examples of metaphor by Groovesucka

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									                                                                                 Like Juliet Melting Sally
                                                                                        Damon Horowitz

                                        [insert metaphor examples 1-4]

1. Juliet is sunned, Sally frozen; Richard gets a gorilla, Winston a bulldog. Just so are such
figures elliptically compared, impregnated with an apt litter.

The metaphor theorist wants to know: How has this happened? We may wonder first: How has
what happened? I suggest that different views on the latter question yield different views on the

2. Perhaps because of their ancient origin and their common appeal, comparativist accounts of
metaphor are often the first to be mentioned and criticized by metaphor theorists. Comparativism
characterizes metaphors as elliptical figurative comparisons.               The ellipsis distinguishes
metaphors from similes.             The figurative character distinguishes metaphors from literal
comparisons. But beyond the ellipsis and the figuration, the comparativist claims, the metaphor's
essential point is to present a likeness between two things (the proverbial A and B).
The more interesting criticisms of comparativism are concerned to question the relevance of the
alleged likeness to the metaphor's content. There are several interwoven strands to the attack.
The existence of the likeness, its source, and its content are all challenged. Alternate roles for
the alleged likeness are suggested.                 Finally, likenesses, where found, are found to be

Yet for all these criticisms, I believe the comparativist has a simple response: his detractors are
asking the wrong question.           The comparativist and his critic are seeking to explain different
phenomena. With the underlying differences between the attackers and the defenders clarified,
comparativism and its alternatives both survive the debate.

3. To cast doubt on the legitimacy of positing a hidden likeness in metaphor, or an explicit
likeness in simile, the critic first seeks examples where it seems there is no likeness at all. The
Rolling Stones drawl "Our love is like our music – It's here and then it's gone"; yet the love and

 Here I skip over Beardsley's "[non-] reversibility argument" (Beardsley 1982 "The Metaphorical Twist") and
Fogelin's Tverskian response (Fogelin 1988 "Figuratively Speaking"; p63-65); this has been adequately
covered already.
    Thanks to David Hills for the reference 5/22.
the music are fundamentally different in kind, not obviously sharing any salient properties, not
literally alike (however often associated). We understand what a frustrated companion is getting
at when they complain that "Sally is a block of ice"; yet "there do not seem to be any literal
similarities between objects which are cold and people who are unemotional" (Searle p97). If the
creative defender of comparitivism searches out some likeness in such cases, the critic replies
that these likenesses are not relevant to the metaphor: "When someone is physically cold it
places severe restrictions on their emotions. But even if that is true, it is not what we meant by
the metaphorical utterance" (Searle p97).             A more sympathetic critic will try to find other
connections between the subjects of a given metaphor: considering Sally's case, we might note
that in an intense episode between people, sexual or competitive or otherwise, body temperature
ordinarily rises (or at least, feels as though it rises); and in relaxation or sleep, it decreases; while
the dead, exemplars of unresponsiveness, are cold to the touch. But now we seem to have left
the realm of likeness altogether, and are instead discussing association: 'cold' and 'unemotional'
are just "associated in our minds", but the latter is not a literal meaning of the former (Searle
p97) ; so we are allegedly beyond the resources available to the comparativist with his claims of
similarity. In cases where the metaphor's poetic force overwhelms the critic's disposition to deny
a likeness, the critic changes course slightly: he claims a likeness born of a metaphor is in no
position to be the subject matter picked out by that very metaphor, for it has no antecedent
existence.     "It would be more illuminating in some of these cases to say that the metaphor
creates the similarity than to say that it formulates some similarity antecedently existing" (Black

