BRAIN AND METAPHOR
that most exquisite net at the bottom/sandy + pebbly river, all whose loops are wires of sunshine, gold finer than silk, beside yon Stone the Breeze seems to have blown them in a Heap Coleridge Notebooks II, 1489 f57
When I try to think about metaphor, what I really want to know is how to think about the fact that some of what I am is in the dark.
It's not just that I don't know how I know. Metaphor can also be a way I know more than I know. It is as if the part of me that is in the dark knows but I don't, and metaphor is a name for one of the ways unknown knowledge makes itself present and active.
1. landscape and shadow
I have a slide taken in Alberta that looks southeast across a field of canola. We can see about a mile, to the rim of a hill on the horizon. Midway into the scene are two granaries and the dark tufts of several copses. The picture is being taken from a roadway bordered with brome grass; the sun is halfway down and directly behind me so that it throws my shadow into the image along with the shadow of the strip of grass.
When I took the picture I was liking the color of the light. But mainly I was wanting to show the landscape I'd seen every day in childhood -- open fields with stands of poplar and saskatoon, and that rim of hill across the east.
When I was taking the photograph I did notice the shadow in the foreground, but it was several years before I saw the way my shadow joins the shadow of the strip of grass to make what looks like a childishly drawn outline of a bird with its wings stretched across the field. I didn't see the bird when I took the picture, and yet the bird is positioned as if I did see it. It is as if I felt its presence when I was framing the shot.
The shadow is just a shadow; I don't want to make too much of the fact that I can see it as a bird. We can call that a metaphor, but it doesn't seem important.
What does interest me about this photo is the other way it is metaphoric. That bird isn't very birdlike -- it is more a posture than a bird. In fact it's a kind of embrace. The photo includes within it as if an image of a feeling attitude. It's the feeling I was when I took the picture. I was intending to show my childhood landscape but somehow I managed to show also my childhood feeling for that landscape. How did I do that -- how did it do that?
I can only show a feeling by showing a body in the posture of a feeling. The shadow bird is a way of supplying a body to carry the image of a feeling present but unnoticed in the real body taking the picture.
2. metaphor's embodiment
I am not so much stating a belief or advancing a thesis or doctrine as proposing a categorization or scheme of organization, calling attention to a way of setting our nets ... What needs to be shown is not that it is true but what it can do. Goodman Ways of Worldmaking 1995, 129
'My horse with mane of short rainbows': the phrase gives me not only the horse, but also the weather -- bright sun --and a position -- on horseback and leaning forward so I can see each hair iridescent against the light. I got it by seeing it and I got it instantly. There was a conjuration. The line (from the Navajo, cited in Abrams 1996, 230) touched something off. I know what happened but I don't know how it happened.
Eventually we are going to understand metaphor from within a unified theory of cognitive function. Jakobson wrote in 1960 that rhetoric is a subfield of linguistics, and linguistics a subfield of psychology. We can extend the derivation; rhetoric is a subfield of the theory of representation, and theory of representation is a subfield of neuroscience. When we know how our minds work, we will know how words and pictures work; we'll know how we use words and pictures. It will be more obvious than it is now, that language and perception, knowledge and pleasure, art, science, love, therapy and theory are functions of the same organ. I am all of those things by means of one brain, but that brain will have to reorganize itself deeply before I can begin to think of myself in a unified way. We don't yet have the neuroscience to do it right, but we can begin by imagining the physical ground of our cognitive selves. If I think of perception, imagining and speech as functions of the same, or adjacent, or interdigitated fibers, then I can begin to revise the conceptual habits that make me think them in different vocabularies. I'd like in this paper to begin to set up a way of thinking about metaphor that doesn't have to stall at disciplinary boundaries and that can handle the experienced part of metaphor along with the part that seems to happen in the dark.
My sources in neuroscience and philosophy of mind I have acknowledged elsewhere. There has also been been good recent work in what is being called cognitive linguistics, cognitive rhetoric and cognitive poetics: Chris Collins' The Poetics of the Mind's Eye (1991); Eve Sweetser's From Etymology to Pragmatics: the Metaphorical and Cultural Aspects of Semantic Experience (1990); and Eleanor Rosch (1978 , 1991) and George Lakoff's (1987)work on metaphor-based categorization. Barbara Stafford writing art history (1991 and 1996) and Evelyn Fox Keller writing philosophy of science (1983 , 1985) have been persistent proponents of knowledge as embodied.
Earlier allies are M.A.K. Halliday whose Introduction to Functional Grammar (1994 ) is a beautiful rethinking of the relation of meaning and linguistic form, and Wittgenstein, whosePhilosophical Investigations, (1958) is still decades ahead.
