Thinking More' as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy

Balqis Al-Karaki


Philosophy makes us think – this is certainly not a new finding. Also, many readers are familiar with Kant’s claim that in artworks, representations of the imagination – among which are metaphors - force our minds to ‘think more’. In this article, I borrow Kant’s ‘thinking more’ notion which he confines to the realm of art, and argue that metaphors in philosophy sometimes force our minds to ‘think more’ than they would without these metaphors. However, the application of this notion to the realm of philosophy will not correspond exactly to the Kantian ‘prompt to thought’, for reasons that have to do with the nature and purpose of philosophy as this article attempts to demonstrate.


Philosophie regt zum Denken an - das ist sicherlich keine neue Erkenntnis. Auch sind sicherlich viele Leser mit Kants Behauptung vertraut, dass uns Kunstwerke durch Ihre Darstellung des Imaginären (worunter im Übrigen auch Metaphern fallen) dazu zwingen "mehr zu denken". In diesem Artikel bediene ich mich des Kantschen Konzeptes des "Mehrdenkens", das er auf den Bereich der Kunst beschränkt und weite es auf den Bereich der Metaphorik aus. Es wird argumentiert, dass die Verwendung von Metaphern in philosophischen Diskursen uns ebenfalls dazu zwingt, "mehr zu denken" als es ohne diese Metaphern der Fall wäre. Der Artikel versucht zu zeigen, dass sich das Kantsche Konzept des "Mehrdenkens" dennoch nicht eins zu eins von der Kunst auf den Bereich der Philosophie übertragen lässt, was in der Natur und Zielsetzung der Philosophie begründet liegt.


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‘Thinking More’ as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy
Balqis Al-Karaki, University of Jordan (
Philosophy makes us think – this is certainly not a new finding. Also, many readers are familiar
with Kant’s claim that in artworks, representations of the imagination – among which are
metaphors - force our minds to ‘think more’. In this article, I borrow Kant’s ‘thinking more’
notion which he confines to the realm of art, and argue that metaphors in philosophy sometimes
force our minds to ‘think more’ than they would without these metaphors. However, the
application of this notion to the realm of philosophy will not correspond exactly to the Kantian
‘prompt to thought’, for reasons that have to do with the nature and purpose of philosophy as
this article attempts to demonstrate.
Philosophie regt zum Denken an - das ist sicherlich keine neue Erkenntnis. Auch sind sicherlich
viele Leser mit Kants Behauptung vertraut, dass uns Kunstwerke durch Ihre Darstellung des
Imaginären (worunter im Übrigen auch Metaphern fallen) dazu zwingen "mehr zu denken". In
diesem Artikel bediene ich mich des Kantschen Konzeptes des "Mehrdenkens", das er auf den
Bereich der Kunst beschränkt und weite es auf den Bereich der Metaphorik aus. Es wird
argumentiert, dass die Verwendung von Metaphern in philosophischen Diskursen uns ebenfalls
dazu zwingt, "mehr zu denken" als es ohne diese Metaphern der Fall wäre. Der Artikel versucht
zu zeigen, dass sich das Kantsche Konzept des "Mehrdenkens" dennoch nicht eins zu eins von
der Kunst auf den Bereich der Philosophie übertragen lässt, was in der Natur und Zielsetzung
der Philosophie begründet liegt.
1. Introduction
In 1579, Sir Philip Sidney ‘defended’ poetry by his infamous claim: “Now for the
poet, he nothing affirms, and therefore never lieth” (Sidney 2001: 348). Four
centuries later, Jacques Derrida inferred the following from the Aristotelian
theory of metaphor: “What is proper to man is doubtless the capacity to make
metaphors, but in order to mean some thing, and only one. In this sense, the
philosopher, who ever has but one thing to say, is the man of man.” (Derrida
1982: 248). Doubtless, Derrida is unhappy with the whole notion of philosophical
affirmation, as he is with considering metaphors as ‘mere’ tools for expressing
philosophical ideas.
