Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 1978

Volume 5 Issue 1
    • 3Ted Cohen
    • I want to suggest a point in metaphor which is independent of the question of its cognitivity and which has nothing to do with its aesthetical character. I think of this point as the achievement of intimacy. There is a unique way in which the maker and the appreciator of a metaphor are drawn closer to one another. Three aspects are involved: (1) the speaker issues a kind of concealed invitation; (2) the hearer expends a special effort to accept the invitation; and (3) this transaction constitutes the acknowledgement of a community. All three are involved in any communication, but in ordinary literal discourse their involvement is so persuasive and routine that they go unremarked. The use of metaphor throws them into relief, and there is a point in that.


      An appreciator of a metaphor must do two things: he must realize that the expression is a metaphor, and he must figure out the point of the expression. His former accomplishment induces him to undertake the latter. Realizing the metaphorical character of an expression is often easy enough; it requires only the assumption that the speaker is not simply speaking absurdly or uttering a patent falsehood. But it can be a more formidable task: not every figurative expression which can survive a literal reading is a mere play on words. (You will not find more artful changes rung on this theme than those in the first sentence of Joyce's "The Dead": "Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet.")

      See also: Joel Snyder and Ted Cohen, Reflexions on "Las Meninas": Paradox Lost

      Ted Cohen is chairman of the department of philosophy at the University of Chicago. He has written on language, aesthetics, and taste and has coedited a collection entitled Essays on Kant's Aesthetics. His contribution to Critical Inquiry, "Reflexions on Las Meninas: Paradox Lost", was written with Joel Snyder in the Winter 1980 issue.

    • 13Paul de Man
    • Finally, our argument suggests that the relationship and the distinction between literature and philosophy cannot be made in terms of a distinction between aesthetic and epistemological categories. All philosophy is condemned, to the extent that it is dependent upon figuration, to be literary and, as the depository of this very problem, all literature is to some extent philosophical. The apparent symmetry of these statements is not as reassuring as it sounds since what seems to bring literature and philosophy together is, as in Condillac's argument about mind and object, a shared lack of identity or specificity.


      Contrary to common belief, literature is not the place where the unstable epistemology of metaphor is suspended by aesthetic pleasure, although this attempt is a constitutive moment of its system. It is rather the place where the possible convergence of rigor and pleasure is shown to be a delusion. The consequences of this lead to the difficult question whether the entire semantic, semiological, and performative field of language can be said to be covered by tropological models, a question which can only be raised after the proliferating and disruptive power of figural language has been fully recognized.

      See also: Paul de Man, Political Allegory in Rousseau

      Paul de Man, Tripp Professor in the humanities and chairman of the comparative literature department of Yale University, is the author of Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism. His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, "Political Allegory in Rousseau," appeared in the Summer 1976 issue and appears in his book Allegories in Reading.

    • 31Donald Davidson
    • The concept of metaphor as primarily a vehicle for conveying ideas, even if unusual ones, seems to me as wrong as the parent idea that a metaphor has a special meaning. I agree with the view that metaphors cannot be paraphrased, but I think this is not because metaphors say something too novel for literal expression but because there is nothing there to paraphrase. Paraphrase, whether possible or not, inappropriate to what is said: we try, in paraphrase, to say it another way. But if I am right, a metaphor doesn't say anything beyond its literal meaning (nor does its maker say anything, in using the metaphor, beyond the literal). This is not, of course, to deny that a metaphor has a point, nor that that point can be brought out by using further words. . . . My disagreement is with the explanation of how metaphor works its wonders. To anticipate: I depend on the distinction between what words mean and what they are used to do. I think metaphor belongs exclusively to the domain of use. It is something brought off by the imaginative employment of words and sentences and depends entirely on the ordinary meanings of those words and hence on the ordinary meanings of the sentences they comprise.

      See also: Donald Davidson, The Third Man

      Donald Davidson is University Professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago. He is the author of many important essays, including "Actions, Reasons and Causes," "Causal Relations," and "Truth and Meaning," coauthor of Decision-Making: An Experimental Approach, and coeditor of Words and Objections, Semantics of Natural Language, and The Logic of Grammar.