I.A. Richards whose writing since the 30s has recently been republished (Richards on Rhetoric, 1991), actually studied neuroscience, and wrote about writing in ways that seem to me to be based on a vision something like the one I will attempt. Valery in the same era was writing with a similar clarity in his case based on precise attention to technical effect in poetry.
Palpable behind Richards and Valery are the romantic cognitivists of the 1700s, particularly Coleridge -- exquisite phenomenologist of his own process, rummaging through every sort of theory that might help him discover how to think about the fact that some of what he was was in the dark.
Representation as I will use the term always refers to our use of representational objects and events in the public world. Where other writers talk about mental representation I will talk about cognitive structure; if we use the same term both for a picture and for the brain state by means of which we use the picture, we have lost our ability to speak clearly about their relation. In my formulation, a theory of representation would fall out of a unified general theory of cognition, but they are not synonymous.
Other distinctions I need are the perception/simulation distinction and the distinction between situational entrainment and cognitive autonomy. They are conceptual distinctions only; in practice we can perceive and imagine at the same time; and we can be cognitively coordinated with our physical surroundings to various degrees.
Perception and action are basic. We stay alive only if we, or other people for us, stay in touch with where we are. Perception is, and action requires, organizational entrainment: we are able to perceive and act because our bodies organize themselves in relevant response to our surroundings. If I am perceiving, I am in sync. As my surroundings change, I change. When I watch a cloud pass overhead I am performing a cognitive act of great responsive precision: each forming and dissolving fiber and every flowing change of shape that I make out requires cognitive coordination and then re-coordation.
When we are imagining (remembering, thinking) rather than perceiving, we are somewhat uncoupled from where we are. We're not elsewhere, but we are in sync in fewer ways. It can happen, though, that imagining is actually perceptually entrained. When I'm seeing animals in moving clouds, I am engaged in a kind of perceptually anchored fantasy.
The perceptual organization of simulation can be slight or extensive, and it can work in different ways. If I am entertaining myself on the fifth day of a buddhist sesshin by watching a flow of buddha-shapes generated around a stain on the floor, it's as if I'm spatially entrained but temporally uncoupled -- I'm organized to see the stain, and to see it THERE, with the rest of the meditation hall around it, but the structures by which I am seeing it are unstable structures unstably organizing the means by which I'm imagining.
Or if, in more ordinary times, I am looking out the window at the top of the sumac and thinking the seed heads look like figures in red velvet cloaks, I can use careful observation to develop illusion. That central seed head is a little tilted: it's a figure walking forward in -- how should I say it -- a slightly anxious manner. The pinnate leaves if I see them in scale with the figures are tropical shrubs in a marvelous strong yellow light. And so on. In this sort of moment I am more comprehensively entrained by the sumac than I would be in casual looking, but that entrainment is also organizing -- and of course being organized by -- the structures by means of which I am imagining.
The most general thing that can be said about representation is that our use of representational objects and events is perceptually entrained simulation.
It is true that people use language and gestures to coordinate their perception of physical circumstances they share. 'Look at that!' is like an animal cry that coordinates an animal group's perceptual state: suddenly they are all alarmed and alert. But in human groups the flow of speech sound is more often used to coordinate fantasy. 'We spent a couple of weeks in a little town in the Baja, and then in April we ... ' Or ' ... after some delay, of course, a stimulus that was an immediate external determinant must become a preceding context and hence...'.
The flow of sound (the line of print) is the representational event. To have representational effect it must be perceived; and it can only be perceived if the perceiver is entrained -- altered, organized, scheduled -- by it. But it may have a triggering effect without having the kind of effect that would make us aware of it. PET scans have confirmed (Raiche et al, 1995 ) what doesn't surprise anyone: it is possible to respond to words without any activation showing up in auditory cortex. The organizational entrainment effected by language or other media can take shortcuts. Representational entrainment, like other kinds of perceptual entrainment, may be functionally transparent.
Representational media can be thought of as transparent to various degrees. We normally respond to postural signals without noticing them. Printed language can be handled as rapidly as it is because it invisibilizes remarkably. Subliminal effects apart, image media lose their point if you don't see them, and if you fade out on music you might as well turn it off (not everyone thinks that).
Representational artifacts may also be designed to entrain to different degrees. 'Compelling' means maximally entraining: you don't miss a frame of the movie and you hardly have a thought of your own. Another kind of film sets you up to wander away.
It is also possible to take representational objects and events in a wholly perceptual way. You can LISTEN to the sentence. You can see patterned light reflected off a screen. If you are set up to attend to what is there as such, you are perceiving. If you are set up by the presence of what is there to seem to perceive what isn't there, you are simulating by way of entrainment to a representational object.