It may be understandable why poets should be apologized for on the basis that
they do not affirm or say one particular thing. But it remains rather perplexing
why philosophers, who have always proudly attempted to make truth-claims,
should be criticized – by Derrida for example - for trying to say one thing at a 22/2012
time, and for not using metaphors in a ‘free’, ‘uncontrolled’ manner. For even if a
philosopher is criticized for an alleged ‘uncontrollable’ use of metaphors (as Paul
de Man has claimed for Kant), this does not cancel the fact that Kant does indeed
intend to communicate specific thoughts whether in abstract or metaphorical
formulas. Metaphors in philosophy, even after the attempts of its rhetoricization
and poeticization by deconstuctionists, do seem to say one particular thing at a
time. When Derrida uses ‘White Mythology’ as a metaphor for ‘colorless’
Metaphysics, he does not want ‘white’ to mean ‘pure’ or ‘innocent’ or any other
meanings that ‘white’, as a metaphor, would suggest outside the context of his
text (Derrida: 213). In other words, his metaphor tries to express one, or at least
some specific, controllable meaning(s). Even in the texts of Nietzsche, the
perspectivist and outspoken apologist for metaphors against concepts, the use of
‘less colorful concepts’ and ‘worn coins which have lost their stamp and become
metal’ (Nietzsche 2001:878-879)— hopes to express and even affirm a particular
idea through these metaphors. The vast majority of philosophers spell out what
they mean by their metaphors and analogies, making sure that these devices are
not interpreted ‘wrongly’, although their aspiration to clarity can sometimes fail.
This has perhaps saved philosophy from losing its distinction from poetry and
art, even after the tempest of Deconstruction and its attempts to eliminate all
borders between these discourses.
It is not impossible, however, to maintain such a distinction while, at the same
time, observing the many similarities between philosophy and poetry concerning
the function of metaphors in these texts. The similarities include the theories that
revolve around the nature and function of philosophy or of art. In other words,
the claims that some theorists make for art may at times apply to philosophy, and
vice versa. The aim of this article is to demonstrate how Kant’s ‘thinking more’
claim which appears in his discussion of art, can be used to explore one possible,
somewhat similar function of philosophical metaphors. The choice of Kant is in
no way imposed. Rather, his ‘thinking more’ idea seems to impose itself on most
contemporary discussions of metaphor, one of the most well-known examples
being Paul Ricoeur’s extensive discussion and expansion of the same idea in his
The Rule of Metaphor. Moreover, a more recent book entitled Metaphor and
Continental Philosophy, further emphasizes the significance of this particular
Al-Karaki, ‘Thinking More’ as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy
Kantian idea and its usefulness for - or even its inescapability in – any attempt to
explore the function of mundane, poetic or philosophical metaphors.
As a method for exploring the possibility of applying Kant’s claim on art to
philosophy, I chose to:
- First: discuss this claim in its original context; i.e. confined to the realm of
‘aesthetic ideas’;
- Second: highlight Ricoeur’s interpretation of what Kant may have meant
by ‘thinking more’ and ‘aesthetic ideas’;
- Third: try to apply both Kant’s and Ricoeur’s claims to two works of art:
one is a recurring figure in Dali’s works, the other is a poem by Baudelaire,
both of which seem to share similar ‘rational ideas’;
- Fourth: decontextualize Kant’s ‘thinking more’ and naturalize it in the
context of philosophy to test its validity through examples, before making
clearer claims as to how philosophy can make us ‘think more’ in ways that
are similar to art in parts, and different in others.
