Metaphor (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
The word metaphor (from the Greek metaphor, meaning "transfer") is an important language element in both science and religion. Since the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, it has been understood that something strange happens in the process of creating a metaphor. Metaphors change the ways people understand things.
Common definitions of the terms metaphor, simile, and analogy are not discrete; they refer generally to the substitution of one thing for another. Authors sometimes use one term to refer to all three. For example, in his Imagery in Scientific Thought (1987), Arthur I. Miller makes heavy use of the concept of analogy but uses the terms metaphor and metaphorical, perhaps preferring the complexity, inscrutability, and sophistication of the term metaphor over the more mundane, even pedestrian, character of analogy. Among cognitive scientists, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson explore implied analogy as a window into the operations of thought calling it metaphor in Metaphors We Live By (1980).
Metaphors, however, are less widely found in science and religion, the composite interdisciplinary field of academic study. When metaphor is found in science and religion (the composite field of academic study), the relevant analysis is epistemological rather than aesthetic. That is not to say that the celebrated transfer of meaning, which metaphor is traditionally understood as effecting, is not of importance in the literature of science and religion. It is to observe merely that the linguistic object called a metaphor is of less importance than the cognitive process that brings about the transfer that creates new meaning. Accordingly, this entry will emphasize the processetaphoric processhat brings about the changes in meanings that are found when science and religion are taken to be related and interacting cognitive fields of meaning.
Metaphor and analogy
An important first step is to distinguish metaphoric process from the making of analogieshe business of comparing two things that have similar characteristics. When one of two such things is understood and the other is not, one's overall understanding can be improved by making an analogy. One could say, for example, "Theology in religion is analogous to theoretical physics in natural science." Here one is making an analogy between a component of religious scholarship and a component of research in natural science. For those who know some of the theoretical laws of physics, the character and role of theology in its domain is clarified; the reverse occurs for those who read or write theology. We are here asserting an analogical relationship between a known and an unknown, in which the analogical statement advances understanding by comparing an unknown element with a element previously known. Analogical process dominates much of formal instruction. Metaphoric process is significantly different; it occurs infrequently in the field of science and religion taken together.
Metaphoric process presupposes two different phenomena (X and Y), each well understood within their respective field of meanings. A discovery then occurs, a gestalt-like realization that the different phenomena are the same. The effect of the discovery is to establish a host of new relationships between ancillary phenomena in the two fields, ancillary phenomena closely related with the original phenomena. Events (discoveries) of this kind serve to knit together the fabric of disparate disciplines, but not by making compromises in which one "side" must relinquish some point to gain some other. Rather, the disparate views are held together and resolved into a higher viewpoint, to use an expression of Bernard Lonergan's, much as binocular vision resolves two different flat images into a single three-dimensional view.
Many scholars, including Mary Hesse, Nelson Goodman, Paul Ricoeur, and Earl MacCormac, address the problem of understanding the metaphoric process in terms of an implied model of thought. For Hesse there is a "network of meanings"; Goodman spoke in terms of "worldmaking"; Ricoeur referred to "shift in the logical distance"; and MacCormac made use of what he called "a computational metaphor for cognition."
Janet Martin Soskice has pointed out that religious metaphors retain their tension long after other kinds of metaphors have lost theirs. One of the most startling and perennially productive religious metaphors is the assertion in John's Epistle that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). The equation of God and love involves equating the field of traditional attributes associated with God, such as superlative potency and intelligence, with the field of meanings associated with love, here understood as human relationality at is best, including vulnerability.
In science, Isaac Newton (1642727) used metaphoric process by equating the mechanics of the heavens with the mechanics of earthly objects, thus generating a higher viewpoint that had a profound effect on people's lives. The "laws of the heavens" had been developed earlier by Johannes Kepler (1571630). These laws described, in quantitative terms, the motion of the planets (the "wandering" heavenly bodies) around the sun. Mechanical "laws of the of the world" (on the surface of Earth) were given by Galileo Galilei (1564642), who could, for example, calculate the motion of a projectile or the rate of fall of an object as it fell toward the ground. Subsequently Newton, in the famous falling apple allegory, realized that Galileo's laws of falling applied to the moon as well as to terrestrial objects, and, with that metaphoric act, caused the laws of Earth to become the laws of heavenuite a reversal. The general laws of mechanics followed, and the resulting ability to analyze mechanisms and predict mechanical behavior reliably can be understood as having reshaped one world of meanings to create a new world of meanings, one that dominated science and technology for over two hundred years.