    (Searle 1979 "Metaphor").
  "So deeply embedded in our whole mode of sensibility are certain metaphorical associations that we tend
to think there must be a similarity, or even that the association itself is a form of similarity" (Searle p99).
   In this specific example, it seems the comparativist has a straightforward explanation: coldness is a
property both of unemotional people (an accidental property, derived by the stereotypical association of
body temperature with enthusiasm) and of blocks of ice (perhaps a necessary property); therefore coldness
is the salient property that constitutes the likeness presented in the metaphor. The fact that one subject
(Sally) only has the relevant property via a mechanism of association does not change the fact that she has
it, and that it is thus available for likeness-noting purposes.
"Time flies" (Searle p99) [or in canonical form, "Time is a flying object"] may be explicable analogously.
Things that fly typically move by quickly; when something passes by quickly, it is hard to seize, easy to miss;
once passed, it may be irretrievable; etc. Similarly, when we hope or plan to accomplish something at a
moment, we may miss the opportunity. Once past (an etymological variant?), it may be irretrievable. Thus
we have similarities concerning such literal properties as the accessibility of objects passing in time or flight,
even though the manners of passage are only metaphorically related.
One wonders how many of Searle's examples are susceptible to such treatment.
  (Black 1962 "Metaphor"). Or [dare I say] similarly: "A reversal in order of explanation might be
appropriate: the fact that a term applies, literally or metaphorically, to certain objects may itself constitute
rather than arise from a particular similarity among those objects. Metaphorical use may serve to explain
the similarity better than – or at least as well as – the similarity explains the metaphor" (Goodman 1972
"Seven Strictures on Similarity"; p440).

Should the critic grant that a relevant likeness exists, and exists independently of the metaphor
which presents it, he denies that it is the subject matter of the metaphor. Black (p36), Searle
(p89), and Beardsley (p273) all accuse comparativism of wrongly allowing the secondary subject
to be part of what the metaphor is about; rather, they claim, metaphors are only about the primary
subject. The recurring strategy for demonstrating this is to show that in informing us about the
primary subject, metaphors can leverage commonplaces (or "associated implications",
"connotations", "talk postulates", etc.) about the secondary subject, even if these commonplaces
are false and known by the speaker and hearer to be false (Black p40). For example, we have no
trouble understanding the metaphorical statement "Richard is a gorilla" as asserting that Richard
is fierce and nasty, since we commonly take gorillas to have these properties. The comparativist
might claim that the metaphor is paraphrasable as "Richard and gorillas are similar in being fierce
and nasty". But the critic argues that even if we discover that gorillas are not actually all that
unfriendly, the metaphorical assertion may still be understood and still be true, while the literal
comparison paraphrase would be false (Searle p89).              From here it is a small step to point out
that the likeness cannot be the meaning of the metaphor, for the statement of the likeness and
the statement of the metaphor differ in truth conditions in such cases.

Comparisons are statements of likenesses, responsive to the facts about both of their subjects;
since metaphors seem to be unresponsive to facts about one of their subjects (the secondary),
metaphors cannot be comparisons.            Yet the idea that a likeness is lurking in metaphor is
intuitively appealing, and we would like to be able to account for this intuition. Confessing a
partiality for rational reconstruction of cognitive processes, the critic claims that the likeness
serves as a step in the reasoning which the listener performs to understand a metaphorical
utterance (Searle p86). "Richard is a gorilla" does not mean that Richard and gorillas are similar;
rather, "[it] says that Richard has certain traits (and to figure out what they are, look for features
associated with gorillas)… Similarity functions as a comprehension strategy, not as a component
of meaning" (Searle p90).         The comparativist may be puzzled about exactly how such a
comprehension strategy is supposed to work in the crucial cases where the truth conditions of the
comparison allegedly differ from those of the metaphor: must the hearer entertain inconsistent
beliefs (i.e., "Richard and gorillas are similar in being fierce and nasty" and "Gorillas are not
actually unfriendly") in the process of constructing an interpretation of the utterance? The critic
presumably brushes aside this sort of concern, claiming that hearers may be perfectly aware
what the commonplaces about gorillas are even if they do not agree with them:                             the

  Assuming Richard really is fierce and nasty; a reasonable speculative assumption if we are to account for
his presence in the metaphor.
 "The connotations are controlled not only by the properties the object actually has but by those it is widely
believed to have – even if the belief is false… A consistent adherence to [comparativism] would produce

commonplaces are just other peoples' notions about gorillas; they can be considered by the
hearer without being adopted by the hearer.

