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Metaphor, and the distinction between the figurative and the literal uses of language, have puzzled philosophers and linguists at least since Aristotle. The puzzle can be stated in the following, rough, form: How can words in certain configurations mean something different from what they mean in their literal use, prescribed by the rules of the language, and at the same time convey significant insights into what we, in a given context, take as parts of reality? In order to appreciate the force of the question we must separate the metaphorical meanings from the new literal meanings that an individual, or a group, might introduce into a language, such as parenting, or critiquing. Such innovations are extensions of literal language, not metaphors. Metaphors rest on rules of language, but also violate them. They do not describe reality directly. Thus, the true/false dichotomy does not apply to them without qualifications. An adequate theory of metaphor should explain this unique position of metaphoric meaning. To expand on this a little, this essay proposes that a theory of metaphoric meaning should account for the following list of facts or intuitions.
(i) Metaphors give us new meanings and a deepened understanding of the objects of our descriptions or reasoning.
(ii) Metaphors can have aesthetic value.
(iii) At some stage, a subjective element enters into the interpretation of metaphors. This element is creative insofar as it goes beyond what is given by the rules of language but it presupposes and rests on such rules.
The second half of the Parmenides has been a source of puzzlement to generations of scholars, inspiring a wide variety of interpretations. Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Ryle and Owen, one can see this material today as offering serious reflections of conceptual and metaphysical nature. In this chapter I wish to locate the key conceptual problems that Plato addresses in this passage, and argue that Plato is here also defending and revising his theory of Forms.
All attempts at interpretation have to come to grips with the strange structure of the passage. On the surface at least, it seems that the material is arranged into eight arguments; the arguments taken pair-wise contradict each other. This organisation is, however, not very tight. Thus it suggests that it might serve for Plato more as a frame of exposition rather than as the logical back-bone of content. For one thing, after the second argument we find a longer passage on time which begins by stating that we are starting for ‘the third time’ (155E4); commentators, taking the surface structure too seriously, have been treating this as an ‘appendix’ to the second argument. Further evidence for the hypothesis that the over-all structure is not meant very deeply is provided by the fact that the arguments are not of equal length. The second one is the longest, and the last four take up much less space than the first four.