Obviously enough the tongue, the spelling, the typography, the verbosity of a description reflect no parallel features in the world. Coherence is a characteristic of descriptions, not of the world: the significant question is not whether the world is coherent, but whether our account of it is. And what we call the simplicity of the world is merely the simplicity we are able to achieve in describing it.
Arthur Schopenhauer ranked the several arts in a hierarchy, with literary and dramatic arts at the top, music soaring in a separate even higher heaven, and architecture sinking to the ground under the weight of beams and bricks and mortar.1 The governing principle seems to be some measure of spirituality, with architecture ranking lowest by vice of being grossly material.Nowadays such rankings are taken less seriously. Traditional ideologies and mythologies of the arts are undergoing deconstruction and disvaluation, making way for (...) a neutral comparative study that can reveal a good deal not only about relations among the several arts2 but also about the kinships and contrasts between the arts, the sciences, and other ways that symbols of various kinds participate in the advancement of the understanding.In comparing architecture with the other arts, what may first strike us, despite Schopenhauer, is a close affinity with music: architectural and musical works, unlike paintings or plays or novels, are seldom descriptive or representational. With some interesting exceptions, architectural works do not denote—that is, do not describe, recount, depict, or portray. They mean, if at all, in other ways.On the other hand, and architectural work contrasts with other works of art in scale. A building or park or city3 is not only bigger spatially and temporally than a musical performance or painting—it is bigger even than we are. We cannot take it all in from a single point of view; we must move around and within it to grasp the whole. Moreover, the architectural work is normally fixed in place. Unlike a painting that may be reframed and rehung or a concerto that may be heard in different halls, the architectural work is firmly set in physical and cultural environment that alters slowly. 1. See Bryan Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer , pp. 176-78. Nelson Goodman, emeritus professor of philosophy at Harvard University, is the author of, among other works, The Structure of Appearance, Languages of Art, Ways of Worldmaking, and Of Mind and Other Matters. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry are “The Status of Style” , “Metaphor as Moonlighting” , “Twisted Tales; or, Story, Study, and Symphony” , “The Telling and the Told” , and “Routes of Reference) Autumn 1981). (shrink)
The acknowledged difficulty and even impossibility of finding a literal paraphrase for most metaphors is offered by [Donald] Davidson1 as evidence that there is nothing to be paraphrased - that a sentence says nothing metaphorically that it does not say literally, but rather functions differently, inviting comparisons and stimulating thought. But paraphrase of many literal sentences also is exceedingly difficult, and indeed we may seriously question whether any sentence can be translated exactly into other words in the same or any (...) other language. Let's agree, though, that literal paraphrase of metaphor is on the whole especially hard. That is easily understood since the metaphorical application of terms has the effect, and usually the purpose, of drawing significant boundaries that cut across ruts worn by habit, of picking out new relevant kinds for which we have no simple and familiar literal descriptions. We must note in passing, though, that the metaphorical application may nevertheless be quite clear. For just as inability to define "desk" is compatible with knowing which articles are desks, so inability to paraphrase a metaphorical term is compatible with knowing what it applies to, And as I have remarked elsewhere,2 whether a man is metaphorically a Don Quixote or a Don Juan is perhaps easier to decide than whether he is literally a schizoid or a paranoiac. · 1. In "What Metaphors Mean," Critical Inquiry 5 : 31-47.· 2. In "Stories upon Stories; or, Reality on Tiers," delivered at the conference Levels of Reality, in Florence, Italy, September 1978. Nelson Goodman, emeritus professor of philosophy at Harvard, has written The Structure of Appearance; Fact, Fiction, and Forecast; Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols; Problems and Projects; and, most recently, Ways of Worldmaking. His contributions to Critical Inquiry include "The Status of Style" , "Twisted Tales; or, Story, Study, and Symphony" , and "The Telling and the Told". (shrink)
Predictions concerning the end of the world have proven less reliable than your broker’s recommendations or your fondest hopes. Whether you await the end fearfully or eagerly, you may rest assured that it will never come—not because the world is everlasting but because it has already ended, if indeed it ever began. But we need not mourn, for the world is indeed well lost, and with it the stultifying stereotypes of absolutism: the absurd notions of science as the effort to (...) discover a unique, prepackaged, but unfortunately undiscoverable reality, and of truth as agreement with that inaccessible reality. All notions of pure givenness and unconditional necessity and of a single correct perspective and system of categories are lost as well.If there is no such thing as the world, what are we living in? The answer might be “A world” or, better, “Several worlds.” For to deny that there is any such thing as the world is no more to deny that there are worlds than to deny that there is any such thing as the number between two and seven is to deny that there are numbers between two and seven. The task of describing the world is as futile as the task of describing the number between two and seven.The world is lost once we appreciate a curious feature of certain pairs of seemingly contradictory statements: if either is true, both are. Although “The earth is in motion” and “The earth is at rest” apparently contradict each other, both are true. But from a contradiction, every statement follows. So unless we are prepared to acknowledge the truth of every statement, the appearance of contradiction in cases like these must somehow be dispelled. Nelson Goodman is professor emeritus of philosophy at Harvard University. He has written Of Mind and Other Matters, Ways of Worldmaking, Problems and Projects, Languages of Art, The Structure of Appearance, and Fact, Fiction, and Forecast. His most recent contribution to Critical Inquiry is “How Buildings Mean” . Catherine Z. Elgin is associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of With Reference to Reference and is currently writing a book entitled Philosophy without Foundations. (shrink)