Studi Filosofici 34 (1):291-308 (2011)

The concept of ‘living metaphor’ receives a number of articulations within metaphor theory. A review of four key theories – Nietzsche, Ricoeur, Lakoff and Johnson, and Derrida – reveals a distinction between theories which identify a prior, speculative nature working on or with metaphor, and theories wherein metaphor is shown to be performatively always, already active in thought. The two cannot be left as alternatives because they exhibit opposing theses with regard to the ontology of metaphor, but neither can an impartial philosophical appraisal of the most cogent or defensible theory be made, since the status and conduct of philosophy are part of the problem. Two responses to the predicament from within ‘living metaphor’ theory are considered: (1) Lakoff and Johnson’s ecological spirituality thesis which promises to make the contest redundant on the grounds that the origin of human concepts in our shared, embodied condition in the world removes all obstructions; (2) taking the lead from Nietzsche and Ricoeur, an approach based on the intersection of discourses, not as a resolution but as a gesture which allows the conflict to speak about ‘living metaphor’. (1) is shown to be unsuccessful, but (2) results in ‘living metaphor’ emerging as an attentiveness to questions of what does and does not belong, inspired by tensions between ‘is’ and ‘is not’, ‘from this perspective’ and ‘from that perspective’, and ‘is spoken about’ and ‘is spoken with’.
Keywords living metaphor  metaphoricity  ecological  speculative  performative  belonging
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