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Reviews Demystifying Metaphor MONROE c. BEARDSLEY Paul Ricoeur. The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language. Translated by Robert Czerny, et aI Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press 1978. 384. $22.50 It may seem strange that so familiar a linguistic phenomenon as metaphor should prove so baffling to those who have given it serious thought since Aristotle first raised many of the important questions about it. Not that there has been a dearth of confident answers to these questions, but that the answers themselves have been so readily questioned - though often copied unthinkingly from one writer to another, long after their refutation. Moreover, in our own time, in a century in which the nature of language and indeed of all semiotic processes has been more systematically studied and better understood than ever before, the quantity of writing on metaphor has vastly increased - especially in recent years. The topic has been of the greatest interest to thinkers in three fields: the theory of literary criticism, linguistics, and philosophy. Metaphor attracts the notice of literary theorists partly because it seems to wrap up in itself the secret of literary interpretation: if we can explain how we underM stand what a metaphorical expression means (say Mallarme's 'the sky is dead') we probably hold the key to a general literary hermeneutic, or method of explicating poetry - since metaphors seem like quintessential poems themselves. Moreover, a striking and significant characteristic of contemporary poetry (not without past antecedents, of course) is a tendency to thrust the boundaries of metaphorical combination to the limits of intelligibility, posing extraordinarily heterogeneous semantic linkages that are especially difficult for the literary critic to explain and justify - and extremely interesting on that account. To the linguist metaphor is a kind of acid test for various kinds of semantic theory. What is it that gives certain words in certain contexts a metaphorical status? Must we postulate that words are governed by 'selection rules' that permit or forbid their combination with other words, so that metaphor occurs when a forbidden combination is made? (For example, if a selection rule is that only things supported by a liquid can strictly be said to float, then the rule is violated by saying that a cloud or a thought floats, so 'floats' is forced or driven from a UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME XLIX, NUMBER 1 , FALL 1979 0042-024717911000-0079$00.00/0 © UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS 80 MONROE C. BEARDSLEY literal into a metaphorical posture.) Can the concept of grammar be extended so that metaphorical expressions are to be classified as ungrammatical? Or does the whole phenomenon of metaphor belong to the pragmatics, rather than the semantics, of language - that is, metaphor does not concern meaning but only the intentions and strategies of speakers and the mental associations of hearers? To the philosopher metaphor is an ultimate challenge to any philosophical theory of meaning. If meaning is somehow essentially connected with empirical testability, how can metaphorical sentences be verified? If with the specification of truth conditions for meaningful sentences, how can metaphorical sentences have such conditions? If with the capacity of linguistic expressions to be used in the performance of certain kinds of speech act, then how is the metaphorical character of a sentence related to its capacity for such use? These are especially modern questions, but underlying them - or, perhaps we should say, brooding over them - is the ancient and persistent lover's quarrel between philosophy and poetry: many philosophers have regarded metaphorical expressions as inimical to truth and to that orderly argument by which truth is to be reached, yet other philosophers have come to the conclusion that certain kinds of metaphor arc, in the last analysis, indispensable to philosophic inquiry, at least to that form of it that appears in speculative metaphysics. Into this highly contentious field - of whose manifold issues and disputes 1 have given but a sample - Paul Ricoeur's substantial, wide ~ ranging, learned, and judicious book moves like a United Nations peacekeeping force in a troubled area. His interest in problems of interpretation goes back a long way, of course, and his special concern with metaphor as well. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 79-83
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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