Monday 1 July 2013

Metaphors We Live By

(June 2013)

So this is clearly something I’m kinda into.

It’s absolutely fascinating, but I’ll spare you the fanboy academic rambling for now. I’m sure I’ll get something up at Shield This Increase in due course, or at least when I don’t have quite so many deadlines racing towards me screaming and shaking intimidating bladed weaponry in the air. I need a bit more mental space to properly consider the wider implications. So for now I’ll just share this bit which is just terrifying in its prescience. The afterword excepted, this is over three decades old, remember.

Communication theories based on the CONDUIT metaphor turn from the pathetic to the evil when they are applied indiscriminately on a large scale, say, in government surveillance or computerized files. There, what is most crucial for real understanding is almost never included, and it is assumed that the words in the file have meaning in themselves – disembodied, objective, understandable meaning. When a society lives by the CONDUIT metaphor on a large scale, misunderstanding, persecution, and much worse are the likely products.

P.S. I know I promised the final installment of 1Q84 today, I finished this book slightly after 1Q84, but for the first time I’m going to break my usual ‘post in the order I finished them’ policy because I need a bit more time to process the Murakami. Wednesday. Probably. Metaphors We Live By has chapter headings like ‘The Myth of Objectivism in Western Philosophy and Linguistics’, and the fact that I’m finding it easier to get a handle on that strikes me as telling. I also realize that  probably the only person who cares about this is me.


  1. "I need a bit more time to process the Murakami"

    This Murakami you speak of?...Is it a meat not chewed enough now stuck in your lower intestines.

    You need an enema ;)

    1. Ah, THINKING IS EATING, a subordinate of IDEAS ARE FOOD. Once you start looking for them, they're all over the fucking place.

      Dunno about an enema, but some sort of flushing would definitely be beneficial ;)

  2. Apple juice is an effective remedy for mild cases of CONDUIT metaphor.

    Kamo and Chris, allow me to pour you guys some words.

    Over three decades old with two generations of yellow marker, the stiff copy that lay in front of me was most recently opened up and dog-eared in two places relevant to the material you quote. One of the fresher, more yellow spots of discoloration highlights the “conduit metaphor” on page 10 (as well as the last two sentences of the previous paragraph).
    The second and only page with a corner folded over shows a faded stain most likely two decades old.
    “The academic world, the legal world, the diplomatic world, the ecclesiastical world, and the world of journalism claim to present an ideal, or ‘higher’, form of RATIONAL ARGUMENT in which all of these tactics are forbidden.” (63)
    Listed from the same page, the tactics are as follows: intimidation, threat, authority, insult, belittling, challenging authority, evading the issue, bargaining, and flattery.
    Priests, doctors (medical and otherwise), even journalists (gasp)… in fact, just about every ‘professional’ type, while they tend to portray themselves as above it all, my personal experience in life indicates that there is a significant element within each of the disciplines that are highly skilled with regard to the aforementioned tactics.
    I am well aware, perhaps even painfully so, that many of my remarks left in various comment sections could easily be read as a form flattery.  In some ways, they may be. However, I am drawn to truth, however harsh it may be, in hopes that it may illuminate the features that appear in the mirror in front of which I stand each morning.
    Now, to mix and mash some of the thoughts found on page 231, I think about how meaning is negotiated. Like a significant number of grammarians, an over-prescriptive approach to reading information exhibits a lack of ‘metaphorical imagination’ – a flat out refusal to be flexible.
    Creating a ‘shared vision’, be it through seasonal events, is a skill or talent that I greatly appreciate.
    Thinking of the stinking grammar-translation ethos that is injected into so many young minds… I’ve learned how to turn a few zombies, give them a scent of new life by encouraging them to use their own gray matter. On a practical level, that has sometimes meant simply asking for context – which has a way of neutralizing the CONDUIT metaphor.
    “Please sit in the apple-juice seat.” 

    1. Are we not all, in our own ways, sitting in the apple juice seat?

      Other than that, yes. Sooo much here to unpack (see what I did there?) I always feel slightly guilty about answering lengthier comments with really short ones, but everything needs to slosh around a bit more before I feel comfortable pouring it out. Genuine thanks for chipping in.

    2. The book you are set to read (or are currently reading) on that flight is packed tight. Like the comment I left. Best to read the initial comment with the book in hand, if you already haven't, for it to make sense. The CONDUIT metaphor is relevant, dead on, to Pirsig's book. Due to freaky timing in terms of birth and being near where certain mindsets regularly unfold, I have no problem following the read. Five million in 1970 is close to thirty in today's currency... which is a tidy sum for those who are new to money. But, hey, who'd believe a kid?


      Have a comfortable flight.

      (If you got the 'apple-juice seat' reference without having to look back at the book, I'll be pleasantly impressed...)

      Rational arguments and Quality... you might enjoy the Quality... Quality... Qual...