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Meaning, Metaphor and Meta-Theology

  • George D. Chryssides (a1)

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Why should metaphors pose a problem for the philosopher of religion? Most forms of discourse involve some use of metaphor: if I describe Fred as ‘a tower of strength’ most people know what I mean and there can be no objection to my doing it. Of course, metaphor in general generates certain philosophical problems which have been taken up in the philosophy of art and which continue to generate controversy. For example, how does one identify a metaphor, and how does it differ from a literal assertion? Is a metaphor a disguised comparison, logically reducible to simile? Can metaphors be true and false, or can one only describe them as ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’?

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1 Wittgenstein, L., Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics Psychology and Religious Belief, ed. Barrett, Cyril (Oxford: Blackwell, 1970), p. 71.

2 The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra; transl. & ed. Luk, Charles (Berkeley & London: Shambhala, 1972).

3 See, e.g. Beardsley, Monroe C., Aesthetics (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981); Beardsley, M. C., The Metaphorical Twist: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 1962, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 293307; Black, Max, Metaphor: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1954, Vol. 55, PP. 273294.

4 Palmer, Humphrey, Analogy (London: Macmillan, 1973), p. 97ff.

5 The Koran: sura 17: 111.

6 Genesis 18.25.

7 See, e.g. Psalm 1.

8 Psalm 19.

9 Romans 2.14f.

10 Psalm 23.1.

11 Psalm 91.2.

12 John 6.35.

13 John 8.12.

Meaning, Metaphor and Meta-Theology

  • George D. Chryssides (a1)

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