by Gabriel Furmuzachi

(a perspective on the relationship between metaphors and reality)


In this essay, I will critically examine Collin Turbayne and Philip Wheelwright’s approaches to the theory of metaphor. Through criticism of their views I will arrive at Paul Ricoeur’s theory which I consider is the most comprehensive one. Ricoeur retains what is fruitful from the above mentioned theories and tries to make them part of a very ambitious project which is represented by his monumental work The Rule of Metaphor (1977). He manages to open a new dimension in the analysis of metaphor by linking it through a special use of imagination to the phenomenal world, by according it the status of statement (redefining Frege’s sense and reference polarity) and by pointing out the idea that metaphors have an emotional meaning as well. Thus, I will start with the two different views on this issue, first that of Collin Turbayne, who develops a theory of metaphor based on the “as if” prescription and thus brings the whole discussion on metaphor into the field of reflective judgment. Then there is Philip Weelwright’s theory which considers that metaphorical language, through its fluidity and tensiveness, is closely connected to “what is”, that is, to the real. Using these two theories as dialectical counterparts, I will try to bring them together in an act of synthesis, arriving finally at Paul Ricoeur’s theory of metaphor. Keywords: metaphor, language, reality, reference, Ricoeur,

###Turbayne and the Myth of Metaphor The classical definition of metaphor is the one given by Aristotle. For Aristotle, metaphors: “consist in giving a thing a name that belongs to something else; the transference (epi-phora) being either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or on the grounds of analogy” (Poetics 1457 b 6-9). For example, the expression “love is a red rose” is a metaphor. To break down Aristotle’s definition, we can see that the noun “love” is the focus of the metaphor. Something happens to it: it is explained, it is made understandable by employing a less abstract and more concrete term, the “red rose”. We are dealing with a movement from an abstract concept to a term which can be grasped more easily by transferring one name onto the other. “Love”, for the person experiencing this emotion is the same as a “red rose” for our experience of beauty: its rich color, its disposition of velvety petals, as well as its perfume make us want to have it close so we can enjoy its beauty. The same happens when in love - there is a state of intense longing for union with the other where the other represents everything that is beautiful and exciting. In this case, the transference happens “on the grounds of analogy” between love and the red rose. Collin Turbayne begins his book The Myth of Metaphor (1970) by challenging Aristotle’s definition. Turbayne is not satisfied with it because he identifies cases of metaphors that, in virtue of their existence, require that the definition be either broader or narrower. It should be broader because some metaphors do not have to be expressed in words. There can be metaphors that are expressed through painting, sculpture, dance, etc. Turbayne explains:

Michelangelo, for example, used the figure of Leda, with the swan to illustrate being lost in the rapture of physical passion, and the same figure of Leda, only this time without the swan, to illustrate being lost in the agony of dying. It will also allow the concrete physical models of applied scientists, the blackboard of teachers, the toy blocks of children that may be used to represent the battle of Trafalgar, and the raised eyebrow of the actor that may illustrate the whole situation in the state of Denmark, to be classified as metaphor. (Ibid., 13)

In order to solve this problem, Turbayne takes “name” from the above definition to mean “a sign or a collection of signs” (Turbayne 1970, 13). Thus, for Turbayne, the act of transference (epi-phora) from Aristotle’s definition does not occur from genus to species, or from species to genus, etc. but from a “sort” to other “sort”. A “sort” is a particular kind, class or group and he calls the transference “sort-crossing”. What this means is that now, every act of transference can be perceived as a metaphor. The outcome of building the metaphor on the basis of sort-crossing is that suddenly its whole meaning becomes unstable.

“If the term metaphor be let apply to every trope of language, to every result of association of ideas and analogical reasoning, to architecture, music, painting, religion, and to all the synthetic processes of art, science, and philosophy, then indeed metaphor will be warred against by metaphor […] and how then can its meaning stand?” (Bedell 1936, 103).

