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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16164/the-secret-life-of-metaphor/

The Secret Life of Metaphor

March 22, 2011 by

Humans are always looking for patterns as a matter of survival, and when the picture isn’t complete our brains fill in the blanks. FULL ARTICLE by Doug French

{ 10 comments }

Bruce Koerber March 22, 2011 at 7:40 am

It is amazing that some can live in that sterile world and act as a bridge to its regularity to those of us who need metaphors.

Michael R Stoddard March 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

I think that the “Logic of Metaphor” is a very dangerous use of the term “LOGIC”.

Metaphors are incredible mental tools for understanding many of life’s topics.
BUT, many many times in life I have noticed that cogent Metaphors are accepted as “Truth” unquestioningly!

In fact I have been tempted to write an essay on the “Metaphor Trap”.

I would have to say that the Memetic power of Metaphors is what mentally enslaves most of the world in delusional belief systems.

EG: the mechanical world view or the “Mathematical/Scientistic” world view just to mention two and to avoid the ubiquitous “Metaphysical” Tar Babies that we get attached to from birth through adolescence.

So be very very careful not to confuse tools of understanding for logical proofs.

mik

Stephan Kinsella March 22, 2011 at 10:44 am

Doug, great post (though I do think we have to be careful of being mislead by metaphors in scientific discourse, as I discuss in Objectivist Law Prof Mossoff on Copyright; or, the Misuse of Labor, Value, and Creation Metaphors http://blog.mises.org/7614/objectivist-law-prof-mossoff-on-copyright-or-the-misuse-of-labor-value-and-creation-metaphors/ and http://blog.mises.org/archives/005098.asp).

You might find of interest a fascinating talk by Douglas Hofstadter on Analogy as the Core of Cognition — written version of speech here http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/hofstadter/analogy.html and youtube here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8m7lFQ3njk

claves curiae March 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

“Humans are always looking for patterns as a matter of survival, and when the picture isn’t complete our brains fill in the blanks.”

This is a proven fact that we don’t actually perceive we invent whatever filler is necessary to make a complete picture. It’s not even an act of willful conscious but executed subconsciously. How can we “fix” what we don’t know we do?

“Unfortunately in the game of investing humans are not served well by their pattern-seeking brains shaped by the metaphorical flourishes of financial writers. So, for most of us, our brains succumb easily to metaphor and pattern making rather than logic or mathematics.”

It isn’t necessarily the logic that’s important, it’s the critical thinking and analysis about a subject that seeks to find the accuracy, which sometimes may not be logical but is in fact true.

Freedom Fighter March 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

I tried to complete the picture of the universe and make all the parts fit together, but to my dismay I fail every time I try.

I know from oneiric source that there is an “I am that I am”, a God.
But I cannot reconcile the God of love, compassion and “love thy neighbor” with what I see in nature with insects and other life forms battling each other to the death each with their own special weapons and tactics. Surely the fall of man and the original sin cannot account for the butchery we see in nature.

This God of “love thy neighbor” also seems to love war, destruction and mass extinctions. For he created nature and all other creatures that way.
This God is a complete SOB. He is not in a position to tell anyone of us to “love thy neighbor”.
If a tiger can eat a goat alive, why can’t I do the same thing to my neighbor ?
Because of law ? Because of the rule of law ? Because of civilization ?

The same civilization that taxes us to death and that criminalizes victimless behaviors, that has laws that keep changing on political caprices and that starts unjust wars making countless casualties ?

I tried to make subatomic particles, insects, animals, mankind, law and order, politics, christianity, cosmology, astrophysics fit in together and I can’t. There is no pattern, there is nothing to understand and trying to fill the void makes things even more complicated.

So I am at a complete loss, in a brutal and savage world, trying to figure out what to do and how to act according to what I see and I can’t.

I don’t know if I must be compassionate or if I must be brutal. If I must crush my enemies or forgive them, if I must fight or retreat. I am like dying a slow and painful death paralysed by a never ending analysis that never pans out.

Freedom Fighter March 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

I want to be justified in the things I do. I want to do things because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s the best thing to do, because it must be done etc.

But I find none of that. There is no justification, there is no “right” thing to do. And there is nobody and no one to stop you from doing wrong should you have such an impulse. So you must limit yourself in what you do but it’s hard to do the “right” thing where there is no “right” picture of the world to begin with. How do you know you are “right” ? Is there even such a thing to begin with ?

What I see in nature and most of mankind is that “might is might, there is no right” !

Am I the gullible one for believing there is such a thing as righteousness ?
While everyone around me enjoys using and abusing their mights without even worrying about being right.

Freedom Fighter March 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

Those who use their mights, without worrying about being right, to abuse others and gain an advantage win and those who worry about being right and restrain themselves from abusing their mights fail and die.

This is the world we live in and civilization did not change that one bit. It only organized, hierarchised and categorized how might is to be used against others to gain advantages. It’s still might is might, we don’t care about rights, just in a more disciplined and organized manner. Think of the military, it’s all about might, forget about rights.

Isn’t that ironic that most people refer to the military as those who fight for our rights ? So our rights rest on the shoulders of those who fight using might and not caring about being right ?

I don’t know how to “win” without being a complete sob myself. Life is a complete nonsense and the more you try to make sense of it all, the more it becomes nonsense.

Maybe it’s all might is might and may the biggest asshole win. Maybe right and sense are pitfalls installed by the mighty to make the masses second guess about using their mights ?

Just look at how lawyers parrot the law without critical thinking. Just look at how soldiers obey orders without questioning. Just look at how voters think they can change the world by going voting. Maybe it’s not religion that is the opium of the people, maybe it’s the law, righteousness and the search for a “meaning” of life.

Maybe this whole concept of “right” and “sense” and “meaning” is just a complete load of bullshit.

Freedom Fighter March 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

“are doing for their clients what the refrigerator lock did for the midnight muncher.”

Of the police officer is doing for the citizens what the refrigerator lock did for the midnight muncher. The police officer is like a lock on the fridge against certain behaviors such as drug abuse.

Food abuse and drug abuse have similarities.

How about, the guy with the padlock key would count the calories of the snacks the muncher wants to eat and demands that he first burns them before he is allowed to eat them.

That way, he would be sure to not put on some weight.

R Lee March 23, 2011 at 5:43 am

Freedom Fighter

Your confusion and dissatisfaction with the world comes from an inadequate understanding of natural law and it’s power and beauty. You try to force your own limited concept on the world of how it should be rather than appreciating how it actually is. Power, when you rationally analyze it, is in every case nothing more or less than the operation of the laws. They are perfect equality and justice. Understand and use them properly and the world is yours; fight them and they will chew you up and spit you out with complete indifference. I don’t know what kind of god you postulate, but I can tell you this with certainty: the operation of natural law can be easily verified at any given moment of any given day.

Michael R Stoddard March 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Meta-Errors & Meta-Myths hypnotically induced by Metaphors!
Mises in The Epistemological Problems of Economics points out that
“Many lost themselves in empty trivialities, the most frightful example of which may be considered
the attempt to conceive of society as a biological organism (metaphor).”
Much of “Scientism” is fueled by Metaphors that trap the unwary.
One must not be confused by the power of Metaphors to enlighten and that fact that they ARE NOT PROOFS.
In fact I would go so far as to say that MOST of the confusion in politics and economics can be explained by very very intelligent people being duped by elegant metaphors.
Well chosen metaphors are one of the most powerful tools of rhetoric which is why Aristotle spoke so derisively of rhetoric and promoted dialectic.

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