Lakoff & Johnson, Metaphors We Live By
• HMXP 102
• Thanks to Dr. Matt Fike for this material
• Lakoff and Johnson are cognitive linguists.
• They study the relationship between thought, language, and action (as in the piece that you read for today).
• A key question for them is the following: How do language and thought influence each other?
• Example: (Different concepts/actions re: “new home features”)
Definition of “Metaphor”
• What is L&J’s definition of “metaphor”?
– See page 8.
– What do they mean by “metaphorical concept”?
– See page 9.
• Metaphor: See Human Experience 8: "The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another."
• Metaphor: "An analogy identifying one object with another and ascribing to the first object one or more of the qualities of the second" (Harmon and Holman, A Handbook to Literature). A comparison between two things without the use of "like" or "as."
• A metaphorical concept is a sentence like “Argument is war.” It is a complete thought, rather than a mere image. L&J prefer the term metaphorical concept because metaphor is part of our conceptual system; metaphor is not just an image but also a complete thought; and as such, metaphor has an impact on action, for action arises from thought.
Review of Plato
• What is Plato’s main metaphor?
• What sub-metaphors does he use?
• What is Plato’s main metaphor?
– Education is (like) leaving a cave where appearances are distorted.
• What submetaphors does he use?
– Dragging someone up to the light
– Turning around
– Upward journey
– Light and darkness
L&J on the First Iraq War
Important points from "Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf" (Part 1):
• Secretary of State Baker: S. Hussein “sitting on our economic lifeline.”
• The occupation of Kuwait = a "rape," a "kidnap"
• War = crime: "murder, assault, kidnapping, arson, rape, and theft"
• War = a competitive game (chess) or a sport (football, boxing); emphasis on "strategic thinking"
• "War is politics pursued by other means."
• War = a fight between two people
• War = a fairy tale: villain (Saddam), victim (Kuwait, US), hero (US), magic (weapons)
• War = medicine ("surgical strikes")
• Politics = business
• The state = a person
• Well-being = wealth
• Strength for a state = military capability
• Maturity for a state = industrialization
• Goal of the war = to "push Iraq back out of Kuwait," to "deal the enemy a heavy blow" or a "knockout punch"
• Risks = gambles
• What is L&J’s main point in our text? See if you can pinpoint it.
• L&J’s Main Point
• See Human Experience 2: "Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. … Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities.”
Outline of the Text
• First section:
– Main idea (previous slide)
– Example: “ARGUMENT IS WAR” vs. argument is a dance (8).
• Second section:
– Main ideas: “there are often many metaphors that partially structure a single concept”; metaphors overlap (9)
– Example: “AN ARGUMENT IS A BUILDING…JOURNEY…CONTAINER.”
An Example of How This Works
• Get into groups and explore metaphors that are used to discuss the presidential primaries and caucuses.
• Complete the following sentence as many times as you can:
(Argument is war.)
• Politics is…
• A contest
• A race
• A journey
• A boxing match
• A horse race
• A gauntlet
• A ritual
• A plane ride
• A fireworks show
• A physics experiment
• A roller-coaster ride
• A revolution
• A structure
• A geological event
• A sailboat race
• Take one of these metaphors and identify submetaphors.
– Politics is a boxing match.
– One candidate scores a knock-out punch.
Why Is This Important?
• Why is it important to realize that when we describe something, we do so in terms of something else?
• Complete the following sentence:
It is important to understand the role of metaphor in human communication because ______________.
• Pages 8-9: "We talk about arguments that way because we conceive of them that way—and we act according to the way we conceive of things” (my emphasis).
• How would you act differently if you conceived of arguments as a dance?
• What does this statement mean to you?
Expanding L&J’s Point
• Thought à language à action à habit à character à destiny.
• Be careful of your thoughts because they can manifest in language and in action! Thoughts can shape your reality!
In Other Words
• Saying that “thoughts are things” means that thought energy can influence the world around us.
• These three words may be the most important lesson of the entire semester. As you think, so will you also be.