This would mean, as noted above, that every sort-crossing would be a metaphor and thus the definition of metaphor should be narrower. The solution, Turbayne considers, lies in the fact that every sort-crossing is just a potential metaphor. What makes a metaphor to be a metaphor is the “as if”, the “make believe” which is inherently present in it . In the example used above, “love is a red rose” the metaphor exists in as much as the expression is taken to mean that love is “as if” it is a red rose. The “as if” prescription is implicit. It involves a certain level of awareness without which the metaphor does not occur to us. Thinking of love as being literally a red rose does not bring us into the presence of metaphor. What does though, is perceiving the similarity and being aware of it, knowing that things happen “as if” they are similar. Turbayne’s theory of metaphor “represents the facts […] as if they belonged to one logical type or category (or range, or types of categories), when they actually belong to another”. (Turbayne 1970, 18). But this new definition happens to be the very definition that Gilbert Ryle gave, not for metaphor, but for the category mistake (or categorial confusion). Metaphor finds its essence in the act of sort-crossing or duality of sense, but it does that by filling up the “as if” prescription, “fusing two senses by making believe there is only one sense”. Thus, metaphor on Turbayne’s account shifts from being a category confusion to a “category fusion”. What Turbayne means is that there is no mistake in self-consciously crossing sorts for otherwise all metaphors will be nothing but mistakes. This does not imply that one is right in “presenting the facts of one sort in the idioms of another without awareness” (Ibid., 22). This is plain confusion of disparate senses of a sign which surely does not give birth to a metaphor. If the question is ‘when does a metaphor occur?’, then Turbayne replies that:

The answer lies in the as if or make-believe feature […] When Descartes says that the world is a machine or when I say with Seneca that man is a wolf, and neither of us intends our assertions to be taken literally but only metaphorically, both of us are aware, first, that we are sort-crossing, that is, re-presenting the facts of one sort in the idioms appropriate to another, or, in other words, of the duality of sense. I say ‘are aware’, but of course, we must be, otherwise there can be no metaphor. We are aware, secondly, that we are treating the world and man as if they belong to new sorts. We are aware of the duality of sense in ‘machine’ and ‘wolf’, but we make believe that each has only one sense - that there is no difference in kind, only in degree, between the giant clockwork of nature and the pygmy clockwork of my wrist watch, or between man-wolves and timber wolves. (Ibid., 17)

Thus there are two different ways for looking at the relationship between sorts: there is sort-crossing, which actually defines metaphor, and there is sort-trespassing which brings forth the issue of being used by the metaphor because in this case the “as if” prescription is overlooked and the metaphor is taken literally. It follows that being able to “see” the metaphor implies an awareness without which one merely gets lost in the midst of recognizing various senses of a sign. An example would be realizing the difference between “seeing the point of a needle and seeing the point of a joke”. In that moment when only one of the two different senses fused is metaphorical but is taken literally, we are dealing with sort-trespassing, as Turbayne recognizes that:

The victim of metaphor accepts one way of sorting or building or allocating the facts as the only way to sort, bundle, or allocate them. The victim not only has a special view of the world but regards it as the only view, or rather, he confuses a special view of the world with the world. He is thus a metaphysician. He has mistaken the mask for the face. Such a victim who is a metaphysician malgré lui is to be distinguished from that other metaphysician who is aware that his allocation of the facts is arbitrary and might have been otherwise. (Ibid., 27)

For Turbayne, the encounter with a metaphor provokes our awareness. We have to perform three operations in order to understand a metaphorical construction. We must be able, first, to spot the metaphor, to discover it in a text, in a work of art or in music. Then, we have to identify its literal interpretation and we have to point it out in order to get rid of it so that we are left with the metaphorical interpretation. After doing that we are then able to restore the metaphor as a metaphor, as something where the process of sort-crossing happens but this time with awareness of its occurrence. Turbayne’s theory of metaphor rests upon reflective judgment. His fear of being victimized by metaphor can only be eradicated if we are constantly aware and make use of the above operations. Metaphor is something that is created by breaking patterns, and making new connections instead of preserving old associations. This must be accompanied by the “vigilance of the as if”, as Ricoeur puts it in The Rule of Metaphor (1977).

