimming. Metaphor (or something like it) governs both the growth of language and our acquisition of it.’ (Quine)
"So may the outward shows be least themselves:
The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts:
'Your wish is father to the thought'
" The attempt to develop ourselves, or educate others, may at least in part consist in the metaphoric activity of creating connections between a standard epistemology and some ‘alien’ frame of reference, between an original discipline and another discipline which seems to pursue incommensurable aims in an incommensurable vocabulary." (see Paul Ricoeur's fictive power of metaphor).
'Old things new, new things familiar' (Thackeray)
"...the real winner is the extraordinary player, the one who can create some kind of a (linguistic) game with an epistemic frame which ‘lesser’ players have to regard as totally alien, not amenable to any sort of exchange. It is a game implying risk, effort and discipline - indeed genius - in the attempt to link increasingly different world views. The winner is not an endogamous player who can powerfully control from the inside a homogeneous epistemic area, but the exogamous and talented thinker whose vital metaphors do successfully link his own area of literality with a domain previously regarded as totally useless for cross-fertilization. "
The dangers of safety
With regard to the "safety" researchers were said to seek in, primarily, not making or being seen to make mistakes (mentioned at the top of this review) it may be worth mentioning that the "safety" provided by avoiding errors (or identifying those of others) also likely usurps our own creative (analogic) drive.
The same may be also be true for their non-errors, run of the mill positions which while true do little to advance our understanding. Remaining sensitive enough to register new ideas, one suspects that the ideas of others impact the mind in much the same way as say, our own ideas do (both perhaps sharing the same entrance) and so play (function) a cathartic role. ('Catharsis' here with the emphasis on participation, the effects on one's own activity (motivation) where one's 'lobby' is occupied by others. The philosophic 'waste' referred to earlier, non productive oppositional literality, is exampled here with an attempt to audit the drain on one's creative sensibility where unproductive 'posits' (while certainly serving to illuminate the way as errors and indirections inadvertently do) can inhibit or usurp one's appetite for discovery; upstart crows crowding a sky which might be better or more productively employed, which is to say metaphoric deployments which pioneer new directions, but this is not to dismiss their worth and crucial function to 'the winning' researcher who can not only identify merit in their literality but accept it as crucial as pathology serves to map the route to better health. This acceptance is not to undermine the central thesis of this study but should serve to strengthen it.
Aristotle meets Plato
So, the task of locating 'a modem' which might see Digital and Analogic systems on speaking terms can be assisted when the contribution of literalist pathology is recognised as central to the diet of those who would go on to mine more productive seams. 'By indirections, find directions out' (Hamlet).
"But then, if a measure of ambiguity allows for a constant search for ever greater accuracy, we should also ask why ambiguity is so unbearable....And whenever we cannot tolerate any mixture or contamination we also cannot profit from those areas in which things do not have an immiscible (un-mixable) single meaning but possibly a number of further meanings" (80)
This study tacitly invokes both reader response theory and the powerful argument (made by WH Auden see John Boly) regarding the tyranny of the perfect declension, how clarity makes a docile auditor of the reader, denying him or her any role in interpreting the meaning of a sentence, which all amounts to a rather authoritarian text repressing the reader, and, rather startling as they sounds, once you find reasons why the literalist pathology or fallacy undermines discursive progress , as this book has admirably shown, expanding or extending the main thesis of this study to include reader response makes sense.
I'd also like to see recognised the important role the oppositional literalist model plays in helping the winning reader get to a better place, as if one's mundane existence can be augmented and improved by tapping into the metaphoric well and while we ourselves may have got passed pedestrian point scoring in our dealings with others, that the oppositional model remains orthodox, we remain subject to its rules of behaviour, its code of cut-throat practices so none of us really escape its limited and limiting remit. Trying to unwind even after an uneventful working week can prove difficult. Enjoying one's relative prosperity is difficult when you know people go hungry. Quality of life is determined by the mean, not the exceptional.
How Green is my Valley
"‘Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valley of silliness’, urges Wittgenstein. The practice and enduring of our silliness is perhaps advocated by Wittgenstein as a strenuous philosophical methodology enabling us to confront something for which we are unprepared, and for which we run the risk of not knowing what to say - of making fools of ourselves. ‘For a philosopher there is more grass growing down in the valleys of silliness than up on the barren heights of cleverness’, he insists"
" Everything functions correctly within any powerful epistemology, and there is nothing wrong with its success except that it leaves out a great deal of the specificity of human expressiveness. From within a standard vocabulary certain features of an interactive field can, in fact, be seen with extreme clarity only at the cost of ignoring other potential aspects of that same domain of interaction. And such aspects can all too easily be ignored or dismissed as sheer anomalies. In our constant concern for qualitative accuracy and for the complexity of individual variations, the differentiative approach to research could be seen as complementary to rule-conscious outlooks based on statistical averaging, and the current return to the study of narratives could be viewed as the starting-point for further endeavours."