The final tactic in the critic's attack aims to undermine the felt accomplishment of comparativists
who provide likeness analyses notwithstanding the above discouragements. The charge here is
that metaphor paraphrases which state likenesses are often themselves presented in irreducibly
figurative language – there is no "rock bottom of literal similes on which the edifice rests" (Searle
p97). Our metaphorical assertion about Sally is no more literal if we say "Sally is very cold", since
the intended reading of 'cold' (i.e., unemotional) is still metaphorical; at best, there are two
different literal meanings of the same word, thus creating a figurative effect from punning.
Similarly, we may note that the Rolling Stone's music and their love are "here" and "gone" in only
figuratively related senses of these terms. But if this is so, then the figurative content of the
original metaphor has not been given a satisfactory explanation: "If the simile statements which
are supposed to explain metaphor are themselves metaphorical or otherwise figurative, our
explanation will be circular" (Searle p94).

More deeply, the danger is that the comparativist account fails to say anything at all: "it suffers
from a vagueness that borders upon vacuity" (Black p37). Without a more specific account of
how a particular similarity is picked out by a metaphor, comparativism does not increase our
knowledge of how metaphors work. Thus we see that comparativism inherits this problem from
its dependence on the allegedly relativistic and gratuitous concept of similarity itself: "To proclaim
that certain tones are soft because they are like soft materials, or blue because they are like blue
colors, explains nothing. Anything is in some way like anything else" (Goodman p440). To say
that two things are similar adds nothing to the claim there is some sort of property sharing
between them; just as to say that they share a "salient" property says only that there is some
context or purpose which could justify such an assertion – and there always will be (Goodman
p444). And thus the critic finishes his portrait of an impotent comparativism.

4. The comparativist is unlikely to be moved by this attack. To respond to each criticism in turn,
he keeps one principle in mind: the point of metaphor is to present a likeness, not to convey
information about the primary subject.

The comparativist (here, Fogelin) has a specific proposal about how comparison statements
work: "To say that A is similar to B means that A has a sufficiently large number of B's salient
features" (p78); yet "similarity claims do not seem to be assertions about salient features" (p78);
rather, the assertion is just that such features exist; thus, "similarity claims typically gain their
force as indirect speech acts" (p79); where the two basic speech act uses of comparisons are

incorrect or incomplete explications of metaphors in cases where the modifier has connotations, applicable

"information-giving" and "likeness-noting". Extending this analysis to figurative language, Fogelin
claims "Metaphors and similes most resemble, or are typically instances of, the likeness-noting
use. With the likeness-noting use of a comparison, the respondent is presumed to be acquainted
with both objects of comparison, and in metaphors, again, two antecedently known things are
brought into comparison" (p90).

From this perspective, the first set of criticisms of comparativism seem misguided. Metaphor is
about both the primary and the secondary subject, insofar as it is "about" either; more precisely,
the metaphor is about the likeness-relation between the two subjects.                      This perspective
emphasizes the relevance of both subjects to the metaphorical utterance, appropriating the
intuition that the subjects are "interanimated" in metaphor (Black), or that one provides a novel
"organization" for the other (Goodman); it emphasizes the speaker's recognized intention to
present a comparison, and de-emphasizes any apparent grammatical stress on the primary
subject in the metaphor's canonical assertion form.             While the critic is focused on what is
asserted by the utterance, the comparativist considers more broadly what is intended by the
speaker: "With figurative comparisons, as with literal comparisons, the point of the comparison
lies in the indirect speech act – what I mean rather than simply what my words mean" (Fogelin

