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Conceptual Metaphor

In the June 2012 Michigan Quarterly Review poet Heather Christle comments on some notions from cognitive neuroscience/linguistics:

…the most reality-shifting ideas I have encountered have been in the field of conceptual metaphor. Once I became aware of how to listen for its influence and effects, I began to hear it everywhere. Someone says "I get it," and this reveals something about the content of their thinking—they "understand it"—but even more so it reveals the structure of how they imagine knowledge, as a physical object one can grasp, obtain, possess. It's easy to take these structural metaphors for granted, but by becoming aware of them it's possible to imagine other metaphors, or to glimpse ways they might limit our thinking.

V.S. Ramachandran's work on mirror neurons has also enlivened my understanding of what goes on when we read the world, or a poem. These are neurons that "fire" when we perform an action ourselves or when we witness another performing the same action. Theoretically, they could explain social emotions like empathy, shame, pride, and so forth. …

She continues:

… there's so much incredible work being done right now—in cognitive linguistics and in neuroscience generally—that it does seem a shame not to allow those discoveries to shape our thinking in some way. And it's not just those fields; there's quantum physics, evolution, genetics. I want to think big. I want to understand my own insignificance and all the ways that the world is not what I intuit. For me, science provides a scale of ideas that allows new thoughts to occur. In the end I'm simply interested in what excites my imagination. I am not demanding that anyone else pursue the same course. Like Shelley, I go to science to "find new metaphors for my poetry." (And again, I believe those metaphors are not only or merely figurative.) …

(cf. ThoughtfulMetaphors (2000-11-08) for Daniel Dennett on metaphor, ...) - ^z - 2012-06-19