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Metaphor: Problems and Perspectives (review)

From: Philosophy and Literature
Volume 10, Number 1, April 1986
pp. 136-137 | 10.1353/phl.1986.0034

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136Philosophy and Literature women must be confined to the domestic scene because, without this private outlet, the male citizen would become completely regularized and lose all sense of initiative without which no political state can long endure in a legitimate way. As Coleman makes clear in his fifth chapter, a city such as Geneva must stimulate in its citizens a sense of aesthetic taste, best done through various representations of freedom, including publicfêtes, military parades, and cercles or male discussion groups. However, as Coleman points out, none of this answers the fundamental political question: who may claim the moral authority to make decisions in a political state? This leads into Coleman's final chapter on Rousseau's critique of Molière in which all the preceding themes are brought together. His conclusion is that Rousseau's thought in the Lettre continues to reflect the paradox ofhis own twofold political goals: first, the questioning of"all forms of belief and opinion in the name of truth," and, second, the search for "ways by which governments may properly favor the dictates of local tradition over those of abstract principles" (p. 169). This problem is at die heart of Rousseau's slowly maturing political and social thought, and Coleman is most successful in showing how Rousseau's thought was developing even as he wrote the Lettre. Coleman's final conclusion that the Lettre should be read as ironic, in the sense of its relation to the present and die beliefs and opinions held by its contemporaries , did not strike this reviewer as flowing directly from his previous arguments, but his close inquiry into a notably digressive text is sufficiently useful in and of itself. Swarthmore CollegeJean A. Perkins Metaphor: Problems and Perspectives, edited by David S. Miall; xix & 172 pp. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1982, $31.50. This is the latest of several andiologies on metaphor to have appeared in the last few years. The topic is of perennial interest to aestheticians and literary theorists perhaps because in its own way metaphor seems to embed most of the important questions of artistic interpretation and evaluation. If one could solve the mystery of metaphor, one would be well on the way toward a general aesthetic theory. It is only more recently, however, that psychologists and philosophers of science have also begun addressing problems of interpretation and evaluation of metaphor. Miall's anthology, though not one of the most important of recent years, is to be commended in bringing together previously unpublished articles by authors drawn from each of these disciplines. Some ofthe recent anthologies on metaphor have been outstanding; Ortony's Metaphor and Thought and Sacks's On Metaphor are probably the best; and in com- Reviews137 parison with those, Miall's collection is rather pale. The reader, for example, will sometimes be frustrated by the brevity ofthe articles found here. Potentially worthwhile theses are often not given room for sufficient elucidation and defense, and once, in the case of Michael Apter's essay, controversial conclusions are defended only via citation to the author himself. It reminded me of a lecturer I heard several years ago who, upon being challenged on some of his empirical claims, protested that he had evidence for what he was saying but that he had left it in his briefcase. There are particularly noteworthy pieces presented here by Stein H. Olson, Paul Cantor, and Dedre Gentner. Olson uses striking and original illustrations to argue that the frame of reference required in analyzing certain types of metaphors is "not so much given as created hy the speaker" (p. 38). He concludes that "figurative speech involves recognition ofthe speaker's conception ofthe object , event or situation referred to in the figurative utterance" (p. 48). I remain uncertain however whether Olson's arguments support only the more mundane conclusion that the coherence of the entire literary work is a factor in the interpretation of metaphors. Such a conclusion is surely consistent with even the semantic interaction theories of Black, Beardsley, and Richards. Nonetheless, this provocative essay provides a new perspective on the traditional debate. Cantor seeks an understanding of why Nietzsche saw a fundamental continuity (even interchangeability) between the literal...