" Emanating from the most disparate sources, concepts such as ‘belief, ‘desire’, ‘tendency’, and ‘imagination’ are becoming increasingly popular in the vocabulary of contemporary philosophy and are thus prompting unavoidable questions on the nature of the relations between propositional and non-propositional factors in our linguistic life. It is almost as if our human ‘genius’ could generate ever new grappling instruments that we can throw upwards and forward so that we can laboriously direct our cognitive potential to further domains."
" Each step forward requires us, in fact, to relinquish some familiar element and to connect with something that is as yet unknown, in a way somehow approximating our general idea of metabolic processes."
A picnic to which you bring your own sandwiches
A simple metaphor to communicate this shift in focus might be the replacement of one item in one's daily diet with something else, how over a period of time the healthier choices would make themselves felt.
An interesting feature of this book is that whilst ostensibly about theory, it deploys theoretical language shorn of examples (fair enough), typically requiring the reader to supply her or his own, to demonstrate this point or that (augmenting the text with context, supplying techne with praxis, thereby enabling an active role for the reader etc.) the reader who is able to keep up and supply such examples to furnish the text is constantly reminded that the whole life of the researcher is involved (whether he or she concedes it or not) and, for meaningful progress to occur, a shift in mainstream thinking, how we function (and not just in Philosophy) will be necessary if more minds (voices) can be brought to bear upon important matters.
Restating the (bloodless) obvious
And while one can argue that much of this is merely stating the obvious, I think the author is too polite to remind us that yes, it is all pretty obvious, so why do we continue to function in ways that hold back progress of the sort she anticipates, and by reverting to type as we navigate our research. Beating the dog for barking usually results in more barking, not less (while detaining both parties from more productive endeavours! Ruff, Ruff!).
Alone again, naturally.
" Developed in a variety of highly technical and logically cogent argumentations, our western scholasticism becomes ever more elaborate and yet increasingly detached from the complex experiences of our embodied condition. The question of connections and reciprocities thus comes across as one of the central problems in the evolution of our rationality."
The ever-present past
" for major philosophical attempts to establish the rule of ‘pure reason’ there often emerges a cultural reaction disposed to utilize features of our embodied condition in the way of an adversarial argument to be directed against antecedent philosophical constructions. "
" For if we inconspicuously ignore the will to control which is covertly at work in the production of language theories as well as in other ‘neutral’ aspects of culture, we are being too respectful of the beliefs which are collectively concealed in our epistemologies."
Falling between stools
" In no way might a cultural reappropriation of life be regarded as a hidden attempt to naturalize our humanity or contaminate our logic; it is rather a way of further using our philosophical potential to raise our standards of precision while mitigating the gross arrogance of our intellectuality and the idea of our mind as an autonomous ‘agent’...."
The hospital orderly speaks.
"...This approach seems to follow in the tradition of Wittgenstein’s therapeutic efforts to free ourselves from a variety of intellectual bewitchments.The tone and subtlety of certain Wittgensteinian remarks might be interpreted as an effort to mitigate the purported autarchy of the mind: ‘It is misleading then to talk of thinking as of a “mental activity’’, he resolutely affirms."
Lest we Forget
" Metaphoricity is a basic mode of functioning whereby we project patterns from one domain of experience in order to structure another domain of a different kind. So conceived, metaphor is not merely a linguistic mode of expression since it is one of the main cognitive and relational factors by which we develop a sense of coherence among our innumerable experiences."
Metaphor as Modem
" As the specific genius of human language, metaphoricity is thus seen to rest on the capacity to transpose the patterns derived from experience of our own life - to the extent that such experience is not denied, obscured or atrophied by an excess of literalness. And the imagination through which we organize a coherent experience of our daily vicissitudes can in turn be instrumental exploring our profound, inchoate domains by means of an appropriate interpretation of our unconscious expressions. In a sense, our metaphoric genius may consist in the disposition to be hospitable to and to make links with the primal gestures of our living condition, and to create a circulation of interdependencies. This enterprise is both is both serious and playful, but certainly not automatic."
The plot thickens
" Our traditional idea of an immaterial reason shapes a variety of cultural assumptions, such as our belief in the schism of mind and body, which in turn induces an increase in dissociative practices. It is then ultimately a question of self-fulfilling prophecies originating from the belief in a disembodied pure mind."
Are you a Cartesian or a Pascalian?
The old binary Cartesian grid representing variables on an x/y axis (mentioned earlier) is clearly in need of refinement or Heisenbergian (Walterian?) augmentation by an observing 'z', the proto-Pascalian observer who does not see the pure object (the thing in itself) but rather brings to bear upon his gaze, a history which ' colours' his (and often our) perceptions of whatever object(s) in the world are being examined. The loss of empathy the result of an overemphasis on the oppositional model may extract more from the subject than to merely delay his maturity as his 'success' within the system will confirm him in his resistance to anything radical outside the tried and the trusted. Not so much a compounding but a confounding. Anyway.