Although the focus of this article is philosophical metaphors, I found it important
to discuss examples of artistic metaphors in Section 2 of this article before
discussing examples of philosophical metaphors in Section 3. The choice of
examples does not follow an historical order but is still not arbitrary, for it
depends on the usefulness of each example in illustrating and in examining the
validity of the corresponding argument. In section 2, I apply Kant’s idea to Dali
then to Baudelaire to observe the similarities and differences between the Kantian
‘prompt to thought’ in two artworks (that may be considered metaphors), only
one of which, i.e. poetry, share with philosophy the medium of language. Yet
since philosophy, for Kant, does not involve an aesthetic indeterminacy of
concepts as do poetry and art in general, the comparison between painting and
poetry, and between art and philosophy in terms of the cognitive function of
metaphor is indispensable, I think, for making specific, not-too-general claims as
to how philosophical metaphors may help us ‘think more’ in a near-Kantian
Philosophy is a space for abstract concepts and propositions, but this paper
shows how Kant’s artistic ‘prompt to thought’, caused by representations of the 22/2012
imagination, can be expanded to embrace this philosophical space. This space
1. dead metaphors which are the roots of some supersensible concepts;
2. living metaphors which provide new conceptualizations of these
3. and metaphors which are part of extended analogies and allegories that
may support the persuasiveness of an argument.
However, all three types can contain truth-claims: the ‘container’ dead metaphor
of the mind involves as much a proposition as Freud’s living ‘iceberg’ metaphor
of the mind and Plato’s allegory of the cave. The article shows how these three
types can force us to ‘think more’ in the following sense: in examining 1.the
identity of the concepts and 2. validity of the propositions which metaphors illustrate.
It is worth noting that Kant, in The Critique of Judgement, Part I: Critique of Aesthetic
Judgement, briefly refers to metaphors in philosophy when he discusses symbolic
hypotyposes. He refers to words such as ground (support, basis) and flow (instead
of follow), noting that there are ‘countless others’, but adding that this Critique “is
not the place” to dwell upon “such indirect presentations modeled upon an
analogy” (Kant 1978: 223). Thus Kant’s ‘thinking more’ in its original context; i.e.
the aesthetic part of the third Critique; does not include neither ‘dead’ not ‘living’
philosophical metaphors, but only artistic ones. The next section discusses this
function in its original context, and the section to follow explains how it can be
expanded to embrace the realm of philosophical discourse.
2. ‘Thinking More’ in its original context: aesthetic ideas
The ‘thinking more’ notion appears in an infamous part of The Critique of
Judgement which discusses ‘aesthetic ideas’:
[B]y an aesthetic idea I mean that representation of the imagination
which induces much thought, yet without the possibility of any definite
thought whatever, i.e., concept, being adequate to it, and which
language, consequently, can never get quite on level terms with or
render completely intelligible.—It is easily seen, that an aesthetic idea is
the counterpart (pendant) of a rational idea, which, conversely, is a
Al-Karaki, ‘Thinking More’ as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy
concept, to which no intuition (representation of the imagination) can be
adequate (1978: 175-176).
Both aesthetic and rational ideas, for Kant, cannot become cognitions. They are
merely ideas in the sense that they are mere “representations” that refer to an
object according to principles that are either subjective (aesthetic ideas) or
objective (rational ideas) (209-210). Aesthetic ideas, however, are the ones which
“induce much thought”; an inducement which, for Kant, is provided by art, and
precisely poetic art, which is the domain where the faculty of aesthetic ideas, or
the “talent of the imagination”, “can show itself to full advantage” (177). Still, this
does not mean that Kant excludes concepts of reason from the aesthetic
experience. Rather, he states that when a representation of the imagination
presents Jupiter’s eagle with the lightening in its claws, as an aesthetic attribute of
the “mighty king of heaven”, this representation (i.e., the aesthetic idea), has a
“kinship” with rational ideas like “sublimity” and “majesty of creation” (177).
The aesthetic idea serves these concepts as a substitute for their logical
presentation, animating the mind “by opening out for it a prospect into field of
kindered representations stretching beyond its ken” (177-178). The concepts of
reason have no representations of the imagination “adequate” to them, but the
kindered representations given by the aesthetic ideas help these concepts by
provoking “more thought than admits of expression in a concept determined by
words” (177). Kant also uses the expressions “wealth of thought”; “extension of
thought”; “unbounded expansion to the concept” to explain what happens when
a representation of the imagination is “attached” to a concept (177). He further
stresses that such a representation is indeed “germane” to the concept although
the ‘thinking more’ it invokes exceeds what admits of “comprehension in a
definite concept” (177.).
