Sunday, October 4, 2009

Metaphor and the Mind

Philosophers have long wondered about the connection between metaphor and thought:
  • "We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, and flowers, he wrote, and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things, metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities". - Niezche
  • "Inevitable clash of metaphors in all writing shows only too well that language may subvert or exceed an author's intended meaning". - Derrida
  • "A metaphor is often indispensable to express a concept (or meaning) for which words just do not exist in the language. Entire domains (spheres of knowledge such as anatomy and psychology) are mapped in other domains for lack of appropriate words". - Michel Breal
  • "Metaphors are markers of the roots of thought itself. They are the main mechanisms through which we comprehend abstract concepts and perform abstract reasoning. Abstract thought would be meaningless without bodily experience. People think with their brains and their brains are part of their bodies as well". - Lakoff and Johnson
  • "I think that metaphor really is a key to explaining thought and language. The human mind comes equipped with an ability to penetrate the cladding of sensory appearance and discern the abstract construction underneath - not always on demand, and not infallibly, but often enough and insightfully enough to shape the human condition. Our powers of analogy allow us to apply ancient neural structures to newfound subject matter, to discover hidden laws and systems in nature, and not least, to amplify the expressive power of language itself". - Steven Pinker
When we say someone is a warm person, we do not mean that they are running a fever. When we describe an issue as weighty, we have not actually used a scale to determine this. These phrases are metaphorical-they use concrete objects and qualities to describe abstractions like kindness or importance, we use them so often that we hardly notice them.

Nowadays cognitive scientists have begun to see the basic metaphors that we use all the time not just as turns of phrase, but as keys to the structure of thought. By taking these everyday metaphors as literally as possible, psychologists are upending traditional ideas of how we learn, reason, and make sense of the world around us.

They also suggest that much of what we think of as abstract reasoning is in fact a sometimes awkward piggybacking onto the mental tools we have developed to govern our body’s interactions with its physical environment. Put another way, metaphors reveal the extent to which we think with our bodies. “The abstract way we think is really grounded in the concrete, bodily world much more than we thought” says John Bargh.

Several studies about the relation between body and metaphor have been done, in one of them subjects were asked to hold a cup of either iced or hot coffee, not knowing it was part of the study, then a few minutes later asked to rate the personality of a person who was described to them. The hot coffee group, it turned out, consistently described a warmer person--rating them as happier, more generous, and more caring - than the iced coffee group. The effect seems to run the other way also.

Research about “where metaphor is grounded” is also being performed. It shows that It is not grounded in logic, nor in literary theory. There is no purely literal language in terms of which metaphor may be evaluated and objectively assessed. In the fields ranging from cognitive psychology to social anthropology, metaphors are currently subject to extensive analysis, but the findings can only be partial, and relative to the discipline involved. What is becoming clearer is that metaphors - like linguistic theory - are rooted in the beliefs, practices and intentions of language users.


JanetK said...

What a good collection of quotes!
A picture is worth a thousand words but a good metaphor is worth a thousand pictures. They are indispensable to communication. Imagine having to start at the beginning to explain anything - easier, faster and more accurate to mention to something similar and then modify it.
There is something called a 'dead metaphor' meaning a metaphor that has been used so often for so long that it has become literal rather than metaphorical in peoples minds. The meanings of many (perhaps the majority) of words are actually dead metaphors. The 'go' in 'how is her work going?' is a dead metaphor. The metaphor would be go=movement, go=journey, go=task, go=work.
We are happily swimming in a sea of metaphor.

Shadow said...

i think metaphors are the colour we add to the spoken (or written) words. describing concepts of the intangible, for which words don't exist maybe??? and without metaphors, what would writers do i ask...

Ruela said...

I love metaphors!

foam said...

... and sometimes we drown in a sea of metaphors .. lol ..
some are definitely overused.
anyway .. metaphors are interesting.
when i consciously take the time to think of metaphors (as in right now) i understand them visually. i think of them as a visual thought that helps us clarify language ....perhaps.... i don't really know what i'm talking about.

and now i'm off to wade through all these cliche metaphors that are invading my brain as i go off to check on the apple of my eye ..

Charles Gramlich said...

Metaphors are just a whole lot of fun. I like them in all their forms, humorous or not. I do believe they capture something about how we process the world in our thoughts.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot Janet, you aer very kind!
What a great quote, I love it (the one about the pictures and the metaphors). And I agree with what you say afterwards, it is just like that. Great way of putting it in words.
I knew about death metaphors, I agree with the concept of them, but somehow I am not completelly satisfied with their name, that is simply why I did not added them here, I would change the death for something else If I could.
I loved your last comment, it made me laugh, and the ending of it is happy and with a nice metaphor. What else can I ask?

Take care JanetK, and thanks a lot for this great comment.

Mariana Soffer said...

I also think that metaphor adds color, it is a nice way to put it in words. And like you say they describe things that do not exist yet. I do not know how things would be withouth them, I think that really different, or inexistent manybe. Imposible to guess.

Thanks for stepping by friend.

Mariana Soffer said...

