Experimental Philosophy: Impossible Metaphors

Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy 38:3-11 (2018)
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In his 2005 paper, DeClercq observes that aesthetic terms such as ‘beautiful’, ‘elegant’, ‘harmonious’, etc. resist metaphorical interpreta­tion and argues that it is the fact that such terms cannot be involved in category-mistakes that explains their metaphorical uninterpretability. While I largely agree with DeClercq’s observation of the metaphorical uninterpret­ability of aesthetic terms, I offer both non-empirical and empirical considerations against his category-based explanation of the phenomenon. I offer the former in a longer version of this paper. In this shorter version, I offer preliminary, empirical evidence against DeClercq’s thesis that the possibility of category mistakes is what is required for metaphor judgments. I do this, in part, by relying on the work of cultural psychologist, Nisbett, who found that, in general, Easterners rely less on categories and more on relational and contextual information than Westerners in making judgments and reasoning inferentially. I report the results of my cross-cultural study on metaphor, which cast some doubt on DeClercq’s thesis that it is the possibility of category-mistakes that explain the metaphorical interpretability of expressions in general.



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Hanna Kim
Washington and Jefferson College

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