Metaphors We Live By


The Myths of Objectivism and Subjectivism


There is a common assumption that "either you believe in absolute truth or you can make the world in your own image. If your not being objective, your being subjective, and there is no third choice." (185)


"We see ourselves as offering a third choice to the myths of objectivism and subjectivism." (185)



The Myth of Objectivism


1. The world is made up of objects. They have properties independent of any people or other beings who experience them. (186)


2. We get our knowledge of the world by experiencing the objects in it and getting to know what properties they have and how they are related to one another . (186)


3. We understand the objects in our world in terms of categories and concepts. These categories and concepts correspond to properties and relations the objects have in themselves (inherently). (187)


4. What we say is uncondi-tionally true or false about objective reality. Science allows us to rise above our subjective limitations and give a correct, definitive and general account of reality. (187)


5.Words have fixed meanings, and to describe reality correctly, we need words whose meanings are clear and precise. Words that fit reality. (187)


6. People can only speak objectively if they use a language that is clearly and precisely defined. (187)


7. Metaphor can always be avoided when speaking objectively, and it should be avoided, since its meaning is not clear and precise and it doesnít fit reality in any obvious way. (187-8)


8. Being objective is generally a good thing. Only objective knowledge is really knowledge. (188)


9. To be objective is to be rational; to be subjective is to be irrational and to give in to the emotions. (188)


10. Subjectivity can be dangerous, since it can lead to loosing touch with reality. (188)



The Myth of Subjectivism


1. When important issues arise, regardless of what others may say, our own senses and intuitions are our best guides for action. (188)


2. The most important things in our lives are our feelings, sensi-bilities, morals and spirituality. These are purely subjective. (188)


3. Art and Poetry transcend rationality and objectivity and put us in touch with the more important reality of our feelings and intuitions. (188)


4. The language of the imagination, especially metaphor, is necessary for the expressing the unique and most personally significant aspects of experience. (188)


5. Objectivity can be dangerous, because it misses what is most important and meaningful to individual people. (188-9)



An Experientialist Synthesis


"We reject the objectivist view that there is an absolute and unconditional truth without adopting the subjectivist alternative of truth as obtainable only through the imagination, unconstrained by external circumstances." (192)



"What the myths of objectivism and subjectivism both miss is the way we understand the world through our interactions with it." (194)


The Myth of Objectivism in Western Philosophy and Linguistics


"The myth of objectivism Ö has very specific consequences for a theory of meaning." (198)






"The objectivist sees all metaphors as cases of indirect meaningÖ. Understanding a sentence Ö as metaphorical always involves understanding it indirectly as conveying an objective meaning Mí Ö which is different from the literal objective meaning M ...." (208)




There are four automatic consequences of the objectivist account of metaphor (209)


There can be no such thing as a metaphorical concept or metaphorical meaning.


Since metaphor cannot be a matter of meaning, it can only be a matter of language.




There can be no such thing as literal (conventional) metaphor.


Metaphor can contribute to understanding only by making us see objective similarities, that is, similarities between the objective meanings M and Mí.


How Metaphor Reveals the Limitations of the Myth of Objectivism

"An objectivist would have to treat all of out conventional-metaphor data according to either the homonymy position Ö or the abstraction position. Both of these positions depend on preexisting similarities based on inherent properties. (213)


"The usual objectivist accounts Ö.all depend on preexisting similarities based on inherent properties. In general, similarities do exist, but they cannot be based on inherent properties. The similarities arise as a result of conceptual metaphors. (215)


"The only internally consistent objectivist view of con-ventional metaphor would be that the issues we have primarily been concerned with Ö are simply outside their purview." (217)


"To operate only in terms of a consistent set of metaphors is to hide many aspects of reality. Successful functioning in our daily lives seems to require a constant shifting of meta-phors." (221)

Some Inadequacies of the Myth of Subjectivism


Subjectivist positions all hinge on the assumption that experience has no natural structure, and so there can be no natural external constraints on meaning and truth. (224)


"We argue that our experience is structured holistically in terms of experiential gestaltsÖ.[that] emerge naturally from our experience." (224)



The Experientialist Alternative: Giving New Meaning to Old Myths


Being objective is always relative to a conceptual systemÖ Reasonable objectivity may be impossible when there are conflicting conceptual systems Ö and it is important to be able to admit this and to recognize when it occurs. (227)


We see the experientialist myth as capable of satisfying the real and reasonable concerns that have motivated both subjectivism and objectivism but without either the objectivist obsession with absolute truth or the subjectivist insistance that imagination is totally unconstrained. (228)





Objectivism reflects the human need to understand the external worldÖ.Subjectivism is focused on the internal aspects of understanding Ö.The experientialist myth suggests that these are not opposing concerns. (229)



Within experientialist myth, understanding emerges from interaction, from constant negotiation with the environment. (230)


The experientialist approach to the process of self understanding involvesÖ.