Metaphor and Simile

Dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago (1980)

The view that metaphors are essentially exaggerated or hyperbolic similes is applied to two questions about metaphors. First, whether they must be literally false. It is concluded that they must have at least one sense in which they are false, read literally, while they may have additional senses in which they are true, so read. Secondly, some suggestions are offered as to why we use metaphor at all. It is noted that the rich ambiguity of metaphoric usage may allow the audience's emotional associations to become part of the meaning of the metaphoric sentence. Additionally, it is suggested that there may be an invitation to transfer certain tendencies to act from the metaphoric predicate to the subject of the metaphor. ;An analysis of the metaphoric sense posited by the change-of-meaning theory is also suggested. It is claimed that in applying their theory to actual cases of metaphor, predominant adherents of this theory clearly take the B in the metaphor 'A is B' to be applied with the sense of 'B-like'. So described, the change-of-meaning theory can be viewed as the simile theory applied at the level of terms and predicates instead of entire metaphoric sentences. ;The dissertation outlines suggested solutions to each of these problems. All seven criticisms are resolved in favor of the simile view. Four are shown to rest on a misdescription or misconstrual of the simile view. The resolution of two others is accomplished as a result of discoveries about the simile theory. The criticism that there is no ellipsis in verb metaphors such as "The chairman plowed through the discussion" is solved by showing that metaphors rely upon a basic 'A is B' structure and that verb metaphors derive from an underlying structure of this form. In the case of verb mataphors, the ellipsis claimed by the simile view occurs at this basic level. The objection that the simile theory involves the reduction of figurative language to literal language is overcome as a result of the discovery that 'figurative language' has two distinct senses or uses. The claim that the simile view reduces figurative language to nonfigurative is shown to rest upon a confusion of these different senses. Finally, the claim that metaphors could not be elliptical similes because of the two differ in rhetorical effect is taken to suggest that there are real benefits to viewing the relation between metaphor and simile not as ellipsis but as exaggeration. This allows that metaphors may simultaneously have the same meaning as their associated similes while differing in effect. ;On the other hand, authors writing on metaphor in the philosophical literature have presented several criticisms of the view that metaphor is essentially elliptical simile . Six of these criticisms are identified as most problematic. A seventh possible problem for the simile theory is suggested where it is noted that metaphors and similes might be taken to differ in truth and, hence, in meaning. ;The dissertation is directed toward giving an account of the meaning of metaphoric expressions. Neither of the two predominant theories of metaphoric meaning, the simile theory and the change-of-meaning view, is without problem. The change-of-meaning theory is shown to explain metaphoric meaning by claiming that the metaphoric predicate acquires a new and unique metaphoric sense. This view, it is claimed, is acceptable only insofar as an account of this metaphoric sense can be given. It is pointed out that no such account has been forthcoming. The notion of metaphoric sense, it is concluded, is as much in need of explanation as metaphor itself
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