Metaphors We Live By


Metaphors are central to understanding life – it revises human experience and understanding over objective truth.

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Key Takeaways

  1. Metaphor is principally a way of conceiving of one thing in terms of another, and its primary function is understanding. We tend to conceptualize the nonphysical in terms of the physical – that is we conceptualize the less clearly delineated in terms of the more clearly delineated
  2. We are concerned primarily with how people understand their experiences. We view language as providing data that can lead to general principles of understanding. The general principles involve whole systems of concepts rather than individual words or individual concepts. We have found that such principles are often metaphoric in nature and involve understanding one kind of experience in terms of another kind of experience – this suggests that understanding takes place in terms of entire domains of experience and not in terms of isolated concepts
  3. Metaphors play an enormously important role in our conceptualization of the world around us, so much so that we are often blind to it – language –> thought process, influences what we do and perceive
  4. Some examples of power metaphors in the English language; Argument is War; Time is Money
  5. Some subtle examples that influence our language and thinking – control is up, time is a moving object, mind is a machine
  6. Metaphor often obscures certain points and forces logical jumps – “argument is war” may blind us to cooperative possibilities
  7. The deepest metaphors in a culture aren’t recognized as metaphors at all. “Time as a resource” changes how we conceive of leisure, turning it into something remarkably like labor and hides that work can be play, that inactivity can be productive, that much of what we classify as labor serves either no clear purpose or no worthwhile purpose
  8. The most fundamental values in a culture will be coherent with the metaphorical structure of the most fundamental concepts in the culture. As an example, let us consider some cultural values in our society that are coherent with our up-down spatialization metaphors and whose opposites would not be. “more is better” is coherent with more is up and good is up. “less is better” is not coherent with them. “bigger is better” is coherent with more is up and good is up. “smaller is better” is not coherent with them
  9. The power of new metaphors is that they can create a new reality. The acceptance of the metaphors, which forces us to focus only on those aspects of our experience that it highlights, leads us to view the entailments of the metaphor as being true. Consider the power of the frame in the following two contrasting views of love: “Love as War” and “Love as collaborative art”
  10. No objective truth, but truth relative to a conceptual system that is defined in large part by metaphor (truth = that which allows you to better survive and navigate the world). Different conceptual system –> different truths, reality, meaning
  11. Understanding is deeply grounded in experience
  12. Metaphor is imaginative rationality, a fusion of objective and subjective. We understand the world by interacting with it
  13. Any adequate theory of the human conceptual system will have to give account of how concepts are 1) grounded, 2) structured, 3) related to each other, and 4) defined

What I got out of it

  1. After reading this book, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the power of metaphors in constructing our world views, frames, and the second order of effects of assuming the metaphor is true (love is war, labor is resource…)

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