    • 49Wayne C. Booth
    • What I am calling for is not as radically new as it may sound to ears that are still tuned to positivist frequencies. A very large part of what we value as our cultural monuments can be thought of as metaphoric criticism of metaphor and the characters who make them. The point is perhaps most easily made about the major philosophies. Stephen Pepper has argued, in World Hypotheses,1 that the great philosophies all depend on one of the four "root metaphors," formism, mechanism, organicism, and contextualism, and they are great precisely because they have so far survived the criticism of rival metaphors. Each view of the totality of things claims supremacy, but none has been able to annihilate the others. They all thus survive as still plausible, pending further criticism through further philosophical inquiry. In this view, even the great would-be literalists like Hobbes and Locke are finally metaphorists—simply committed to another kind of metaphor, one that to them seems literal. Without grossly oversimplifying we could say that the whole work of each philosopher amounts to an elaborate critique of the inadequacy of all other philosophers' metaphors. What is more, the very existence of a tradition of a small group of great philosophies is a sign that hundreds of lesser metaphors for the life of mankind have been tested in the great philosophical—that is, critical—wars and found wanting.


      ·  1. World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence (Berkeley, 1942). In Concept and Quality: A World Hypothesis (Lasalle, Ill., 1966), Pepper suggests that "the purposive act" is a fifth root metaphor.

      See also: Wayne C. Booth, M. H. Abrams: Historian as Critic, Critic as Pluralist

      Wayne C. Booth's is the author of, among other works, Critical Understanding: The Powers and Limits of Pluralism. His contributions to Critical Inquiry include "Kenneth Burke's Way of Knowing" (September 1974), "Irony and Pity Once Again: Thais Revisited" (Winter 1975), "M. H. Abrams: Historian as Critic, Critic as Pluralist" (Spring 1976), "'Preserving the Exemplar': Or, How Not to Dig our Own Graves" (Spring 1977), "Notes and Exchanges" (Autumn 1977), with Wright Morris: "The Writing of Organic Fiction: A Conversation" (Autumn 1976), and with Robert E. Streeter, W. J. T. Mitchell: "Sheldon Sacks 1930-1979" (Spring 1979).

    • 73Karsten Harries
    • Ever since Aristotle, metaphor has been placed in the context of a mimetic theory of language and of art. Metaphors are in some sense about reality. The poet uses metaphor to help reveal what is. He, too, serves the truth, even if his service is essentially lacking in that "Metaphor consists in giving the thing a name that belongs to something else."1 Thus it is an improper naming. This impropriety invites a movement of interpretation that can come to rest only when metaphorical has been replaced with a more proper speech. This is not to say, however, that such replacement is possible nor that interpretation can ever come to rest. What metaphor names may transcend human understanding so that our language cannot capture it. In that case, proper speech would be denied to man. But regardless of whether we seek proper speech with man, for example, with the philosopher, or locate it beyond man with God, or think it only an idea that cannot find adequate realization, as long as we understand metaphor as an improper naming, we place its telos beyond poetry.


      ·  1. Aristotle Poetics 21. 1457b. 6-7.

      See also: Anne McClintock and Rob Nixon, No Names Apart: The Separation of Word and History in Derrida's "Le Dernier Mot du Racisme"

      Karsten Harries, chairman of the department of philosophy at Yale University, is the author of several works on aesthetics, including The Meaning of Modern Art: A Philosophical Interpretation. He is currently writing a book on the Bavarian rococo church.

    • 91David Tracy
    • The Christian religion shares with all major religions a vision (more exactly, a redescription) of reality informed by a specific cluster of metaphors. The Christian religion also shares with its parent religion, Judaism, and with the other major Western religion, Islam, the peculiarity that it is a religion of the book. The latter statement demands further elaboration. To speak of Western religions as religions of the book does not mean that they are only religions of a text; indeed, specific historical persons and events are central to all Western religions, and one need not insist upon a "theology of word" as distinct from either a "theology of events" or a "theology of sacrament" to admit scriptural normativity. In fact, not only Reformed Christianity insists that certain texts (which Christians name the Old and New Testaments) be taken as normative for interpreting Christianity's root metaphors. Whatever their hesitation over the sixteenth-century Reformer's formulation of Sola Scriptura and however strong their insistence upon uniting Sacrament (or manifestation) to Word (or proclamation) for a full understanding of the root metaphors of Christianity, Catholic and Orthodox Christians have joined their Protestant colleagues in insisting upon the priority of the Scriptures. Indeed, to interpret the root metaphors of the Christian religion, the Scriptures must function, in the words of the Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner as the norma normans non normata for all Christian theologies.


