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I've been exploring the power of metaphor psychologically, and it's struck me that cognitive psychologists have shown that people operate and respond directly on the basis of metaphors (e.g. Ray Gibbs has some research where participants respond as if anger is really hot fluid in a container to some particular tasks). From what I've been reading, I get the impression that it plays a key role in how we take things symbolically, as significant for how we see things.

"The surgeon is a butcher," "The robotic sympathy of the nurses," and many other metaphorically-laden assertions speak volumes to how a person views the world around them. Not only that, but it seems like using metaphor taps into a more direct, visceral experience than do more technically accurate assertions. It's almost as if metaphor were tapping into the fundamental experience of thought and language as a whole were merely an overtone, a way in which we speak around and about the inner experience itself.

I've been perusing a few books on the subject, but I'm curious if anyone here is familiar with some good sources, online or in print, that hit upon this field of thought. Or has anything in general to say on the matter.
 

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Hmmm I haven't studied metaphors but this is actually very interesting. Our use of metaphors describes how we subjectively view the object of what we are drawing comparisons to. Does this psychological technicality apply to our use of analogies? Isn't EVERYTHING we say filled with billions of interconnected meanings? Isn't a bit underreaching to study one example of human communication to decipher our underlying biases? Maybe not.
 
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Hmmm I haven't studied metaphors but this is actually very interesting. Our use of metaphors describes how we subjectively view the object of what we are drawing comparisons to. Does this psychological technicality apply to our use of analogies? Isn't EVERYTHING we say filled with billions of interconnected meanings? Isn't a bit underreaching to study one example of human communication to decipher our underlying biases? Maybe not.
Actually, for me the bolded is in part why I focus on just metaphor. How we create meanings is such a vast question I feel like one avenue into it is probably a better way to approach it. I get what you're saying though. I've been looking into anthropology lately, as certain sub-branches of it call attention to the way in which we organize our conceptions of reality according to culture (e.g. one book posits that "religion" is a predominately 'Western' category, another unpacks the assumptions/beliefs that comprise the Artificial Intelligence community, viewing it as its own subculture).

That said, I do think metaphor is a more endemic mental construction. Consider how you'd go unpacking the symbolic significance of a dream. Upon reflection, you might reorient by analogy, but I think the experience itself is more of a metaphoric construction. Analogies tend to be a more, um, empirically accurate way of presenting what the association we're trying to make covers. Because in that case you're saying that, for instance, collecting enough information to come to a conclusion is like collecting enough strawberries to make jam. That I think speaks a lot to the ways in which we can come to understand the empirical world, but less so, imo, to how we experience and see reality to begin with.
 

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Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious. Also called Symbols of Transformation. Difficult read, but very insightful. Jung argues that metaphor is the natural state of the human mind. He actually calls it "phantastic thinking". Our brains were wired to think metaphorically. Jung is the best expert on metaphor, period. You should also check out Man and His Symbols. Which is a much easier and shorter read.
 
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Alright, I'll try to make this quick. Language is built on metaphor. How do words get created? Through trial and error, until they are accepted by the public. First of all there are two types of thinking as described by Jung:


1. Directed thinking. This is logical thinking, and obviously directed. It is kept on track. To write this post takes directed thinking. To do homework or learn new concepts takes directed thinking. Directed thinking can often be exhaustive.

2. Fantastic thinking. When I am driving down an empty road on a nice summer day, with the great smell of summer and good music blaring.. I am just thinking. My thoughts are brought together by gravity. I don't have to put them together, they just flow. This kind of thinking is never exhaustive and comes easy. It is often even pleasurable. This kind of thinking is always monitored by direct thinking though, so you never truly enter the 100% fantasy world. I basically think dreaming is just fantastic thinking without the direct thinking monitor. It is a kind of primitive thought, it is how our ancestors always thought. So we can kind of see into the past, into an animal type of thinking, when we dream. A mind before directed thought.

