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Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff
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Metaphors We Live By (1980)

by George Lakoff (Author), Mark Johnson (Author)

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I think it's hard* for anyone who spends* a significant* amount* of time thinking about words and their interaction* with thought, whether professionally, out of simple* proclivity, or what, to get an accurate picture* of the importance of the argument given* here. Metaphors, which are linguistic in nature* structure* our thought in a direct* and meaningful* manner*: an individual or a society in which the metaphor LOVE IS WAR* is deeply* embedded* or which gravitates* to it as a matter* of preference is one that is going to* have radically* different ways* of approaching* and understanding* his or her or its love-relationships and building* practices around* them than one in which that metaphor is superseded* by one like LOVE IS MADNESS* (although both may certainly* coexist* and have* their respective* effects*). They do this through* "entailments,"* which may or may not be metaphors themselves: if love is war,* it requires strategy,* it involves suffering, there are winners and losers.*

This seems so clear,* so basic.* We'd rather construct* speculative castles* trying* to prove* that the apparent* effects* of these funny* unsystematicities* are illusory* and we're all liberal rationalists* at heart* (Chomsky, Rawls, Quine) or rejecting* that hope* of succour* in various* perverse* ways* (Derrida, Gadamer, or focusing* (again* in v. p. ways!*) on the behaviour* and not the framework* (Wittgenstein**, Skinner, who I never* thought I'd place in one basket* like this, Austin/Searle*). But I think this approach* is more parsimonious,* simpler,* more egallitarian,* truer.* It gives* the person on the street* a way* into understanding* the relation between* their* language and thought that is intuitively plausible.

Lakoff and Johnson give us more,* though. They give us* not only "conventional"* but also "new"* metaphors: let us* for instance* forget LOVE IS MADNESS* ("I'm crazy about her,"* etc.) as an alternative* to LOVE IS WAR and consider* instead LOVE IS A COLLABORATIVE WORK OF ART.* The long* list of entailments* that L&J provide* reveals* before* us a vision* of difference (bringing with it,* in this case,* a beauty* unconscionable* in LOVE IS WAR-land*): "Love is work,"* "Love requires cooperation," "Love is an aesthetic experience,"* "Love is primarily valued* for its own sake*," Love creates* a reality,"* "Love needs* funding (ha!)"* "Love yields* a shared* aesthetic satisfaction from your joint* efforts,"* and so on.* This is nothing short* of a glimpse* of a better* future,* if we can only* gain control* of our unruly* words (humanity: wrestling Proteus* since 100,000 BC), expand* our consciousness* to encompass* what is now our verbal unconscious.

And frankly, I think even the conventional* metaphors have more* to explore* than is immediately* evident.* Some are more occult* than others, and when you* try* to identify* them, you start* to realize* how much* of our "Standard Average European"* (two bits* to Whorf for that term) wor(l)dview* is a matter* of substances,* actions, and observation* of them. Terms like "have,"* "more,"* "big,"* "get"*--all bearing* substantive* entailments,* all wildly* and constantly* metaphorical. "Take,"* "make,"* "see,"* etc., etc., all of course* of endless* metaphoricity. It's easy* to imagine,* but seemingly* impossible* to really get your head around,* some alternative* like a lifeworld* or linguaculture* in which these kinds of processes* or events* or whatever* are expressed* in terms of* a causeless*, internally* driven* unfolding* of monadistic* selfnesses," or a kind of gestalt world,* or the famous Nootka "it* is lengthwise* on the beach* as an event* of canoe motion.*" So I mean*, that gets into crazy* profusion.* Possibly* we're better off* just* using* L&J to help* us see* LOVE as a COLLABORATIVE WORK OF ART* and not WAR* all the time,* or like,* something* equally* "modest."

*THESE ARE ALL METAPHORS, or at least arguably.* Lakoff and Johnson might* not be so profuse.*
**Wittgenstein maybe comes* closest* to Lakoff and Johnson's* approach* with his "language-games,"* and actually* the radical*^ agentivity* in his* concept* appeals* to me more--but I have to* acknowledge* the unconscious* structuring* role* of language too, even if I'd rather see* us as speaking our own destinies* with infinite* eloquence*--and L&J do the best job* of explaining it as far* as I can tell.* And hey! We can consciously* try* to use* better,* healthier* metaphors.
^I seem to reach* either for "wildness"* (profusion,* phantasmagoria,* etc.) or "radicalness"* (fundamentalness,* basicness*) in talking about language--one hand* touching earth,* the other grasping* at the stars,* perhaps?) ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Jun 9, 2013 |
moving this close to the top of the wishlist.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
Metaphors We Live By is an excellent read. Lakoff and Johnson clearly present a compelling argument about the nature of thought and language. I generally don't make commands about works people *should* read, but I make an exception for this book. All writers (any genre or medium), writing teachers, and students of language should read this book. You will not view composition in the same way after having done so. And you may just discover lifelong foundations for your own composing work. ( )
1 vote SheWoreRedShoes | May 9, 2010 |
read for Cognitive Science at UCB
  soulmacadamia | Dec 7, 2009 |
This book provides a new and interesting approach to the study of metaphors, which are seen as deeply rooted in our cultural background and not just a simple linguistic device.

I think that this new approach can be of interest to the general public, since it suggests a new perspective to think upon. The book is intended for the general public: it's easy to understand, well presented, and concise.

However, this feature cannot appeal to a more informed audience, since the book does not provide footnotes or cross-references to delve more deeply into this interesting matter. ( )
1 vote Adalberht | Apr 25, 2009 |
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Lakoff, GeorgeAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, MarkAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish - a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226468011, Paperback)

The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Metaphor, the authors explain, is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of countless other subjects. Because such metaphors structure our most basic understandings of our experience, they are "metaphors we live by"—metaphors that can shape our perceptions and actions without our ever noticing them.

In this updated edition of Lakoff and Johnson's influential book, the authors supply an afterword surveying how their theory of metaphor has developed within the cognitive sciences to become central to the contemporary understanding of how we think and how we express our thoughts in language.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:29 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The authors argue that basic metaphors not only affect the way we communicate ideas, but actually structure our perceptions & understandings from the beginning. Bringing together perspectives from linguistics & philosophy, they offer an intriguing guide to common metaphors.… (more)

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