I do to. "Handsome & sophisticated european gigolo" (metaphor for ruela self description.)

Bye bye Gig.

Mariana Soffer said...

Foam: I agree about the common places people tend to end in with words. Great metaphor for it.
They are, I agree, you can say something particular, with an even more particular twist.

Interesting how you think about them, so you are mostly a visual kind of person I infer. When I try to think about about them, make one new for a text, generally nothing cool apears in mind, just the common places that I hate.

Interesting las metaphor, the apple of your eye, is that one indeed or is more a dadaist kind of thing?

Take care Foam and cheers

Mariana Soffer said...

Charles Gramlich
You are totally right. They allow you to have fun, to say things in a different way, to explore language and the way you express yourself in a different special way.

I am not sure if they capture it or not, but I think it is an interesting idea, that can lead to something new about thoughts.

Take care said...

I think Aristoteles also talked about metaphors, do you remember what he said about them? About the regular ones, not the ones refering about how the mind works

Mariana Soffer said...


what I remember, which I luckly found on internet is that he said:

"The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others; it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an eye for resemblance." ("De Poetica," 322 B.C.)

Pedro said...

Does memory function different with metaphors than with letteral text? If so why?

foam said...

mariana ..
lol .. no, i actually have a sick child at home .. :)

Mariana Soffer said...


I found this paper from 1975, which my clarify your doubt.
Three experiments examined memory for metaphorical sentences. No differences between metaphors and nonmetaphorical equivalents (e.g.,The ivy cuddled up to the window vs.The ivy grew up to the window) in the number of correct recalls or recognitions were found. There was, however, a significant trend for recall errors that were meaning-preseving to be less metaphorical than the input sentence. The results supported hypotheses that metaphors and nonmetaphors are equally easy to remember and that the stored memory representation does not distinguish whether its antecedent linguistic input was metaphorical or not.
This research was supported by Grant MH 28493-01 from NIMH and by a grant from the Kansas State University Bureau of General Research.
Some of the data were reported at the Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Denver, November 1975.

Mariana Soffer said...

Hope is nothing serious, and that he gets well pretty soon. Have fun meanwhile writing silly metaphors.

John Ettorre said...

That Pinker quote is powerful, and true. Thanks for posting it.

Mariana Soffer said...

John Ettorre:
Thanks a lot, I am glad you like it, I think he has some amazing theories and others which with I do not agree so much.
If you want to check more about what he says you can go to:

Take care

geek said...

Well metaphors add emotions and life into seemingly cold concrete words. I want to post an oral literature from the Ibanag (an ethnic group here in my country). It is about the man and the woman. I can't remember the exact words, so I'll come back tomorrow. I'll ask my friend who studied them.

Mariana Soffer said...

You are more than welcome to post that, indeed I am really intrigued about it, I really want to know it.

Thanks a lot for your valuable colaboration dear.

John said...

You say that calling a person 'warm' is a metaphor, but is that true?
Perhaps that warm person is more relaxed and has better blood flow than a 'cold' person and is therefore a little bit physically warmer.

What about that?

Mark Kerstetter said...

Metaphors aren't "special" - in the sense that every word depends on other words and, ultimately, all words are interconnected - they are rooted in the body and our bodies are interconnected (to each other and to everything else). This post reminds me of why I like Wittgenstein.

otin said...

You are a deep person metaphorically speaking! I bet you are hot as well, in a metaphorical sense! HAHAHA! Are you sure that you want me commenting here? LOL!

Rayuela said...

Probablemente la metáfora tenga que ser estudiada por psicólogos y antropólogos,como vos decís, ya que están incorporadas a nuestro decir y sentir cotidiano,desde lo ancestral.
Desde el punto de vista literario, pienso que la metáfora es una de las mejores formas de darle tensión a una frase.Y que también usamos metáforas de metáforas...por ejemplo, una novela completa puede ser una metáfora de...tal o cual cosa. Entonces deberíamos volver al concepto original de significado y significante.

De los teóricos que citaste estoy de acuerdo con Pinker, y cerca de Derrida.

Un beso,Mariana!
(ya visité "Fotografías",me resultó interesantísimo, pero necesito de más tiempo para leerlo.Gracias por acercarme hasta allí)

Mariana Soffer said...

Mark Kerstetter

Very nice comment, you got inspired, that is great.
In my opinion everything depends on the context, there is no doubt about that.
This reminded me of the previous post, in which quote number six states "All meaning is context dependent. Nothing has inherent meaning. Which leads me to think that meaning is in the relationship and interaction between things."
Wittengstein is so interesting, thanks to you, and all the commenters and bloggers I got to know his work, including this quote that says

"The riddle does not exist. If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered."

Thanks a lot for your comment

Mariana Soffer said...


You are so funny man, I love that. And let me clear your doubts,
1. I am a little shallow but I try to show the contrary to the other people.
2. Regarding if I am hot, well I guess my answer would be kind of biased, but anyway I think I have some beauty on the surfase, at least that is what people tend to think about me. Probably it is all due to the color of my hair "blond", that is all it takes to be atractive to men.

