- Care Crosses the River, and: Paradigms for a Metaphorology
An important moment in the history of the United States took place in early 2011 when the government cited Aristotle's Poetics in a call for proposals on the topic of metaphor. Someone in Washington appears, moreover, to have been reading Hans Blumenberg. The Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence invited scholars to submit proposals "that will exploit the fact that metaphors are pervasive in everyday talk and reveal the underlying [End Page 358] beliefs and worldviews of members of a culture." Or, in Blumenberg's words, metaphors "indicate the fundamental certainties, conjectures, and judgments in relation to which the attitudes and expectations, actions and inactions, longings and disappointments, interests and indifferences, of an epoch are regulated." One of the studies in Paradigms for a Metaphorology demonstrates how metaphors have influenced the direction of astronomical research and ruminations, the ways in which thinkers and scientists have adjusted their thinking to accommodate metaphorical "needs."
Paradigms consists of ten studies exploring the relationship between metaphorics and conceptual thought. Robert Savage, the talented translator who navigates nimbly through Blumenberg's Teutonic abstractions, regards Paradigms as a beginner's guide to the Victorian home-sized works of Blumenberg's that bear correspondingly capacious titles: Work on Myth, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, The Legibility of the World, and The Genesis of the Copernican World. Blumenberg is to philosophy what Proust is to literature. Generally, people acknowledge their works as important, absorbing, even essential—yet few people have taken the time to read their work, since the books are enormous and complex. Still, as the author in the 1960s of An Intellectual History of Technology, Blumenberg perhaps anticipated the appeal of more Twitter-sized chunks of prose for a different kind of audience. Care Crosses the River is a wonderful example of that genre (and a companion to the only other example available in English, Shipwreck with Spectator). Which is not to say that this reader-friendly genre is less intellectually impressive than the larger works. Heideggerian philosophy is a frequent topic in Care Crosses the River, particularly in a piece entitled "The Narcissism of Care," where Blumenberg laments that no one pays attention to the crucial fable about Care in Being and Time. Care (Cura) is an allegorical figure who crosses a river for reasons left unexamined in Heidegger's text. Blumenberg connects the allegorical figure to a Gnostic myth, the upshot of which is that Cura makes the crossing "so that she can see herself mirrored in the river." Blumenberg interprets the story in a manner that wounds Heidegger's philosophy in the heart of Dasein, then wonders in an arrestingly lighthearted way about the future deaths of Heidegger's followers.
Bruce Krajewski is the author of Traveling with Hermes: Hermeneutics and Rhetoric, editor of Gadamer's Repercussions, and co-translator of Gadamer on Celan, for which he shared the Modern Language Association's Scaglione Prize. He is professor of English and rhetoric at Texas Woman's University.