"In fact, even the celebrated computer metaphor, with its related vocabulary of information processing, feature analysis, and software programs, has not only filtered into scientific models and popular speech but also has become quite compatible with the paradigms of cognitive psychology. Several contributions have given impetus to this movement and recent reformulations of mind-brain-self controversies are often couched in computer analogies and models. The computer metaphor has proved to be highly heuristic, stimulating not only empirical research but considerable theorizing and debate regarding the nature of the self and mind- brain issues."
(My own use of the computer metaphor, near the beginning of this review, becomes somewhat interesting in light of the above statement. I was arguing that perhaps the human organism has collective capacities we remain unaware of, not quite as mysterious as a collective unconscious more like a sober, perhaps limited network that may not amount to telepathy and so on but connected none the less. The trouble with speculating along these lines is that it courts the fantastic and skirts the world of fancy which while rightly calling forth skeptics and scepticism which places the onus on the speculator to justify his claims, their arrival demanding that such speculation submit itself to literalist rubrics (in serious suits) which usually results in ideas being stillborn. Given that our current model of idea governance is as flawed as it is, what might give the suits pause for thought is the fact that it seems much more fantastic and fanciful if we humans (okay mortals) were not connected. People such as Rupert Sheldrake who has probed such ideas as morphic resonance have typically been frowned upon by 'the straight community'. This frowning I fancy has everything to do with academic tenure and collegiality and little to do with the real efforts people have made to probe whether human minds in any way shape of form are connected except on the literalist, conscious plane. With the writings of Freud filed under 'Fiction' at the Stanford Library, it may be some time before the pendulum swings back again. Meanwhile, science fiction is left to do the heavy lifting and while I notice a lot of physicists are Trekkies (Star Trek), this division of labour represents a divorce or a separation and not a co-habitation. That one realm or domain feeds the other is not doubted but I think this study argues that the traffic between domains is real but remains unacknowledged. It may well need to remain so. The following paragraph somewhat addresses the traffic I mentioned above where the two realms are separate but related.)
A Division of Labour
" We cannot escape this circularity but instead can strive attentively to inhabit it. That literalness and metaphoricity are profoundly interwoven and that this vital condition inevitably creates problems has already been indicated by Aristotle remarking that ‘if one should not argue in metaphors, it is clear that one should not define either by metaphor...; for then one necessarily argues in metaphors. And if we regard metaphor as generally emblematic of non-literal language and analogies, we may come to regard this frequently necessary and interwoven approach as particularly fruitful. Even though occupied with considerations remote from our present concerns, Kepler makes a significant revelation: ‘And I cherish more than anything else the analogies, my most trustworthy masters. They know all the secrets of nature, and they ought to be least neglected.’
" The fact is that sometimes - or often, perhaps - we try to say new things with old metaphors which seem to contradict what we are trying to say. And yet, while drawing upon our ‘classics’, we generally do not perceive the problems generated by those essential links provided by figurative language in the sense that we instead choose to neglect them in favour of some much needed overall consistency."
"Responsive appreciation of certain very special linguistic efforts does in fact reinforce a profound value system - which is something that could never figure in the paraphrase of such language. In our pre-literal intimacy we ‘learn’ with intensity and immediacy whether danger comes from inside or outside, whether the individual exists or only the group does; such very early interactions even ‘teach’ us whether words themselves are tools or weapons, precious or worthless."
The Un-thought Known
" If we hypothesize that infants are endowed with some innate logic which may interact with the logic of their human environment and that these exchanges are at work well before mental (logical, rational, intellectual, cognitive) operations can be identified, then we could suppose that the developing individual gets to know a great deal about human ways of life. And yet what he knows has not been learned in terms of what we normally regard as a conscious learning experience...
An Inspector Calls
...In our mature languages we have no simple way to express a capacity for knowing something even though we cannot properly think and speak about what we know.Oedipus, Hamlet, and Smerdyakov can be thought of as having an exact knowledge of experiences that they cannot propositionally enunciate...
...An early metaphoric life is thus also a way of attempting to represent what we know but cannot yet think. In early life we are ‘taught’ how to interact with persons and things even though the instruction takes place through a variety of interactions primarily conducted outside of the proper linguistic domain. Such an evolving bi-personal field of experience could not be properly conceptualized in terms of the vocabulary through which we assess canonized relations."