As known, works of art for Kant are subject to a judgment of taste which is not a
cognitive judgment although it rests upon a concept: a rational indeterminate one
which the aesthetic idea can help to expand (207-208). Paul Ricoeur has grappled
with this complex “situation” to analyze the process of interpreting metaphors
and to find the link between metaphorical and speculative discourses. He
observes that interpretation functions at the intersection of these two domains: it
“seeks the clarity of the concept” but also “hopes to preserve the dynamism of 22/2012
meaning that the concept holds and pins down” (Ricoeur 1986: 303). He reads
Kant’s notion as meaning that the presentation of an idea by the imagination
“forces conceptual thought to think more”, and since he clearly considers
metaphor to be a form of such presentation (note that Kant never uses the word
‘metaphor’ in this context), he states that metaphor “introduces the spark of
imagination into a ‘thinking more’ at the conceptual level” (1968: 303). The
‘struggle to ‘think more’’ is the ‘soul of interpretation’, Ricoeur adds (303). To
further explore the complex notion of ‘thinking more at the conceptual level’
through an aesthetic idea, it may be useful to give some examples of
interpretation. I shall follow Ricoeur in assuming that metaphor is one form of
aesthetic ideas, and will discuss one example from fine art, and another from
Many readers are familiar with Salvador Dali’s sculptures and paintings which
contain opened drawers in human figures (e.g. The Anthropomorphic Cabinet,
Venus De Milo with Drawers, The Burning Giraffe). In Kant’s framework, these
works may be considered to present an aesthetic idea (the drawers in the figures)
which expand indeterminate supersensible concepts such as ‘secret’, ‘mystery’,
and ‘memory’ among others, while this aesthetic idea is not itself ‘adequate’ as an
intuition to any of these concepts. Although it remains hard to explain, a ‘wealth
of thought’ is induced at the conceptual level, but it does not rest upon one
concept; determinable or indeterminable. The mind is ‘quickened’ and ‘animated’
as Kant says, and - although Kant does not suggest this for aesthetic ideas - it
might be that the very process of moving from the ‘drawers in humans’ (an
intuition of the imagination) to ‘secret’ (a rational idea) entails observing a
resemblance (between secrets and what is kept in drawers; between drawers and
the human soul); something which indeed requires some conceptual effort that
force the mind to ‘think more’, given that, for example, we will have to reflect
deeply on the concept ‘secret’ in order to observe the resemblances it shares with
things kept in drawers.
In the absence of one particular concept exhibited through the aesthetic idea, and
no matter how much ‘thought’ is induced, it remains impossible to suppose that
this idea presents us with a specific interpretation, objective proposition, or with
a logical exhibition of a concept. Dali, as Sidney says, ‘nothing affirms’ through
Al-Karaki, ‘Thinking More’ as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy
these works, and he certainly does not have ‘one thing to say’ through his
drawers as Derrida would put it. For one observer the drawers that open out of
human figures may bring about the concepts of ‘secrets’ and ‘pain’ for example,
and allude to the – subjective - proposition that ‘revealing secrets (opening the
drawers) is painful (as is pulling something out of the body)’, and thus it is
healthier and ‘tidier’ to keep the secrets unrevealed, as in things kept in a chest of
drawers. ‘Secrets’ may be replaced by ‘memories’ or these may come to mind
together. For another observer it might give some meaning as to the ‘mysteries’ of
the female body; and for a Feminist it might concern the pain inflicted on the
female body and soul from outside intrusion and dictation. Dali himself
interpreted his work as meaning that Freudian psychoanalysis is capable of
revealing the secrets of narcissism concealed in the subconscious of man, after
having been kept hidden for a long time. Doubtless, such a declarative statement
is unlikely to come to mind when viewing these works without previous
knowledge of Dali’s view, and whether he likes it or not, all we can get out of his
aesthetic idea is a confused interpretation. Yet the confusion is not without a
struggle to ‘think more’ conceptually, and, again, it certainly requires rational
means to get from ‘drawers opening out of a figure’ to ‘the pain of secrets when
revealed from the soul’. If Kant is right, the drawer representation will induce
more thought than is provoked by the concept ‘secret’ as determined by the word
It may be true to say that in poetry, there is much less confusion given the strong
connection between language and thought. And although poems throughout the
ages differ greatly in their directness and predisposition for a controlled
interpretation, it is perhaps correct to say that they lie somewhat in the middle
between philosophy on one hand, and fine art on the other. Like Dali’s drawers
in human figures, Baudelaire’s poem “Spleen” exhibits the ideas of secrets and
memories (among many others) through metaphors which resemble Dali’s
drawers, but with considerably more conceptual limits and much less indeterminacy.
