Changing the Aspect: Situating Aristotle in the Contemporary Debate on Metaphor

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This is a paper I presented at the Instituta de Filosofia e Ciências Sociais at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, in July 2015. In it, I attempt to argue that the question of Aristotle's place in the contemporary debate about metaphor
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  Changing the Aspect: Situating Aristotle in the PhilosophicalDebate on Metaphor In this presentation, I would like to accomplish two main goals. 1) The frst is to give a very broad historical introduction to the contemporary philosophical debate on metaphor, and to explain the circumstances under which the question o !ristotle"s place in this debate, or better or worse, has emerged. #) The second goal is to explain why, in my view, the question o !ristotle"s place in the debate on metaphor has not, until now, been posed adequately, and then to outline what I think is a philosophically worthwhile way o posing it. 1)    The $rigin o the %hilosophical &ebate on 'etaphor, and the (uestion o !ristotle"s %lace in it ‘There were no conferences on metaphor, ever, in any culture, until [the 20th] century was already middle-aged [...]. Eplicit discussions of something called metaphor have multiplied astronomically in the past !fty years [...]." *ayne +ooth, 'etaphoras -hetoric The %roblem o /valuation, #ritical $n%uiry   0 123), p. 4)I reali5e that it may not be obvious that there even exists a philosophical debate about metaphor, nor or that matter that !ristotlecan or should be situated in it. $ne possible reason or this is that, i we take a very broad overview o the history o philosophy, one o the frst things we notice is that debate about the concept o metaphor is avery recent phenomenon, having emerged in the second hal o the #6th century. %rior to that time, most philosophers generally tended to  ignore this concept as pertaining more to the study o rhetoric and poetry than to philosophy. +ut around the 176"s it began to attract increasingly serious philosophical attention, and many thinkers in both the continental and analytic traditions suddenly became very interested in the question o metaphor, and specifcally its relation to the genesis o human knowledge and to the ormation o philosophical concepts. 8omewhat ironically, the #6th century outburst o philosophical interest in metaphor belongs to a historical context that, in my view, is essentially *ittgensteinian. To see how this is so, and why it is somewhat ironic, we must grasp that the later though o 9udwig *ittgenstein is marked above all by an express desire to do away with metaphysical speculation. 'any o *ittgenstein"s later writings presentthe view that metaphysical speculation is the result o a kind o  pathological o&session , and that the task o philosophical thinking should be to provide therapeutic cures or this obsession. *hat"s more,*ittgenstein understood the root cause o this specifc pathology to be linguistic conusion. In other words, or the later *ittgenstein, obsession with metaphysical questions is simply the result o being deceived by certain similarities, or amily resemblances, that exist between linguistic terms.  +rie:y and schematically, here are a ew quotes rom the 'hilosophical $nvestigations , in the translation o !nscombe, that support this reading;$ur investigation <...= sheds light on our problem by clearing misunderstandings away. 'isunderstandings concerning the use o words, caused, among other things, by certain analogies between the orms o expression in di>erent regions o language.  '$ , ?6);*hen philosophers use a word@knowledge, being, obAect, I, proposition, name@and try to grasp the essence o the thing,one must always ask onesel is the word ever actually used in this way <...= B@ *hat we do is to bring words back rom their metaphysical to their everyday use."  '$ , ?117) 1  ;The real discovery is the one that makes me capable o stoppingdoing philosophy when I want to."  '$, ?1CC)I this is how *ittgenstein understood philosophical speculation D that is, as a kind o pathology arising rom the conusion caused by the unconscious misapplication o ordinary words D his solution to this problem, as he writes in ?3, is in most cases simply to ;substitute" oneorm o expression or another or, as he subsequently says, to  change the aspect  . In this way, *ittgenstein"s later proAect is a putatively therapeutic one o making philosophical problems disappear by pinpointing the linguistic conusion rom which they arise, and then 1 E. Fiet5sche, G$n Truth and 9ies in Their /xtramoral 8ense 132C)H, p. 1 ;*hen we talk about trees, colors, snow, and :owers, we believe we know something about the things themselves, and yet we only possess metaphors o the things, and these metaphors do not in the least correspond to the srcinal essentials." Trans. 'aximillian !. 'gge, in eds. -. Jrimm K E. 'olina y Ledia, (riedrich )iet*sche+ 'hilosophical ritings Few Mork Eontinuum, 10).  showing how another expression can be produced or the same meaning, which does not generate the same kind o conusion. #   To sum up, then, *ittgenstein"s later proAect outlines three basic actors 1) a problem pathological obsession with philosophical speculation)N #) the root cause o this problem linguistic conusion)N and C) a method or eliminating this cause substituting expressions orone another, or changing the aspect  ). !ccordingly, although on my account *ittgenstein"s philosophy is in some sense the soil out o which the debate on metaphor has subsequently grown, it is crucial to see that *ittgenstein himsel was in no way interested in developing anything like a philosophical theory o metaphor. Indeed, in a conversation with 'orit5 8chlick and Oriedrich *aismann recorded in 1C6, *ittgenstein is reported to have stated that, in general, ;<i= I were told that anything was a theory  , I would say Fo, noP That does notinterest me D it would not be the exact thing what I was looking or." C  *hile he was thereore not interested in developing a theory o metaphor D nor o anything else, or that matter D it also seems intuitively clear that the notion o metaphor looms very large in the background o the new, therapeutic program that *ittgenstein sought to ound. Indeed, when he talks about philosophical conusion arising # '$ , ?6 continues ;Instead, we now demonstrate a method, by examplesN and the series o examples can be broken o>. D %roblems are solved diQculties eliminated), not a single problem." This is a process that cannot be brought to a fnal conclusion because ;it has no end." Ibid) C ittgenstein and the ienna #ircle+ #onversations recorded &y (riedrich aismann , ed. +rian 'cJuinness -owman K 9ittlefeld, 12), pp. 117R2.  rom the misuse o words, it"s hard not to see this as directed implicitlyat the unconscious use o metaphors , at least to the extent that a metaphor is understood in the most basic sense as the transerence o a word or else the word so transerred) rom its ordinary, literal or proper context. In act, the importance o the concept o metaphor to the new, antiSphilosophical proAect started by *ittgenstein was soon made more explicit by one o his students, I.!. -ichards, who was at Eambridge or the frst course o lectures given by the ormer in 1C6. In a book published in 1C7, entitled The 'hilosophy of hetoric , -ichards writes that <i=n philosophy, above all, we can take no step saely without an unrelaxing awareness o the metaphors we, and our audience, may beemployingN and though we may pretend to eschew them, we can attempt to do so only &y detecting them . !nd this is the more true, the more severe and abstract the philosophy is. !s it grows more abstract we think increasingly by means o metaphors that we proess not to be relying on. The metaphors we are avoiding steer our thoughts as much as those we accept. <...= !nd in philosophy <...= I would hold <...= that our pretense to do without metaphor is never more than a blu> waiting to be called. 4  $n my reading, we have here all the basic ingredients o *ittgenstein"stherapeutic anti-philosophy  , only this time with the importance o the concept o metaphor spelled out explicitly. It"s also true that, in the ensuing discussion, -ichards goes urther than *ittgenstein did in the direction o a theory o metaphor. Met his reason or doing so, as stated above, is an essentially *ittgensteinian one in order to avoid the kindso philosophical conusion caused by unconsciously thinking in 4 Ibid emphasis added)."
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