3. I love you commenting here, you bring joy and take away the exessive seriousnes.

Thanks otin, cheers to you.

Mariana Soffer said...

Rayuela said
Probably metaphors need to be studied by psichoanalists and antropologists, as you say, given that they are added to our everyday sayings and feelings, since ancestral times.
From the literary viewpoint, I think that using a metaphor is one of the best ways of adding tension to a sentence. And that we also use metaphors about metaphors... for example, a hole novel can be a metaphor about ... this or that stuff. Then we should go back to the original concept that talks about signifier and significant.

Among the thinkers that I agree with are Pinker and close by is Derrida.

A kiss Mariana
(Comment about a spanish blog)

Mariana Soffer said...

I think it also needs to be considered as language, part of the culture.
I think metaphors can be great and awful in literary terms, they can make you very emotional, but they can also be one hughe cliche, well in both cases I guess they can produce tension in a sentence.

Very interesting what you said about doing a metaphor of a metaphor of a metaphor ....., I did not thought about it, maybe that is the way concepts where build indeed.

I read sociour a long long time ago, so I have a blurry memory about his statments about s and s. I would rather not comment about that, but I would love it somebody could explain it.

Yeah! Pinker is my favourite, I think we agree with that, you should try to read something from him, it is really interesting.

A big hugh
(Y me alegro mucho que te halla interesado el blog que habla de macedonio, muy copado)

aditya said...

I am not much of a techie personality.

I would love to quote Frank O Hara --

"I don't ... like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone's chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don't turn around and shout, 'Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.'"

So ... just write. :)

the walking man said...

Pondering now on the value of metaphorical thinking and teaching. I am wondering what makes a metaphor? In order for it to work it has to be relevant to the audience or culture within which it is used.

If I never saw or had no knowledge of a goat then someone calling me an old goat would mean nothing because I do not have the learned reference frame for it.

I intentionally try to not use too many metaphors, instead trying to use the language as it is to get a specific image across. I like it best when someone finds a metaphor when I intended none. Once it is pointed out to me then I too can see the writing in a different way.

I do think that metaphorical thinking is appreciable but that it comes only after having the needed base framework of understanding conceptual thinking in place

Mariana Soffer said...

I know, and I am glad about it, I like to relate to different kind of people and be exposed to different stuff.

I liked the fact that you quote him a lot, he says words that are so beautiful that it makes me wanna read it non stop so I can keep enjoying those words.

You are so right, great advice you gave me. Thanks, i might start today.

take care

Mariana Soffer said...

the walking man

I guess you are kind of right, but you need to adjust that thought. I am sure that the metaphor needs to be relevant for the audience, that is for sure, but it also has to be atractive to them, interesting, it needs a component of mistery, of something that needs to be discovered, which is not that far away from being revealed.
Metaphors are part of our culture, as well as language.

I think it would be something unknown for you, which means that you know it means something but you do not know what. I am not sure you need a reference frame here, for understanding metaphors, you just need to know them along with their rules in our communication forms.

Really interesting that you try that, I really like to know it, I guesss I would have to do the same to start writting, because I love your style, and I also do terrible cheese metaphors.

It is interesting when metaphors are not even notice, they kind of stop being metaphors and start being literal textual content? what do you think about this, I am not sure yet.

I agree with your ending, you have to be capable of thinking in an abstract way, and to be able to manipulate properly the language in which you write or speak.

Thanks a lot WT for this,
you made me think, a lot and I am still not sure about what I wrote here.

~pi said...

coming to per-form



coming later


big kiss to you


Mariana Soffer said...

piiiiii, how nice to see you arround always carrying the magical number that allows creating a circular shape.
Your visit makes me feel like jumping up and down in circles, as if I where in a carrousel (I guess this is a terrible sentence, excuseme but I am trying to learn to write poems).

Big kiss and come back whenever you want to do those things.

Jim Murdoch said...

When one considers just how metaphorical our day to day language is it surprises me that a) more people don't write poetry and b) so many people struggle with poetry. Poetry of course has been defined as metaphor which is a bit of an oversimplification but it's on the right track.

The Grandpa said...

I think there needs to be a distinction made between using methaphor and creating metaphor. The metaphors we use are part of the language we learn and in a sense have lost their metaphorical quality. They are not really a comparison. These are terms that we have ascribed a literal meaning to. But when they were created and when new metaphors are created, they are a new way to see--a way to create meaning, a new way to understand the world. That might explain why so many people have trouble with poetry. Most of us, even most poets have trouble embracing new ways of understanding.

Mariana Soffer said...


interesting thouguts it never occured to me that, but any way I am not convince that our habitual use of metaphor
does necesarily imply that our inclination towards writting poetry would be hier, or that writing it for us would be an easier think to do for us
Maybe yes, maybe now I am not sure about that, I think that metaphors in poem might be a little different than the ones used in poems, of course depending on the kind of poem you are writing.
You made me think something interesting, what about haikus? what s up with them and their metaphors?
Maybe haikus are the twitted version of poem that appear on blogs.

A pleasure to have you hearing sharing your thoughts with me

Mariana Soffer said...

