keywords: knowledge, meaning, metaphor
At best metaphors are stepping-stones for knowledge towards the touchstones of science.
At worst metaphors are stumbling-blocks for knowledge into the pitfalls of credulity.
It takes two to tango – and to metaphorize well.
A metaphor relates two eventities (e.g. objects, thoughts, ideas or concepts). The metaphorical relation is not a correlation or correspondence (like in metonymy, e.g. container-content, model-thing). Also it’s not a logical connection (like in synecdoche, e.g. part-whole, species-genus). And it’s not an opposition (like in irony) but a factual or imposed resemblance, a sharing of factual or new or even fictional properties. Richards (1936) labeled the two related eventities with the technical concepts ‘tenor’ and ‘vehicle’, being metaphors themselves. The concept ‘tenor’ refers to something unknown going into an at the offset unspecified direction. The concept ‘vehicle’ refers to a kind of carrier, transporting an at the offset unspecified content (sc. a selection of its denotations and/or connotations). The relations between tenor and vehicle of a ‘fresh metaphor’ do normally not immediately form some fixed meaning, but something that develops while re-reading and re-thinking the metaphor. During this process one can sometimes even find remarkeble shifts in tenor and vehicle positions
(Richards, 1936, p 121, Kövecses (2005) gives the next example: ARGUMENT IS WAR (from written argument > oral dispute > quarrel > brawl > fight, the target becoming the source becoming real). The tension between tenor and vehicle is not solved with some kind of clear solution. What a fresh metaphor tends to mean, is always open to new interpretations of the ‘similarities in the dissimilar’ and/or the ‘differences in the similar’ and/or the ‘resemblance of irreducibilities’ in the relations between tenor and vehicle. This fits nicely into the dynamical Aristotelian concept of ‘ eu metaferein ’ (the verb (!) ‘metaphorize well’, which can be applied not only to the process of producing metaphors, but as well to the process of interpreting metaphors).
A fresh metaphor does not define or explain what the tenor is, but provides as utterance together with its context a narrative framework within which can be explored what tenor and vehicle in this utterance and what the utterance as a whole in its context could mean. This exploration takes place by the interaction of (dis-)similarities between tenor and vehicle or by the collision of irreducibilities of tenor and vehicle.
This way metaphors are used to throw light on