To summarize, Turbayne is advocating a theory of metaphor in which every single use of sort-crossing must be very lucid and radically intellectual. He underlines this claim in The Myth of Metaphor as follows: “the main theme of this book is that we should constantly try to be aware of the presence of metaphor, avoiding being victimized by our own as well as by others” (Ibid., 217). But how is it possible for a metaphor to present itself in its fullness and with all its power without us believing in its descriptive and representative value? Throughout his book, Turbayne is worried that we not fall prey to “believing” that which metaphor represents which will lead us to take the metaphor literally. However, Ricoeur asks, “can one create metaphors without believing them and without believing that, in a certain way, ‘that is’?” (Ricoeur 1977, 254). Should the creative dimension of language be divorced from the creative aspect of reality itself? Turbayne’s prescription for metaphor limits imagination. It subjects it to the “philosophy of the as if”. The spark fired by the metaphor in poetry, for example, is promptly put out the moment we become “aware” that it is just an artifice which, once spotted, cannot have the power to lift us up on reverie’s summit. When thinking about the ‘love is a red rose’ metaphor, Turbayne would like us to enjoy the cleverness of the construction. He remarks that “the invention of a metaphor full of illustrative power is the achievement of genius” (Turbayne 1970, 57). On his account there should be nothing beyond this. The sole joy that we retrieve from metaphor should only be delivered by our capacity for reflective judgment. But there is more to metaphor than this. A lot more!

Philip Wheelwright’s Metaphor and Reality

It is Philip Wheelwright’s position, developed in his book Metaphor and Reality (1973) that there is a very strong relationship between language and phenomenal reality, and metaphor is that which best illustrates it. Wheelwright adopts a position contrary to that of Turbayne. If Turbayne is prone to draw attention to what the metaphor is not, to make it clear that everything that pertains to metaphorical creation happens within the limits determined by the “as if”, Wheelwright leans toward emphasizing what the metaphor is, how it is so very strongly intertwined with phenomenal reality. With Wheelwright, metaphor offers more than the kind of pleasure resting entirely on our capacity for reflective judgment. Through metaphor we become capable of being intimately connected with “What Is”, as he writes, with what is reality and how it presents itself to us. For Wheelwright, reality can be described as having three important features: it is presential, it is coalescent and it is perspectival.

The fact that reality is presential means that there is a sense of presence which can be felt with regard to another human being, another person, and toward inanimate beings as well. The other is present for us not as an object, not as something out there, out of reach, but rather as something with which we are linked. We experience the presence of the-other-than-us and we connect with it:

Every presence has an irreducible core of mystery, so long as it retains its presential character. Explanations, theories, and specific questionings are directed toward an object in its thinghood, not in its presentness. An object in its thinghood is characterized by spatio-temporal and causal relations to other objects in their thinghood: we inquire about its name, its place,its why and whither, its status according to some system of values….When, on the other hand, two persons meet and their meeting is one of mutual presentness, the essentiality of their meeting has nothing to do with names and addresses…No multiplication of such details, however full and meticulous, can be a substitute for the real meeting….The same is true when no other human being is involved, and hence no assured mutuality. The sense of presence that occurs to one who catches a sudden glimpse of, say, a certain, contour of hills or of a red wheelbarrow in the rain, defies explanation; for when explanations are begun or sought the sheer presentness diminishes or disappears. (Wheelwright 1973, 158-159)

Being open to sensing the presence of the surrounding world, means that the Cartesian dualism between mind and body does not hold any longer. As a consequence, there is something more here than just the mind as perceiving subject and the body as perceived object. Both of them are blended together, both of them are united; they are nothing but the two sides of a coin. Reality, for Wheelwright, surpasses distinctions like subject and object, or mind and body. Reality, he writes, “is That to which every […] category tries to refer and which every philosophical statement tries to describe, always from an intellectual point of view and always with ultimate inadequacy” (Ibid., 166-167).