The grampa

Excelent statment, I agree with it. Well many metaphors are not considered metaphors any more, those are called
dead-metaphors.(check the first comment where this is well explained by Janet)
I guess that the difference would be innovating or, following the trend that is already established.
We all have difficults learning any type of new thing, for some is less, and for some is more. Also you can be
train in learning quicker in certain areas, such as poetry or painting. But there is also creating and the dificulty involving it, which is different than the one of understanding. We also have to deal with the second type of dificulty in poetry.

Excelent comment my friend, thanks for it.

Rob Bryanton said...

As a person speaking multiple languages, Mariana, I'm sure you know there are metaphors which are specific to language, and which therefore don't translate well. It would be very interesting to see which metaphors are more universal in that regard. Last month I bought season one of "Lie to Me" on DVD, which I hadn't seen before. I'm fascinated by its underlying premise which is that there are emotions displayed in people's body language and facial expressions which are universal - but it seems clear to me that there are also learned behaviors which are not universal but rather cultural.

In English we say that we are looking ahead to the future and thinking back to the past. Someone told me that there are oriental languages where those people look ahead to the past (which, having happened we can see more clearly), and that the future is behind us (which would be why it's harder for us to see).

It's fascinating to see the connections that draw us together, but there are also differences which separate us from each other, and that is often where miscommunications and misunderstandings begin. Like the dog who wags his tail and can't understand why the cat hisses at him, sometimes culture and language create some of these barriers.

Another excellent blog, Mariana!


Andy Coffey said...


My chief interest in what you have posted is in the body/ mind connection. Most of us are more than willing (these days) to admit that the body and mind are connected. But what you posted also suggests that the body and mind might very well be a different matter than merely the "grey" stuff.
"... and their brains are part of their bodies as well." Lakoff and Johnson.
While it is a worthwhile pursuit to delve into the purely linguistic and cognitive pleasures of the metaphor, I can't help but mention my growing awareness as a writer, AND a construction worker: a carpenter, of my bodies ability to "think" it's way through problems that my brain, might play only a small role in.
I'll just say it: I am beginning to wonder if the body does not have a manner by which it "triangulates" thoughts, and "relational meaning" through it's gut mechanisms. So much attention is given to the brain (and why not, we don't understand it) and the nerves, that some of the more fantastic forms of "communication" like the action of the muscles and our reactions to the world (far faster than our nervous system communicates) that some of the more basic physics, of how the body manages to make us not only sentient but animate, encourages me to see our entire selves as thinking.
It's possible that a coevolution occurred right next to the human (and I think, some other organisms) consciousness, where a bodily cognition took shape. And wouldn't this explain, perhaps more simply, and thoughtfully, why we move through the world not with our brains at the center of our heads, but with our bodies at the center of our awareness?

Andy Coffey said...


I especially like that one of the lines I read postulated that the body plays a role in cognition.

Being someone who works with his hands, I couldn't agree more.

Eshuneutics said...

Interesting that "metaphor" is so often read as a "substitute". Many years ago, Ted Hughes wrote a brilliant defence of metaphor in "Does Northtown need Poetry". His argument was that metaphor is thought, is not a substitue for anything, but the very peak of thought. Metaphor, for him, was the alchemy of language...eternal renewal. I would tend to agree...

Rick said...

Hello again, Mariana! In my art, I always taught that there were "levels" or hierarchies of thought, with an expression functional for each emanation. We were also taught the theory (the art is 1600 years old) of body thought, which seems to correspond with what you are discussing.

kj said...

you are so patient with me, mariana--all your good comments on my blog and i finally show up here--my loss! your post and these comments are fascinating. i tend to use metaphors in my writing because i think they help a person "see" and understand more easily. i have learned the hard way not to mix metaphors, which i'm prone to do (it's a cat, no it's a snake, no it's a winding ribbon).

i studied stephen pinker one summer in preparation for my my book happiness. i wanted to explain how the mind works and how its insistance on "guarantees" can short circuit being present and living without fear. i must say i found pinker challenging. how bright he must be!

mariana, i am very glad to know you. you are one of a kind.

tsup and mwah!

love to you,

A Cuban In London said...

Amazing post. It's funny how one of the theories on which you expand has the concrete world as the basis for metaphor when we tend to think of this mental process as a subsconscious activity. The warm person represents the sun and the sun is the indispensable for life. The idea comes before the feeling of warmth. Or is it the other way around?

Great article.

Greetings from London.

Dave King said...

There's always been a mystery about how metaphor works in the mind. I hope there always will be, otherwise it may stop being metaphor.

Vesper said...

Mariana, what an interesting post! I love languages and anything that pertains to etymology is fascinating to me.
The quotes are excellent.

Angela Recada said...

First, an interesting and, in my experience, valid comment you made:

"Probably it is all due to the color of my hair "blond", that is all it takes to be attractive to men."

I'd just like to add that it also helps if the blond hair is long.

But I'll be more serious now. To me metaphors exist because, as a species, humans have not yet developed the words to adequately describe all we experience and wish to express verbally. So we are compelled to become almost poetic to describe what mere words often cannot describe.

