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Paradigms for a Metaphorology

Paradigms for a Metaphorology

Hans Blumenberg
Translated from the German with an afterword by Robert Savage
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Paradigms for a Metaphorology
    Book Description:

    "Paradigms for a Metaphorology may be read as a kind of beginner's guide to Blumenberg, a programmatic introduction to his vast and multifaceted oeuvre. Its brevity makes it an ideal point of entry for readers daunted by the sheer bulk of Blumenberg's later writings, or distracted by their profusion of historical detail. Paradigms expresses many of Blumenberg's key ideas with a directness, concision, and clarity he would rarely match elsewhere. What is more, because it served as a beginner's guide for its author as well, allowing him to undertake an initial survey of problems that would preoccupy him for the remainder of his life, it has the additional advantage that it can offer us a glimpse into what might be called the 'genesis of the Blumenbergian world.'"-from the Afterword by Robert Savage

    What role do metaphors play in philosophical language? Are they impediments to clear thinking and clear expression, rhetorical flourishes that may well help to make philosophy more accessible to a lay audience, but that ought ideally to be eradicated in the interests of terminological exactness? Or can the images used by philosophers tell us more about the hopes and cares, attitudes and indifferences that regulate an epoch than their carefully elaborated systems of thought?

    In Paradigms for a Metaphorology, originally published in 1960 and here made available for the first time in English translation, Hans Blumenberg (1920-1996) approaches these questions by examining the relationship between metaphors and concepts. Blumenberg argues for the existence of "absolute metaphors" that cannot be translated back into conceptual language. These metaphors answer the supposedly naïve, theoretically unanswerable questions whose relevance lies quite simply in the fact that they cannot be brushed aside, since we do not pose them ourselves but find them already posed in the ground of our existence. They leap into a void that concepts are unable to fill.

    An afterword by the translator, Robert Savage, positions the book in the intellectual context of its time and explains its continuing importance for work in the history of ideas.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6004-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. A Note on the Translation
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Let us try for a moment to imagine that modern philosophy had proceeded according to the methodological program set out for it by Descartes, and had arrived at that definitive conclusion that Descartes himself believed to be eminently attainable. This ‘end state’ of philosophy, which historical experience permits us to entertain only as a hypothesis, would be defined according to the criteria set out in the four rules of the Cartesian “Discours de la méthode,” in particular by the clarity and distinctness that the first rule requires of all matters apprehended in judgments. To this ideal of full objectification1 would...

  5. I Metaphorics of the ‘Mighty’ Truth
    (pp. 6-12)

    Anyone who set out to write a history of the concept of truth, in a strictly terminological sense aimed at definitional stringency, would have little to show for his efforts. The most popular definition, purportedly lifted by Scholasticism from Isaac ben Salomon Israeli’s book of definitions—veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus [truth is the match of thing and intellect]¹—provides leeway for modification only in the shortest of its elements, in the neutrality of the ‘et’. While the definition should be understood, in keeping with its Aristotelian origins, as leaning toward the adaequatio intellectus ad rem [match of the...

  6. II Metaphorics of Truth and Pragmatics of Knowledge
    (pp. 13-30)

    In the treatise on Alexander Pope he wrote in collaboration with Mendelssohn, Lessing speaks of the philosophical use of what in rhetoric are called ‘figures’, a category that includes metaphor: “And wherein consists the essence of the same?—In their never sticking strictly to the truth; they say now too much, now too little—only a metaphysician of Böhme’s ilk can be forgiven them.”¹

    What Lessing raises here is the question of the truth of metaphor itself. It is self-evident that metaphors like that of the power or impotence of truth do not admit of verification, and that the alternative...

  7. III A Terminological and Metaphorological Cross Section of the Idea of Truth
    (pp. 31-39)

    In our investigations into truth metaphors, we have proceeded so far by placing longitudinal sections, or rather—to emphasize the deficiency of our material (which of course can only be measured against the inevitable deficiency of all historical material)—we have provided a series of points through which a curve may be drawn. Even if we disregard the factual density of the material offered in evidence, this procedure is as contestable as it is indispensable for the development of a metaphorology. But we want to illustrate what makes it contestable by seeking to satisfy the ideal postulate of a complementary...

  8. IV Metaphorics of the ‘Naked’ Truth
    (pp. 40-51)

    While discussing the relationship between truth and rhetoric in the passage, cited in the previous section, from the first chapter of book III of the “Divinae institutiones,” Lactantius comments on the ‘natural’ nakedness of truth. This divinely sanctioned nakedness is tarted up with rhetorical frippery in a manner that is characteristic precisely of the way in which lies manifest themselves: “But since God has willed this to be the nature of the case, that simple and undisguised truth should be more clear, because it has sufficient ornament of itself, and on this account it is corrupted when embellished with adornings...