The aspect of reality which emphasizes its unity, Wheelwright represents by using the term “coalescent”. To coalesce means to grow together or into one body; to unite, join together. What Wheelwright seems to point out is that we are part of the world and we grow together with the environment. The mind/body dichotomy, or the subject/object split have unfortunate consequences. Wheelwright considers that it:

gives undue prestige to certain aspects of experience (those which we call collectively the ‘physical’ aspects) at the expense of other and perhaps intrinsically more important aspects; moreover, it generates artificial questions. To ask (as philosophical aestheticians often do) whether the beauty of a rose is in the rose or in the eye and mind of the beholder is palpably an unreal question, for the concrete answer is ‘Both’; and if the answer looks contradictory, so much the worse for the dualistic structure of thought that makes it look so. The I who am aware and the That of which I am aware are but two aspects of a single sure actuality, as inseparable as the convex and the concave aspects of a single geometrical curve. (Ibid., 166)

What Wheelwright means is that the world is not an inert mechanical object but a living field, an open and dynamic landscape. The world does not derive from an impersonal or objective dimension of scientific facts. It is not a collection of data “from which all subjects and subjective qualities are pared away, but it is rather an intertwined matrix of sensations and perceptions” (Abram 1997, 39). Thus, we are not mere observers. We participate in reality.

The last feature of reality discussed by Wheelwright refers to it as being perspectival. The fact that reality possesses a perspectival and contextual character, implies that its nature is constantly problematic, it cannot be corseted within formulas or systematized. We, as complex human beings are diverse and we are also in the presence of a reality itself diverse and complex, we are part of it and thus we cannot postulate “a single type of reality as ultimate”. For Wheelwright, it is evident that: The communication of presential and coalescent reality is not possible by relying on words with inflexible meanings; if it is to be achieved at all (and the achievement is always imperfect at best) the common words must be chosen and contextualized with discriminating suitability. Much of the context is constructed in the act and by the manner of saying forth; it is not all previously given. The fresh context may be regarded as an angle of vision, a perspective, through which reality can be beheld in a certain way, a unique way, not entirely commensurate with any other way. (1973, 170) This brings us to the issue of language and, implicitly, to metaphor. Language, Wheelwright considers, in as much as it is used to express the complexity and tensivity of the physical world and also the complexity of human nature, is itself intricate, engulfed in tensions between suitable word combinations used to “represent some aspect or other of the pervasive living tension” (Ibid., 48). On Wheelwright’s approach, language is itself alive, in continuous change because those who use it try to find better and simpler ways to express themselves or to reflect their relationship with the surrounding world. Wheelwright argues that:

language that strives toward adequacy - as opposed to signs and words of practical intent or of mere habit - is characteristically tensive to some degree and in some manner or other. This is true whether the language consists of gesture, drawings, musical compositions, or (what offers by far the largest possibilities of development) verbal language consisting of words, idioms, and syntax. (Ibid., 46-47)

At the core of this strife within language is the metaphor. Quoting John Middleton Murry, Wheelwright refers to metaphor as being “as ultimate as speech itself, and speech as ultimate as thought”. Metaphor is that which reflects best the tensive nature of language and, at the same time, that which provokes our thinking and imagination.