The title of the poem is ‘Spleen’, and the first line contains the
concept “memory” (souvenir): “J'ai plus de souvenirs que si j'avais mille ans”. After
these ‘limits’, Baudelaire gives several aesthetic ideas that are germane to their
rational correspondences: 22/2012
Un gros meuble à tiroirs encombré de bilans,
De vers, de billets doux, de procès, de romances,
Avec de lourds cheveux roulés dans des quittances,
Cache moins de secrets que mon triste cerveau.
Je suis un vieux boudoir plein de roses fanées,
Où gît tout un fouillis de modes surannées,
Où les pastels plaintifs et les pâles Boucher
Seuls, respirent l'odeur d'un flacon débouché.
The concepts are more defined in this poem than they are in Dali’s drawers (the
ideas of psychoanalysis and the human unconscious do not seem as valid options
for interpreting this poem), but they are not doubt expanded by Baudelaire’s
chest of drawers and boudoir and all the things that fill them. Still, Baudelaire’s
metaphors or ‘kindered representations’ do not present us with a distinct,
declarative proposition based on objective principles. It does not have ‘one thing
to say’ and does not ‘affirm’ anything; although we might find ourselves
‘thinking more’ than we do when presented with the mere wordings of
‘memory’, ‘spleen’, ‘secret’, and ‘aloneness’.
The majority of philosophical texts has – and perhaps should have – more
determinacy and limitations than Baudelaire’s poem and Dali’s sculptures, even
if they address our imaginations with rich metaphors. But exactly how can
metaphors in philosophy help us to ‘think more’, and to what extent can this
function in philosophy be similar to – or different from – its function in poetry
and art as Kant understood it?
3. ‘Thinking More’ expanded into a new context: philosophical
The recent decades have witnessed what seem like metaphor ‘festivals’,
celebrating the role which metaphors are believed to play in our conceptual and
epistemological upbringing. Indeed, many concepts are dead metaphors, and
much of our use of language is metaphorical, perhaps because our conceptual
Al-Karaki, ‘Thinking More’ as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy
system is, to some extent at least. We may be living by metaphors to use Lakoff
and Johnson’s infamous book title, and we may be able to find hundreds of
philosophical texts whose “entire” surfaces are “worked by a metaphorics” to use
Derrida’s phrase on Aristotle’s definition of metaphor (Derrida: 231-232). Surely
it seems appealing – and easy – to express such enthusiasm concerning metaphor;
to return back to the texts of philosophy since Plato and Aristotle to infer
cognitive claims for metaphor; and to enjoy Nietzsche’s metaphorical assertion
that concepts are worn-out, metamorphosed metaphors, and his catching
statement that truth is “a mobile army of metaphors and metonymies”. But it
may be best to take a step back as Ricoeur has done in The Rule of Metaphor, where
he argues for a distinction between “metaphorical order” and “conceptual
analysis”, claiming – quite convincingly - that without this distinction there
would be no difference between Hegel’s Idea and Plato’s Idea (Ricoeur: 293). The
life of the concept may be in the death of the metaphor as Ricoeur puts it, and he
gives the example of ‘comprendre’ [comprehend, understand] which “can have a
proper philosophical sense because we no longer hear ‘prendre’ [take, to take
hold of] in it” (239). Taking such a step back and resisting the temptations of the
metaphor festivals may protect us from “transvaluational” views as Arthur
Danto says; i.e. the views which use the fact that many concepts are metaphorical
to jump to the conclusion that “the first shall be last or that the meek shall inherit
the earth” (Danto 1987:21).
