Lakoff & Johnson, Metaphors We Live By

Lakoff & Johnson,
Metaphors We Live By
HMXP 102
The Authors
• Lakoff and Johnson are cognitive linguists.
• That is, they study the relationship
between thought, language, and action (as
in the piece that you read for today).
• A key question for them is the following:
How do language and thought
influence each other?
Definition of “Metaphor”
• What is L&J’s definition of “metaphor”?
• What do they mean by “metaphorical
L&J’s Definitions
• Metaphor: See Human Experience 8: "The essence of metaphor is
understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of
• Metaphor: "An analogy identifying one object with another and
ascribing to the first object one or more of the qualities of the
second" (Harmon and Holman, A Handbook to Literature). A
comparison between two things without the use of "like" or "as."
• A metaphorical concept is a sentence like “Argument is war.” It is a
complete thought, rather than a mere image. L&J prefer the term
metaphorical concept because metaphor is part of our conceptual
system; metaphor is not just an image but also a complete thought;
and as such, metaphor has an impact on action, for action arises
from thought.
Review of Plato
• What is Plato’s main metaphor?
• What sub-metaphors does he use?
• What is Plato’s main metaphor?
– Education is (like) leaving a cave where appearances
are distorted.
• What submetaphors does he use?
Dragging someone up to the light
Turning around
Upward journey
Light and darkness
L&J on the First Iraq War
Important points from "Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the
Gulf" (Part 1):
"Secretary of State Baker saw Saddam Hussein as 'sitting on our economic lifeline.'"
The occupation of Kuwait = a "rape," a "kidnap"
War = crime: "murder, assault, kidnapping, arson, rape, and theft"
War = a competitive game (chess) or a sport (football, boxing); emphasis on "strategic thinking"
"War is politics pursued by other means."
War = a fight between two people
War = a fairy tale: villain (Saddam), victim (Kuwait, US), hero (US), magic (weapons)
War = medicine ("surgical strikes")
Politics = business
The state = a person
Well-being = wealth
Strength for a state = military capability
Maturity for a state = industrialization
Goal of the war = to "push Iraq back out of Kuwait," to "deal the enemy a heavy blow" or a
"knockout punch"
Risks = gambles
• What is L&J’s main point in our text? See
if you can pinpoint it.
L&J’s Main Point
• See Human Experience 6th ed: "Our
ordinary conceptual system, in terms of
which we both think and act, is
fundamentally metaphorical in nature. …
Our concepts structure what we perceive,
how we get around in the world, and how
we relate to other people. Our conceptual
system thus plays a central role in defining
our everyday realities.”
Outline of the Text
• First section:
– Main idea (previous slide)
– Example: “ARGUMENT IS WAR” vs. argument is a
dance (8).
• Second section:
– Main ideas: “there are often many metaphors that
partially structure a single concept”; metaphors
overlap (9)
– Example: “AN ARGUMENT IS A
To Do: Explore Metaphors
• With primaries coming up next year,
explore metaphors that are used to
discuss the presidential primaries and
• Complete the following sentence as many
times as you can:
(Argument is war.)
Politics is______________.
For Example (and not to be repeated)
Politics is…
• A horse race
• A gauntlet
• A fireworks show
To Do: Next Step
• Take one of your metaphors and identify
• Example:
– Politics is a boxing match.
– One candidate scores a knock-out punch.
To Do: Why Is This Important?
• Why is it important to realize that when we
describe something, we do so in terms of
something else?
• Complete the following sentence:
It is important to understand the role of
metaphor in human communication
because ______________.
L&J’s Answer
• "We talk about arguments that way
because we conceive of them that way—
and we act according to the way we
conceive of things” (my emphasis).
• What does this statement mean to you?
Expanding L&J’s Point
• Thought  language  action  habit 
character  destiny.
• Be careful of your thoughts because
they can manifest in language and in
action! Thoughts can shape your
In Other Words
• Saying that “thoughts are things” means that
thought energy can influence the world around
• These three words may be the most important
lesson of the entire semester. As you think, so
will you also be.
• In other words, your “self” is a product of your
Lakoff’s Embodied Mind Thesis
• If thought is metaphorical, then truth is not a direct
reflection of reality. Truth is not an artifact (something
fixed for all time); it is a construct.