      David Tracy, author of Blessed Rage for Order: The New Pluralism in Theology and The Analogical Imagination in Contemporary Theology, is professor of theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

    • 107Richard Shiff
    • When the modern artist is seen as moving about in a nebulous area between two opposing worlds, that of life or immediate experience and that of art or established truth, I think it is appropriate to discuss this activity in terms of metaphor. Indeed the present concern for metaphor in the academic and artistic communities is but one of many reflections of our sense that life is a process of the gradual attainment of knowledge through experience, whether sensuous or intellectual. Like our artists, we strive to create a picture of our world, yet that picture is never complete; for we continually pass on to new experiences and new images of reality. Not only do we grow and change but our world seems to change with us. Although the truths revealed through our art are founded in our experience, they seem more permanent and public than the acts of discovery leading to them. A principle once established and integrated with a body of other established truths enters into recorded history perhaps to be revered, disputed, or reinterpreted, but nevertheless to remain. The individual experience or discovery, however, passes; with the individual, only the sense of the continuing search yields personal identity. In a changing world, metaphor renders the truth of experience as the truth of knowledge, for it is the means of passing from individual immediacy to an established public world; the new must be linked to the old, and the experience of any individual must be connected with that of his society. Excluding the possibility of the creation of entirely new worlds and the resultant transformation of all personal identities, acts of genius or dramatic breakthroughs in fields of study can affect our present world order only if they are joined to it by means of a powerful metaphor. Indeed establishing the metaphoric bridge itself may be considered the act of genius, and the entry into new areas of knowledge is its consequence.

      See also: Richard Shiff, Remembering Impressions

      Richard Shiff is associate professor of art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "Seeing Cézanne" (Summer 1978) and, with Carl Pletsch, "History and Innovation" (Spring 1981).

    • 123Howard Gardner and Ellen Winner
    • In lieu of hand-waving, let us begin our treatment of psychological research on metaphor by considering some common interests shared by psychologists, on the one hand, and by philosophically oriented humanists, on the other. At least four areas have proved sufficiently central to both groups to merit extensive discussion in the respective literatures. At first issue centers on the specificity of the processes involved in metaphor: Is metaphoric skill a capacity especially intertwined with linguistic skills, or is it a much broader human capacity, one identified with general perceptual and conceptual processes? A related question has arisen within the area of language: Is metaphor a special kind of trope, with its own rules, properties, and applications, or should it be closely allied (or even collapsed) with such other tropes as similes, analogies, or hyperbole? The third issue moves yet further within the circle of metaphor to treat the question of whether all metaphors are of a piece, or whether various types of metaphor (cross-sensory, perceptual, psychological-physical, predicative, etc.) each require their own analysis. And a final issue of concern to both groups is the question of whether metaphoric usage (for instance, the semantic features of the topic and vehicle) or by considering its pragmatic aspects—the various speech acts employed within a community.1 One could go on to state other issues, but this tetrad should suffice to indicate the common body of concern addressed by experimental and humanistic researchers.


      ·  1. Cf. Cohen, "The Semantics of Metaphor" and John Searle, "Presentation on Metaphor and Pragmatics" (Conference on Metaphor and Thought).


      Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist, is codirector of Harvard Project Zero and a clinical investigator at the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital. His books include The Quest for Mind, The Arts and Human Development, and, most recently, Developmental Psychology: An Introduction. Ellen Winner teaches in the psychology department of Boston College and is a research associate at Harvard Project Zero. A developmental psychologist, she has conducted research on the development and breakdown of metaphoric language capacities and has examined the emergence of metaphoric capacities in very young children.

    • 143Paul Ricoeur
    • But is not the word "metaphor" itself a metaphor, the metaphor of a displacement and therefore of a transfer in a kind of space? What is at stake is precisely the necessity of these spatial metaphors about metaphor included in our talk about "figures" of speech. . . . But in order to understand correctly the work of resemblance in metaphor and to introduce the pictorial or ironic moment at the right place, it is necessary briefly to recall the mutation undergone by the theory of metaphor at the level of semantics by contrast with the tradition of classical rhetoric. In this tradition, metaphor was correctly described in terms of deviance, but this deviance was mistakenly ascribed to denomination only. Instead of giving a thing its usual common name, one designates it by means of a borrowed name, a "foreign" name in Aristotle's terminology. The rationale of this transfer of name was understood as the objective similarity between the things themselves or the subjective similarity between the attitudes linked to the grasping of these things. As concerns the goal of this transfer, it was supposed either to fill up a lexical lacuna, and therefore to serve the principle of economy which rules the endeavor of giving appropriate names to new things, new ideas, or new experiences, or to decorate discourse, and therefore to serve the main purpose of rhetorical discourse, which is to persuade and to please.