• In other words, your “self” is a product of your thoughts.
Lakoff’s Embodied Mind Thesis
• If thought is metaphorical, then truth is not a direct reflection of reality. Truth is not an artifact (something fixed for all time); it is a construct. (Who constructs it?)
• We make our own reality by thinking in certain ways: "Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities."
• We understand abstractions in terms of our own bodies as well as objects and events in the physical world.
• So truth results from a relationship between the perceiving mind and the perceived object or idea.
• If you take the ideas on the previous slide to their logical extreme, what point emerges?
• There is no Truth, only perspective. This is the position called “relativism.” Everything is relative to something else (in this case, the perceiving mind).
• As in our discussion of Plato, what is Truth (an absolute, an artifact waiting to be discovered), and what is truth (a perspective, something relative)? What is the difference between truth-as-artifact and truth-as-construct?
• The truth of everything you have believed to be true your entire life—including the Bible—is now open for doing exactly what Plato says: namely, turning around and getting a clearer perspective.
Truth vs. truth
• Can you think of any Truths on which we can all agree?
• What if there is nothing that occupies in our lives the same position as the Forms/Ideas in Plato?
• What if there is no such thing as truth-as-artifact?
What Does This Mean to You?
Activity: Zen Demonstration
Student: Great teacher, I have come to learn from you.
Teacher: (Sizing up pupil) I see. Welcome, please come in.
Student sits down. Master prepares tea.
Teacher: Would you care for some tea?
Student: Yes I would, Master
Master pours tea slowly, until cup is overflowing. Student in shock.
Student: Master, my cup is overflowing.
Master: Then how am I to teach you?
Spend 5 minutes writing about the significance of this little story for you. Do you see connections to types of education that Plato identifies?
What is YOUR metaphor for education?
Source: The HMXP website
The Point and the Moral
• The Point: If you think you already know the Truth, how can you learn anything from this course?
• What metaphor does the Zen Demonstration employ?
– Container metaphor.
– Not “The ‘Banking’ Concept of Education” (Paulo Freire): your education is not about the deposits of information that professors make for the purpose of coercion or control.
– You are not receptacles; you are cocreators: this is a metaphorical concept that arises from the notion that action arises from thought and from language.
• The Moral: It is important to keep an open mind as regards the ideas in our book and the kind of writing that the course requires.
• What kind of metaphors do professors and students use to describe paper grading?
• Note the Difference
– “Nuke ’em all, let God sort ’em out.”
– “Your writing is the disease. I’m the cure.”
– “He blew me out of the water.”
– “He bled all over my paper.”
– “He trashed my paper.”
– “He butchered my paper.”
Professor as Rambo
– “Yeah, I’ll be hard on you, but think of it this way: each paper is a hurdle that prepares you to clear the high bar (future work and final exam) at the end of the semester.”
– “May I lend you a helping hand? Give you a boost?”
Professor as coach and
• Remember: thoughts à language à action à habit à character à destiny.
• So the kind of experience we have relates directly to how we think.
• Here is the problem: Seeing the same thing from different perspectives often causes conflict.
• Can you think of any examples?
• Terrorists believe that jihad, holy war against the infidel (the United States), is justifiable.
• Their metaphors: Terrorists are holy warriors, heroes, and martyrs.
• Americans generally believe that a religiously motivated war is wrong.
• Our metaphor: Terrorists are ___________ (fill in the blank).
• How can nations and peoples get along if one person’s hero is another person’s criminal?
• “Something that appears evil to one nation may be regarded as good by another nation” (C.G. Jung, CW 10, 862/457).
• What metaphors do men and women use to describe dating and relationships?
• See next slide.
(Complete this chart.)
Question about Couples
• Could it be that couples do not get along because they have different metaphors for their shared experience?
• You can write a paper about a metaphorical pattern in your own life.
• Example from a previous student’s paper: “My family is a house.” Or this: Matt Groening, Work Is Hell. Or THIS: “Dating is a game.”
• But be sure to EVALUATE your pattern and ask yourself whether you benefit from it or not.