October 1, 2012

Words, Metaphors, and Introspection

“Metaphors We Live By” is a continuation of the themes we’ve covered this week in the Locke and Derrida readings. The basic premise of the texts (and I’m probably going to be using sign/signifer/word incorrectly here) is that we assign certain words to our experiences so that they can be easier to understand. These words are arbitrary. To understand them requires some knowledge of what they stand for, but in analyzing them we may also find that our knowledge of what they are signifying increases. 

Locke has a couple of remarks on page 815: “Complex ideas are not universal[.]” “Words […] carry cultural connotations […] that complicate the relationship between communicated word and signified idea.”

Lakoff and Johnson analyze metaphors in the same way. They write, “expressions are containers for meaning .”  Their analysis of the phrase “time is money” shows metaphors are just another way of simplifying complex ideas, the way that words were signifiers of ideas for Locke. To understand “time is money” one has to understand multiple subtexts of the word “time,” of the word “money,” and of the meaning that they hold together in one phrase.

They go on to say, “[t]he meaning is not right there in the sentence--it matters a lot who is saying or listening to the sentence and what his social and political attitudes are.” Like Locke, Lakoff and Johnson also believe that some ideas are too complicated to be conveyed by words. They will have different meaning depending on who is speaking and who listening. As Locke says about liquor and gold however, if one continues to question what is being signified by the word “liquor” or “gold” or by the phrase “time is money,” then one can see new meaning emerge from the words.

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