Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Chafer Theological Seminary Journal
Volume: CTSJ 11:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Review of Metaphors We Live By. By George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. 276 pp. Paperback. $14.00.

Metaphors We Live By is a discussion of how our worldview, both at a macro and micro level, is dependent upon metaphors. In the first chapter, “Concepts We Live By,” Lakoff and Johnson use the phrase “argument is war” to explain the essence of metaphor as “understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another.” In the chapters that follow, they examine various conceptual metaphors: highlighting and hiding, orientational metaphors, ontological metaphors, personification, and metonymy.

The book demonstrates that, although metaphors may appear random, in reality they “form coherent systems in terms of which we conceptualize our experience.” Chapter 9 addresses apparent contradictions within metaphorical systems. The English (western) way of organizing time is used as an example:

First, the future in front and the past behind:
In the weeks ahead of us (future)
That’s all behind us now (past)
Second, the future behind and the past in front:
In the following weeks (future)
In the preceding weeks (past)
Third, mixed contradictory metaphors:
We’re looking ahead to the following weeks.

These contradictions, however, can be explained as cohesive through the underlying metaphor of “time.” Moving objects generally have a front–back orientation. In English, time is structured in a “time-is-a-moving-object” metaphor where the front-back orientation is relative to the point of view of the audience. Therefore, there is no contradiction in the use of time statements. In fact, they are consistent with the internalized metaphor of time.

Metaphors We Live By is an updated version of the original book published in 1980. It contains an extensive afterword which discusses various misunderstandings of metaphor, as well as contemporary trends in metaphor study (primary metaphor and the neutral theory, metaphor and dynamic enactment, and the Neutral Theory of Language project). Although the content of the book can be tough sledding at times, concepts and examples are presented in a very readable style, which helps the reader see how metaphors are used in daily life.

Recently, one of the authors of this book was hired by a major U.S. political party to help map out campaign strategy. While the politics of an individual may offend some, it is important to view this academic work separately. Noam Chomsky is probably the most notable example of this kind of conflict between personal beliefs and scholarly output. Metaphors We...

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