Metaphor in Cognition


Drawing inspiration from kennings, one can delve into the broader role of metaphor in cognition. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson‘s “Metaphors We Live By” is a seminal work in this area. They argue that our thinking, language, and actions are deeply rooted in metaphorical structures. These metaphors are not just linguistic flourishes but foundational to our understanding of the world.

For example, we often conceive of arguments in terms of war: “He attacked my point,” “I defended my position,” etc. This metaphor shapes how we think about arguments, potentially making us more adversarial. Similarly, kennings, as condensed metaphors, shaped how Old Norse and Old English speakers conceptualized their world.

The Cognitive Domain of Metaphors:

It’s intriguing to recognize that metaphors aren’t just a feature of language, but they permeate our thought processes and even our perceptual experiences. Cognitive scientists have identified “primary metaphors” that arise from our bodily interactions with the world, like “Affection is Warmth” or “Importance is Size.” These metaphors are likely universal, embedded deeply within our neural frameworks, and get combined in intricate ways to form more complex conceptual metaphors. Recognizing this intertwining of cognition and metaphor provides an enriched understanding of human thought, elucidating how language and experience together shape our worldview.

Exploring the profound influence of metaphors on cognition can be a fascinating philosophical endeavor. It bridges linguistics, cognitive science, and philosophy, and challenges us to think about the underlying frameworks through which we perceive and engage with reality.

Metaphors as Epistemological Tools:

Within the domain of philosophy, metaphors are not merely seen as rhetorical devices but as epistemological tools. They help in bridging the known with the unknown, providing a scaffold upon which new knowledge can be constructed. Philosophers such as Paul Ricoeur have illuminated the interpretive depth that metaphors provide, suggesting that they open up “new dimensions of reality.” In this light, kennings, too, can be seen as not just poetic devices but as cognitive tools that expanded the epistemic horizons of their users, allowing them to conceptualize and communicate complex realities through concise symbolic representations.

In sum, while kennings themselves might not be directly taken up in philosophical treatises, they represent a rich intersection of language, metaphor, and cognition, offering plenty of avenues for deep philosophical exploration.

Book Recommendations:

  1. “Metaphors We Live By” by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson – A groundbreaking exploration into the deep-seated role of metaphors in our language and thought processes.
  2. The Rule of Metaphor” by Paul Ricoeur – Delving into the multi-dimensional nature of metaphor as a linguistic and philosophical phenomenon.

Reputable Links:

  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Metaphor

Content generated by OpenAI’s GPT-4.