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On Metaphor, edited by Sheldon Sacks; viii & 196 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979, $5.95, paperbound. Discussed by Roger A. Shiner¿qy ?-etaphors are peculiarity crystallized as works of art"; "metaphor is the XVXdreamwork of language"; "in metaphor, symbols moonlight." Philosophical discussion of metaphor, like philosophical discussion of anything, is often exceedingly effective when itself metaphorical as these comments by Cohen, Davidson, and Goodman suggest. The rest of this collection is more straightforward yet quite illuminating. Most of the papers appeared in the Autumn 1978 issue of Critical Inquiry and are presented here with additional essays by Goodman and Black and a most useful index. The index reveals that many topics and themes are treated by a number of authors, but only two names continually occur — Aristotle and Max Black. Publication as a book is justified by the fact diat some very interesting and important articles will in this way reach a wider public. The collection illustrates both the interdisciplinary nature of "the somewhat boundless field of metaphor inquiry" (Ricoeur, p. 141) and allows the elusive fascination of metaphor itself clearly to emerge. Absent, however, is any hard core linguistics and here we can only assume this "elusive" element of metaphor was (rightly) held by the organizers of the original symposium to be of overriding importance . I The bulk of the contributors are philosophers and literary theorists, although of various persuasions. I shall mention first the nonphilosophical material. Richard Shiff ("Art and Life : A Metaphoric Relationship") lends some support to the view that artists are more profitably employed in actually painting than in theorizing about painting. He roundly declares early on that "in a changing Philosophy and Literature Vol. 6 Nos. 1 and 2 Pp. 196-205 0190-0031/82/0061-0196 © 1982 by The Johns Hopkins University Press Roger A. Shiner197 world, metaphor renders the truth of experience as the truth ofknowledge, for it is the means of passing from individual immediacy to an established public world" (p. 106). The balance of his paper is a confused and unclear elaboration of this thought without any consciousness that this platitude about metaphor sets rather than solves the problem. The other two papers are a great deal more interesting. David Tracy is a professor of theology. In a fascinating discussion of scriptural metaphors ("Metaphor and Religion: The Test Case of Christian Texts"), he argues that these metaphors seem to presuppose a "tension" theory rather than a "substitution" theory — i.e., that the meaning of metaphorical phrases is essentially differentfrom rather than reducible to any literal paraphrase. Given that this is so, "the study ofmetaphor moves to the very center of contemporary theological studies" (p. 104). Traditional work in biblical criticism, i.e., narrowly textual and historical work, only makes sense on a substitution theory, whereas if a tension theory of religious metaphor is correct, this narrowness is indefensible. Study of religious metaphors must involve broader considerations. Tracy does not spell out what the long-term results of the broader approach might be: it would be inappropriate for me to speculate here, but the question must sometime be considered. The remaining nonphilosophical paper is by two developmental psychologists , Howard Gardner and Ellen Winner ("The Development of Metaphoric Competence: Implications for Humanistic Disciplines"). Gardner and Winner report some of their experimental results concerning the development of metaphoric comprehension and production. They are careful and self-conscious about the relation between the experimental and the theoretical aspects of their work and are well aware (cf. pp. 123, 126-28) that they are stipulatively defining metaphoric competence as the competence being measured by certain specified tests and that the relation between this competence and what anyone would regard as metaphoric competence is a separate and nonempirical question . Their results show firstly that metaphoric comprehension seems to develop augmentally in children with age, from very attenuated at age six to fairly rich by age twelve (pp. 128-30). Metaphoric production, however, follows a different pattern — enormous ability at three and four years old, exceeding even college students; very little ability at ages seven to eleven; considerable ability again thereafter. However, Gardner and Winner themselves raise the question of whether the preschoolers really have competence in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 196-205
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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