Essay on Metaphors We Live By

Essay on Metaphors We Live By

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Metaphors We Live By

In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson give the following definition: “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (5). An obvious focal point of Metaphors We Live By, and the idea this essay will attempt to further explicate, is the notion that the title implies: we live by certain dominant metaphors.

Some of the most universal concepts in our species, culture, and language are not only talked about, but also thought about, in metaphorical terms.

The concept love, for example, is structured mostly in metaphorical terms: love is a journey, love is a patient, love is a physical force, love is madness, love is war, etc. The concept of love has a core that is minimally structured by the subcategorization love is an emotion and by links to other emotions, e.g., liking. This is typical of emotional concepts, which are not clearly delineated in our experience in any direct fashion and therefore must be comprehended primarily indirectly, via metaphor. (85)

This passage describes the concept of love and the metaphors by which people generally understand, think about, and act in love. Additionally, the authors suggest that love is thought about almost entirely metaphorically because it is an emotional concept.

We are concerned primarily with how people understand their experiences. We view languages as providing data that can lead to general principles of understanding. The general principles involve whole systems of concepts rather than individual words or individual concepts. We have found that such principles are often metaphoric in nature and involve understanding one kind of experience in terms of another kind of exper...


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...ed war are often unable to express what war means or what war is. These are inexpressible, unanswerable questions regardless of one’s proximity to war. So, metaphor combines what one can logically deduce an experience to be and what one can more intuitively envision an experience to be.

“love is not a concept that has a clearly delineated structure; whatever structure it has it gets only via metaphors” (110). Ultimately, I find that this is the real essence of the authors’ point. Mostly for those concepts that are hardest to define and understand—those emotional or abstract—but also for almost all universal ideas and experiences, we allow metaphor (the combination of our rational and imaginative thought about something) to direct our understanding. Without metaphor, these experiences become not meaningless, but structure-less and therefore incomprehensible.

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Essay on Metaphors We Live By

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