The critic's main argument against such an approach is based on his concern that we may have a
change of heart about gorillas: the possibility of Richard's fierceness coexisting with gorillas'
tameness is supposed to show that the metaphor is about the former subject rather than the
latter. But the comparativist can sidestep this charge by borrowing a concept from contemporary
philosophy of language,         and claim that the metaphor (and the comparison which paraphrases it)
asserts a likeness between Richard and the common "notion" of gorillas,                 not between Richard
and actual gorillas. If a speaker were to claim "Richard is a gorilla" with the intent to bring out the
fact that both Richard and gorillas are incompetent linguistically, the claim would be true in a
world where Richard lacks basic proficiency and everybody thinks of gorillas as similarly
untalented.        The metaphor and the paraphrase have the same truth conditions, both being

in that context, that are not common accidental features of the objects denoted"" (Beardsley p265).
  See, for example, the emphasis on the literal speech act in Searle's analysis of "The ship ploughed the
sea": "The hearer does not have to compute any respects in which ['ploughing' and 'the relation between
ships and seas'] are similar, since that is not what is being asserted. Rather, what is being asserted is that
the ship is doing something to the sea… (to figure out what, find a relationship like ploughing)" (p103,
emphasis added).
     (Crimmins and Perry "The Prince and the Phone Booth").
    Or if the type-conflict is objectionable (notwithstanding the figurative context), we could consider the
likeness between the notion of Richard and the notion of gorillas.
   An animal-friendly researcher may feel compelled to respond to "Richard and gorillas are similar in being
incompetent linguistically" by protesting that Koko the Gorilla has made great strides in acquiring ASL. But
then, the researcher may feel compelled to supply this protest upon recognizing the intent behind "Richard is

responsive to the way things are with the relevant things and notions. A critic resistant to this
intuition may yield if the offered paraphrase made the notion explicit, i.e., "Richard and gorillas
[according to the common notion of gorillas] are similar in being incompetent linguistically"; and
then the comparativist, who is not shy about evoking ellipsis, may simply claim that this is an
equivalently appropriate paraphrase for the metaphor.              The comparativist may thus take the
critic's examples of metaphor's dependence upon commonplaces about the secondary subject as
clues that perhaps the actual secondary subject is the common notion itself. If the notion is an
acceptable entity to play a role in the process of interpreting the metaphor, why is it not an
acceptable entity to play a role in the meaning of the metaphor?

The comparativist is also not ashamed to be found offering figurative likenesses as paraphrases
of metaphors. The critic contends that if no literal likeness can be found at the end of a chain of
paraphrases, no explanation has been provided: one mysterious figurative use has only been
substituted for another.       The comparativist shrugs off this complaint, pointing out that often the
content of comparisons (figurative or not) can not be literally paraphrased because they depends
upon properties that are not easily described (e.g., the look of Bette Davis; Fogelin 79); and that
this is in fact a reason why comparisons are a useful linguistic (or cognitive) construct.              He may
further note that such allegedly unexplanatory paraphrases do make significant explanatory
contributions by reducing an unfamiliar figure to a more familiar one. To explain "Sally is a block
of ice" by a whispered parenthetical "(they are both very cold)" is to show how the former
superficially incongruous statement can be taken as indirectly presenting the latter more
accessible one; this explanation can be useful at aiding comprehension of the metaphor or
making explicit its functioning         regardless of the fact that the explanans utilizes a pun. Our
present ignorance of and confusion about cognitive workings in general prevents either the
comparativist or his critic from ever reaching "rock-bottom" axiomatizations of precisely what
makes something count as cold or as a gorilla, figuratively or literally. Whether we label the
comparisons we use when faced with the ineffable as figurative or literal, they are no more or less
vacuous as explanations.

a gorilla" as well. The culturally available notions of gorillas evolve as science and sensibilities evolve; the
variance in accessibility of a given concept at a given time is attributable to the linguistic community, not to
the form of the utterance.
   "It is crucial to the simile thesis that the simile be taken literally…" (Searle p95); perhaps this is what
Fogelin has in mind when he says "[comparativism's] critics have a bad habit of forgetting that similes
present figurative comparisons" (p97).
   "Comparisons in general, and figurative comparisons in particular, provide a way of making manifest
relations that could not – or could not easily – be made manifest in other ways" (Fogelin p93). It is
interesting that the critics often agree with this statement (Goodman; Black p33).
  In fact, the Tverskian/Fogelian comparativist has a further [partial] story on offer about the process by
which figurative comparisons are understood: "In the interpretation of similes, one assumes a resemblance
between the subject and the referent and searches for an interpretation of the space that would maximize