Other examples of metaphoric statements can be found. Examples in physics include: heat is motion (Benjamin Thompson, James Prescott Joule); light is particulate as well as undulatory (Albert Einstein); energy is particulate (Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Einstein); and mass is undulatory as well as particulate (Louis de Broglie). Examples in religion include: in the midst of life we are in death (Paul); an individual's ultimate concern is that person's god (Paul Tillich); the "natural" state of existence for human beings is to be graced (Karl Rahner); and Christ is sophia and logos (Elizabeth Johnson). Possible examples in science and religion include: evil is entropic degradation and personal relativistic time is the time of the second coming of Christ.
The discovery that two persons from different disciplines are talking about the same thing is not uncommon in closely related fields and can be highly profitable. The exchange interactions of quantum physics were found to correspond to the molecular bonds of chemistry, and chemical physics was born. It remains to be seen whether productive instances can be found in disciplines separated by as much cognitive space as natural science and religion. The hope for science and religion as a valuable academic discipline in its own right depends on such possibilities and on the metaphoric process that can knit them together.
See also MODELS
Gerhart, Mary, and, Russell, Allan M. Metaphoric Process: The Creation of Scientific and Religious Understanding. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1984.
Goodman, Nelson. Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 1978.
Hesse, Mary. Models and Analogies in Science. Notre Dame, Ind.: Notre Dame Press, 1970.
Jones, Roger S. Physics As Metaphor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982.
Lakoff, George, and Johnson, Mark. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Leatherdale, W. H. The Role of Analogy: Model and Metaphor in Science. New York: Elsevier, 1974.
MacCormac, Earl R. Metaphor and Myth in Science and Religion. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1976.
McFague, Sallie. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. Philadelphia, Pa.: Fortress Press, 1982.
Miller, Arthur I. Imagery in Scientific Thought: Creating Twentieth-Century Physics. Boston: Birkhäuser, 1985.
Ricoeur, Paul. The Rule of Metaphor: An Interdisciplinary Study. Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 1977.
Rogers, Robert. Metaphor: A Psychoanalytic View. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.
Schon, Donald Alan. Displacement of Concepts. London: Tavistock, 1963.
Soskice, Janet Martin. Metaphor and Religious Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
ALLAN M. RUSSELL
Metaphor (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Metaphor is a figure of speech that involves designating one thing with the name of another, a process that is carried out essentially by substituting one term for another.
Metaphor is a fundamental notion that Jacques Lacan introduced in relation to his thesis that "the unconscious is structured like a language." He justified its legitimacy principally by analogy with the Freudian mechanism of "condensation," and more generally in relation to the structure of the formations of the unconscious and the metaphorical process of the Name-of-the-Father.
Lacan proposed the following symbolic formula for metaphor (2002, p. 190):
The Lacanian use of metaphor is founded on the principle of a signifying substitution that promotes the authority of the signifier over that of the signified. In language, metaphorical substitution most often occurs between two terms on the basis of semantic similarity. At the level of unconscious processes, this similarity is not always immediately apparent, and only a series of associations can bring it to light.
Thus Freudian condensation plays a role in the different unconscious formations, such as dreams and symptoms, for example. Just as the unconscious material in dreams, telescoped by condensations, reappears in a meaningless form in the manifest dream content, so the symptom expresses, in reality, something completely different from what it appears to mean.
The metaphor of the Name-of-the-Father, as it was called by Lacan, is based on the same principlehat of the substitution of signifiers. In this case, the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father substitutes for the signifier of the mother's desire, which thus becomes the object of repression and becomes unconscious.
The "fort/da game" that Freud described (1920g) directly attests to the process of metaphorization and the repression that is linked to it. A relation of signifying substitution is established by the child as soon as they "name" the signifying reference to the father as the cause of the mother's absences. In addition to the paternal metaphor, which makes it possible, the fort/da game is also inscribed in a double metaphorical process. In itself, the reel is already a metaphor for the mother, and the game of its presence and absence is another metaphor since it symbolizes her departure and return.
See also: Condensation; Displacement; Forgetting; Formations of the unconscious; Letter, the; Linguistics and psychoanalysis; Matheme; Metonymy; Mirror stage; Name-of-the-Father; Phobias in children; Psychoses, chronic and delusional; Signifier; Signifier/signified; Signifying chain; Symptom/sinthome; Topology.
Dor, Joël. (1998). Introduction to the reading of Lacan: The unconscious structured like a language (Judith Feher Gurewich and Susan Fairfield, Eds.). New York: Other Press, 1998.
Freud, Sigmund. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.
Lacan, Jacques. (2002).rits: A selection (Bruce Fink, Trans.). New York: W. W. Norton.