The Meaning of Poetic Metaphor [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 21 (4):752-753 (1968)
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"The art object has its own immanent validity," says Hester. By this rather obscure phrase he seeks to dramatize his claim that, modern linguistics and logical positivism notwithstanding, "the poet... succeeds in making the relation between his physical language and its meaning nonconventional." Ostensibly, Hester's book is a discussion and refutation of the claim that meaning is a matter of conventional usage. Poetic metaphor, unlike the literal or technical language he claims Wittgenstein is thinking of, is a "fusion of sense, sensa, and imagery," with sense equivalent to literal meaning through conventional use, sensa equivalent to sound and its onomatopoetic similitudes, and imagery being the "associations" that the writer or reader experiences during the metaphorical "experience-act." Hester holds that poetic metaphors, and their "cousins," scientific models, are "image laden, ambiguous, implicatively full..." but that, unlike the free association inkblots used by the psychologist, they clearly delineate the realm of relevant, meaningful image-association. He believes that Wittgenstein would have accepted metaphor as one of his "language games," but still insists that this language game is useful for communicating meanings, despite the fact that one cannot ostensively identify the conventions of usage for the bounded associations. The book is thus a veritable Pandora's Box of classic problems in the philosophies of mind, language, and aesthetics, and in fact it is the overambitiousness of the work which causes it again and again to leave important problems unresolved.—E. H. W.



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