Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Point of Agreement

Davidson came up in passing in a previous comments thread, on the subject of literal and figurative speech, so I thought I would put up my point of agreement with Davidson on the subject of figurative language:

Metaphor is a legitimate device not only in literature but in science, philosophy, and the law; it is effective in praise and abuse, prayer and promotion, description and prescription.

There it is; the only true sentence in "What Metaphors Mean", which is the single worst discussion of metaphor I've ever read, and certainly the worst discussion for which you can find people who take it seriously.

(I am being harsh, of course; some sentences in which Davidson is explicitly talking about himself, and a few places where he is simply distinguishing between two different positions, and some of the examples, without the comments on them, would also survive, although fewer than you'd expect. There are also some that I can accept, but not in the sense Davidson intends them, or that I would think right if they were given additional qualifications. But with these caveats, I really do mean that this is the single thing about figurative and literal language that I think Davidson gets correct. His entire theory of metaphor is wrong, half the things he says that are supposed to be distinctive to figurative language apply also to literal language, half the things he says that are supposed to be distinctive to literal language are also easily found in figurative language, he even bungles the interpretation of the hippopotamus poem.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.