Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kertész and Rákosi: "Cyclic vs. Circular argumentation in the Conceptual Metaphor Theory"

This is a somewhat far-fetched scholastic exercise written in an attempt to defend Lakoff and Johnson's theory from charges of circular reasoning. The whole paper relies on a highly idiosyncratic philosophy of science and rhetoric.

The two texts that are cited as criticisms of Lakoff and Johnson are: 
  • Verena Haser's Metaphor, Metonymy, and Experientialist Philosophy: Challenging Cognitive Semantics (2005)
  • "Concepts as Metaphors," Matthew McGlone's chapter in Sam Glucksberg: Understanding Figurative Language: From Metaphors to Idioms (2001)
Haser (p. 146) criticizes Lakoff and Johnson's remark that we could imagine a culture in which argument was conceptualized and lived in terms of dance:
Their premise (‘imagine a culture . . .’) can be spelt out as follows: Suppose that people in a certain culture view arguments in a different way than we do (i.e., not in terms of war, but in terms of a dance). Their conclusion says that in such a culture, people would ‘view arguments differently’ (Lakoff and Johnson 1980: 5).’’
McGlone (p. 95) charges Lakoff and Johnson with using linguistic data to illegitimately infer something about thought:
How do we know that people think of theories in terms of buildings? Because people often talk about theories using building-related expressions. Why do people often talk about theories using building-related expressions? Because people think about theories in terms of buildings.
As Keysar et al. point out, the good part of Lakoff and Johnson's argument is that they point out that a number of linguistic expressions "cohere." It is a fair enough conjecture that the source of this coherence is something "in the head," but no amount of linguistic evidence alone can settle the issue.

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