8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2004
This superb study deals with the status of religious language by means of a comprehensive review of theories of metaphor down the ages, taking in amongst others Aristotle, David Hume, I A Richards and I T Ramsey. The author's deceptively simple working definition of metaphor as 'that figure of speech whereby we speak about one thing in terms which are seen to be suggestive of another' proves highly fruitful, especially when 'thing' is extended to include 'state of affairs'.
Ms Soskice provides a robust defence of the idea that metaphor is an irreplaceable part of language, is not to be equated with simple comparison, and expresses truths in ways which cannot be expressed without metaphor. She discusses metaphor in relation to scientific theory and philosophical debates about our knowledge of reality, and argues for a position of 'critical realism' as preferable to a post-modern claim that language is a self-contained system of signifiers with no externally existing signified reality. She is fully aware of the rationale behind such claims, and avoids a naive realism that posits a simple one-to-one mapping of words to reality.
In discusing the implications of this understanding of metaphor for theology, she finds many points of contact with scientific method, and shows that a position of reflective realism underlies even the claims of Christian mystics; in passing she provides counter arguments to Don Cupitt's non-realist interpretation of theology.
Fittingly, for a book which discusses both the vital irreducibility but also the limitation of metaphorical language, she ends with reference to John Donne, in particular his poem 'Hymne to Christ, at the Authors Last Going into Germany', and shows how God, 'beloved and dreaded, horribly absent and compellingly present' is the beginning and end of theology, as illustrated in the poem's movement from experience to images and images to prayer.
I would thoroughly recommend this study to anyone dissatisfied with both the dismissive relativism of much post modern discourse and the naive truth assertions of fundamentalism.