Commentary 02 on|
Karl Jaspers Forum, Target Article 25, 7 December 1999
IN SEARCH OF THE MIND
By Jane Cull
COGNITION AND METAPHORS
by Paul Jones
21 December 1999
I would like to make a brief remark on the micro-dispute between
Jane Cull and Klaus Krippendorff on the epistemological role
of the metaphor. Though this does not have any direct relation
to consciousness, it might be methodologically useful, especially
recalling the titles like "The Metaphorical Brain" or
"On the possibility of metaphorical usage of mathematical
conceptions in psychology", which can be found in the literature.
"A metaphor is a description of something that we want
to explain that exists in our experience; thus a metaphor
is not an explanation."
"Jane suggests that metaphors do not explain, I think they
constitute explanations of a less explicit sort."
I cannot agree with Jane that a metaphor is a description
students in poetry are frequently told to avoid descriptive
metaphors, which are considered as "empty" in the arts.
On the other hand, I do not think that a metaphor can
explain anything, albeit in an implicit manner.
Still, a metaphor obviously bears certain epistemological
potential, and one may feel the need of a clearer
understanding about it.
My answer comes from the distinction of art, science and
philosophy as the three levels of the same hierarchy.
Art is the way of bringing problems to people's
attention (art creates facts, as Hegel used to say);
science picks up the problems to formalize them (that is,
reduce to a number of already known problems and try the
same solutions); philosophy is to decide what can be
called a solution and how the possible solutions
might/should be applied.
In this scheme, the metaphor belongs to the arts, being
one of the standard means of linking one thing to another
in the essentially syncretic way appropriate for art.
What science can suggest is an amalgam of description,
explanation and modeling (related to observation,
theory and experiment as the fundamental levels of
scientific research). Philosophy, in its turn, must
provide a panoramic view, showing how it comes to
that very metaphor and what consequences the scientific
explication of the metaphor may infer.