[As the audience, we watch Oedipus or Ophelia, Moses or Hamlet, and we are privileged as typically we know in advance the fate of these characters, and while our own little corner of the world may not be or feel comparable to the more exciting mythical worlds we see in literature (Verona, Denmark, Thebes) a premium is placed on knowledge, what the character knows at any given time. It remains difficult to convince ourselves and others that they (we) as consumers are also participants in ' fiction ' which can be cathartic. I think we tend to underestimate our own role, such as it is, as real participants (often for very good reasons, modesty, realism, unthinkingness and so on) but the recurring predicaments protagonists face, probe their (and our) levels of awareness. What hinders readers or viewers from seeing what is actually there, whether in their own lives or in the lives of fictional characters they may feel drawn to or identify with. Oedipus is in the grip of a family dilemma which will determine his and his family's fate. His every effort to act independently merely confirms his dependence on a force larger than his individual will. What brings him to consciousness, and, as a viewer witnessing that drama, what lesson will the viewer take away which may be of use in his or her own life and development.]
Ongoing Longing & Belonging
"But then, intuitions of one’s inner life appearing to oppose the standards of canonized culture can be seriously threatening as the subject may obscurely fear the dangers of falling outside a realm of consensual rationality and acceptability. "
(Earlier page 71)
" An awareness of abandonment and isolation may come to dominate one’s inner world whenever absence of appropriate construals is persistent enough. At this critical point of vulnerability, the evolving person is prepared for what could be termed bonding with whatever culture is available and for locking into it without reservations. And to disrespect the rules of whatever cultural context one may need to integrate with will mean banishment and loss of links - even with the refuge community. To avert such danger, individuals tend to accept without question the strictures the system imposes, with further detriment to authentic languaging."
The Wrong Sort
" And the sort of intellectual outlooks inclining to dispense with the linguistic development of our inner lives, might appear as our highest evolutionary achievements, unwittingly damaging our cultural habitat and thus, ultimately, allowing its extinction."
The children our parents warned us against
" And the playful mind, enjoying variety, even considers the possibility of having been initiated into the wrong intellectual tribe, and of refusing its identifying language games: the intention grows to interpret the fundamentals of one’s epistemology as simply instruments used to inculcate a local standard vocabulary. As Nietzsche reiterates, ‘serious’ work tends ever more to coincide with legitimate concerns, while the inclination to play tends to be called a ‘need for recreation’ and, somehow, begins to be a source of shame. The playful mind appears more inspired by metaphors of making rather than by the paradigms of representing, by an ideal of playful creativity rather than diligent work performed according to intraepistemic criteria. ‘Pleasure precedes business’, remarks Quine; and he also adds: ‘The child at play is practicing for life’s responsibilities ... Art for art’s sake was the main avenue ... to ancient technological breakthroughs." (122)
'Nicens', baby tuckens' (James Joyce, The Portrait)
" Symbolic play is thus the condition for the embryonic metaphors rooted in a functional similarity created by means of fiction. "
Qualities thrice given
"charity, reciprocity, harmony" (120)
When present these three allow communication of a particular type to happen as this study spreads its wings to reveal how perhaps mature researchers might successfully foment a playful metaphorical conversation of a higher order. What comes to mind is the length of time such participants have been believers, and whether they (he, she) alone has/have made sufficient progress (when alone or solo) to now be able to dovetail with another human being, moving from the confessional stage. One probably needs to have been doing this, developing one's own thoughts singularly, for a serious period of time (though it is more about the quality of one's thoughts/effort and not merely time spent etc.) if one hopes to enter into a conversation with another so given. Rome wasn't rebuilt in a day.
And then I read this:
" The answer could be that a wealth of interactive support is necessary for these structures properly to develop and thus transform biological behaviour into logical creativity ". One summer a swallow cannot make though a pioneer might produce a Wunderkind where a new generation might display more sophisticated capacities etc..
Vicissitudes of Transformations -Chapter 10
" Thus a fuller concept of human understanding increasingly requires a pattern of interactions with nature and persons, rather than a reduction to the aseptic semantic network that often permeates western philosophy - a network which, of course, can be aptly isolated for purposes of circumscribed elucidation."
-Restating, recapping, refiguring, relocating-
" Arbib and Hesse often argue that metaphoricity is crucial for language and that the nature of our embodiment helps us create the metaphors through which we organize our multiple experiences - which are not primarily representations. The very notion of an essentially embodied subject suggests, moreover, that such a reconciliation has been made necessary as a remedy against the detrimental effects of the persistent disembodiment perpetrated by a philosophical tradition more focused on accurate representation than on the synergies of interaction. And an ‘excess’ of attention to objective representations, which tend to marginalize interactive issues, is not without consequences. In Nagel’s view the limit of objectivity with which we are most concerned is one that derives from the process of detachment by which objectivity is attained. Of course*an objective standpoint is identified by dismissing the more subjective, or even just human, perspective but there are things (he remarks) that cannot be adequately understood from a maximally objective standpoint, however much it may extend our understanding beyond the point from which we started. Qualifying features are essentially connected to particular points of view and the project of obtaining a thorough account of the world in detached, objective terms inevitably leads to false reductions or to the ‘outright denial that certain patently real phenomena exist at all’ " (140)
Throughout this study, one is reminded of Shakespeare who at a young age found himself removed from the world he was born into, dispossessed, cast adrift, probably taking refuge in Southwark from the reach of the law, and how this prompted him to create the world he did. What did he do and how did he do it. Well, aside from the colour and the scenery, his innovation was linguistic and once he recognised the gift Marlowe supplied him with, abandoning dactylic hexameter in favour of iambic pentameter whose rhythms closely resemble the human heartbeat, his anthropomorphic vision reconnected abstract thought with the concrete. Auden claims that classic civilisation broke down when the philosophers could no longer mediate between the gods and the ordinary man or woman in the Athenian street, citing Wagner (Amfortas, suffering) and Shakespeare's prosopopoeia (and Rilke's 'dinge') as writers who reconnected these two aspects of our hmm nature which are represented in the School of Athens, mentioned in this study; "to curse deaf heaven with my bootless cries".