Something more needs to be said about the differences and similarities between, for instance, language and image media. When we use patterned pressure waves to direct our own or someone else's attention to something in the landscape, we are entrained both by the flow of sound and by the landscape itself; we are jointly organized by means of an interaction of two kinds of presence, but the result is still simply perception. But when we are standing in a landscape absorbed in talk about Ursula le Guin's The Dispossessed, much of our cognitive organization is coming from reciprocal conversational entrainment in simulation.
When we are looking at a photograph our cognitive situation is something between these extremes. We are in a room: we are perceptually entrained by the room. We're seeing it. There is a sheet of photographic paper behind glass on the wall: we are seeing it too. The structured light by which we are seeing is being structured then and there; but the light reflected from that sheet of paper is also being structured (more or less) as it was when it entered a lens years ago. We are being entrained by a real structure of light with a fictional effect: it organizes us as if we were with an object we aren't with.
We don't want to say we are imagining the photograph. We are seeing everything else in the room, and we are seeing the photograph. The light reflected from the photographic surface is everywhere convolved with the light reflected from the rest of the room. We are seeing and seeming to see by means of the same medium. But some of the light is being used for perceptual purposes and some is being used for representational purposes. This is like hearing a dog bark at the same time that my friend's sentence is directing me to think of Le Guin's fictional planet Annares. The photo's presence as a representational object is not illusory. We do not imagine IT but we imagine by means of it, the same way we can imagine by means of a flow of cloud or a line of type.
What I have sketched above is a basic reorientation in thinking about representation. It has the advantage of giving us a unified account of representational effect across media; it gives us flexible ways to describe the particularity of any representational instance, but it also allows us to begin to think more generally about representational effects -- metaphor for example -- common to many kinds of instance.
The best reason for describing representation in terms of cognitive structure is that it grounds the theory of representation in the whole of the body. Neural networks are in functional contact with, for instance, the endocrine and immune systems. When a sentence makes us blush, we can count that as representational entrainment. When reading Anna Karenina and drinking strong tea in a London boarding house makes us euphoric, that should count as a representational effect too -- organized jointly with straightforward perceptual and directly chemical means. It is an organization of an entire cognitive mode.
The body has no difficulty convolving effects, and our theory should at least acknowledge the contextual flexibility with which we manage comprehension and articulation, even where we can't account for it in detail.
The phonetic 'gesture' brings about, both for the speaking subject and for [her] hearers, a certain structural co-ordingation of experience, a certain modulation of existence. Merleau-Ponty The Essential Writings, 206
To put it rather contentiously, language has appeared special and unassimilable to broader psychological phenomena mainly because linguists have insisted on analyzing it in inappropriate and highly unnatural fashion. Langacker 1984, 7
... would have to be trained to see that a perceptual and affective model of knowing actually corresponds to our understanding of how the brain functions ... by a coherent and concerted rhetorical effort Stafford 1991, 23
4. complex meaning, complex means
O said I as I looked on the blue, yellow, green, & purple green Sea, with all its hollows & swells & cut-glass surfaces -- O what an Ocean of lovely forms! -- and I was vexed, teazed, that the sentence sounded like a play of Words. But it was not, the mind within me was struggling to express the marvelous distinctness & unconfounded personality of each of the million millions of forms. & yet the undivided unity in which they subsisted. Coleridge Notebooks II, 2344
We commonly talk as if representational objects and events have meanings which are their content. Thus we talk about finding the meaning of a difficult sentence and we wonder whether we should describe music as having meaning at all. There is a good reason why we make this kind of attempt: representational objects and artifacts are public. People are perceptually entrained by them in similar ways. At times the more complex simulative structure that results from this entrainment may be similar too. Since we seem to share a representational effect, we tend to say it belongs to the object-- the same way we say Christmas is a manic season even though it is we who are manic. Representational objects are social objects; they are used in similar ways and we can not-incorrectly call these socially correlated uses their meaning.
But representational objects have socially-correlated effects in virtue of personal brains -- wild and/or trained as these brains are. Moreover, representational effects can be idiosyncratic: we should be able to talk about personal meanings. It makes deeper and more flexible sense to say that meaning and cognitive structure are the same thing. We could go on to say meaning is something we are, not something we grasp or find.
This makes meaning rather global: it would be the whole of the wide net by means of which we are being our cognitive selves. There is a lot to include: besides the neural configurations by means of which we are perceiving or imagining the world, there are the interoceptive structures by means of which the body perceives and imagines its own tissue states, muscle tension, endocrine concentrations. And maybe the neuroceptive states by which the net senses its own shapes.
