metaphors, science, religion

From: Jim (
Date: Sun Mar 17 2002 - 21:09:14 GMT

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    Subject: metaphors, science, religion
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    Grant writes: "For subjects like mysticism or religion, we have to resort to
    metaphor in an attempt to explain ideas that are too abstract to be
    understood through language."

    When you say that that metaphor is used in an attempt to explain ideas that
    are too abstract for language, your statement comes across as odd as a
    minimum and potentially incoherent because metaphor is intrinsic to
    language. Further, somewhere along the way metonymy got lost.

    In the semiotic model of language (as powerful a model as I have found),
    metaphor exploits similarity relationships between things (as opposed to
    words). Metonymy exploits contiguity relationships between things. Metaphor
    and metonymy operate at the pre-linguistic level --where one element is
    temporarily replaced by another -- and mediate between the affective and
    linguistic "levels." There are three levels in the semiotic model:
    affective, pre-linguistic, and linguistic. For what it is worth, the
    affective and linguistic levels are equivalent to the primary and secondary
    processes as defined by Freud in the Interpretation of Dreams. The affective
    level/primary process denies any difference between similar elements or any
    distance between contiguous elements. The linguistic level/secondary process
    is concerned with relationships that connect one memory trace to another; it
    establishes irreducible differences among similar and contiguous elements.

    Also for what it is worth, the various discussions over the last week have
    suggested that somehow there is a "quantum leap" (sorry, could not resist
    that) between science and religion. There is a credible argument to the
    effect that there is less distance between science and religion than the
    discussions in this group might suggest. Interesting reading that would
    support such as statement includes Lakoff and Mohnson's Metaphors We Live
    By, Murray's Myth and Mythmaking, Burrell and Morgan's Sociological
    Paradigms and Organizational Analysis, Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific
    Revolutions, and Huene's Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions, among
    others. If, in Burrell and Morgan's terms, you are a functionalist then I
    suppose science and religion are different. Since I make my living as a
    techie and was taught by functionalists, I lived in the functionalist world
    for many years. It was only after "graduating" if you will, that I realized
    how limiting a view it had been.


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