Any discussion like this always fascinates me. The simple fact that we humans are capable of analyzing and trying to comprehend the mysteries of our own minds, with our own brains, is marvelous. See? "Marvelous" doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about this.

This post is a "shining example" of why I enjoy your blog.

ArtSparker said...

Metaphor can be a more precise (because more all-encompassing/universal) means of language than plodding straightforward language. Guess that shows my hand - . There are people who are so literal as to distrust metaphor, one obvious group being fundamentalist Christians in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mariana. Here is another concept for you: the language of the spirit moves in metaphor, not words, which were invented as a necessity for communication when in the physical form.

We love the metaphor because it tantalizes us on that level of communication we have originated from.

Hope you're well!

Anonymous said...

Good one and it helps a lot.Thank you for your great post.

Karim - Positive thinking

Anonymous said...

Good one and it helps a lot.Thank you for your great post.

Karim - Positive thinking

Mariana Soffer said...

Andy Coffey
Very interesting idea, because most of what is done is related about body and emotions, but not body and thought, probably there should be more people working on that stuff.
And I think it could be perfectly logical the fact that the body is the center of our awareness, we would need ways to demonstrate that is real I guess. It sure forms part of it in my opinion.

Those a re great thoughts shared with us (and maybe the body was shared too) Thanks a lot for it.

Mariana Soffer said...

Rob Bryanton
You are right there are metaphors that do not translate well, which is a problem sometimes when you speak more than one language. You get stuck there.
Interesting that premise about the series, I never saw it, I will check it out so I can get it, cause it sound really interesting, I think anyway that they might be a mix of both cultural and nature, and there is also the problem that Is becoming harder and harder to prove the cultural part given that nowadays everybody is becoming influenced by everyone else (we still have some isolated groups but I am not sure they are going to last.

Excellent example about a cultural difference in analogies/metaphors. I never heard of it, but I like it a lot.

You are right languages can also cause not to understand each other, but I guess in this case there are more the hit than the misses indeed.

Thanks you very much for you great comment, very thoughtful and interesting.

Thanks for adding it to me place.

Mariana Soffer said...

Andy Coffey
Well cognition is the higher, most elevated process part of the brain, so I guess it is the part of the thoughts you where referring to mainly. I would think that connection is the most interesting one as well.

Mariana Soffer said...


Interesting, it is similar to the part that is on the end of the evolution of language the part that is produced by it.


Mariana Soffer said...

never heard that art was 1600 years of body thought, who said that? I never heard/read that kind of elaboration.
I agree with the levels idea completelly, I think it to myself like that always.

Thanks a lot Rick

Mariana Soffer said...


Don t worry about the patient we all take the time we need, or at least we should do it.

So you read pinker, what an interesting thing, I like a lot of things that he says, but some of them I do not agree with, but who am I to say? I guess he does know much more and done much more research on that subject.

PS:I just finished your book, I could not stop reading it, I finished it in 2 days, I will write to you about it son. It was great.

Love and take care

Mariana Soffer said...

A Cuban In London
It is puzzling isn't it, it is just like you say, I try not to think on those terms cause my mind shortcuts itself, I tried to thing that sides are part of a hole. Taking out the cause an effect stuff. Because only in classic physics it is so clear what causes what to happen.
Thanks a lot friend

Mariana Soffer said...

Dave king

Great words, thanks

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot, you can check out the posts from peter Turney that refer to it, he is really clear, the blog is called
another good one is:

I am glad you visited this blog

~otto~ said...

A writing teacher of mine demanded that we always keep metaphors and similies "on the body," and your post helps me understand why a little bit better.

aditya said...

ah !!

You are already doing a great job Mariana, discussing such things !

Nice .. do keep it up !!

Rick said...

Hi Mariana- the art I meant was the one I learned from my Instructor. He's in his late eighties now, but still spry. I'm working on some books about him now, hoping to elicit more philosophy of the art from him before he passes on. Lots to learn still, but I thought you might find the reference to body thinking interesting. He told me once a long time ago that the blind understand the language of the body much better than the sighted, but that of all the languages the body speaks, the olfactory is the most important as gas diffuses the most quickly throughout the body.

Ted Bagley said...

Roman Jakobson?

Andy Coffey said...


"You been reading my mail", as they sometimes say in good country songs. I think connection between things, not necessarily only neurons, is exactly an area ripe for answering certain mysteries about the path of information throughout the body. It is said that our nervous system is not capable of transmitting signals fast enough to account for a great deal of human behavior. It has been suggested by marginal voices in the scientific community that perhaps there is some room, in research, for looking into the structures of "liquid crystalline" water in cells as conduits for communication of some kind. Being a carpenter I am unlikely to know the wheat from the chaff here, but it's pretty interesting to thoroughly consider even the simplest human movement from the standpoint of classical models of our nervous function. They don't seem to add up.

Harlequin said...

nicely done... as long as I am a consciousness in a body, I am condemned to hermeneutic... would not have it any other way!

Anon Andon said...