Now that we have become able to ‘think’ with the support of – and perhaps
because of – metaphors, my question is this: are we able to ‘think more’ about
concepts in view of their metaphorical origin, and by the fresh metaphors which
illustrate these concepts and perhaps make new claims about them? Can
metaphors force us to ‘think more’ about philosophical propositions and assess
their validity? If so, how would Kant’s ‘thinking more’ be naturalized into this
new context?
I shall begin with the dead metaphors which have helped to form concepts.
Perhaps the most dead and most omnipresent of all these metaphors is the optic
metaphor, which is used for almost everything that has to do with knowledge.
Derrida notes that this metaphor “opens up every theoretical point of view under
the sun” (Derrida: 224); and his use of “point of view” here is no coincidence. The 22/2012
concepts “theory”, “idea”, “perspective”, “speculation” and “reflection” are optic
metaphors originally, and our everyday language where we use “I see” to mean
“I understand”; “view’ to mean “opinion”; “blindness” to suggest “ignorance”;
reflects the dominance of this metaphor. Now that the metaphor is very dead, it
may be difficult to argue for its ability to make us ‘think more’. However, this
may still be possible under one condition: if one intentionally decides to reflect
upon this concept as a metaphor (note that our everyday use of ‘ idea’,
‘viewpoint’, ‘I see’, and countless others rarely involves any reflection upon their
metaphoricity). In this case of deliberate reflection, what would presumably
happen is this: the reflector will re-realize that he has a concept of knowledge
different from his concept of seeing and viewing. He will remember that they are
not the same even though he constantly uses the latter to think and talk about the
former. In other words he will rephrase his use of ‘I see’ in its original,
metaphorical phrasing: understanding is seeing. This ‘is’, as Ricoeur explains,
signifies both ‘is not’ and ‘is like’ (Ricoeur: 7), but not ‘the same’. Such sorting
and separating of much-entangled concepts and metaphors (‘understanding’ and
‘seeing’) allows the reflector to look for the similarities in dissimilars, and also for
the dissimilarities in what he has long considered to be similars. This reflection is
indeed one form of ‘thinking more’; a form where there is much tension between
“identity and difference in the interplay of resemblance” (see Ricoeur: 247). This
particular tension might help the reflector to ‘think more’ about the concept and
its identity, probably more than he would if it never occurred to him to reflect
upon its metaphoricity. The ‘field’ of this tension does not exactly correspond to
the ‘field of kindered representations’ which expand the thought in the Kantian
appreciation of art, for we are dealing here with one concept, though rational, i.e.
‘empty’ and indeterminate according to Kant. The mind here is indeed quickened
and animated yet not without the many conceptual limits that the death of the
root-metaphor has provided for the life of the concept. The experience here is far
more controlled than it is in art, as it is intentionally directed at finding limits and
controlling our understanding of the concept in the first place. Unlike art,
thought here is expanded in order to be narrowed down to finite possibilities, but
this nonetheless provokes the mind to ‘think more’.
Al-Karaki, ‘Thinking More’ as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy
As for fresh metaphors, these will also stimulate the mind and induce a ‘thinking
more’. ‘Mind’ for example, has been given many metaphors throughout the
histories of philosophy and science. These range from: the dead and immortal
‘container’ metaphor (mind is a box) which exists abundantly in perhaps all
languages, and it includes Plato’s famous aviary metaphor; mind is a wax tablet
(Plato and Aristotle); Locke’s ‘white paper’ that is void of all characters and ideas;
Freud’s ‘iceberg’; to the more recent metaphors of cognitive science: mind is a
‘computer’; ‘brain’ or ‘rhizome’. My point is that the more metaphors we have of
the same concept, the more interplays of resemblance we will have; the more
tension between identity and difference there will be; which all means that there
will be more ‘thinking’ to do. This exceeds the effort needed in the case of dead
metaphors, but it is still directed towards the indeterminate concept, in the hope
of rendering it less indeterminate. Even Nietzsche, for whom all concepts are
mere worn-out metaphors, and who rejects all ideas of ‘things in themselves’
observes that we get nearer to the identity of the concept through looking at it
from many perspectives. In our context, metaphor can be considered as a
[L]et’s guard ourselves against the tentacles of such contradictory ideas
as “pure reason,” “absolute spirituality,” “knowledge in itself”—those
things which demand that we think of an eye which simply cannot be
imagined, an eye which is to have no direction at all, in which the
active and interpretative forces are supposed to stop or be absent—the
very things through which seeing first becomes seeing something.