Metaphor is fantastic thinking. From Psychology of the Unconscious:


What is thought, and how do we think? We think with words; that alone is sensual and brings us back to nature. Think of it! The metaphysician has only the perfected cry of monkeys and dogs with which to construct the system of the world. That which he calls profound speculation and transcendent method is to put end to end in an arbitrary order the natural sounds which cry out hunger, fear, and love in the primitive forests, and to which were attached little by little the meanings which one believed to be abstract, when they were only crude. " Do not fear that the succession of small cries, feeble and stifled, which compose a book of philosophy, will teach us somuch regarding the universe, that we can live in it no longer.
So, prehistoric humans develop a word for a concrete and non abstract object, like a river for example. But being by the river gives a human certain feelings. Maybe it makes him nervous, maybe it makes him feel alone, maybe it reminds of him of his childhood and he misses his mother and siblings. So he tries to express those abstract concepts by incorporating them in to the word for river. So words begin to have double meanings, or get expanded on. This is how abstract concepts are formed. This is a total trial and error process, and again, what children go through as they grow up.

" A further important result of that co-operation of sound and sign interchange consists in the fact that very many words gradually lose altogether their original concrete thought meaning, and turn into signs for general ideas and for the expression of the apperceptive functions of relation and comparison and their products. In this manner abstract thought develops, which, because it would not be possible without the change of meaning lying at the root of it.


" The transmission from pre-judgmental to judgmental meaning is just that from knowledge which has social confirmation to that which gets along without it. The meanings utilized for judgment are those already developed in their presuppositions and applications through the confirmation of social intercourse. Thus, the personal judgment, trained in the methods of social rendering, and disciplined by the interaction of its social world, projects its content into that world again. In other words, the platform for all movement into the assertion of individual judgment the level from which new experience is utilized is already and always socialized; and it is just this movement that we find reflected in the actual results as the sense of the ' appropriateness or synomic character of the meaning rendered. Now the development of thought, as we are to see in more detail, is by a method essentially of trial and error, of experimentation, of the use of meanings as worth more than they are as yet recognized to be worth. The individual must use his own thoughts, his established knowledges, his grounded judgments, for the embodiment of his new inventive constructions. He erects his thought as we say 'schematically' in logic terms, 'problematically,' conditionally, disjunctively; projecting into the world an opinion still peculiar to himself, as if it were true. Thus all discovery proceeds. But this is, from -the linguistic point of view, still to use the current language, still to work by meanings already embodied in social and conventional usage.

Language grows, therefore, just as thought does, by never losing its synomic or dual reference; its meaning is both personal and social.
So language is expanded by people who turn the personal definitions into social ones, and society sometimes adopts them. That''s again what children do. They say what a word or concept means to them and gets confirmation from society.

" Most of the training of the self, whereby the vagaries of personal reaction to fact and image are reduced to the basis of sound judgment, comes through the use of speech. When the child speaks, he lays before the world his suggestion for a general or common meaning. . The reception he gets confirms or refutes him. In either case he is instructed. His next venture is now from a platform of knowledge on which the newer item is more
nearly convertible into the common coin of effective intercourse. The point to notice here is not so much the exact mechanism of
the exchange secondary conversion by which this gain is made,as the training in judgment that the constant use of it affords. In each case, effective judgment is the common judgment. "Here the object is to point out that it is secured by the development of a function whose rise is directly ad hoc, directly for the social experimentation by which growth in personal competence is advanced as well the function of speech.
" In language, therefore, to sum up the foregoing, we have the
tangible the actual the historical instrument of the development and conservation of psychic meaning. It is the material evidence and proof of the concurrence of social and personal judgment. In it synomic meaning, judged as appropriate,' becomes social meaning, held as socially generalized and acknowledged."


So it is very important to understand how thought actually came about before we figure out why it has a tendency for metaphor. And that is the question that Jung immediately addressed in Psychology of the Unconscious. I can't do justice to the book here, just giving you a a little.

 
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Persuasions and Performances: The Play of Tropes in Culture by James W. Fernandez.

You will see many things, but the ubiquity of tropes should be apparent.

His definition of metaphor (He interchanges trope and metaphor.): "A strategic predication upon an inchoate pronoun, which makes a movement and leads to performance."

Yes, I study them and have a couple that have been used lifelong.
 
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