At any time, only some of the active net will be part of the integrated subnet by means of which we are sentient. If Kinsbourne is right (1995, 1324 ) conscious attention is hyperactivation: whatever we are sentient in will also, as a dynamic consequence, be more finely and more widely connected and readier to organize action. It will also be the means by which we are our felt sense of something -- the whole copresent weave of perception, physical sensation and imagining. That will be meaning as far as I can mean it. In the context of this totality it is difficult and unnecessary to decide how much or what parts of that felt sense to call the meaning given by a sentence or an image. There will be no fact of the matter. This is even more obvious when we include as meaning the structural response of the non-sentient net which surrounds and is interfused with the sentient net.
I have suggested that at any time in the awake individual's brain there is a dominant focus of patterned neural activity that underlies the phenomenal experience of that moment. Kinsbourne 1995, 1324
One of these ideas ... dispatches a flow of animal spirits to its proper trace, these spirits in the violence of their motion, run not only into the trace to which they are more particularly directed, but into several of those that lie about it. By this means they awaken other ideas of the same set till at last the whole set of them is blown up and the whole prospect or garden flourishes in the imagination. Addison cited in Collins 1991,417
I tend to believe that a full account of lexical meaning will only come hand-in-hand with a far fuller understanding of cognition than is presently available. Sweetser 1995, 16
5. complex entrainment
Much of what appears to us as 'feeling' (as is obvious in the case of a complex metaphor) will in fact be quite an elaborate structure of related meanings. Empson quoted in Collins, 1991, 36
The neural configuration we are at any moment is very comprehensively coordinated. To see anything in its circumstance, for instance, the parietal configurations by means of which we are seeing it WHERE it is must tie across to the occipital lobe configurations by means of which we are seeing its form; and to feel ourselves looking at it as well as seeing it, these configurations must tie across to the nets in somatosensory cortex by means of which we feel tension in eye muscles.
When we are seeing, tasting and touching something the different ways we are patterned or entrained through these senses are naturally coordinated -- coordinated by timing coincidence and wiring design. The evidence is that this coordination reaches even to senses we don't seem to be using. PET imaging has found activation in auditory cortex even when we are only watching someone's lips move (Zatorre, 1992, 846). Speech perception is similarly helped by subvocal movements in our mouths and throats: feeling how it would feel to speak them is part of the way we discriminate phonemes in a flow of sound. When we listen to an Australian accent we are surreptitiously trying it on -- that's why we can reproduce it. Watching a bear walk we are walking like a bear: that's why we can write a sentence that walks like a bear. Perception is not only energetically entrained, it is also muscularly empathetic; we become what we see. We feel the shape of the vase by imagining we are holding ourselves the way it would be holding itself if it were a living body.
Perceptual knowledge includes these extensions into empathetic structure, and much more. The cognitive order set up by perceptual entrainment can reach deep into the brain. And it can include virtuosic abilities to support observation with simulated self-talk. Barbara McLintock could look at the germ cell of a corn plant with the whole of her theory standing active around the means by which she saw it (Keller 1983 , 117). She called it integrating the phenotype.
When we simulate perception we may similarly induce an organization much deeper than a term like mental image can suggest. We set up a loom of fancy. Then we use it to think and feel with. It is more comprehensive than just sensory evocation: we can evoke a mode. Think of oratory or hymns to Venus. Or we may evoke PROCEDURES: reading Whitman's lists sets us up to generate lists. We can wake from dreams in which we have been writing pages of Victorian prose.
A representational work issues from and entrains a whole style of cognitive order. Clynes (1978 ) describes the differences of global feel in different composers. We not only recognize Mozart by his line, but we become Mozart when we're entrained by his particular organization of tension and release. There are people we like being: we could say that's what liking means. Hearing a spontaneous sentence is a relief even when we don't like what is said. A theorist whose writing state is energetic and coherent sets us up temporarily to think strong thoughts beyond our usual capacity. Being able to do that is a sign of having got it.
It's a kind of mediated invasion. We don't get entrained brain to brain, but the representational event -- the spoken sentence, cautious as it may be, the written sentence, reworked as it may be, the photograph processed as it certainly is, the room's decor, set us up in ways that -- if they are not wholly the maker's ways -- are still ways made by the maker.
When conversation is slaved fantasy rather than a way to coordinate attention in real surroundings, it has particular need for timing effects like the syllabic foot and intonational contour. Ong ( 1982) is interesting on the dynamics of sonic entrainment in oral cultures where public speech must be organized to touch off just the kinds of cognitive structure that will be reliably formed on the fly.