• That is, we make our own reality by thinking in certain
ways. See Human Experience 7: "Our concepts
structure what we perceive, how we get around in
the world, and how we relate to other people. Our
conceptual system thus plays a central role in
defining our everyday realities."
• Further, we understand abstractions in terms of our own
bodies as well as objects and events in the physical
• So truth results from a relationship between the
perceiving mind and the perceived object or idea.
• If you take the ideas on the previous slide
to their logical extreme, what point
• There is no Truth, only perspective. This is the
position called “relativism.” Everything is relative to
something else (in this case, the perceiving mind).
• As in our discussion of Plato, what is Truth (an absolute,
an artifact waiting to be discovered), and what is truth (a
perspective, something relative)? What is the
difference between truth-as-artifact and truth-asconstruct?
• The truth of everything you have believed to be true your
entire life—including the Bible—is now open for doing
exactly what Plato says: namely, turning around and
getting a clearer perspective.
Truth vs. truth
• Can you think of any Truths on which we
can all agree?
• What if there is nothing that occupies in
our lives the same position as the
Forms/Ideas in Plato?
• What if there is no such thing as truth-asartifact?
To Do: What Does This Mean to
Activity: Zen Demonstration
Student: Great teacher, I have come to learn from you.
Teacher: (Sizing up pupil) I see. Welcome, please come in.
Student sits down. Master prepares tea.
Teacher: Would you care for some tea?
Student: Yes I would, Master
Master pours tea slowly, until cup is overflowing. Student in shock.
Student: Master, my cup is overflowing.
Master: Then how am I to teach you?
Spend 5 minutes writing about the significance of this little story for
you. Do you see connections to types of education that Plato
identifies? What is YOUR metaphor for education?
Source: The HMXP website
The Point and the Moral
• The Point: If you think you already know the Truth, how can you
learn anything from this course?
• What metaphor does the Zen Demonstration employ?
– Container metaphor.
– Not “The ‘Banking’ Concept of Education” (Paulo Freire): your
education is not about the deposits of information that professors make
for the purpose of coercion or control.
– You are not receptacles; you are cocreators: this is a metaphorical
concept that arises from the notion that action arises from thought and
from language.
• The Moral: It is important to keep an open mind as regards the
ideas in our book and the kind of writing that the course requires.
• What kind of metaphors do professors and
students use to describe paper grading?
Note the Difference
• Negative
– “Nuke ’em all, let God sort
’em out.”
– “Your writing is the
disease. I’m the cure.”
– “He blew me out of the
– “He bled all over my
– “He trashed my paper.”
– “He butchered my paper.”
Professor as Rambo
• Positive
– “Yeah, I’ll be hard on you,
but think of it this way:
each paper is a hurdle that
prepares you to clear the
high bar (your portfolio and
final exam) at the end of
the semester.”
– “May I lend you a helping
hand? Give you a boost?”
Professor as coach and
The Implications
• Remember: thoughts  language 
action  habit  character  destiny.
• So the kind of experience we have relates
directly to how we think.
• Here is the problem: Seeing the same
thing from different perspectives often
causes conflict.
• Can you think of any examples?
Example: Terrorism
• Terrorists believe that
jihad, holy war
against the infidel (the
United States), is
• Their metaphors:
Terrorists are holy
warriors, heroes, and
• Americans generally
believe that a
religiously motivated
war is wrong.
• Our metaphor:
Terrorists are
___________ (fill in
the blank).
• How can nations and peoples get along if
one person’s hero is another person’s
• “Something that appears evil to one nation
may be regarded as good by another
nation” (C.G. Jung, CW 10, 862/457).
To Do: Another Example
• What metaphors do men and women use
to describe dating and relationships?
• See next slide.
Dating and Relationships
(Complete this chart.)
• Women
• Men
Question about Couples
• Could it be that couples do not get along
because they have different metaphors for
their shared experience?
Further Exploration
• You can write a paper about a metaphorical
pattern in your own life.
• Example from a previous student’s paper: “My
family is a house.” Or this: Matt Groening, Work
Is Hell. Or THIS: “Dating is a game.”
• But be sure to EVALUATE your pattern and ask
yourself whether you benefit from it or not.