Metaphors of Mind in Fiction and Psychology

Metaphors of Mind in Fiction and Psychology

Michael S. Kearns
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hmz9
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  • Book Info
    Metaphors of Mind in Fiction and Psychology
    Book Description:

    Curiosity about the human mind -- what it is and how it functions -- began long before modern psychology. But because the mind and its processes are so elusive, they could be described only by means of metaphor. Michael Kearns, in this prize-winning study, examines the development of metaphors of the mind in psychological writings from Hobbes through William James and in fiction from Defoe through Henry James.

    Throughout the eighteenth century and even into the early nineteenth, metaphors of the mind as a relatively simple entity, either mechanical or biological, dominated both those engaged in psychological theorizing and novelists ranging from Richardson and Smollett through Dickens and the Brontes.

    In the nineteenth century, such psychologists as Herbert Spencer and Alexander Bain conceived of the mind as a complex organism quite different from that embodied in earlier thinking, but their figurative language did not keep pace. The result was a tension between theoretical expression and actual discussion of mental phenomena.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6335-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. I THE PROBLEM OF METAPHORS OF MIND
    (pp. 1-20)

    Early in the nineteenth century, Samuel Coleridge compiled an entertaining list of the dominant metaphors of mind used by psychological philosophers of the eighteenth century. Coleridge starts by applauding Aristotle’s position on the association principle, a position he praises as entirely “unmixed with fiction” in contrast to those descriptions offered by later writers. According to Coleridge, Aristotle spoke of “no successive particles propagating motion like billiard balls (as Hobbes;) nor of nervous or animal spirits, where inanimate and irrational solids are thawed down, and distilled, or filtrated by ascension, into living and intelligent fluids, that etch and re-etch engravings on...

  5. II METAPHOR THEORY AND METAPHORS OF MIND
    (pp. 21-44)

    Metaphor theory has been a scene of extensive activity in the past two decades. Today we can say that the field not only has been discovered but finally is being properly explored; in Wayne Booth’s apt metaphor, “students of metaphor have positively pullulated” (49). After centuries of neglect, regarded at best as ornamental to the main business of conveying information about tangible realities, metaphor is now recognized as one of the most challenging aspects of language. In particular, “the problem of metaphor” comprises a number of questions. Max Black has listed the most central of them:

    1. How do we recognize...

  6. III CORPUSCULAR THOUGHTS, TANGIBLE MINDS: EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY PSYCHOLOGY AND FICTION
    (pp. 45-87)

    Although there are no clear demarcations between historical periods in the understanding of the mind, there is a stretch of time, from the beginning of the eighteenth century through the first third of the nineteenth, when the language and the concepts used for talking about the mind remained relatively unchanged. For convenience in discussion I refer loosely to this period as the eighteenth century, to indicate that the dominant metaphor of mind and the primary psychological theories remained constant. Psychology from the beginning of the eighteenth century, whether the explicit psychology described in textbooks, the implicit psychology dramatized in novels,...

  7. IV MIND AS ENTITY IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY PSYCHOLOGY
    (pp. 88-134)

    Most psychological works during the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century continued to draw on the mind-as-entity metaphor and to display the limitations of that metaphor in its theory-constitutive function. The novelists of the same time span, discussed in the following chapter, were seeking a means of representing the life of the mind, that is, mind as a living being identical with the character in whose brain it exists, whereas the psychologists, despite some general theoretical pronouncements in this direction, continued to treat the mind as a separable entity—localizable and discrete although “in substance” immaterial. They continued in this...

  8. V REVEALING SURFACES, PREDICTABLE DEPTHS: MIND AS ENTITY IN BRONTË AND DICKENS
    (pp. 135-177)

    The most obvious characteristic shared by the psychologists and novelists of the eighteenth century and the psychologists of the nineteenth century is a concern with “the substance mind.” This concern derived from the problems raised by the mind-as-entity metaphor. It manifested itself in the novels’ focus on how particular ideas were formed and in the psychological works’ development of laws of mind analogous to the laws of the physical world. It was seen as well in an ongoing debate over the degree to which mind could be termed a substance, an entity, or a power and still retain the immateriality...

  9. VI TOWARD THE LIFE OF THE MIND: JAMES AND ELIOT DISCOVER SENTIENCE
    (pp. 178-226)

    Brontë and Dickens differed from earlier novelists in paying more attention to the springs of mysterious mental phenomena which are now usually associated with “unconscious” mental processes. To represent the development of these phenomena, they used the earlier psychology—mental faculties, associations, physiognomical “readings”—and that psychology’s underlying metaphor of mind-as-entity. But these materials were used in new ways to demonstrate the inescapable subjectivity of some experiences, in Brontë’s case, and the inevitable pressure of external events on character, in Dickens’ case. Both novelists gave fictional voice to the new emphases of some psychologists who saw a complex of sentient...

  10. VII AFTERWORD: WILLIAM JAMES’ LANGUAGE OF THE MIND
    (pp. 227-236)

    Describing the principle of association in chapter 14 of hisPrinciples of Psychology(1890), William James attributes to Locke and Descartes the correlation between the “psychological law of association” and the “physical fact that nerve-currents propagate themselves easiest through those tracts of conduction which have been already most in use” (531). James continues with a quotation from theEssay, into which he inserts a revealing comment: “‘Custom,’” says Locke, “‘settles habits of thinking in the understanding, as well as of determining in the will, and of motions in the body; all which seem to be buttrains of motion in...

  11. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 237-248)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 249-259)