You're stirring the pot here now, aren't you, Mariana? Bien dicho y hecho.

Metaphor is a curious topic for discussion as it seems to evoke deeply embedded (/embodied) ideologies of truth, art, fact, science, and claims about the world as it really is. We can write or speak about it as if it were a "substitute" for something else more factual, more basic , yet never seem to be able to avoid it.

Perhaps it is metaphor that creates the soup that calls the hand to stir the pot that
language built.

geek said...

Hey! My friend's too busy to give me the poems they were analyzing. And I'm sorry, I mentioned it was from the Ibanag. I was wrong. It's from the Gaddang. But here is one of their literature (as translated in English):

Around the lamp,

A glittering light,

Spilled in the aark of the night

Suffered the moth

As it swooped into the flame

While it was flapping its wings.

Because of its love

It dared to do what is dangerous;

It should not have gone too close.

It should not have played with fire.

But it dove into the flame

As fate instructed him.

You can see more on this site:

Lucas said...

What an interesting discussion! Your post on the philosophy of language has proved relevant to the concerns of many individuals - myself included. Many thanks, I will revisit this fascinating blog.

Uncle Tree said...

Hello, Mariana!

I think we use metaphors when we don't wish to say something directly. I don't want to hurt your feelings, so I beat around the bush. If you were hot-tempered, you might fire back with gaudy sarcasms. I could then say, "You're nuts!" And then you could call me a fruit.

I like to play with food. But you know that. You've seen me go bananas before. Lettuce pray together, that we may all get a piece of that pie in the sky. My brain's been fried since I brought home the bacon.

Poor, poor, cheesy metaphor,
left me with egg on my face once more.

paulandrewrussell said...

I would be lost if I couldn't use metaphors.

human being said...

greaaaaaaaaaaate post!

as a user of language, this is my belief, practice, and intention:
(click on the link below)

metaphor is used when...

love and peace to you my dear friend

Paul said...

Amazing, Mariana, there is a movement afoot to deny that genuine creativity and hence art is still possible. They intend to make an argument that everything is just remixing old stuff, all poetry is just old words remixed, all painting just old images remixed and then to use that argument to do away with copyright so that artists like myself can no longer earn money from our work. Perhaps you could set your incredible tribe of amazing thinkers to this question? It is a natural progression from your previous discussions and would of real help to me in the upcoming struggle. Thanks for all your incredible work, one of the most intelligent and interesting places on the web,

Ribbon said...


Please accept an award/challenge from me to you.
It's over at my blog waiting to be collected.

best wishes
x Ribbon

Ted Bagley said...

I think that between two people who want to connect metaphor is the surest instance of a missed encounter if the metaphor goes without question.

JanetK said...

Andy Coffey is right when he says that the speed of nervous signals is not fast enough for the model of behaviour that many people have. The new model in neuro-science is that the brain predicts. So the incoming sensory information has to be processed to give what is expected in the near future - and also compared with what was forecast from the near past. So we live in the present 'now' by virtue of sensing the past and guessing the future. If the prediction fails to be accurate then we change our understanding of what is going on until it is accurate. I think the way its is done is awe inspiring - just wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I am actually thinking, that life is one big metaphor!

ScrinS said...

Hola Maria, mi carencia de la lengua inglesa me impiden entender tu blog, pero no es una barrera para pasar y dejarte un cariñoso abrazo

Id it is said...

Metaphors embellish language, and not by just adding deeper and implicit meaning to a context, but also because they draw the reader into the context. The reader uses his interpretation of the metaphor to link with the context in question. Metaphors increase the bonding between the reader and the read.
You provided some interesting quotes and research there Mariana. I would be curious to know your take on 'personification', another literary tool.

Shubhajit said...

Nice subject. I think life is very simple and the definitions are so simple so that it would become very boring for every organism if there were no metaphors in definitions.

Even in animals life metaphors are used though in subtle sense or may be we can't understand it. There is always duality in every aspect of life therefore, metaphors are being used.

Nice to read you again after long time.

Jason Gusmann said...

ah mariana - the metaphor as a function of the body's dominance over our animal existence - as much as we try to forget we are animals and our sensory input is governed by that (Seasonal Affective Disorder being an obvious indication that we animals should be hibernating all winter) the animal body infiltrates our language and specifically our metaphors - thank you!

TC said...


Swell post once again...

Another of our curious coincidences, have just today been talking with SarahA and Lucy in the Sky about how One Dreams Up Metaphors

Anonymous said...

Cool post, Mariana. I have been noticing recently just how much metaphor is used in philosophical texts. They are certainly a fascinating creature.

Stu said...

Great post, Mariana.

I take issue with this part of Pinker's quote: "The human mind comes equipped with an ability to penetrate the cladding of sensory appearance and discern the abstract construction underneath". Nietzsche, for one, would turn in his grave at this.

Perhaps Pinker feels he's justifiably using a metaphor to describe the power of metaphor, but his metaphor "subvert[s] and exceed[s]" his meaning (to draw on the quote from Derrida) by maintaining the myth of 'abstraction' lying 'beneath' this 'cladding' of sensory appearance. Pinker's metaphor fails, for me, because he attempts to 'situate' this 'abstraction' - the abstract/concrete opposition breaks down at this point. And not only at this point...

