Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hans Blumenberg, Paradigms for a Metaphorology: Introduction

The Cartesian goal for philosophy -- obtaining truth that is both perspicuous and expressed in unambiguous concepts -- implies the twin redundancy of figurative language and the history of concepts. There is no longer a use for them in a system of thought whose concepts provide a complete and definitive account of the world. But the superfluity of metaphor had been a premise of philosophy from Plato onward. Philosophy has seen metaphor as an a mere adjunct, as a tool used to make an argument more persuasive without changing its content, so that, in principle, a metaphor could be replaced by explicit argument. Blumenberg posits the existence of (and will seek evidence for) metaphors that cannot be replaced in this way, because they provide a foundation for philosophical language. He calls these absolute metaphors. He sees them as akin to the symbols of the ideas of reason in Kant's Critique of Judgment. He notes that calling these metaphors absolute does not mean that they are fixed and their functions cannot be replaced by other metaphors; it only signifies that they cannot be reduced to concepts. This fungibility of absolute metaphors means that they can have a history, and that this history underlies the history of concepts.

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