  9. V Terra Incognita and ‘Incomplete Universe’ as Metaphors of the Modern Relationship to the World
    (pp. 52-61)

    I would like now to provide further evidence of the pragmatic function of absolute metaphors in relation to two very specific examples, the terra incognita metaphor and the metaphorics of the ‘incomplete universe’. It is characteristic of both that they originate in quite specific historical ‘experiences’: the first gives a metaphorical gloss to the age of discovery’s conclusion that the ‘known world’, which for millennia was relatively constant and appeared to have certain zones of unfamiliarity only at its edges, proves in retrospect to have taken up only a small corner of the earth’s surface; the other views the universe...

  10. VI Organic and Mechanical Background Metaphorics
    (pp. 62-76)

    Metaphorics can also be in play where exclusively terminological propositions appear, but where these cannot be understood in their higher-order semantic unity without taking into account the guiding idea from which they are induced and ‘read off’. Statements referring to data of observation presuppose that what is intended can, in each case, be brought to mind only within the parameters of a descriptive typology: the reports that will one day be transmitted to us by the first voyagers to the moon may well require us to engage in a more thorough study of American or Russian geography if we are...

  11. VII Myth and Metaphorics
    (pp. 77-80)

    If we attempt now to elaborate and set out a typology of metaphor histories with the help of paradigms, this does not imply that the thematic goal and ideal of the metaphorology we have in mind would consist in such a typology. In carrying out this task, we should recall that metaphorology—as a subbranch of conceptual history, and like the latter itself considered as a whole—must always be an auxiliary discipline to philosophy as it seeks to understand itself from its history and to bring that history to living presence. Our typology of metaphor histories must accordingly endeavor...

  12. VIII Terminologization of a Metaphor: From ‘Verisimilitude’ to ‘Probability’
    (pp. 81-98)

    In keeping with what was announced in the title to these studies, we have not set out to provide an exhaustive account of the relationship between myth, metaphor, and logos; we purport only to exemplify a particular manner of questioning, a particular analytic approach. This admission of the modesty of our enterprise is even more pertinent, perhaps, to the complex field of transitions from metaphors to concepts, which we will now attempt to contour with reference to the paradigm of ‘verisimilitude’, ‘truthlikeness’, or ‘probability’ [Wahrscheinlichkeit].¹ In this case, the metaphor has been absorbed by the word; although it has been...

  13. IX Metaphorized Cosmology
    (pp. 99-114)

    The impression might arise that our lengthy exemplification of the ‘transition’ from metaphors to concepts (and thus our entire attempt at a typology of metaphor histories) remains beholden to a primitive evolutionary schema. We shall seek to dispel this impression by surveying a type of metaphor history that proceeds in the opposite direction, from concepts to metaphors. With respect to the evidence presented, we must fear having to hear the same reproach once leveled by Lessing against Privy Counselor Klotz: “And how many of them do you suppose that he cites? In all, summa summarum, rightly counted—one.”¹ But we...

  14. x Geometric Symbolism and Metaphorics
    (pp. 115-132)

    The Fontenelle text from which I have just quoted implies a distinction, germane to our typology of metaphor histories, which confronts us with a final ‘transitional’ phenomenon, that of metaphorics and symbolism. Here we must be wary of formulating all too subtle definitions, tailored to the specifications of some system or other, that risk narrowing the basis of fulfilling intuitions in advance. The concept of symbol, richly shaded by its application to everything from aesthetics to formal logic (at the very least!), has already done much to obscure the expressive phenomena it was called on to illuminate. With its help,...

  15. Translator’s Afterword. Metaphorology: A Beginner’s Guide
    (pp. 133-146)

    Paradigms for a Metaphorology was first published in 1960 in the Archive for the History of Concepts (Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte), simultaneously appearing in book form with the Bouvier Verlag in Bonn.¹ At the time, Hans Blumenberg (1920– 1996) was known to the philosophically interested public only as the author of a half dozen or so articles scattered in various journals and reference works, one of which—“Light as a Metaphor of Truth” (1957)²—deserves to be mentioned as a preliminary study, or “proto-paradigm,”³ for Paradigms. His biography to that point may be sketched in a few strokes. Persecuted by the...

  16. Index of Names
    (pp. 147-150)
  17. Subject Index
    (pp. 151-152)