Hence, these things always demand from the eye something
conceptually absurd and incomprehensible. The only seeing we have is
seeing from a perspective; the only knowledge we have is knowledge
from a perspective; and the more emotions we allow to be expressed in
words concerning something, the more eyes, different eyes, we know
how to train on the same thing, the more complete our “idea” of this
thing, our “objectivity,” will be. (Genealogy: III.12).
Here Nietzsche’s philosophical argument is not expressed in a pure abstract
formula but contains an optics-based analogy where ‘perspective’ is given the
metaphor ‘eye’, or re-given its optical origin as a metaphor for its prevalent
meaning: ‘mental outlook’. The passage above can help us explore our final 22/2012
inquiry: how do metaphors and analogies help us to think more of a proposition
and question its validity and claim to truth?
“Analogies, it is true, decide nothing but they can make one feel more at home”—
that’s what Freud thought (Freud 1964: vol. 22, 72). My point is that, on the
contrary, analogies do help us to ‘think more’ about a proposition’s capacity to
‘decide’. In Nietzsche’s passage quoted above, the argument in its abstract
exposition is this: the more perspectives we have on one thing, the more complete
our knowledge of that thing will be. For Nietzsche this is similar to having more
‘eyes’ which help us to see something in a better, more complete way. At first
glance, the analogy may do the trick: we know that a one-eyed person cannot see
things as clearly as a person with normal vision, and this is correspondent to
Nietzsche’s claim concerning the limits of one perspective as regards cognition.
However, a one-eyed person who has no vision deficiencies in that particular eye
may be able to see things more clearly than a two-eyed person who suffers from
severe short-sightedness. This point pushes us to ‘think more’ about Nietzsche’s
argument: wouldn’t one ‘far-sighted’ perspective give us better, more complete
knowledge of something than several ‘short-sighted’ perspectives? Does not the
history of philosophy, which is full of competing perspectives, dismiss all shortsighted
perspectives and render few ones convincing and immortal? Surely, great
philosophical ideas cannot be likened to one-eyed vision – at least not without
many points of contention -, but we can still argue that in general, one person
with ordinary vision can see something more clearly and completely than a vast
number of people with vision deficiencies. This may be an exaggeration, as we do
know that people in general have comparable visual abilities, which does not
correspond to Nietzsche’s ‘different eyes’. This invokes a ‘thinking’ more even
beyond Nietzsche’s argument (although it emerges from reflecting on the
interrelations within the analogy): to what extent are the different perspectives
really and genuinely ‘different’? Even if we imagine different eyes looking at
something from different angles, we know that eventually they are similar eyes
which all function in the exact same way. This suggests that the ‘different’
perspectives all emerge from our human intellectual capacities just like our naked
vision emerges from similar sense faculties, and therefore we cannot have very
different perspectives regarding one thing—an idea which seems closer to
Al-Karaki, ‘Thinking More’ as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy
Hegel’s view of the compatibility of perspectives than Nietzsche’s view of their
conflicting nature.
