more than cool reason: a field guide to poetic metaphor

georges lakoff and mark turner

university of chicago press, 1989

a book about freeing metaphor from the strictly literary. related (?) - metaphors we teach by, ACM paper about metaphors in CS education


p. xii - poetry works because we all have cognitive structures/implicit knowledge to understand it

one - life death and time

p. 15 there exists basic conceptual metaphors for understanding life and death that are part of our culture and that we routinely use to make sense of the poetry of our culture

p. 26 there are reasons why death the reaper is an apt metaphor, and death the baker is not

this chapter is an introduction in the form of close literary analysis

p. 50 there must be a distinction between basic conceptual metaphors and linguistic metaphors (and, following, programmatic metaphors)—which might still be based on basic metaphors. they can either be commonplace or idiosyncratic (more rare to have idiosyncratic conceptual metaphors than linguistic ones)

p. 51 these basic metaphors are systematic: there’s a fixed understanding of both the source domain and the target domain

p. 52 the richer the target domain is, the more metaphors we can have (e.g. there are a lot of variations of life is a…), but each allows to comprehend a different aspect of the target domain

do we have the same metaphors underlying code? (cause literature and everyday life do share the same? do they get manipulated in unusual ways?

p. 54 poetic metaphor allows compression (i.e. poetry is at least as much in the how as in the what)


two - the power of poetic metaphor

p. 57 a metaphor is something imported from something else (source / target)

p. 59 the source (object, plant, departure, etc.) is always grounded. these however are mind-influenced (e.g. influenced by various socio-cultural factors of tradition, practice and habit)

p. 61 powerful source domains—schemas—are defined enough to not be mistaken for something else, but broad enough to allow for multiple variants of itself

p. 62 by importing structure from the source, the metaphor creates structure in our lives, in our understandings (and thus have power over us). our understanding grasps these structures through features/attributes/slots and relations/methods —– thought: maybe programming isn’t a specific metaphor/specific metaphors, but rather metaphor itself

pp. 64-65 different powers:

p. 66 we acquire cognitive models by culture and experience (i guess education is understood within experience?)

p. 67 now for poetic metaphor:

poetic metaphor only stands out cause it’s non-obvious (even that fucking sentence is a tautology)

funny that there is no obvious personification in programming. the program is never a “he” or a “she”, but rather an “it” (animal? object?)

p. 80 metaphors of two kinds: generic-level vs. specific-level (actually reminds me of inheritance).

p. 81 he even uses the word instantiation of metaphors. parameters of the generic-level include: basic ontological categories (entity, state, event, action, etc.), attributes, event shape (e.g. instantaneous or drawn-out), causal relations (enabling, resulting, implying), image-schemias (not sure what he means there), modalities (ability, necessity, possibility—is not so different from causal relations)

p. 82 specific-level schema is kind of an instance + a subclass at the same time, with fixed, specific mappings (defined (named?) attributes).

p. 91 image metaphors involve not just conceptual, but visual/sensual aspects

p. 93 these images are a way to do stretched-out parallels between target and source (my wife whose hair is a brush fire). because, if the target does not contain an image, then it creates one, or it gets imposed. surrealist poetry forces imaginative construction. however, the departing is not an elaborating or a questioning, it is straight-up different

p. 99 there image-schemas, not so much about the rich “pictorial” images, but rather about vague spatiality (in love, out of focus, deep into it, etc.). they act more like structure, therefore allowing relationships between two things in terms of their occupation of space

p. 100 metonymy, which can interact with each other—happens only within one conceptual domain, is about reference, not primarily understanding.

p. 106 words evoke schemas (reality check), even though he says that metaphors are not linguistic, they exist beyond that, on a conceptual level, and are sometimes, somehow, manifested in a practical level. this is complicated by the fact that words are polysemiotic (but maybe in a way that’s a good thing?). claim: what is meaningful is in the mind not sure i agree with that, the relationship between word and thought is too tight to assure such radical precedence of one over the other

construal: how someone perceives, comprehend and interpret the world around them. (cf. wiki)

p. 112 even conventional metaphors might not be entirely understood, but rather only by aspects

p. 113 he presents the idea that a metaphor is a semantically autonomous structure. to me, and to him, that’s doubtful, because the authors themselves say that they’re based on sociocultural (i.e. shifting) foundations; perhaps it’s rather than metaphors don’t have immediately anything to do with the target domain: they’re separate, but not completely autonomous from absolutely everything. i’d prefer the term relatively independent, insofar as it is independent from one thing, but perhaps not from another.

p. 114 literal meaning theory is the idea that everything depends strictly on language, which has been proven wrong over and over (see: vee on goody, ong, mcluhan) and the limitations of technological determinism—meaning is always interpreted to some extent, and therefore not limited to the words/vehicles itself.

pp. 114-134 these are just lists of positions that the authors consider erroneous. could be useful to come back to in the future, but it’s late, i have been at the library for 4 hours, after an 8 hour day and i need to return this book tonight and really all i want to do is to go outside and bike home listening to prince.

p. 135 conclusion: the points are to (1) generalize, (2) stuck with the uniqueness/power of language

p. 136 event structure, causal structure are actually used by everyone in every kind of metaphor.

the question is: to what extent is poetic metaphor different from conventional metaphor?

p. 139 so far they’ve talked about first-order metaphors, but hint at a second-order, at a higher scale (paradigm? poetics?)


more literary analysis and hint at the second-order metaphor as a consequence of inter-relations of first-order metaphors (and perhaps more!)


their theory of the great chain of beings, how values of metaphors are: - humans - animals - plants - complex objects - natural physical things


p. 214 “to understand metaphor, it is vital that we understand our own worldviews and the processes which guide both our everyday understanding and our imagination”

p. 215 the author writes that metaphor has been relagated as ornament, as a bad thing. but perhaps it is ornament indeed, and that’s a good thing, a thing that helps understanding: “poets are both imaginative and truthful”