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Paradigms for a Metaphorology

by Hans Blumenberg

Publication Year: 2010

"Paradigms for a Metaphorology may be read as a kind of beginner's guide to Blumenberg, a programmatic introduction to his vast and multifaceted oeuvre. Its brevity makes it an ideal point of entry for readers daunted by the sheer bulk of Blumenberg's later writings, or distracted by their profusion of historical detail. Paradigms expresses many of Blumenberg's key ideas with a directness, concision, and clarity he would rarely match elsewhere. What is more, because it served as a beginner's guide for its author as well, allowing him to undertake an initial survey of problems that would preoccupy him for the remainder of his life, it has the additional advantage that it can offer us a glimpse into what might be called the 'genesis of the Blumenbergian world.'"-from the Afterword by Robert Savage

What role do metaphors play in philosophical language? Are they impediments to clear thinking and clear expression, rhetorical flourishes that may well help to make philosophy more accessible to a lay audience, but that ought ideally to be eradicated in the interests of terminological exactness? Or can the images used by philosophers tell us more about the hopes and cares, attitudes and indifferences that regulate an epoch than their carefully elaborated systems of thought?

In Paradigms for a Metaphorology, originally published in 1960 and here made available for the first time in English translation, Hans Blumenberg (1920-1996) approaches these questions by examining the relationship between metaphors and concepts. Blumenberg argues for the existence of "absolute metaphors" that cannot be translated back into conceptual language. These metaphors answer the supposedly naïve, theoretically unanswerable questions whose relevance lies quite simply in the fact that they cannot be brushed aside, since we do not pose them ourselves but find them already posed in the ground of our existence. They leap into a void that concepts are unable to fill.

An afterword by the translator, Robert Savage, positions the book in the intellectual context of its time and explains its continuing importance for work in the history of ideas.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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A Note on the Translation

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pp. vii-viii

...I have tried to follow the presentation of Blumenberg’s text as closely as possible, generally only deviating from this principle where he quotes in Greek, Latin, Italian, or French. On these occasions I have provided English translations in the main text and consigned the original wording to the footnotes, except in the case of very short quotations, where the phrase in the original language follows in parentheses...

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pp. 1-5

...Let us try for a moment to imagine that modern philosophy had proceeded according to the methodological program set out for it by Descartes, and had arrived at that definitive conclusion that Descartes himself believed to be eminently attainable. This ‘end state’ of philosophy, which historical experience permits us to entertain only as a hypothesis, would be defined according to the criteria set out...

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1. Metaphorics of the ‘Mighty’ Truth

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pp. 6-12

...Anyone who set out to write a history of the concept of truth, in a strictly terminological sense aimed at definitional stringency, would have little to show for his efforts. The most popular definition, purportedly lifted by Scholasticism from Isaac ben Salomon Israeli’s book of definitions...

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2. Metaphorics of Truth and Pragmatics of Knowledge

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pp. 13-30

...In the treatise on Alexander Pope he wrote in collaboration with Mendelssohn, Lessing speaks of the philosophical use of what in rhetoric are called ‘figures’, a category that includes metaphor: “And wherein consists the essence of the same?—In their never sticking strictly to the truth; they say now too much, now too little— only a metaphysician of Böhme’s ilk can be forgiven them...

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3. A Terminological and Metaphorological Cross Section of the Idea of Truth

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pp. 31-39

...(which of course can only be measured against the inevitable deficiency of all historical material)—we have provided a series of points through which a curve may be drawn. Even if we disregard the factual density of the material offered in evidence, this procedure is as contestable as it is indispensable for the development of a metaphorology. But we want to illustrate what makes it contestable by seeking to...

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4. Metaphorics of the ‘Naked’ Truth

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pp. 40-51

...sanctioned nakedness is tarted up with rhetorical frippery in a manner that is characteristic precisely of the way in which lies manifest themselves: “But since God has willed this to be the nature of the case, that simple and undisguised truth should be more clear, because it has sufficient ornament of itself, and on this account it is corrupted when embellished with adornings from without, but that falsehood should...

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5. Terra Incognita and ‘Incomplete Universe’ as Metaphors of the Modern Relationship to the World

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pp. 52-61

...that they originate in quite specific historical ‘experiences’: the first gives a metaphorical gloss to the age of discovery’s conclusion that the ‘known world’, which for millennia was relatively constant and appeared to have certain zones of unfamiliarity only at its edges, proves in retrospect to have taken up only a small corner of the earth’s surface; the other views the universe as analogous to a workpiece...

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6. Organic and Mechanical Background Metaphorics

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pp. 62-76

...Metaphorics can also be in play where exclusively terminological propositions appear, but where these cannot be understood in their higher-order semantic unity without taking into account the guiding idea from which they are induced and ‘read off’. Statements referring to data of observation presuppose that what is intended...

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7. Myth and Metaphorics

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pp. 77-80

...help of paradigms, this does not imply that the thematic goal and ideal of the metaphorology we have in mind would consist in such a typology. In carrying out this task, we should recall that metaphorology—as a subbranch of conceptual history, and like the latter itself considered as a whole—must always be an auxiliary discipline...

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8. Terminologization of a Metaphor: From ‘Verisimilitude’ to ‘Probability’

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pp. 81-98

...In keeping with what was announced in the title to these studies, we have not set out to provide an exhaustive account of the relationship between myth, metaphor, and logos; we purport only to exemplify a particular manner of questioning, a particular analytic approach. This admission of the modesty of our enterprise is even...

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9. Metaphorized Cosmology

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pp. 99-114

...The impression might arise that our lengthy exemplification of the ‘transition’ from metaphors to concepts (and thus our entire attempt at a typology of metaphor histories) remains beholden to a primitive evolutionary schema. We shall seek to dispel this impression by surveying a type of metaphor history that proceeds in the opposite...

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10. Geometric Symbolism and Metaphorics

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pp. 115-132

...other, that risk narrowing the basis of fulfilling intuitions in advance. The concept of symbol, richly shaded by its application to everything from aesthetics to formal logic (at the very least!), has already done much to obscure the expressive phenomena it was called on to illuminate. With its help, we will attempt here solely to elaborate an elementary distinction that we find very nicely exemplified in Fontenelle’s...

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Translator’s Afterword

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pp. 133-146

...point may be sketched in a few strokes. Persecuted by the Nazis as a “half Jew,” prevented from enrolling at a state university, and interned in a labor camp during the war, Blumenberg escaped to his hometown of Lübeck, where he found refuge with the family of his future wife. Upon resuming his studies at war’s end, he...

Index of Names

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pp. 147-150

Subject Index

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pp. 151-152

E-ISBN-13: 9780801460043
E-ISBN-10: 0801460042
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801449253
Print-ISBN-10: 0801449251

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1