Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hannah Arendt on Metaphor and Cognition

Hannah Arendt insists that speculative thought only reveals itself by means of metaphoric implementation.[1] Metaphors bridge the gulf that allegedly demarcates cognitive processes from the realm of sensibilia.[2] Without metasememes that rhetorically alternate or maneuver conceptual similarities, “there would have been no bridge whereby to cross from the minor truth of the seen to the major truth of the unseen” or vice versa.[3] Arendt therefore contends that metaphors revert the contemplative human NOUS back towards the sensible realm so that the contemplative or speculative NOUS can disclose its hitherto wholly noetic activities to rational datives of manifestation dwelling in the phenomenal realm of appearances.[4] Based on her reading of Aristotle and Kant, Arendt prefers to associate “metaphor” with “the transition from one existential state, that of thinking, to another, that of being an appearance among appearances.”[5] She postulates that abstract relata forming metasememic constructs allow thought concealed to become thought revealed. For Arendt, percipient subjects make the existential transition from the notional to the empirical level of being by positing metaphors in analogical relation to one another.[6] Her reading of Aristotle’s substitution theory of metaphor through a Kantian-Heideggerian template undoubtedly explains the uniqueness of her construal. Arendt’s approach to substitution theory further implies that metaphor is the sine qua non of theolinguistics. Without rational agents positing metaphors in analogical relationship to one another, it might be impossible to bridge the ostensive linguistic or relational chasm that subsists between the seen (= creatures) and the unseen (= God).



[1] Arendt, Thinking, 103.

[2] Cristina Cacciari, “Why Do We Speak Metaphorically: Reflections on the Functions of Metaphor in Discourse and Reasoning” in Katz’s Figurative Language and Thought, 121-122.

[3] Quoted in Arendt, Thinking, 106.

[4] Thinking, Arendt, 106.

[5] Thinking, 106.

[6] Arendt, Thinking, 103.

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