To sum up, it can be affirmed that throughout Metaphor and Reality, Wheelwright continuously stresses the “tensive” character of language. To illustrate this, he makes use of words like “living”, “alive” or “intense” which all are meant to cast a light on the fact that language is so similar to life, to what is real, to “What Is”. Language and “What Is” have analogous ontological features and this entitles Wheelwright to think of metaphor, since it represents best these features of the tensive language, as having the power to reach reality. However, Wheelwright’s account of the connection between reality and language reflected through metaphor cannot surpass the trap of an “ontological naiveté”, Ricoeur considers in The Rule of Metaphor. Wheelwright is not wrong to speak of ‘presential reality’, but he neglects to distinguish poetic truth from mythic absurdity. He who does so much to have the ‘tensional’ character of language recognized misses the ‘tensional’ character of truth, by simply substituting one notion of truth for another; accordingly, he goes over to the side of abuse by approximating poetic textures simply to primitive animism. (Ibid., 255) Thus, Ricoeur reproaches Wheelwright that his account, even though bold in its attempt, is disappointing in its outcome. For Wheelwright, Ricoeur thinks, the border between language and the world is blurred to such an extent that it has almost vanished. Words and therefore, metaphors and things are essentially similar. In this respect, Wheelwright went too far, abusing the tensional use of language, overemphasizing the strong correlation between metaphor and reality and thus failing to observe the differences between the two. Now Ricoeur uses Wheelwright’s approach to metaphor in opposition to Turbayne’s and considers them as steps of a dialectical process. He brings them together in order to shape his own theory of metaphor. We pointed out what he finds unsatisfactory in Wheelwright’s approach. As regards Turbayne, “abuse is […] the ‘myth’ of his title, in a more epistemological than ethnological sense, scarcely differing from what we just called ontological naiveté” (Ibid., 251). Turbayne’s thesis, that metaphorical constructions are purely intellectual constructions, implies that they do not refer to reality differently than scientific formulas. Turbayne’s approach is always concerned with truth from an epistemological perspective which makes his endeavor very similar to the positivism that he criticizes. Turbayne leaves no room for poetic language which breaks through “the very notions of fact, object, reality and truth, as delimited by epistemology. Turbayne’s metaphor still belongs to the order of the manipulable. It is something we choose to use, to not use, to re-use. This power to decide, coextensive with the absolute hold of the ‘as if’, is without analogue on the side of poetic experience, in which imagination is ‘bound’” (Ibid., 253). Thus we have Turbayne’s position on the one hand, and Wheelwright’s, on the other. Turbayne stresses what metaphor is not by emphasizing that metaphorical constructions are purely intellectual products with no real reference, whereas Wheelwright emphasizes what metaphor is by stressing the fact that metaphors are deeply rooted in the natural world. The former wants us to be aware of the “as if” prescription of the metaphor; the latter discovers deeper connections between metaphor and “What Is”.


After the analyses of metaphor by writers such as Collin Turbayne, Philip Wheelwright and, as we will see, Paul Ricoeur, metaphor does not allow itself to be regarded as a simple ornament that conveys no new meaning, that has nothing to do with reality or with our relationship to it. Ricoeur breaks away from the traditional understanding of metaphor which started shortly after Aristotle and culminated with Romanticism. Metaphor brings remote ideas together into a unity and it does that by following the guidance offered by their likeness, for example, when “time” and “river” were brought together to make the metaphor “Time is a river”. The fact that the remote ideas are alike implies that they are, at the same time, similar and different. In a metaphor, different ideas melt and their likeness acts as a catalyst. Thus, metaphor acts like a screen or a filter in the discursive process and makes visible a new structure of reality.

Reference: Metaphors and Reality

Metaphors are philosophically relevant, argues Ricoeur, because they create new meanings, because they are innovative. With Ricoeur the approach to metaphor implies a change of view inasmuch as he brings forth a new understanding of not only sense and reference and imagination, but also of an emotive dimension. Ricoeur upgrades Gottlob Frege’s distinction between sense and meaning (where the sense is what the proposition states; the denotation, or meaning, is that about which the sense is stated) into one between sense and reference. For Ricoeur, sense results from a largely horizontal, semantic proceeding while reference is “[metaphor’s] claim to reach reality” (Ricoeur 1980, 140), even if often a redefined reality. It adds to sense an emotional and imaginative and pragmatic verticality. For Ricoeur,

“the literary work through the structure proper to it displays a world only under the condition that the reference of descriptive discourse is suspended. Or, to put it another way, discourse in the literary work sets out its denotation, by means of the suspension of the first level denotation of discourse” (Ricoeur 1977, 221).

