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Metaphors We Live By 1st , Kindle Edition
|Length: 294 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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This is one such.
The idea is that we live by metaphors - 'war', 'sex', 'up is good' etc etc. This is a trans-national, trans-cultural truth that holds true for the whole species. That as the brain recognises what is going on neural paths are activated, and where the same thing is recognised, the same neural paths are triggered, until they get 'hard-wired' into our consciousness and behaviour.
This was penned back in the '80s, but stays fresh and true in the noughties.
To be honest, it goes a bit funny at the end where they try to guess where future research may take them, as far as I can see wrongly, but the first 90% is so good you can forgive them that!
"Theories (and arguments) are buildings:
"Is that the foundation for your theory? The theory needs more support. We need some more facts or the argument will fall apart. We need to construct a strong argument for that. I haven't figured out yet what the form of the argument will be. Here are some more facts to shore up the theory. We need to buttress the theory with solid arguments. The theory will stand or fall on the strength of that argument. The argument collapsed. They exploded his latest theory. We will show his theory to be without foundation. So far we have put together only the framework of the theory."
Surprising isn't it that we use lots of different expressions based around one metaphor? That leads on to one of the fundamental arguments in the book - that metaphors are not merely linguistic devices, they are conceptual. We don't just use the 'theories are buildings' metaphor to get across our message, we actually think and act in those terms too. This obviously has some pretty major implications for our understanding of 'truth', and indeed the latter part of the book covers this in some detail, particularly the philosophical ramifications.
They also argue that our metaphors are grounded in experience, hence a lot of them are about space, orientation and travel. Think how often you use 'journey' metaphors to describe things, for example. This might be in terms of relationships - we're going our separate ways, the worst is behind us etc - or in terms of work - I personally use the phrase "I'm getting there" a lot in reference to work projects. So really we are perceiving first and describing second in terms of more direct/basic experiences.
The book's afterword is also well worth a read as it describes briefly how metaphor analysis has been applied is various fields from psychology to political science, so if you like the idea there is plenty of other suggested reading material.
The book is intended for the general public, since it's easy to understand, well presented, and concise. However, this feature cannot appeal to a more informed audience, since the author does not provide any footnotes or cross-references to delve more deeply into this interesting matter.
For those who want to get a wider picture, there is the following book by the same author: Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought.
Lakoff gives examples from life for various metaphors, for example, TIME IS MONEY (or TIME IS A VALUABLE COMMODITY), and shows how we use these metaphors in our everyday thoughts and actions ("Spending time", "wasting time", "saving time", etc). He shows how many different ideas can be expressed with simlar metaphors, ie HAPPINESS IS UP / SADNESS IS DOWN, HEALTH IS UP / SICKNESS IS DOWN, and so on.
Lakoff sets forth his case clearly and coherently, and with some of his examples, quite entertainingly. If you want some insight into how we think, buy this book.
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