I don't think Pinker has understood Nietzsche, let alone Derrida.

Or perhaps I'm being a bit unkind to Pinker? Does he go on to explain why the metaphor he uses is problematic?

(Of course all metaphors are problematic...)

human being said...

where are you, Mariana?
you are missed... a lot!

love and peace to you

Abdul said...

I'm very impressed to Mr.Andy Coffey

mi otro yo said...


Das sensaciones y pensamientos diversos cuando se te lee, sos interesante en tus palabras.

Te dejo un beso

kj said...

hey! are you alright? where have you been? i miss you a bit....


Maxine said...

Have drafted this comment many times and then deleted it because it always contained a metaphor :)

Anonymous said...

just came to see how you are doing?
are you healthy and gay?
hope so


Anonymous said...

en psicoterapia utilizamos mucho la metafora, como una forma de explicarle al paciente si entendemos lo que nos dice y para graficar la problematica, de forma que el la puedan comprender de forma menos literal y mas emotiva, situandose en un lugar inexistente, pero reflejo fiel de su forma de procesar la info.

y es curiosa la forma en que algunos "enganchan" mejor con la imagen metaforica que con la abstraccion misma. llegamos a sus cogniciones de la misma forma, pero esta pintura permite una conexion mayor que el concepto en sí.

los conceptos explican, describen. La metafora explica, pero situa al receptor dentro de un campo mas practico, mas cercano, y permite la elaboracion de eventos y evaluaciones de mejor forma.

es la particularidad del lenguaje: crea realidades, utilizando diversas herramientas.



Rick said...

I hope that you are in good health and doing well, Mariana, and only just taking a break from blogging. We all miss your fascinating posts and look forward to your return.


benjibopper said...

metaphors are also magic tricks, substituting bland things with potent images.

great post.

Don físico said...

A methaphor is perhaps a way of believing (see my last post) that we can say more than the literal meaning of the words, and more important, that we can induce somekind of empathy or mind connection making the methaphor reader/listener to feel or think the same way that the methaphor´s maker.
It´s also one way more of abstracting things or depicting (in poetry) the beauty (or any other quality) felt by the poet. It´s the poetry and the poets the most users of the methaphor, because they really want to trascend words but using them!
It´s clear the limitations of language, so I tend to agree somewhat with Nietzche but I fell he had exagerated the issue. Because at the same time we can agree of limitations on language and words, we have to agree that language and words is all we have to comunicate an idea!
(Oh, yeah, we can draw pictures, but somewhat is another kind of "language" and also is has limitations when it comes to describe details and it can not describe abstract things).

Rob Bryanton said...

Hi Mariana, I see you're taking a little break from your wonderful blog. Best wishes to you, I look forward to your return when you're done dealing with whatever has taken your attention elsewhere for now.

Fond regards,


Mariana Soffer said...

I Am really proud to have recieved such interesting comments, I love reading them, they provide me with lots of new ideas about things I want to learn, it teaches me a lot, and it makes me want to go on having this fabulous interchange here.
I am going to excuse myself (hope you understand), but I have been at the hospital for more than a month, so I am slowly returning to the blog word, thefore I will take some timne to reply in more detail all of your fantastic commentaries.
Thanks once again

human being said...

hospital, Mariana?
so happy you are well and back now... please take care of yourself and rest a lot...
your health is the most important thing... we wait patiently for your precious thoughts and words...

lots of warm fuzzies and kisses and hugs

Mariana Soffer said...

otto;Intersting what you say, nice way of putting it.
Aditta: thanks a lot
What you wrote it is beyond words for me, it is the perfect compliment and understanding of what I meant with the blog name.
It is amazing you insight capability, thanks a lot.
Rick: It is very interesting and vast the study about how we communicate, the different ways humans can transmit information, the
particularities and complexities of them, and also how the body adapts according to its needs to the communication system.
I am interested in what you have been working, I would like to get to know a little bit about them.

Mariana Soffer said...

ted bagley: ????
andy: yes it is very interesting to explore, exiting also, the guy who commented above RICK, also was reffering
to this kinds of issues, you might be interested in checking him out
harlequin: Thanks and interesting comment

Mariana Soffer said...

anon andon: True, it is a key topic to unveil what is embedded in there, it is an open research problem.
I loved how you poetically described metaphors in your last paragraph

geek: interesting verses, made me reflect a lot. I will surelly check the proyect out soon. Thanks a lot
Lucas: I am really lad you are interested, and that you apreciated and whant to explore more writtings a little bit more

Mariana Soffer said...

Uncle tree: as always is a pleasure for me to read your poems/thoughts/word-art, I loved your last sentences.
What you say about how we use metaphors for not causing harm is true, but it is only one of the interesting aspects of metaphors,
I think there are other interesting ones.