      See also: Paul Ricoeur, Narrative Time

      Paul Ricoeur is professor of philosophy at the Université de Paris (Nanterre) and John Nuveen Professor at the University of Chicago. He is editor of Revue de métaphysique et de morale and the author of many influential works on phenomenology, hermeneutics, and the philosophy of language. His most recent work to appear in English is The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language. He has also contributed "Narrative Time" (Autumn 1980) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 161W. V. Quine
    • Besides serving us at the growing edge of science and beyond, metaphor figures even in our first learning of language; or, if not quite metaphor, something akin to it. We hear a word or phrase on some occasion, or by chance we babble a fair approximate ourselves on what happens to be a pat occasion and are applauded for it. On a later occasion, then, one that resembles the first occasion by our lights, we repeat the expression. Resemblance of occasions is what matters, here as in metaphor. We generalize our application of the expression by degrees of subjective resemblance of occasions, until we discover from other people's behavior that we have pushed analogy too far and exceeded the established usage. If the crux of metaphor is creative extension through analogy, then we have forged a metaphor at each succeeding application of that early word of phrase. These primitive metaphors differ from the deliberate and sophisticated ones, however, in that they accrete directly to our growing store of standard usage. They are metaphors stillborn.


      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. What comes as a subsequent refinement is rather cognitive discourse itself, at its most dryly literal. The neatly worked inner stretches of science are an open space in the tropical jungle, created by clearing tropes away.


      W. V. Quine is the Edgar Pierce professor emeritus of philosophy at Harvard University. His many influential works include Methods of Logic, Word and Object, and The Roots of Reference. "On the Nature of Moral Values," his previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, appeared in the Spring 1979 issue.

    • 163Don R. Swanson
    • How and why does a metaphor work? What happens to us when we hear or read one? My guess is that a metaphor, because it is an erroneous statement, conflicts with our expectations. It releases, triggers, and stimulates our predisposition to detect error and to take corrective action. We do not dismiss or reject a metaphor as simply a false statement for we recognize it as a metaphor and know as [Donald] Davidson suggests that it alludes to something else that we might wish to notice. It preempts our attention and propels us on a quest for the underlying truth. We are launched into a creative, inventive, pleasurable act. To turn Piaget around, to invent is to understand. For the hearer or reader of a metaphor to detect, by himself, the nature of the error and to invent his own (conjectural) version of the truth entails understanding and achievement and thus pleasure. Such pleasure perhaps owes its origin to, and is enhanced by an echo from, the metaphoric playfulness of childhood.


      A metaphor is a peremptory invitation to discovery. What is discoverable are the various allusive ties, or common attributes, between the metaphor and the underlying truth to which it points. It is plausible to guess that the pleasure, and hence power, of the metaphor depends on two factors. It is the more powerful and effective the greater the number of allusive ties discovered and the greater the speed or suddenness with which the discoveries are made. A metaphor that packs all of its allusions into one or a few words should be more effective than a metaphor on which the same allusions are scattered throughout a long chain of words or sentences. The number of allusive ties in some sense reflects how close the metaphor approaches the truth—how near it is to being on target. Perhaps the closer it is, the more compelling the urge to correct the error—like the pull of a magnet.


      Don R. Swanson is professor and dean of the graduate library school at the University of Chicago.

    • 167Karsten Harries
    • Even when we confine ourselves to poetry, we have to agree with Ortega y Gasset's observation that "the instrument of metaphoric expression can be used for many diverse purposes." It can be used to embellish or ennoble things or persons—Campion's poem offers a good example. Such embellishment need not involve semantic innovation. Metaphors can also function as weapons turned against reality. There are metaphors that negate the referential function of language so successfully that talk about truth or, for that matter, about lattices or lenses seems inappropriate. Yet as poetry pushes towards this extreme, it may acquire a revelatory power all its own: from the ruins of literal sense emerges not a new semantic congruence but a silence that is heard as the language of transcendence. This is not to deny that metaphors can effect semantic change or help to establish a new world. As David Tracy's contribution to this symposium shows, Scripture furnished the most obvious example. Heidegger's claim that poetry establishes the world can indeed be shown to rest on this paradigm. It is a claim that tends to ascribe something of the prophetic power of Scripture to all great poetry. But, although we may long to rediscover the prophet in the poet, to what extent does the scriptural paradigm help to illuminate poetry in general and, more especially, the poetry of this godless age? Most modern poetry has an aesthetic character that is incompatible with a religious world view. Theories of poetic metaphor cannot afford to neglect the history of poetry, just as general theories of metaphor cannot afford to neglect the many uses of metaphor.

    • 175Wayne C. Booth
    • Because my paper was often metaphorical, some participants on the symposium expressed puzzlement about my literal meaning, especially about the passage from Mailer. Here are ten literal "theses" that the paper either argues for, implies, or depends on.