Thus, for Ricoeur, there are two distinct possibilities to refer to the issue of reference, or denotation with regard to metaphorical statements. In The Rule of Metaphor, Ricoeur contrasts Gottlob Frege’s approach, with Emile Benveniste’s. He begins with the question: “What does the metaphorical statement say about reality? This question carries us across the threshold from the sense towards the reference of discourse” (Ibid., 216). In other words, in order to know how metaphors relate to reality we have to find out first to what they refer. Following Frege’s article On Sense and Reference (1960), we realize that the reference, as Ricoeur puts it, “is communicated from the proper name to the entire proposition, which, with respect to reference, becomes the proper name of a state of affairs” (Ibid., 218). Proper names “pick up” objects in the world, they stand for or designate their reference and, because their reference is communicated to the entire proposition, that is, the entire metaphorical statement, we cannot talk about metaphors without referring to proper names. Thus, when we use a proper name, like “the Moon”, we do not refer to our idea of the moon or to a specific mental event corresponding to it. Nor do we refer to some kind of ideal object “irreducible to any mental event” which we “presuppose besides a reference”. It is Frege’s understanding that:

The sentence ‘Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca while sound asleep’ obviously has a sense. But since it is doubtful whether the name ‘Odysseus’, occurring therein, has reference, it is also doubtful whether the whole sentence has one […] For it is of the reference of the name that the predicate is affirmed or denied. Whoever does not admit the name has reference can neither apply nor withhold the predicate. (1960, 62-63)

Thus, once a name in a sentence has no clear reference then the whole sentence lacks reference. Frege considers that our quest for truth, our “intention on speaking and thinking” demands a reference, it demands that we “advance from sense to reference”. However, this demand causes us to err, Ricoeur thinks. “This striving for truth suffuses the entire proposition, to the extent that it can be assimilated to a proper name; but it is via the proper name as intermediary that, for Frege, the proposition has reference” (Ricoeur 1977, 218). Because Odysseus has no reference, the sentence “Odysseus is a journey” or any metaphorical statement that has the word Odysseus in it, would have no reference either which means that they are mere intellectual productions. Ricoeur considers this to be a limitation of Frege’s position. Ricoeur brings forth Emil Benveniste’s theory of reference in order to break away from these limitations. In the second volume of Problèmes de linguistique générale (1974), Benveniste writes:

“Le sense d’un mot consistera dans sa capacité d’être l’integrant d’un syntagme particulier et de remplir une fonction propositionelle” (Benveniste 1974, 227).

Moreover, for Benveniste, the sense of the words in a sentence “résulte précisément de la manière dont ils sont combinés” (Ibid.). What does this mean? Benveniste considers that taken in isolation, words have only a potential meaning which is only actualized when it is used in a sentence. The potential meaning is made up of all the marginal meanings that a word can have depending of the diversity of contexts in which they can be used. Then, when they are put together in a sentence this multitude of potential meanings is reduced to just the meaning functioning in the “instance of discourse”, i.e., a given sentence. It is now obvious why Benveniste’s view is contrasted with Frege’s. For Frege the sentence would play the role of a proper name. By this I mean that the sentence itself being composed of words with specific meaning designates its reference. On the other hand, for Benveniste, the reference of a sentence attributes meaning to the words in its composition. Ricoeur explains that:

These two conceptions of reference are complementary and reciprocal, whether one rises by synthetic composition from the proper name towards the proposition, or whether one descends by analytic dissociation from the sentence to the semantic unit of the word. At their intersection, the two interpretations of reference make apparent the polar constitution of the reference itself, which can be called the object when the referent of the name is considered, or the state of affairs if one considers the referent of the entire statement”. (1977, 218)

By bringing Benveniste’s position into discussion, Ricoeur is able to distinguish between two sorts of reference - there is the first level reference, represented by Frege’s approach and the second level reference recognized in Benveniste’s approach. The metaphorical statement is the most adequate illustration of this split between levels of reference or denotation. Metaphors acquire their metaphorical meaning and achieve their reference on the ruins of literal meaning and literal reference. Ricoeur explains that:

If it is true that literal sense and metaphorical sense are distinguished and articulated within an interpretation, so too it is within an interpretation that a second level reference, which is properly the metaphorical reference, is set free by means of the suspension of the first level reference. (1977, 221)

For example, if we take the metaphor “Odysseus is a journey”, then we can see that, literally interpreted (i.e., following Frege), it would have no impact on the way we perceive or relate to reality because Odysseus has no reference. On the other hand, taken metaphorically, “Odysseus is a journey” describes a new way of relating to reality, a new way of looking at human beings and their struggle to arrive “home”. If metaphor is this dialectical corrective of all analytical language centered on concepts then, as all language it also refers, among other things, to what a given culture and ideology consider as reality. This means that some conclusions to which any metaphor can lead are pertinent to or culturally “true” to given understandings of relationships in practice. Metaphor can affirm such an understanding or, in the best case, develop “the before un-apprehended relations of things” in ways at that moment not otherwise able to be formulated. For example, saying that “love is a warm feeling” we use warm in a different way than it is usually used and thus, we establish a new relation between “love” and “feeling”.

