metaphors, science, religion

From: Steve Drew (
Date: Sun Mar 17 2002 - 22:12:19 GMT

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    Hi Jim

    > Date: Sun, 17 Mar 2002 16:09:14 -0500
    > From: "Jim" <>
    > Subject: metaphors, science, religion
    > 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.
    > Jim

    Can't say i know much about semiotics (I'm just reading a primer now), but,
    sociologically speaking there are similarities between organised science and
    religion. Brian Appleyard's 'Understanding the Present', and Anthony
    O'Hear's 'After Progress' make interesting reading, though i disagree with
    their conclusions. Functionally, there is no difference between science and
    religion. Both serve to give a meaning to the world and, usually to support
    the present order in power.



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