Labour isn't working
" An atrophy in the potential for generating metaphors may result in an inability to generate any models and consequently in a submission to whatever paradigms are offered by the surrounding culture.'^ With this insight attention could be profitably directed away from the classic instruments of social control and on to the everyday workings of our linguistic and educational tradition. A new emphasis could be placed upon the unnoticed indoctrinating influence of the ongoing discourses, which necessarily reverberate in life-shaping experiences more secretly and surely than any form of overt authority. Lakoff and Johnson point out, for instance, that a metaphor ‘by virtue of what it hides can lead to human degradation.’” To explain their thesis they cite the ‘Labour is a resource’ metaphor whereby most contemporary economic theories treat work as a natural resource and speak of it in terms of cost and supply thus dismissing the distinction between meaningful and dehumanizing labour. Languaging, too, could ultimately be treated as a ‘resource’."
Seeing & looking, hearing & listening
" In life-enhancing language games the early expressions of the nascent personality are met with construals inducing the belief that language is an enriching instrument and a path to self-formation. But in those pseudo-construals whereby actual life tends to become sadly detached from linguistic life there is no interpretive reaction to the metaphoric inventions of the evolving individual, but instead a steady directing towards the literalness of ‘adult’ language. A centrifugal sort of language, leading away from the core of the nascent self, is firmly established; and through it we come to believe that life and language are ultimately to be dissociated inasmuch as one’s own language is to be regarded as inessential to projects of self creation. This inner centrifugal force seems contrary to any kind of formation, education, growth, Bildung: it is the unseen (and thus unquestioned) equivalent of intimating that there is no logic whatsoever in the individual and that real logic is only to be found in the dominant epistemology; to this one must seek access and adhere if one aspires to be something more than a mere natural being. Adhering to a constant deviation from what is personal to what is conventional one is ultimately deprived of any instruments for self-reflection and thus for appreciating the inner life of others - as if we could look at others without even trying to see into them." (143)
Parsis parsing -Hegiras of the mind
" Migrating in search of novel vocabularies can be one of the solutions sought for psychic survival."
To cut the cuckoo's throat to see what makes the starlit sing
Is it possible that the (personal) decision to probe metaphor i.e. to decide to take one's inner life seriously, is as important as any benefit that might accrue the result of so doing. It seems (to me) that a preliminary step in the process of mining one's inner resources is the getting or granting of a license. I mention this because many people will consider such exploration 'esoteric' which it really isn't, (or oughtn't be) at least not in the negative sense many people regard any unorthodox or exploratory effort to look under the bonnet (or hood).
In terms of the latent power of putative metaphor as catalytic convertor or transcendent modem which we are told can assist the individual to access such higher reaches of consciousness, it is probably timely or apropos to also begin to regard the relative degree of malleability of the subject as a factor in this process. This of course is to open up an adjacent room before we have finished our inventory of this one, and yet a subject's availability or openess to the process will be critical if their transition is to succeed. I'm speaking of the subjects plasticity, their capacity for playfulness as mentioned earlier in this study, as a critical factor so, assuming maturational growth is possible as it is and has been outlined in this study, the subject's versatility and readiness to introject symbols of transformation will need fleshing out. I'm not inferring the subject has been neglected (as the process under discussion requires our more immediate attention), just pointing to her or his role in being or becoming a participant. The tendency for the subject to become hardened by the pathology of the literal world is all too common and so a level of need perhaps driven by a deep dissatisfaction with existing models with their limited reach and successes is crucial for the subject if she or he is to make the journey or perhaps complete it.