Literate cultures can use linguistic tactics (Collins 1991) that build cognitive structures of other kinds. A long sentence with many subordinate clauses can be thought of as setting up a net that accumulates subnet complexity. A complex meaning is induced by cumulative organization of complex means; this isn't in principle different from what happens when I'm in a room with Louie and then Rowen comes in wearing a black leather cap and says he wants something to eat, and Louie says let's go to the Vietnamese place. The means by which we perceive or by which we accumulate the sense of a long text will have to shift, presumably, with all the precise delicacy of a cloud's many-fibred flow -- and more.
the communication or comprehension of gestures ... as if the other person's intentions inhabited my body and mine [hers]. Merleau-Ponty Phenomenology of Perception, 185
The exquisitely intricate structures and references evolved in sound can be visibly recorded exactly in their specific complexity, and, because visibly recorded, can implement production of still more exquisite structures and inferences. Ong 1982, 85
6. metaphor and exit organization
We must consider speech before it is spoken. Merleau-Ponty Signs, 46
When we initiate one action rather than another -- when we turn our eyes to the left -- some particular configuration of some particular subnet gates activation of effectors. The nervous system bifurcates. There can be copresent connections setting up incompatible acts, but the result will not be incompatible acts: it will be vacillating motion, no motion at all, or something that satisfies many constraints simultaneously. In states of unusual urgency or unusual well-being the wide net's internal coherence might organize motion of unusual force or grace.
Speech and writing are kinds of action which, like running or eye motion, are peripherally gated from centrally organized structure. The way we sometimes imagine a word before we speak it can obscure the fact that a word comes into existence only when we speak or write it; it is made when it is sounded. It does not flow from brain to lips like a packet ejected with its meaning inside it. Like a gesture, it is not transferred but enabled.
Like a gesture, it is performed by means of a wide net that is STILL THERE while the word is being pronounced. The word is produced in the standing context of everything we are as we speak it: the fine-grained multiple weave that is our meaning. We don't speak about our experience, we speak from it. We don't refer TO it, we refer from it. The system sorts toward words (Goodman 1968 ); we organize a wording (Halliday 1994) by means of it.
If we talk about meaning as the cognitive structure from which wordings are organized, certain things about language are less puzzling. Polysemy: different states of a wide net can sort toward the same word. Homonymy: very different states of a wide net can sort toward the same motion, the way a wink and a blink can be set up in different ways.
What happens more often than homonymy is that a word is used in conditions that vary largely but can have a range of partial commonalities, the kinds of family resemblance Wittgenstein noticed, that allows grain to be used for seeds, cereal plants, minimal quantities, the kind and direction of wood fibers, the size and texture of the particles of any surface, the direction of cleavage of a mineral, one's natural disposition ore temperament. When we read that list we feel not complete difference but as if a series of lateral shifts. It makes sense that a net configured to remember the surface texture of leather would enable the same word as a net configured to remember the surface texture of a cut round of wood.
Different meanings run to the same words -- more exactly different cognitive conditions gate the same words -- necessarily. When we're stuck for a word we feel the meaning we are but the net isn't setting up a wording. Then we'll gate off some part of our meaning. Jesse's dad asks him if he knows the difference between a breaking plow and an ordinary plow. Jesse is very bright but he's only two. He says 'The breakin' plow has bigger ... knives.' He had to sit with it for a minute. He knows the fact but he doesn't know the word. When he's sitting with the fact he knows, imagining the breaking plow, dwelling on it, he's energizing the structure by means of which he's thinking it. Some part of it, the cutting-edge part, the dangerous part, is energized enough to gate a word. He has worded from the meaning he was.
Sweetser (1990) describes the orderedness of shifts in word use as metaphoric. How metaphors are made is not so different from other kinds of talk. There's structure and it gates a word. When Jesse says 'The breakin' plow has bigger .. knives' he is not making a metaphor but he is doing what people do when they make metaphors -- referring from a complex meaning -- gating a word that runs off the part of a net that's hyperenergized for some reason.
Metaphors are spots of licensed wildness in a discourse. They can tell you what else is going on. Haskell (1987) talks about the way words like here, now and this used in a group will mark constructions that are metaphoric descriptions of power dynamics in the group. Metaphoric wordings are being set up from structures wider than the structures set up for conversational topics.
