Ruled by metaphor
Sept 29, 2011 – Frame semantics is, to a large extent, about conceptual metaphor. This is a new – and revolutionary – field of research. Previously, metaphor was regarded as characteristic of language alone. And for most people, it’s seen as little more than a matter of rhetorical flourish.
Take “life is a journey”. Merely a poetic metaphor for a purposeful life?
In fact it’s a complex metaphor which fundamentally shapes how we conceptualise our “lives” (eg in “western” societies). You’ve probably felt anxiety over making “no progress”. Perhaps you’ve been “bogged down” or “held back”. Maybe you “missed the boat”, and you “don’t know which way to turn”. You “lack direction” – you’re basically “lost”.*
These are all metaphorical conceptions based on neural mapping of purposeful life with “journey”. We’re not consciously being poetic with language here – it’s the way we think.
Consider:- the metaphor, “life is a journey”, isn’t universal, conceptually-speaking. In some cultures, people just “live their lives” – the idea of being without direction, bogged down, held back, missing the boat, etc, would make no sense to them. (See also my mention of the “time is money” metaphor).
The field of conceptual metaphor has profound implications for psychology and philosophy (particularly metaphysics). Hopefully this will give people a clue as to why framing-type analysis is more important than the clichéd notion of “spin”.
* “Purposeful life is a journey” examples taken from Philosophy in the Flesh (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999).