" The intersubjective appreciation of a metaphor may similarly be enforced, under certain circumstances, so as to endorse the specific cognitive operations of the person generating the metaphor or propagating a particular interpretation of events. For instance, if a developing person gets the fixed idea that he is worthless, indeed redundant, there is not much cognitive input from reality that will change this fundamental personal outlook. With differing levels of complexity, humans seem to develop at their earliest opportunity a global view of reality; with this they supplement what they know nothing about with derivatives from that same general view of themselves in the world. When confronted with surprising situations we are ‘tempted’ to produce an explanation which may account for the ‘new’ data in terms of our innermost picture of things. Our basic metaphors thus provide the symbolic channels whereby we incorporate new experiences on our own terms. Metaphors can thus be arresting inasmuch as they compel as well as invite us to enter their figurative ground in order to grasp them. In fact the copular ‘is’ which could be described as creating connection may as easily involve an ‘abuse’ which entraps the interlocutor. Metaphor both opens and forecloses. Its radically perspectival nature - its capacity to create perspective through incongruity - can also turn into a restrictive perspectivism. For instance, in any macro- or micro-community in which repressive metaphors seem to thrive - and thus tend to become literal - certain restrictive and distorting mental attitudes are reinforced that may eventually degrade the quality of life in the phatic community."
The above corroborates what some call 'the object oriented question', a technique analysts sometimes use to tease out a picture (or series of) of the (resistant) analysand's ego by asking, as my supervisor used to do, "how's the dog feeling today". As singular responses tend to be unreliable, one needs to repeat the activity to collect anything of accuracy or reliability.
The gift that keeps on stealing
" In human interactions reciprocity often depends on the hypothesis that most aspects of one’s inner life could ultimately be shared. And yet whenever we injudiciously presume that a particular interlocutor has no resources for expressing his inner world, we tend to make use of our own metaphoric capacities to give voice to the other’s inner experiences. As soon as such a momentous assumption is made within a two-person interaction, one of them is gradually deprived of the opportunity to exercise his own metaphoric resources. Such an appropriation, moreover, is uniquely unnoticeable and difficult to oppose inasmuch as it comes across as an offer, as an interpretive gift, which is made to the other. It is the sort of linguistic gift which fills the other while atrophying the symbolic capacity of the recipient, who is overcome by the colonizing attitude of the linguistically more developed agent. Such an interaction not only implies that one person regards himself capable of vicariously metaphorizing for the less gifted partner but also that no expressive potential is being perceived in the individual whose metaphoric opportunities are being usurped. Whenever our efforts to shape and decipher are ‘educationally’ voiced by someone else, these ‘formative’ offers ultimately denude and sterilize our own inner linguisticity. The theft, moreover, is disguised by the personalized quality of the ‘gift’."
Wow! The trick here I believe is for 'the driver' to have established sufficient rappore with the passenger such that he is deemed trustworthy which, if established, sees him or her temporarily lend by dint of empathy (doing unto others etc.) his own capacity or desire for transcendence to the passenger or subject thereby instead of usurping the passenger's capacities, enables them. I imagine, even if the gift as described usurps the patient's native capacities, a degree of modelling (as an exemplary presence) may be going on which might actually kick-start the passenger's engine for individual growth, impelling him to go on in time and gain his own driving license. The often violent end to therapy is often a necessary rift which the subject needs in order to regain control over his own ontology, a cutting of the umbilical chord. Often, this benefit is missed as rifts and schisms seem so devastating and final.
My Mistress eyes are nothing like the Sun
" Indeed, some of the frequently quoted metaphors in the profusion of literature are expressions such as ‘Richard is a lion’ and ‘Juliet is the sun’. Here again we are confronted with the scholarly style of books resonating with the creative language of literary works while the formative or damaging effects of metaphoric expressions remain perplexingly ignored. And yet, if an infant were only attended to by satisfying his biological needs and if he were not encouraged by the innumerable metaphors of caring adults, there would be virtually no mental growth. By converse, the denial of the infant’s symbolic potential and the manipulative use of metaphoric language by the authorial authority of those who do the talking can be equally detrimental to cognitive development. Denying the inner life of a little boy who is terrified with a cliche such as ‘But you are always such a tiger’, or else stifling an angry girl with an equivalent utterance such as ‘But you are my little angel’ are common ways of using metaphors to impede psychic life." (148)
Bearing in mind the tendency for language as our premier means of communication to afford expression but also to subjugate emanations (as we saw earlier) from our private or inner world, the previous paragraph bears ample witness to the effects of such policing. Below is a general assessment of the damage wrought by such scripting or refusing to occupy or play a role in a drama not ours. Song lyrics and birthday greetings appear to be prime candidates in a re-examination of the untold damage their platitudinal contents visit upon recipients or participants. Again, the child who instinctively (and appropriately) resists such scripts puts her or himself beyond the pale simply by resisting. How she ever manages to come to complex terms with the effects of her presumably early refusal speaks to the value of therapy but also the difficulty individuals face, those fortunate enough to resist, 'to stick to their guns'. The Shield Of Achilles (the fountainhead of the western literary tradition) here assumes or finds a new use. Meanwhile, Icarus and the Morning Star (Paradise Lost) provide ample warnings regarding the likely price of rebellion. It might be interesting to map the encouragement (or lack thereof) our preferred or prominent myths offer to those young people subjected to them.