There is another reason for not using the term 'syntax'. This word suggests proceeding in a particular direction, such that a language is interpreted as a system of forms, to which meanings are then attached ... In a functional grammar, on the other hand, the direction is reversed. A language is interpreted as a system of meanings, accompanied by forms through which the meanings can be realized. Halliday 1994, xvii
Metaphor is usually described as a variation in the use of words: a word is said to be used with a transferred meaning. Here, however, we are looking at it from the other end, asking not 'How is this word used?' but 'How is this meaning expressed?' A meaning may be realized by a selection of words that is different from that which is in some sense typical or unmarked. From this end, metaphor is a variation in the expression of meanings. Halliday 1994, 341
Behind every utterance there is a person. It is not simply the words that mean; it is a person who means; and what the person means, intends to convey or declare or conceal and for what reason, is physically imprinted into the structure and texture of [her] language ... To the perceptive ear an utterance becomes not only a declaration by the writer but also a disclosure of the writer. Whalley 1985, 82
On this view it is incoherent to speak of two sentences being identical in meaning despite differences in grammatical form, since grammatical structure has intrinsic semantic import. Langacker 1984, 24
7. metaphor and directed attention
selects, emphasizes, suppresses and organizes features of the primary subject Ortony 1993, 28
To begin to get a feel for how to rethink metaphoric effect, it is helpful to see how it is continuous with effects we think of under different names. Anomalies of attention can happen when we are merely seeing different things in the same context. Think of a blue-eyed person wearing a blue sweater: he's counting on the effect. I can count on something similar if I collage a photo of an old stone house and another of the stony surface of the moon. The eyes will be bluer; both house and moon will look stonier. It's a basic perceptual effect. We use rhyme to increase the auditory presence of a stanza.
A less obvious form of the effect is if I'm looking at the beech tree and my friend, looking at a runner, says 'muscles' (or even 'no muscles'). Beech-tree-seeing structure and 'muscle'-understanding structure evoked at the same time are (something like) blue-eye-seeing structure set up with blue-sweater-seeing structure. We won't call what happened metaphor but metaphor is in the air.
Taking a further step from perception into simulation, we have a phrase that reads: 'the pinto's dazzling mane.' We have pinto-imagining structure and we have dazzle-imagining structure. It's a bit as if we've stuck the dazzle on the pony by means of pony-imagining structure interwoven with dazzle-imagining structure. The adjective tells us where exactly to put the dazzle; so we have pony-imagining structure that includes a subset of more active mane-imagining structure.
Now think of syntax as a way of routing activation to subnets of simulational structures. Predication in a sentence can have the same effect as putting on a blue sweater: one part of a wide net is organizing the way another part gets hyped.
One more step and we're at metaphor proper. My friend and I are looking at the beech tree. 'It's so muscular' she says. Or the whole set-up can happen by means of a sentence; 'Cloaked in red velvet, the sumac's seed heads stand pensive in autumn light'. Or some such. It doesn't always work. The blue sweater doesn't work either if it isn't the right shade.
If we understand metaphor as one among other ways of organizing cognitive structure so that we see particular things in particular ways by means of it, we lose some of our sense of staring at an anomaly which somehow holds the key to cognitive function. Cognitive function holds the key to it.
a persistent, systematic, detailed inquiry into how words work that will take the place of ... rhetoric. Richards 1991, 93
The question why predicates apply as they do metaphorically is much the same as the question why they apply as they do literally. Goodman 1968, 78
8. metaphor and synaesthesia
The poet must understand what Bacon calls the vestigia communia of the senses, the latency of all in each, ... the excitement of vision by sound and the exponents of sound. Coleridge Biographia Literaria ch. 2, 142
Synaesthesia is a systematic but perceptually irrelevant correlation of activity in different subnets of a wide net, such that we feel a sensory quality as belonging to an object that doesn't, or can't, have that quality.
This goes beyond correlation. When I am exhausted a sudden noise can make me seem to see a dim round patch spread evenly with little dots. Presumably some midbrain bimodal audiovisual map is sending a split signal into auditory and visual cortex.
I'm not tempted to ascribe the dim dotted spot to the sound, or the sound to the spot, so I don't call this synaesthesia. It's perceptually-entrained simulation of a rudimentary sort. (The Welsh woman who says 'Mary' is pale mauve and 'Charles' dull red may not really be ascribing either -- just noticing that it usually happens that way, and enjoying the renown.)
When I seem to see labour pains as three-dimensional yellow shapes I half-ascribe. I'm experiencing them as yellow while knowing they're not. I'm experiencing them as changing shapes, which they are -- changing shapes of muscle tension -- and experiencing those shapes as visible, which they are not. That is synaesthesia.
When I look at the beech and see it as muscular I'm half-ascribing in the same way. I'm seeing the beech and I'm imagining it as muscular. I'm not imagining muscles separately from seeing the tree. Like feeling the shapes of the labour pains and imagining them yellow, I'm seeing the long fiber-bundles of the beech trunk and imagining them muscles.
In both instances the imagining is felt as intrinsic to the sensing. Seeming to see what I'm feeling helps me feel it clearly. Seeing the tree trunk as muscular helps me see the shape of the fiber-bundles clearly. Muscle-tension-feeling structure is in some sort of helpful interaction with shape-seeing-structure, tree-trunk seeing structure is in facilitative interaction with muscle-seeing or maybe muscle-feeling structure.
