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Eve W. Stoddard REASON ON TRIAL: LEGAL METAPHORS IN THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON 6 6 r I 1WO things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admi_I_ ration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." ' These are perhaps Kant's most well-known and oft-repeated words. They reflect not only the profound feeling that underlies his technical and abstruse treatises, but also his characteristic preoccupation with law. The "starry heavens" are a synecdoche both for the wonder of nature as we perceive it in all its multiplicity, and for the marvel of science's ability to reduce, order, and subdue that infinite multiplicity into a few elegant laws. These two types of law, natural and moral, define the focus of Kant's critical philosophy, and metaphors drawn from jurisprudence pervade all three critiques. In the context of controversial statements on the role of metaphor in philosophical texts by Jacques Derrida, Paul Ricoeur, and Richard Rorty, I will analyze the legal metaphors in the prefaces and Transcendental Deductions of the Critique ofPure Reason. My goal in engaging Kant's texts in this controversy over metaphor is twofold: on the one hand to assess experimentally the value of these positions on metaphor in the history of philosophy, and, on the other hand, to examine the relations between critical conceptualization and insurgent metaphoricity in Kant's carefully elaborated and systematized text. In a textwhose key words are "universal and necessary for all possible experience," contingentand ambiguous metaphors might be expected to cause problematic unravelings. Richard Rorty has argued recently that "the history ofscience, culture and politics" should be viewed "as a history of metaphor rather than of discovery." 2 He compares the creations of new vocabularies to the 245 246Philosophy and Literature invention of "new tools" ("CL," p. 5), alluding to "Nietzsche's definition of truth as a mobile army of metaphors" (p. 6). From Plato's figures of the world as cave and the mind as charioteer with unruly horses, we shift to Locke's view of mind as tahda rasa and Descartes's description of the world as a machine. Rorty's paradigm of cultural history as a history of metaphor enters into an earlier, unresolved debate between Jacques Derrida and Paul Ricoeur over the relationship between metaphor and philosophical discourse. Like Derrida, Rorty follows Nietzsche's claims about metaphor in the history of philosophy, a view Ricoeur wants to disprove so that he can recover the privileged univocity of speculative discourse. However Rorty has nothing in common with die complexity and "invaginated" ambiguities, the dazzling multivocity of Derrida's writing on the economics of metaphor. Although Rorty appears at first to agree with Derrida that there is no truth or reality apart from the linguistic tropes which dominate different epochs and cultures, he retains a metaphysical distinction between literal reference and figurative play. Rorty adopts Donald Davidson's theory that metaphors do not have "meaning" precisely because diey have no place in the language game into which they are inserted. They produce an effect, but it is not meaning: "One can only savour it or spit it out"; it is not a " 'truth-value candidate' " ("CL," p. 6). However, through repeated use, the metaphor will find a role in the language game; dying as a metaphor, it will live as a literal statement. Therefore Rorty agrees with Ricoeur that a moribund metaphor is no longer a metaphor, but a literally functioning segment of discourse. Thus despite his initial move toward a Derridean, or atleast Nietzschean, position, Rorty ultimately takes a stand consonant with Ricoeur's desire to rescue speculative discourse from the unruliness of metaphor. Considering Rorty's celebration of Freud in an article on "The Contingency of Selfhood," 3 his failure to consider the role of unconscious associations and overdetermination in the writing and reading of texts is surprising. Dead or alive, a metaphor brings with it a host ofpersonal and public, conscious and unconscious, new and traditional associations that become juxtaposed against a similar number of associations connected with the signifying chain into which the metaphor has been inserted. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 245-260
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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