Thus we see that by emphasizing the likeness-presenting aspect of metaphors, the comparativist
defuses the attacks of his critic. While the critic argues that merely claiming A and B are similar
adds nothing to the specification of what they have in common, the comparativist responds that
the very idea of grouping two items together (of seeing them as belonging together) is itself a
suitable subject matter, possessing a content which a metaphor can be used to communicate.
That the choice to present two things as alike can be the subject matter of a metaphorical
assertion is evidenced by the options we have when challenging the assertion. A heckler who
responds to "Juliet is the sun" by screaming out "The heck she is"                 could be protesting at a
variety of levels: he may suggest that a different move should be played within this figurative
game (perhaps Juliet would be better likened to the earth if we seek to identify a body in the solar
system that nourishes growth); he may question whether the subject does not in fact possess the
properties attributed to her (for Lady Montague has done most of the nourishing of Romeo to
date); or he may reject the appropriateness of advancing this grouping of objects (because of its
perilously positive attitude towards a member of the rival family). It is the possibility of this last
manner of disagreement that comparativist views best accommodate; here it is the very act of
casting Juliet in a sympathetic light that is unacceptable to the objector, and which the objector
rejects by negating the words of the utterance. Romeo effectively suggests that Juliet should be
thought of as the sun; to which the reproachful parent might reply, "Juliet may well be warm girl,
but we don't say such things in this family."         We are sometimes motivated to deny a metaphor
because we disapprove of its point, the likeness it presents, not out of an urge to quibble over the
satisfaction of ascribed truth conditions.

5. There is much that the comparativist and his critic agree upon. A metaphor taken literally
yields an apparent absurdity (or some equally uncooperative conversational offering).                    The
speaker intends to convey some other non-absurd meaning in a figurative way. The context
matters in determining what this might be. The speaker has resorted to metaphor because of
some semantic gap in his language to express his precise point in a more literal way; or perhaps
as a rhetorical tactic to implicate his hearer in the conception as well.

the quality of the match… With metaphors and similes, the respondent is given the mutually recognized task
of squaring the context with the utterance" (p88-89).
     (Hills 1997 "Aptness and Truth in Verbal Metaphor"; p127).
    Hills distinguishes between a response of disapproval of Romeo's new love (p118) from one of
questioning the "content" of the thought he expresses, as drawn out by a paraphrase (p125); with both
further distinguished from evaluation of the aptness of the utterance. But it is not clear to me why we cannot
take Romeo to be "asserting" or advocating for the likeness he presents, rather than for some allegedly new
factual information about Juliet the critic takes him to be conveying. The speech act of "rejecting" Romeo's
claim seems available to one who disapproves of the likeness, of rejects the normative claim, not just one
who disagrees with the information.

I suspect both parties would be willing to accept that metaphors can be interpreted both as
providing information and as calling attention to a likeness. To press his point, the critic will
choose metaphors which emphasize the former use (e.g., "My sweetheart is my Schopenhauer",
in a context when we do are not already acquainted with the sweetheart; Beardsley p266), while
the comparativist will choose metaphors which emphasize the latter use (e.g., "Churchill is a
bulldog"; Fogelin p90). We may be tempted to try to align the distinction between the two uses of
metaphors with other proposed distinctions between metaphor's content and its force, its
"semantic content" and its "expressive power" (Searle), or even its "truth" and its "aptness" (Hills).
However, the distinction between possible uses of metaphors crosscuts these distinctions: a
metaphor may be apt and expressive in providing information; a metaphor may be semantically
true in calling attention to a likeness.

The question of which business metaphor is really in strikes me as ill-posed.             The above
discussion is perhaps better taken as a presentation of two possible explananda than as a debate
between two competing explanans. Depending upon what we take metaphor to be doing, we will
give a different account of how it is done.


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