For a Thing at the moment is but a Thing of the moment/ it must be taken up into the mind, diffuse itself thro' the whole multitude of Shapes and Thoughts, not one of which it leaves untinged - between wch & it some Thought is not engendered/ this is a work of Time/ but the Body feels it quicken with me - Coleridge Notebooks II, 1597
9. metaphor and domains
All the theorists agree that the metaphor has two elements related in some way. The 'some way' is the problem. Hester 1967, 24
My thesis is that all that goes by the name of metaphor is based in deeper neurological substrate operations generating multiple transformations of invariance. Haskell 1987, x
We suggest conventional mental images are structured by image-schemas and that image metaphors preserve image-schematic structure, mapping parts onto parts and wholes onto wholes, containers onto containers, paths onto paths, and so on. Lakoff 1987, 231
There is no non-metaphorical standpoint from which one could look upon metaphor, and all the other figures for that matter, as if they were a game played before one's eyes. Ricoeur 1977,18
The key to imagining metaphoric effect in a brain is to keep imagining it as happening in a wide net. We have been thinking of metaphor in ways that confuse us. When we restructure them certain mysteries evaporate.
The most elementary confusion is to talk about metaphor as if it is something about the representational object or event. This phrase, this photo, this gesture, this building, is 'a metaphor'. It's better to say that they have such or such metaphoric effect in cognitive systems that are entrained by them.
Most theorists of metaphor have passed this point, but they are imagining cognition in confusing ways. The most persistent intuition seems to have been something about superimposition : as if one picture or pattern or 'meaning' is overlaid on another and 'common features' are thereby made to 'become salient'. We can imagine it as a moiré effect: the way pattern emerges when we overlay grids oriented at different angles.
The entities we imagine superposed and interacting are domains, regions, semantic fields, each with their own topology, which we speak of as they were different spaces. The language sets us up to imagine them embodied in different PLACES in the brain. A mystery in the theory of metaphor then becomes how we should imagine the 'structural correspondence' that somehow obtains between these diverse domains. Is structure transferred from one place to another, an engram floated across the brain and touching off activity where it happens to 'resonate'? Is cognitive pattern to be thought of as transduced by parallel conduction, by a kind of biological projection or transformation? Or are various parts of domain topologies thought of as isomorphic because both are this sort of projection from some 'deeper' structure?
The temptation when we speak about structural correspondence is to think of the means by which we see or imagine different things as if they were themselves different things, which can resemble each other, correspond to each other, be mapped onto each other, or be superimposed like screens whose interaction makes 'similar features' 'stand out'.
In fact there are no domains in the brain -- there are wide nets. When we are thinking of different things at the same time, we can be thinking them by means of subnets parts of which will be common. If we are looking at a room and imagining a field, the nets by which we do so will have basic orientation in common -- below, above, right, left. And maybe much more than that the way we understand field and room may be deeply interwoven in virtue of common cognitive origin.
If we can think of ourselves seeing the beech tree and imagining muscle by means of a net that is already ONE net, we do not have to transport, transfer, transduce, or project. There will be interaction, but there is always interaction -- activation all over the net is reentrant, strengthening some connections and inhibiting others, allowing some parts of the working net to fall below the level of activation that makes them sentient and hyperactivating others so we are suddenly noticing something we didn't notice before.
It is tricky but essential to say this right -- we are not comparing our perception of the tree and an image of muscle and finding 'a similarity'. When we put ourselves into the picture it comes out this way: I am a structure by means of which I am seeing different things as similar. That means: I am using common structure to see and/or seem to see different things
The eyes quietly & stedfastly dwelling on an object not as if looking at it or as seeing any thing in it, or as in any way exerting an act of Sight upon it, but as if the whole attention were listning to what the heart was feeling & saying about it/ As when A is talking to B or C -- and B deeply interested listens intensely to A, the eye passive yet stedfast fixed on C as the Subject of the communication - Coleridge Notebooks II, 3025
10. cognitive roots
such a profound Blue, deep as a deep river, and deep in color, & those two (depths) so entirely one, as to give the meaning and explanation of the two different significations of the epithet (here so far from divided they were scarcely distinct) Coleridge Notebooks II, 2453
It's winter morning. There are smudgy clouds lit up behind the hemlock. I see with a thrill that the sky is blue above them. The sound of an airplane fading. 'California is in the air,' I say.
Then I understand what I mean. When I say 'the air' I see sky but I mean also the transparent medium that is the brain: it means itself.
'California is in the air': I AM two places at once; the means by which I am them is a mixed means, a mixed meaning.
But what I want to know is how I came to say what I meant before I knew it. How to talk about the fact.
I've been led by recognitions, for years isolated -- a sense of significance in some phrase, some image, some scientific finding, someone's way of saying something. Metaphors I took out of context.