Such is the split between the two kinds of reference. However, Ricoeur does not stop here. When talking about the re-descriptive power of the intellect which makes it possible to claim that metaphors do reach reality, we have to ask ourselves how do they come to light. What is it that makes it possible for the intellect to create, to bring forth novel ideas, novel meanings? In order to answer this question we have to see how Ricoeur understands imagination to work.


We have seen above that in the metaphorical use of language we come across an innovation at the level of reference. Now, metaphor relates our image of reality given to us through perception to the image of reality that is offered by language. Ricoeur takes imagination to mean what Kant meant when he used this concept. The act of imagination is that which puts the spatial-temporal determination of phenomena in correspondence with the conceptual determination of phenomena. Spatial-temporal determinations are blind on their own. Conceptual determination is empty when taken by itself. The act of imagination is fusing them together and thus allows us to grasp the phenomena. With Kant, imagination is no longer the faculty with which we reproduce images. It is no longer just reproductive imagination. Gilles Deleuze, discussing the process of imagination as understood by Kant, considers that “When I say: I imagine my friend Pierre, this is the reproductive imagination. I could do something else besides imagine Pierre, I could say hello to him, go to his place, I could remember him, which is not the same thing as imagining him. Imagining my friend Pierre is the reproductive imagination” (Deleuze 1978). However, Kant recognizes that imagination has another function. It is also productive, working as a kind of synthesis. Deleuze explains Kant’s concept of productive imagination as:

determining a space and a time in conformity to a concept, but in such a way that this determination cannot flow from the concept itself; to make a space and a time correspond to a concept, that is the act of the productive imagination. What does a mathematician or a geometer do? Or in another way, what does an artist do? They’re going to make productions of space-time. (Deleuze 1978)

In productive imagination, spatial-temporal determinations do not merely follow conceptual determinations. There is a “production of space and time”, as Deleuze put it, that goes beyond the space and time of any given phenomena and that is how the imagination is productive. Now, when Ricoeur distinguishes image as replica from image as fiction, this distinction corresponds to that between Kant’s reproductive imagination and productive imagination. These two refer to different things and to mistake the one for the other is a fallacy. The image as replica, as portrait, is the image that we get through perception. It refers to a specific something that exists in the realm of reality. I can imagine my dog, the one I used to have a couple of years ago. The image I have here and now rests upon the corresponding perception of the real dog I had. The same dog whose presence used to be given in the past is now given in absence. Or, as Ricoeur puts it, “absence and presence are modes of givenness of the same reality”. Now, the other sort of image, the image as fiction, does not rest upon a given model. It does not refer to anything that was already given as original. In the image as fiction, again, we deal with an absent thing, but this time the absent thing represents nothingness. We imagine the centaur but it exists nowhere. It is unreal, even though we can have an image of it. Thus, the image of my dog rests on the absence of its object, whereas the image of the centaur rests on the unreality of its object. My dog is real; the centaur is unreal. Ricoeur considers that “the nothingness of absence concerns the mode of givenness of a real thing in absentia, the nothingness of unreality characterizes the referent itself of the fiction” (1991, 120). The image as fiction refers to reality in a new way. This is why we have to distinguish it from the image as replica. The image as replica “reproduces” reality, whereas the image as fiction “produces” reality. There is a productive reference at work in fiction. Ricoeur considers it to be the case that:

fiction changes reality, in the sense that it both ‘invents’ and ‘discovers’ it, [which] could not be acknowledged as long as the concept of image was merely identified with that of picture. Images could not increase reality since they add no referents other than those of their originals. The only originality of the image had thus to be found in the spontaneity characteristic of the production of the image. (Ibid., 121)