Identifying in the Oedipus myth (as this study does by way of example) a refusal to acknowledge the growing child or infant's emerging condition is an example how myth carried psychic truth in pre-literate societies, often in the form of a fable. Also, one's best efforts to obviate the Oracle, giving Oedipus over to a shepherd for example, only collude in perpetrating the prophesy, there being no way to avoid or ignore the essential condition or dilemma of the young child, one of "life's vicissitudes" as advertised earlier in this study.
Without getting into quite how it all works, the compendium of gods within the Graeco-Roman-Judeo-Christian heritage was vast, representing the various psychological complexes that detain the human spirit, psychological conditions (Hubris Icarus, Inflation Lear, Innocence Hamlet, Abstraction Casaubon, and so on) had in the view of Jung "become diseases", namely people's inabilities to identify with no longer available mythological figures, stories which guide the suffer to wisdom, means that this lack of access, and identification was the prime cause of physical illness. Jung argued that if we could pair which mythological god (myth, story) represented which organic disease, we might begin to cure people of the spiritual homelessness, the lack of access to their personal mythology, whether Demeter, Acteon, Iphigenia or Beatrice Cenci. What are considered organic diseases often passed down through generations are often in unresolved psychological complexes. Think depression but also diabetes.
The needle and the damage done
" The task of mediating relations between antithetical parts of the self involves an effort progressively to bring forth meaningful inner life, an effort which entails both opposing, and coping with, the mechanisms of dividing, separation and fragmentation which lead, inevitably, towards a state of inanimation. In this sense, also, language does interact with life. Those processes of endless fragmentation result in the negation of any interactive potential and in mental degradation: they steadily conspire in the extinction of mental life. And the regressive separation of thoughts and affects is one of the most damaging threats to the life of the mind - however hidden from view this process may be." (150)
" Examples of the resolution of conflicts by regression include the tendency to give up one’s individuality by becoming, for instance, an undifferentiated member of a group. Such a condition is attained through the adhesion to primitive paradigms which are all the more powerful for promising release from tensions and conflicts. Once we are absorbed into a regressive gestalt there is no more need for the metaphoric efforts by which we try to mediate between diverse inclinations, prospects and functions. It might be generally conceded that all addictions have that same quality of familiarity and ‘comfort’ in spite of their obviously devastating nature." (ibidem)
To cast the origins of diseases like Parkinson's or Altsheimer's as socio-linguistic diseases may sound quite radical today as such claims signal the presence of a new continent before it has been discovered, not to mention the great resistance that emerges in our culture when a psycho-somatic link or causation is being asserted, one feature of which is to place the burden of proof on those who would deviate from orthodoxy. That the orthodox model has failed and failed badly to for example trace or map the somatic sources or triggers of so called organic illness does not deter the establishment's insistence upon proof.
" Perhaps the vast genre of metaphoric expressions indicates that we are looking for some transformational context and aspire to establish intimacy with any epistemic outlook which seems to promise to bring about a transformation of our own selves - cognitively and even affectually."
" But then we should ask in which way what is known, but not yet thought, may gradually reach the stage of being both known and thought; and also ask which are the aspects of the dialogic interaction that either facilitate or hinder this linguistic evolution. A capacity for construal of the metaphoric expressions of the immature person speaking out from his unthought ‘knowledge’ and trying to reach out for those who inhabit the thinking Literalness of any standard epistemology, constitutes the essential element of the enterprise. An appropriate response to non-literal dialogic attempts convinces the evolving individual that the inner world that he somehow knows, can be thought about and articulated."
" The nascent mind may even get to learn that parental figures cannot act in co-operation, that the original bi-personal field is not a safe place for real growth, and that this must be sought or ‘bought’ elsewhere from whatever figures seem to sell adulthood. By not being offered construals to metaphoric constructs, the developing individual may ultimately learn that he is as resourceless as the emissaries of the adult world. >>>The stage is then set for the potential surrender of responsibility to whoever makes a ‘professional’ claim for privileged access to truth, emancipation, progress.<<< " (152)
Where the rubber meets the road -What our symbolic disjoin means for our choices and how they shape our culture, and how we live now (below).
" Our native curiosity can be seriously affected by cumulative lacks of response, to the point that we may opt for an adhesive dependence on the official producers of collective metaphors. The original capacity to absorb may tend to atrophy as absorption only exacerbates the sense of being blocked. Indeed we may even opt for a defensive acquiescence and for a retreat from lucidity. Persistent experiences of non-construal may also induce an epistemic climate of distrust in the value of communication and an increased compensational valuing of tangible objects. The long-term symptoms of the symbolically unbonded individual include a degradation of interpersonal linguistic relations and the increasing demand for concrete goods which can be manipulated, clung on to, and which are not per se sources of anxiety. Primary experiences in which we learn that disappointment derives from dialogic interactions, and consolation (or escape from such frustration) comes from the use of tangible things, may reverberate in the culture at large. Indeed, by ‘getting ahead in the world’ we often indicate the acquisition of conditions and goods suitable to compensate for any potential scarcity of meaningful bonds."