I need to understand the sense of significance itself, whether it can be trusted, whether it is given by something coherent, a knowledge not yet able to account for itself.
We develop intuition, we don't know of what. It is perception as if in the sense of touch. As if we can feel the shapes of the structures by which we think. Is that possible? When I see, do the structures by which I'm seeing feel their own shapes of motion in the brain? Neuroception; neural self-perception.
There are two kinds of sentience: being it, being the means by which I am it. They are mediated by a third, who stands around them both, who is their ground, their neural air.
When I look at landscape I AM landscape. The structures by which I am landscape stretch to and enfold the structures that are how I am other things. Coleridge musing at the moon through the dewy window is seeing something, feeling something. Being the moon, being himself. But he feels what he is in the thing he sees; a kind of synaesthesia. Symbol, he thinks. Of what? he asks. (An answer comes. He writes it down.)
But nothing is PROJECTED: structures are standing together. When I see Tanya I see her partly with the same structures I used to feel my mother and use now to imagine myself. When Coleridge is the moon seen through dew he is being it with structures by means of which he has been many things, and some of the connections he sets up in his dwelling-on the moon go back to origin. He opened his eyes in what he didn't know was water. It goes back to origin by being that way again. Among other things.
The way an event is felt as emblematic is that it is being felt with structures that are feeling themselves in origin.
When I say 'California is in the air' I am meaning 'the air' with structures that have origin-connections with water I don't know is water -- with every transparent medium -- with space thought a transparent medium. When I imagine the brain I imagine it with that structure too. So there is a way, at root, that when I imagine air I am imagining the other things I imagine by means of that structure. My sentence when I speak it is gated from the whole of that structure. Consequently it refers from complex means, and means a lot.
Saturday Night, April 14, 1805 -- In looking at objects of Nature while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim and glimmering thro' the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking, a symbolical language for something within me that already and forever exists, than observing any thing new. Even when the latter is the case, yet still I have always an obscure feeling as if that new phaenomenon were the dim Awaking of a forgotten or hidden Truth of my inner Nature Coleridge Notebooks II, 2546k.
O not only the Moon, but the depth of Sky! -- the Moon was the Idea, but deep Sky is of all visual impressions the nearest akin to a Feeling/ it is more a Feeling than a Sight/ it rather it is the melting away and entire union of Feeling & Sight. Coleridge Notebooks II, 2453
Do not words excite feelings of Touch (tactual ideas ) more than distinct visual ideas ... the Question is of great Importance, as a general application - Coleridge Notebooks II, 2152
11. landscape and gift
The emblematic depth of landscape we saw every day in childhood: we see it by means of the same structures we used to feel our mother's body when we were in her. Homeland. We also use that structure to see and imagine our own body: the arms of the landscape; the marsh to the south; the central yard; the lonely north.
A pagan but not a primitive vision. We understand love and gratitude to be woven into the fabric of space.
The vision is pagan because it doesn't struggle against origin . We don't try to transcend our own structure; that is impossible. The effort can only set up a structure interfering with itself.
The vision is not primitive because we know how we are sorted: by nets which are nets within our nets, primal standings-together grown wide after being close together in the nub; and keeping their connection, holding it all together -- from nub to bud to rose -- until it dies. Knowing what is origin in its own moment, it is coherent in depth.
We shall do better to think of meaning as a plant that has grown. Richards 1991 (1936),108
How far one might imagine all the association System out of a system of growth (thinking of the Brain & Soul, what we know of an embryo -- one tiny particle combines with another, its like. & so lengthens & thickens.- & this is at once Memory & increasing vividness of impression Coleridge Notebooks II, 2373
... for the ordering of the circuit of our soul ... regulate the revolutions in his head that were disturbed when soul was born in the flesh Plato cited by Richards 1991 (1936), 131
12. deep reconnection
I began by describing a slide of childhood's landscape that carries hidden in plain sight the illusion of a figure holding out its arms. I've said it is my feeling embracing the landscape, but I see now that the embrace is ambiguous. Is the shadow figure embracing the landscape, or is it holding out its arms to me?
I'm understanding now. The shadow is in the shape of a blind spot. I didn't see it because she is what isn't there.
It's true that it's the shadow I throw. I never stopped holding out my arms.
What I can't feel is that I'm holding them out to her. What I can't feel is that the shape cut out of the landscape is her shape.
It says, Fight. There was sudden loss of psychic organization. Slowly remake the structure. Bring together feeling and intelligence to come through. You never felt the loss. You lost it.
What it implies. How internal to the moment its own extension can be, as if the space inside an instant takes a breath. How the body can reward its own faith in itself.
Inner gender and rescue. Theory is marrying the one who always knew.