20.104 problematic metaphors

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 09:09:02 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 104.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 09:01:07 +0100
         From: lachance_at_chass.utoronto.ca
         Subject: Re: 20.092 problematic metaphors


The problem may not be in the metaphors but their explication.

"Conduit metaphor" is constructed by Reddy as a foil to the radical
subjectivist position.

A conduit is not a container. Let us re-examine the example:

        You'll find better ideas than that in the library

A radical subjectivist parsing of the phrase could construct a reading
where the segment "in the library" modifies the pronoun "you". It is not
necessary to suppose that it is "ideas" that are found "in the library".
One could suppose that a conditional is at work: if you go to the library,
you will find better ideas than that.

The diectics in the example are ideal representations of "conduit" words.
Words that do not contain meaning in and of themselves; words that do
bring subjects to position themselves vis-a-vis the discourse. "[T]hat"
and "[y]ou" are empty until filled by a discursive situation. A conduit is
very much a pipeline, empty until something begins to flow through it.

I can very well understand wanting to challenge the information model of
communication (the sending and receiving of messages between discrete
points) reducing language use to decoding, if you will. However the
conduit metaphor offers a richness in its application. The conduit offered
by language is not just a line of message transmission between the
partners of a communication situation. It is also a route to access
cognitive objects. Words whether or not they act as containers are very
much a means by which the imagination accesses the imagined. What is
imagined is often at the juncture of what has been experienced and what
can be projected.

Words can be imagined as the intake pipe for conduits. They suck us in.
Lucky there are other words that repulse and warn of misplaced agency.
Received on Tue Jul 11 2006 - 05:28:07 EDT

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