Metaphor, some personal history

When I was a senior school student of English Literature (circa 1961/2), one insight stood out for me – irony, in Shelley’s Ozymandias.

As far as I can remember, that was the first time my perception of learning, in Eng Lit, went beyond ‘learning the facts’.

Yes, I had learnt that ‘metaphor’ is a form of speech, and is when one thing is claimed to be another, as in ‘The moon was a ghostly galleon …’; compared with simile which used ‘as’ or ‘like’ to preface the claim.

I have met up again with ‘metaphor’, and now much later.  Jack Mezirow speaks of metaphor being an indicator of the kind of reflective work/thinking that conveys the potential to move a person’s meaning perspective (what he calls ‘transformative’), or provides evidence of such a shift (p.219).

I have been used to the idea of ‘analogy’ and that kind of thinking being helpful for creative theorising since reading of Kekule’s snake, and the benzene ring (probably Asimov, probably about 1960).

Now I am understanding metaphor, and that kind of thinking, to be related to abduction, as distinct from deduction and induction.

The process of comparison, so vital to ‘research’ and working with ‘findings’, to manage lots of data, is part of this older understanding of how an educated person can use language, and so and more ‘creatively’.

In my thesis (1999-2005) I worked some more with Gregory Bateson’s idea of the meta- … meta-cognition, meta-communication, the second-level process of thinking about thinking, communicating about communication etc.

So what is the meta-4? (as per punning) … to help us think and to communicate our thinking …

How important is it? It seems to me that irony, paradox, truth hidden in the meaning of words, is something that will be with me all my life.  Whether  I can make something more of this understanding is another matter; let alone considering how I make something more of this …

Metaphor and meta-process – what’s a meta-4?

Before I grow much older, I want to try and capture where my thinking is at.

I am engaging with Werner Ulrich’s JRP article from 2006, again, and from the present turn in my hermeneutical spiral.

And Stephen Downes’ inputs about PLEs is paying off here too.

As I read Werner’s comments about the ‘discursive turn’, I am noting

it tends to divert the attention of researchers away from the need to develop new skills of critical argumentation beyond those of quantitative analysis and, at the same time, to revise their notion of professional competence accordingly[dla1] .


[dla1]Connects with my experience of ‘analysis’ eg from Dunn’s policy analysis experience – analysis is not the only way to address the complex; creative synthesis, eg via metaphor, is another (and if my understanding, of all language being metaphoric, holds water, then language is /has always been our next most primary tool for /of inquiry, ie before counting, which involves ‘naming’ quantities!); so I am agreeing with Ulrich on the discursive critique approach, amongst consenting and informed and competent peers, but also going another step to a meta- metaphor – the metaphor of metaphor.

I have also made abductive connections with the reference to Don Quixote and tilting at windmills.

Another point of connection is with

Popper’s empiricist framework of science theory [dla1] apparently did not allow him to consider–and take seriously–sources of critique other than those of experimental science.


[dla1]This is where I understand myself to be still at, as a first default …

I need to remember: no grand theories; and Model II and Model I can be held by the one person, and perhaps held in tension like most living paradoxes.

Is the next grand theory that of paradox?

And earlier still, I noted, and here is the Downes process coming into play,:

Popper agreed with Neurath that there is no such thing as a direct access to empirical phenomena that would not be mediated through theoretical expectations and interpretations[DLA1] .


[DLA1]Any word in language is a theoretical expectation and interpretation .. the map is not the territory.

Hence critique of ‘naming’.

Where did I read about that recently?  About a teacher of observation and students and fish .. and making them keep on observing … Not in the apologetics item.

Perhaps one of the Google Reader ones … no apparently

Perhaps one of Giorgio’s links … drawn a blank there too???

In bed I thought that perhaps checking my internet behaviour might point to a recent web page where this might be.  Today 21/2 I cannot check that because the desktop is ‘down’.  The during the night dreaming was involving staff at UoW FoE, both Sue’s, and confusion about my role there.  Now with the desktop down, and other responsibilities of documentation having first priority, the working on that dreaming idea has escaped me.

Found it this morning 21/2 by being patient with Anecdote from Reader. The reference is http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2010/02/keeping_richnes.html.