Metaphor is fundamental

Beauty, by Michael David Adams

Previously, I discussed the concept of metaphor here, and I thought a lot was left unsaid.

All philosophical concepts are interdependent; they depend on other concepts, which means they cannot be analyzed in isolation. There are no precise definitions for philosophical concepts, because they institute a new way of thinking. For instance, the concept of love does not refer to a particular example, but rather, it “enacts” or “creates” a new possibility or a new thought of love. Not only are dictionary definitions superficial and shallow, they are also restrictive, whereas the philosophical concept is open and expansive. Therefore, to understand a concept philosophically is to find the new connections and new possibilities they reveal.

For Nietzsche, when thoughts and concepts are superimposed on the flux of reality, they dissect it into convenient units. In other words, to think is to substitute a fixed image in the place of fluid reality. This leads to the conclusion that all thoughts are metaphorical.

We have been trained to understand a noun, say, the “pig,” must refer to the animal in the farm, gorging from the trough. When we choose to use that word metaphorically (He’s a pig! ) we are referring to someone who acts greedily, eats too much or noisily. Yet, the word ‘pig’ is arbitrary, whether it refers to an animal or something else. In both cases, in the face of infinitely different reality – each pig, razorback, Miss Piggy, Francis the Pig, Babe, Piglet – we affix some word that will apply in all cases. This practice inspires an illusion that there is a general type, a “pigness” and it refers to something; a fixed form for our labels of convenience.

Nonetheless: if language creates concepts, then, language, as well as thoughts, is metaphorical. I perceive a concrete and physical reality and refer to it with something else: the sign or the concept. However, the illusion that there is a “truth” behind language remains, and moreover, we also believe in the illusion that there are methods of speaking or writing that will escape metaphor and refer to the “true” world behind appearances. Nietzsche is consistent here – there is no “true world” but merely appearances behind appearances. It is interpretation all the way down!

This is problematic, though. If one truly grasp the implications, then despair looms because of convenient illusions, where we project a fictional “true world” beyond language and appearances, and this “promised land” always remains eternally unapproachable, unattainable. After such illusions are shattered and we finally give up our addiction to truth, we have no choice but be resigned to welcome nihilism as our final guest.

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...a philosophisticator who utters heresies, thinks theothanatologically and draws like Kirby on steroids.