      1. What metaphor is can never be determined with a single answer. Because the word has now become subject to all of the ambiguities of our notions about similarity and difference, the irreducible plurality of philosophical views of how similarities and differences relate will always produce conflicting definitions that will in turn produce different borderlines between what is metaphor and what is not. We thus need taxonomies, not frozen single definitions, of this "essentially contested  concept."

    • 177Margret Schaefer
    • At the end of his attack on my use of the psychoanalytic model for the interpretation of literature, Heller raises the question concerning what the task of the literary critic is or ought to be. His own "sketch of the Kleistean theme's historical ancestry and its later development," he says, seeks to deepen and enrich the reader's appreciation of Kleist's literary art, the artistry of his phrasing, the persuasiveness of his incidents, the conclusiveness of his examples." By implication he suggests that my method does not have this end—that is, appreciation—for its goal. In this he is partially right. "Appreciation" in Heller's sense is not as directly a goal for me. But does Heller's method of intellectual history and literary relation meet his own criteria of deepening and enriching the reader's appreciation of Kleist? In his capsule treatment of Great Thinkers of the Western World from Plato to Marx, we learn that many writers besides Kleist treated Kleist's theme of man's fall from unconscious grace. What exactly does this tell us about Kleist's treatment of it? How does it deepen the reader's appreciation of Kleist's literary art, the artistry of his phrasing, the persuasiveness of his incidents? It doesn't. It isn't even about Kleist. Although Heller tells us that it is the "thought" and "imagery" which "make for the great distinction of the essay" (p. 419), his evidence for this consists, in the case of the former, in his tracing the history of the essay's thought and, in the case of the latter, in his statements that Kleist's use of the puppet as the exemplar of the unselfconscious graceful being is "unusual" and "novel" and that his bear story, though it may lack "in immediate plausibility," "gains in making Kleist's point" and is "a memorable exemplar" of the "art of grotesque inventions that are capable of floating for quite a while above and between the comic and the serious before landing with scintillating effect in one domain or the other" (p. 421).


      Margret Schaefer is a lecturer in the department of psychiatry at Northwestern University Medical School. She responds here to Erich Heller's "The Dismantling of a Marionette Theater; or, Psychology and the Misinterpretation of Literature" (Spring 1978), in which he discussed her article, "Kleist's 'About the Puppet Theater," (American Imago 32 [Winter 1975]).

    • 189Heinz Kohut
    • I will return to the second point in a different context later; at this moment I will discuss only the issue raised by my pointing up the fact that the essay in question was written by someone in Professor Heller's field. What motivated me to make the statement was not my belief that the use of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of art should be restricted to certified psychoanalysts—indeed, I have always been a staunch advocate of the opposite view. My motive for this, I assumed harmless, and not, of course, irrelevant, indiscretion was that I wanted to show that Professor Heller's critique of psychoanalysis was not broadly based, that his representative example was a piece that happened to have crossed his way, that he was not using the work of an established writer in the field that he was condemning. My statement that your essay is an unacceptable text in a sermon preaching against applied analysis is unrelated to the value of your article. Even if in the future it should turn out that your essay—as far as I know your first contribution to applied psychoanalysis—was the forerunner of a significant oeuvre that would put you into the class of the great contributors of psychoanalytic interpretations of literature, it is at this point not an acceptable text for a sermon against our field.


      Heinz Kohut, M.D., is Professorial Lecturer in Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, teacher and training analyst at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, and author of many influential works on the psychology of the self. His works include The Restoration of the Self, The Analysis of the Self: A Systematic Approach to the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders - which has appeared in German, French, and Italian translations - and a collection of his essays, Scientific Empathy and Empathic Science. His "Psychoanalysis and the Interpretation of Literature: A Correspondence with Erich Heller" was published in the Spring 1978 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 199Kenneth Burke
    • Dedicated to the humanisticissimus and/or humanisticissima Editoreality of Critical Inquiry, an enterprise that is doing all possible to restore for Criticism its rightful home, namely: a state of perpetual Crisis.


      How now?

      You say

      "The man

      walks down the street."


      Then tell me how

      (in the name of whatever)

      your words

      make sense.


      Kenneth Burke's contributions to Critical Inquiry are "In Response to Booth: Dancing with Tears in my Eyes" (September 1974), " Post-Poesque Derivation of a Terministic Cluster" (Winter 1977), "(Nonsymbolic) Motion/(Symbolic) Action" (Summer 1978),and "Methodological Repression and/or Strategies of Containment" (Winter 1978).