Imagination is thus productive, not only reproductive. And it is productive in as much as thought is involved, in as much as language is challenged. When I imagine my dog and reproduce his image, there is no further labor involved in the process. However, when I produce an image, when I describe an unreal object, when I tell a story, when I make a plan or make a model, I have to make use of my intellectual capacity. Imagination is productive not only of unreal objects, but also of an unexplored vision of reality. “Imagination at work - in work - produces itself as a world” (Ibid., 123). To sum up, metaphor is that which relates reality and language, an expanded reality and a dynamic language, that is. This takes place with the help of imagination which does not reproduce images but rather produces new ones. Inasmuch as imagination is productive, it allows us to see similarities between the remote ideas that make up metaphors. “Man is a wolf”, says Seneca. We can only understand what he meant not by simply having a mental picture of a wolf-like man but by emphasizing relations in a depicting mode. Moreover, imagination is helpful when it comes to putting in brackets the first level reference, the literary reference, allowing for the projection of new possibilities of re-describing the world.

The Emotive Dimension

For Ricoeur, feelings accompany imagination by adding to the “seeing as” what Ricoeur calls the dimension of “feeling as”. In imagination, as shown above, we “see” similarities in remote ideas, we grasp the “mixture of like and unlike, proper to similarity”. Feeling is thus not just something that pertains exclusively to what happens to the body, or just something that rests on a state of mind. Feeling, by accompanying imagination, is part of us as knowing subjects. “We feel like what we see like” (Ricoeur 1980, 154). Through feelings we are involved in the process of grasping similarities between remote ideas, we participate in the intellect’s discovery of a new meaning. Without it, we would probably fall into merely appreciating the fineness of the metaphorical construction, as Turbayne would have liked us to do. Ricoeur then recognizes that, feelings “accompany and complete imagination as picturing relationships” (Ibid., 155). This aspect of feeling is what Northrop Frye, in The Anatomy of Criticism calls “mood”. The mood is the consequence of us being affected by a poem as a whole, as a unique chain of words. Thus, the mood of that poem is the iconic representation of the poem being felt. Now, Ricoeur refers to metaphor as being a poem in miniature. If this is true, then seizing the metaphor is not a complete process without the element of feeling which is “the iconic as felt”. (Ibid., 155) Finally, Ricoeur talks about feelings as they bring their contribution to the split reference of poetic discourse. Through imagination thought can suspend its direct reference to reality, as we have seen above. Besides reproductive imagination, where thought just reproduces reality, there is productive imagination, where thought has the ability to produce something new. This way, in imagination, thought augments our possibilities to read reality. Correspondingly, feelings, Ricoeur says, “are ways of ‘being-there’, of ‘finding’ ourselves within the world … Because of feelings we are ‘attuned to’ aspects of reality which cannot be expressed in terms of the objects referred to in ordinary language” (Ibid., 156).

To sum it all up, Ricoeur considers that a metaphor includes, besides its cognitive dimension, an imaginative and an emotional element as well. All of them are intimately connected. The full cognitive intent of a metaphor would be incomplete without the contribution of imagination and feelings. In Ricoeur’s own words: “there is a structural analogy between the cognitive, the imaginative, and the emotional components of the complete metaphorical act and that the metaphorical process draws its concreteness and its completeness from this structural analogy and this complementary functioning” (Ibid., 157). Through metaphor we discover a new creative dimension in language. Metaphor, as Ricoeur puts it, has a heuristic function. Metaphor relates to reality by bringing forward new aspects of it. By improving our language we are likely to discover in the world something that could not be previously described. Thus, metaphor does not mirror reality but it re-describes it, it makes it more diverse and fuller. And through that it changes our way of relating to it, it changes “our way of dwelling in the world”. By being immersed in the natural world we have the opportunity to improve our language, and metaphor is the best tool that we can use in order to achieve this. We cannot pick up a single phenomenon, as John Muir once said, without “finding it hitched to everything else” in the universe.

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