Paulandrewrusell: Exactely!, me too, I think that even dough we do not fully notice we should change our whole way of talking/writting if we did not have them
human being: thanks you very much!!! fascinating link also, brings many topics to mind I would like to discuss more thorougly with time
Love to you too

Mariana Soffer said...

Paul: I am really honored about your comment, thanks a lot. I think that metaphors and remixes are kind of analogous
they are based on previous existing stuff and create new things (besides other properties they have), pretty
Love to you

THANKS a lot for the award; i will check your blog asap to proudly collect and check out the award!!

TC said...


I've missed you.

Wonderful to have you back.

Take it easy on yourself!



Mariana Soffer said...

Andrew coffey and janetk:
Very interesting discusion, great reflection andy, you really open a new viewpoint for me, and I think janet response adds value to that idea. Anyway I wanted to say that I think that all the factors tend to affect the phenomena in greater or lower degree anyway.
Thanks guys

Mariana Soffer said...

ted:sorry but I do not get you.
Sarah: very nice way of viewing it.
Scring:muchismas gracias me encanta tu saludo (He made a really gentle and productive comment, at least for me)

Mariana Soffer said...

id it is:
great comment, thanks a lot for such enriching words, I like a lot the idea that one of the functions is increasing the bonding, that is great. About personalization I think that in everything there are universals and particularties, and that are the things that have to be taking in acoount (along with their proportions, loose of focus,...) in the process of fact of personalization.

Shubhajit: Thanks a lot for your interestin and kind word, it is a nice model the one you propose, I have to think about it deeper, but I consider that is on the right track, although it departs from other side.cheers!

Mariana Soffer said...

jason gusman: thank you very much for your interesting comment, I think you should read the commentaries above this one that expand and explain also other aspects of what you research about here.

TC: thanks a lot! It seems nowbody can escape metaphors, they are becoming fully pervasive.

maekito: thanks a lot, interestin aspect to do research on, the metaphor in philosophical texts, I would like to check that out.

Mariana Soffer said...

Stu: good point, I think all self referential things have a high propencity to lead to false conclusion and to
create ackward paradoxes, you have to be extremelly cafefull dealin with that, pay atention to which level
of the object of analisis is directed and aplied your analisis and do not forget that the same analysis applied at
different levels, have different characteristics and implicantions and need different considerations.

Abdul: mr coffe is really someone to learn from. I agree that he is somethin speciall

mi otro yo: hi, thanks for your nice visit.

angela: Loved the blond hear comment, see you understand. I am really glad you enjoy my blog, thanks a lot,
and I think you might be interested in reading somethig like the "unknown unknowns" what they are and how they
interact with us, there is a book from taleb which I would recomend. Thanks

Mariana Soffer said...

artParkerger: there is something called the asperger syndrom, which you might want to explore that the people
who has is are generally unable to understand jokes or figues of speach, they take all litterally, there is
something different with their brains that does not allow this common for us function to express in this particular
kind of persons.

Theperceptionpoint: Thanks and I like a lot what you say about the spirit, I call it in my words as beiing something
deep, real, not just decoration.

Karim: Thanks a lot

Mariana Soffer said...

otto:excelent comment, metaphors are not only produced by the more elevated part of the brain, they are part of our hole beings.

aditya: thanks a lot!

lucas; thanks and glad it is of interest to you
benji hooper Loved the idea of magic tricks

don fisico: everything is a way of beliving, every single categorization or convention.
True about depicting and abstracting, and great what you say about trasending.

Mariana Soffer said...

maxine: I think is perfect your comment, it is real it autenthic, it is yours.

cerdotopia: cierto y clarificador el uso en psicoterapia. Tambien como tu dices hay gente
la cual incorpora mejor o entiende mejor la informacion dependiendo de la manera en que esta
transmitida, por ejemplo hay quien prefiere lo visual y quien prefiere lo auditivo.
El tema con las metaforas siguiendo lo que dicen es que dejan un aspecto abierto a la definicion,
no tienen la absurda rigides a la cual muchos pretenden llegar.

Ted Bagley said...

That's OK, you don't have to get me. :)
Welcome back! Hope you had a nice rest.

Mariana Soffer said...

ted bagley
I know I am pretty late but anyway I wanted to thank you for welcoming me back and for your nice wishes. I want to catch up with your texts ASAP.
Hope you are doing great man

Mariana Soffer said...

ted bagley
I know I am pretty late but anyway I wanted to thank you for welcoming me back and for your nice wishes. I want to catch up with your texts ASAP.
Hope you are doing great man

Anonymous said...

I congratulate, what excellent message.

Mariana Soffer said...

Anonymous: You are so nice, thanks a lot for the encouragment

t said...

metaphors post
is pretty deep, mariana

i dug it

enough puns

× × ×


Mariana Soffer said...

The above is a message from t that I thought should not be lost, this is his true person:

Pak Faizal said...

Dear Marrianne.
Nice to read your post.Honestly, your writing is as good as Elnur Fibala's writing about the uniqueness of metaphor. it is still suprising for me that sometimes I don't awere that I'm swimming in the sea of metaphor everyday.

warm wishes
Pak faizal
Indonesia,South-East Asia :)