So, the acquisition of goods (tangible objects) and conspicuous consumption which typically requires witnesses to validate what we have elected to represent success, becomes the default position or proxy replacement (and retreat) for this breakdown in the symbolic contract (Auden's phrase) between the individual and the world.
" When striving to belong to any exclusive or elitist subgroup we try to tune in with the metaphoric subtleties that we perceive or imagine to be at work in it. But then, as we also strive towards individuation, our utmost concern is to verify whether or not we have an inner mental core which can think its own thoughts."
'The Soul Selects its own Society' (Emily D.)
" We might envisage a minimum of ordinary interpretive competence as characteristic of any ‘representative’ member of a phatic community: such representative members will adequately cope with metaphors bringing along a variety of evocations which may be aptly developed in an extended paraphrase. But then, we also have extraordinary metaphors, which cannot possibly be consumed on the basis of a minimal interpretive competence provided by the standards of the speech community. Whenever it is the case that such a metaphor is successfully and knowingly uttered in place of something literal, the expression entails a further dimension of profound interpersonal significance - hardly amenable to a paraphrase. This is due to a valuational attitude presupposed by the originator of the utterance and justifiably attributed to his listener. Such an element is not of the type to be included in an attempted literahzation of the message inasmuch as it could not describe the creative way in which we expect the metaphor to be received. The shared use of particular utterances may in fact differentiate a subset, or sub-group, from those who only share in the ordinary interpretive competence of the community at large. And those who can interpret an extraordinary utterance will probably also be able to appreciate a range of related expressions such as veiled or indirect messages circulating for the creation and maintenance of a more intimately woven subset. Cooper points out that sometimes what unites interpreters of a metaphor will be just the kind of bond connecting users of slang or technical jargon. The utterance of a metaphor may be regarded as a signal that the speaker takes his hearers to belong to a subset distinguished by a special bond of intimacy; in fact, in what might be called a full metaphorical exchange (comprising the utterance itself, its appropriate interpretation by the listener, and a capable assessment of that interpretation by the speaker), the intimacy between interlocutors, presupposed by the original utterance, will eventually be reinforced. The generation of this sort of closeness is similarly suggested by Cohen in the remark that intimacy is achieved through ‘the awareness that not everyone could make that offer or take it up’." (141)
" Making sense of the utterances and behaviour of others, even their most aberrant behaviour, requires us to find a great deal of reason and truth in them."
"It is common knowledge that certain family groups are scarcely communicative and inclined to be ‘cold’, in the sense that parental figures may have difficulties in expressing whatever affection they experience or whatever lovability they may appreciate in the younger members. ..The unformed personality may thus develop a hidden mistrust in affectionate relations of any authenticity."
Prospero : ~Dost thou hear?
Miranda. ~Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.
" Our basic metaphors thus provide the symbolic channels whereby we incorporate new experiences on our own terms."
This last sentence possibly explains why people are as they are, why they (we) cannot progress, not for want of trying but quite simply because their (our) capacity for progress has been arrested (i.e. our symbolic channels are blocked), representing I believe the central focus and appeal of this wonderful study. To buttress our vantage point, as this study as shown, we seek out others who broadly share our view and so a clustering of opinions occurs, clusters which then compete in the public sphere.
To return to the main quotation at the top of this review regarding -the theft of one's inner life- the subsequent paragraph (below) fleshes out precisely what that loss entails.
" It is possible that anyone suffering from an addiction to literal language may have collaborated in being systematically deprived of his own expressive resources. Having relinquished contacts with the roots of one’s self - what we often call the unconscious - one no longer faces the challenge and burden of constantly attempting to translate messages from the inner world into shareable language; the subject consequently restricts linguisticity to elements borrowed from, or imposed by, the authorial authority of the more competent, non-listening speakers. If this hypothesis is pursued one step further we may legitimately think that whoever has been deprived of the burden of articulating inner life will tacitly identify with ‘educators’ and ultimately internalize an intrusive and predatory style only suited to deprive still others of the challenge of expressing an inner world. And yet, while loss and detriment may be quite real, the ‘gain’ of predators is totally non-existent and unusable: nothing is being truly gained by unwittingly silencing others and by only exercising our own narcissistic languaging. Having introjected such a relational style we may go on imposing our articulations to others and illusorily conquering their inner space: damage is perpetrated while no benefit is reaped. And of course such deceptive predatory styles may be adopted both by individuals and by coalitions of persons unconsciously sharing the same attitude. Once personal language has a tendency to become fiction by imitative recourse to a standardized vocabulary, hardly any progress or growth can be made." (147)
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