Truth and Metaphor

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Berryman, Natascha
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Objectivist , Subjectivist , Truth , Meaning , Mark Johnson , George Lakoff
Mark Johnson and George Lakoff in Metaphors We Live By and Johnson in The Body in the Mind, argue for a complete paradigm shift in the way we view human understanding, meaning, and truth. Johnson and Lakoff reject the objectivist view that truth and meaning can be understood as a purely propositional matter without human beings and the subjectivist view that meaning and truth are a purely individual matter. Instead they advise us to accept the theory that meaning emerges from bodily experience, non-propositional structures, and the activity of the imagination, which allows us to create sense out of the world and our experience. They also embrace metaphor as an example that demonstrates that we understand truth in a different sort of way than the objectivist and subjectivist theories propose. They write: We view issues having to do with meaning in natural language and with the way people understand both their language and their experiences as empirical issues rather than matters of a priori philosophical assumptions and argumentation. (Lakoff and Johnson 210) Rather than attempting to find truth by looking for what is true without man interpreting it, Johnson and Lakoff intend to find truth by investigating what we mean when we, as humans, speak of truth. Johnson argues that we ought to shift our paradigm to his new one because the old, essentially objectivist paradigm has too many problems and cannot account for the finding of new studies, whereas his paradigm of imaginative understanding and the bodily basis of truth can. While Johnson does provide sufficient evidence that we need a new paradigm, the paradigm he endorses has problems explaining the pervasiveness of metaphor and the origins of bodily bases. Ultimately I think we ought to follow Ludwig Wittgenstein and change the way we investigate the problem of metaphor and truth, turning from psychology to natural history.