Thursday, December 19, 2013

Interesting blog I came across, by Dominik Lukes that exposes some of the "tricks of the trade" or figures of speech, used in language as the primary means of subsistence for the falsehoods that we routinely challenge here.

This post from the blog primarily focuses on the figures of speech termed metaphor and metonymy, these two which I see as running rampant through the language that we see the morons using all the time.

Among these are the govt is a household metaphor, the actual word "money" as a metonym, the word "capitalism" again as a metonym, US government securities issuance is borrowing metaphor, etc.  All of these figures of speech that we routinely see and confront acting to support the terrible falsehoods currently working against our own human economic interests.

Some interesting excerpts:
Some people (like George Lakoff himself) maintain that the distinction between metaphor and metonymy represent a crucial divide. Lakoff puts metonymic connections along with metaphoric ones as the key figurative structuring principles of conceptual frames (along with propositions and image schemas). But I think that there is evidence to show that they play a similar role in figurative language and language in general.

there is a big difference in how the imagery works in metonymy and metaphor. Most of the time we don’t notice it. But when we become aware of the rich evocative images that make a metaphor work, we think of the metaphor as working and those images illustrate the relationship between the two domains. But when we become aware of the images that are contained in a metonymy (as in the examples above), we are witnessing a failure of the metonymy. It stops doing its job as a trope and starts being perceived as somehow inappropriate usage. But metaphor thus revealed typically does its job even better (though not in all cases as I’ve often illustrated on this blog).

we also reason by metonymy in daily life when we pay homage to the flag or call on the president to do something about the economy.  [Ed:  !!!!!!  Dominik, this is NOT metonymy!  There is no "invisible hand" brother!]

Warning in conclusion I have often warned against the dangers of overdoing the associations generated by metaphors. But in many ways metonymy is potentially even more dangerous because of the magic of direct connection. It can be a very useful (and often necessary) shortcut to communication (particularly when used as compression) but just as often it can lead us down dangerous paths if we let it.
We should probably study up on these linguistic techniques at least a bit in order to perhaps be better enabled to combat them.  Dominik's blog here seems like at least a good starting point.

I know Bill, in his recent initiative of examining the language or 'framing' we are using in our communications and debate definitely has metaphor firmly in his sights, but I would say based on Dominik's observations here, the perhaps more nuanced and elusive metonymy is an even more critical support structure of the false that we can target.


Tom Hickey said...

I recommend reading Lakoff's books to understand what he is saying about metaphor being basic to conceptual framing, hence language. They are all available free for download if one searches. There is no choice in the matter. It is a consequence of evolutionary biology. It's the way that cognition developed and it's reflected in the neural anatomy.

Framing involves software and software has to run on the hardware for which it is developed. So many basic metaphors are universal, making animal and human communication similar and languages translatable into other languages. Humans can understand each other because we are coming from the same place.

Most of our use of metaphor is unconscious, just like most of cognition as mental processing is unconscious. Without reading someone like Lakoff or Damasio, one is unlikely to be able to figure this for oneself, since it is based in neurology.

Metonymy is high level abstraction. There is a big argument over whether high level abstraction is purely nominal or ontological, i.e., descriptive of reality. In some cases, metonymy is clearly nominal, when the context is so abstract as to make the meaning disconnected from any clear application. For example, "system" can apply to formal system (nominal) and to actual systems (real). When there is a clearly descriptive aspect to metonymy and then the question is over context and criteria for application.

Matt Franko said...

Well this quote from Dominik here gets my attention Tom:

"the magic of direct connection"

Which he sees as a more dangerous aspect of metonymy (vs metaphor)...

I think y traced the metonym "money" back to the name of some sort of ancient pagan temple or idol image of some sort...

So we bring that type of pagan stuff right into the conversation when we start using this word "money" and like Dominik asserts here the "magic" in the thinking starts right there... this whole concept of the "money" metonymy here is dark entryway into this moron-fest that we can all see imo...

IMO we should stop using that word other than in a purely "academic" context...


Matt Franko said...

Like I see what Dominik means here Tom:

"when we become aware of the images that are contained in a metonymy (as in the examples above), we are witnessing a failure of the metonymy."

I see this pagan thing that y researched "contained in the metonymy" and my instinct is to get the hell away from it pronto... I dont even use the word anymore unless I put it in quotations, its dark imo...

This word leads to at least massive confusion in humans that prevents them from seeing what is really going on... its sort of like a "spell" or something in its effect the way it looks to me anyway... its a big problem...


Tom Hickey said...

We use metonymy as high level abstraction all the time, e.g., "Washington" to indicate the political aspect of the US government, "non-believers" (formerly "heathen") to indicate those not agreeing with a particular religious ideology, "K Street" to refer to Washington lobbyists, etc.

There's nothing wrong with metonymy as a figure of speech. It depends on how it is used. Randy calls MMT "Modern Money Theory" and uses "modern money" throughout his work, operationally defined as chartal money.