The contemporary theory of metaphor
Metaphor and Thought
To Appear in Ortony, Andrew (ed.) Metaphor and Thought (2nd edition), Cambridge University Press. Do not go gentle into that good night. -Dylan Thomas Death is the mother of beauty . . . -Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning The big difference between the contemporary theory and views of metaphor prior to Reddy's work lies in this set of assumptions. The reason for the difference is that, in the intervening years, a huge system of everyday, convention al, conceptual metaphors has been discovered. It
... been discovered. It is a system of metaphor that structures our everyday conceptual system, including most abstract concepts, and that lies behind much of everyday language. The discovery of this enormous metaphor system has destroyed the traditional literal-figurative distinction, since the term literal, as used in defining the traditional distinction, carries with it all those false assumptions. A major difference between the contemporary theory and the classical one is based on the old literal-figurative distinction. Given that distinction, one might think that one arrives at a metaphorical interpretation of a sentence by starting with the literal meaning and applying some algorithmic process to it (see Searle, this volume). Though there do exist cases where something like this happens, this is not in general how metaphor works, as we shall see shortly. What is not metaphorical Although the old literal-metaphorical distinction was based on assumptions that have proved to be false, one can make a different sort of literal-metaphorical distinction: those concepts that are not comprehended via conceptual metaphor might be called literal. Thus, while I will argue that a great many common concepts like causation and purpose are metaphorical, there is nonetheless an extensive range of nonmetaphorical concepts. Thus, a sentence like The balloon went up is not metaphorical, nor is the old philosopher's favorite The cat is on the mat. But as soon as one gets away from concrete physical experience and starting talking about abstractions or emotions, metaphorical understanding is the norm.