- Paperback: 242 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (May 1, 1981)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226468011
- ISBN-13: 978-0226468013
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 363 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11.492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Metaphors We Live by Paperback – 1 May 1981
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From the Inside Flap
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.
About the Author
George Lakoff is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of, among other books, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things and Moral Politics, both published by the University of Chicago Press. Mark Johnson is the Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon. He is the author of The Body in the Mind and Moral Imagination, both published by the University of Chicago Press. Johnson and Lakoff have also coauthored Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought.
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Lakoff and Johnson do not only discuss how we use metaphorical language absentmindedly in our day-to-day living, but also delve into how we utilize metaphor to structure, conceptualize, and share our understanding of reality. It might not be obvious what exactly is the difference. In effect, the authors argue that metaphor is not just a matter of language, but a process of internally organizing our understanding of the external world. The first half of the book makes the positive case that our perceptions of reality are built upon metaphor. The second half of the book makes the case that other philosophical views fail to adequately account for such conceptual structuring. In the end, the authors argue that an "experientialist" view of truth and meaning not only account for our metaphorical comprehension of reality, but also retain and unite the most compelling aspects of other schools of thought that fail to do so.
I think the first half of the book is a roaring success. The authors provide many and thorough examples of how our understanding of reality is structured metaphorically and how these metaphorical concepts are organized into coherent systems. They provide an explanation of why some mixed metaphors work and why others appear absurd. The idea that some arguments are covered in gargoyles, for example, shall stick with me for some time.
I think the second half of the book is a bit less successful. Bear in mind, I am not well-versed in the philosophy of language nor am I well-acquainted with the objectivist and subjectivist views described by the authors. However, their argument seems to falter along one glaring fault (because an argument is a building, you see). The authors appear to assert in an absolute and unconditional manner that there are no absolute and unconditional truths. I want to be charitable here and assume that the authors were merely being careless, and that they meant something different than what they appear to be saying. However, the theme is repeated several times throughout the rest of the book, so it's difficult to tell.
The difficulty ought to be obvious. At some level, there must be some kind of objective truth if we are to make anything resembling an objective truth claim -- even those fundamental claims about truth itself. I suspect that the authors are more inclined to affirm that truth cannot be communicated between individuals in an objective manner -- hence, the significant focus on language -- but their claims are stronger than that. If they intend only to claim, say, that we cannot exhaustively describe in an absolute and unconditional manner all (or even most) objective truths concerning reality, I'd be much more persuaded to hop on board. Instead, the authors seem to blunder at this crucial step. It's possible they clarify such a stance in the afterword (which I did not read), in which case this criticism may widely miss its mark. Otherwise, it appears quite fatal.
There's another criticism I could leverage - namely, that the authors appear to view human interest in truth as based in its survival value (if that were true, we wouldn't have books like _Metaphors We Live By_) - but I'm not convinced the book was aimed at defending such a position. On a positive note, I thought the authors' attempt to wed objective and subjective accounts of truth into a unified view were admirable and reached closer to the mark than a strict objectivist or subjectivist account of reality.
As such, on the whole, I liked the book. It was pretty good. But I also think the ultimate argument is the kind of thing that either says too little to justify such length and breadth of discussion or says too much to be taken seriously. For those interested, it should at the least be read for its delightful and rigorous first half.
But the last nineteen chapters are laborious. I felt chained to every chapter, struggling to find even a sliver of the gold that was the first eleven.
Buy this book. Invest in the first eleven. Skim the last nineteen. It's well worth your time.
I laughed, cursed with surprise, was stunned into wide eyed wonder. And wondered why it has taken so long for the brain to write this book about the brain. I don't know how to end this effort: I am stuck, and feel like I have fallen into a hole. Overnight, I hope a tunnel opens up so I can get out of here, out of this box. Do you know what I mean?
The examples are engaging and entertaining. I'll leave you with this one: The waitress says, "The ham sandwich wants his check." -- dehumanizing the person who is characterized as a paying customer. But completely reasonable in the context of a busy restaurant at lunchtime. Plunge in and read more about how we see and describe and understand our world by using metaphors we're not even aware of.