Metaphor in social thought
Whereas a number of influences have directed the attention of sociologists and others towards language as a feature of social phenomena, these same influences have served to reveal wide discrepancies in the place accorded to figurative language, and to metaphor in particular. This has proved to be the case both in respect of the phenomena studied and of the subsequent writing. These influences have included, inter alia, 'the linguistic turn' in philosophy, the rise and fall of structuralism both as philosophy and as a model for anthropology, and also in the development of ethnomethodology from phenomenology. The thesis specifically locates the enquiry within the writer's biography and is not sited within anyone traditional discipline, but has rather been a reading 'between literature and science' and one 'privileging' metaphor over concept. The attempt to explore the 'privileging' of metaphor over concept renders problematic an understanding of language as langue, and prefers parole. Rendering language problematic has consequences for how knowledge and science are understood. In parallel with the reading, an ethnomethodological study of a school was undertaken in order to provide a context in which the outcomes of the reading could be sited and compared, leading to a consideration of metaphor within ethnography. With these starting assumptions, a report is made of a limited number of authors who have been widely acknowledged as influential in considerations of metaphor. Aristotle is read, through and against recent interpreters, as if an ontology of metaphor were considered undesirable. This leads to an understanding of metaphor as a tool. Hobbes is seen through the work of Quentin Skinner as one who, influenced by his contemporary Descartes, is critical of the use of metaphor in spite of his articulate use of it. Vico, not widely influential until the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, reveals a diachronic picture of the primacy of metaphor in relation to the development of concepts, later supported by Herder who offered a complementary, though synchronic, version. Nietzsche, writing in a post-Darwin context, sees the formation of metaphor as the fundamental human drive and links it with truth as a value. Work on metaphor during the latter parts of the twentieth century is described beginning with I. A. Richards, leading to brief considerations, inter alia, of Max Black, W. V. O. Quine, Mary Hesse, Rom Harre and Hayden White. Writers in the social sciences who have been explicit about the part played by metaphor, Victor Turner, R. H. Brown, R. A. Nisbet and D. McCloskey are acknowledged. Donald Davidson is seen as particularly influential, denying the possibility of a separate notion of metaphorical meaning and confirming a denial of langue. Richard Rorty is seen as a writer who has treated metaphor positively in his Contingency, Irony and Solidarity and his use of metaphor there is examined in its variety. Throughout, the Nietzschean view of the formation of metaphor as the fundamental human drive is connected with Cohen's view that metaphor cultivates intimacy. It is on this basis that the above writers, some of whom would otherwise be seen as belonging to different genres, most prominently philosophy, have contributed to social thought, and to the place of metaphor within it. The insight into metaphor as a fundamental human drive and as cultivating intimacy is then linked with the view that metaphor becomes valued as concept by virtue of the work done in linking past action to new circumstances. This combination, one linking metaphor with pragmatism, is used as a pattern by which to inspect others' writings. The widespread rejection or devaluation of metaphor in social theory could then be related to its role having been undermined by the rhetoric of natural science, though freed somewhat by T. S. Kuhn, an undermining which threatens creativity and the cultivation of intimacy with its implications for the formation and sustaining of communities. The supposition, for reasons of the production of social science, that once the analogies contained in or suggested by a metaphor may thereafter be discarded, is resisted on the grounds that history is overlooked, persons are no longer seen in relation, knowing and certainty work to bring play to an end, learning is transformed from personal engagement to instruction, community is replaced by rules for rational conduct, and obedience replaces discovery and growth. Metaphor explicitly identified offers hope.