However, if we take Nietzsche’s ‘different eyes’ merely as a metaphor for
different angles, and reflect upon how looking at something from a variety of
angles can indeed give us a better, though not necessarily complete view of
something, Nietzsche’s argument will seem more valid. True, the more cameras
we use to take a shot of an object from various standpoints, the more complete
our knowledge of that object will be. This strengths Nietzsche’s critique of ‘pure
reason’ and ‘knowledge in itself’, since it is impossible to have a look at
something from all angles at once with an eye that ‘has no direction at all’ as
Nietzsche says. But if we are to assume that the ‘many eyes’, the ‘many angles’
will help us grasp a better knowledge of something, we must keep in mind the
following: just as we cannot ask a person with deficient vision to tell us how a
building looks from behind, or use a damaged camera to take a shot of that part
of a building, we cannot assume that all perspectives will help us get more
knowledge of something, no matter how many we have. Many scholars have
grappled with the question of the evaluation and selection of perspectives in
Nietzsche’s theory, arguing that the perspectives for Nietzsche are not all neutral,
but that some of them are cognitively superior than others according to Nietzsche
(See Cazeaux 2007: 104-123). This idea can be derived from studying the analogy
as has been illustrated, and perhaps more answers concerning the question of
‘evaluation’ can be drawn from a deeper reflection on the correspondences and
non-correspondences between Nietzsche’s argument and its corresponding
Such reflection can be considered as a form of ‘thinking more’ about Nietzsche’s
argument, since it can reveal its problems and limitations as attempted above. It
is not a demonstrative method of assessing the proposition’s objectivity and
truth-value, but it is perhaps one way of thinking about it dialectically in a form
of rhetorical reasoning. This experience, although enjoyable for many people,
may not be termed ‘aesthetic’ in the Kantian sense at least, especially since the
imagination here is much more constrained by the existence of a rather obvious
argument, which was not the case with Dali’s figures. The reflection is directed
towards knowledge and not mere ‘disinterested’ pleasure, and the interpretation 22/2012
of the meaning of the analogy does not have to struggle with aesthetic
indeterminacy, and its univocity is secured by the fact that we have a good idea
about what Nietzsche is saying, unlike our confused situation with Dali’s
drawers. In other words a claim is being made by Nietzsche, with the support of
the analogy. In this case we do not suffer from a ‘semantic shock’ in Ricoeur’s
words (Ricoeur: 296), and the philosophical discourse here “sets itself up as the
vigilant watchman overseeing the ordered extensions of meaning” (Ricoeur: 261).
There is no a ‘vast array of kindred representations’ emerging from a free play of
imagination and understanding, and invoking indefinite number of meanings in
this ‘thinking more’ experience. Yet perhaps because philosophy is based on
concepts and is intentionally directed to them (Nietzsche’s ‘perspective’ is an
example); because it cannot be really independent of determination; because its
analogies work within a limited play of possibilities; and because the rational
ideas are not freely attached to a representation but rather illustrated in order to
make a claim; perhaps for all these reasons the ‘thinking more’ that philosophical
metaphors can provoke is unique; for it will have to be ‘more’ focused and
directed towards understanding the identity of concepts, and assessing the
validity of propositions. In simpler words: it will be searching for knowledge and
truth, which is the never-changing aim of philosophy.
This is not to say that art does not search for truth. It does, and invites us to think.
But in the Kantian sense, art makes us think more of the concepts that may come
to mind when we experience representations of the imagination, but this
experience is rarely targeted at reaching a definite or near-definite understanding
of one concept, or at deriving a truth-claim or an objective proposition. We do,
however, get to think about the rational ideas (such as secrets, memories)
through their imaginative correspondences (such as drawers). Such interplay
may result in an interpretation; but this interpretation is seldom subject to
judgment according to clear-cut criteria of correctness. It is forever subjective,
intersubjective, and cannot be entirely ‘wrong’ even if it is far from what an artist
himself claims to be the ‘one thing’ he tried to communicate through his
representation. In philosophy, conversely, there is always one particular thought
at a time, or one abstract proposition, which a philosopher tries to communicate
and prove valid, which is why philosophical metaphors and analogies are, as it
Al-Karaki, ‘Thinking More’ as a Function of Metaphors in Philosophy
were, ‘pre-interpreted’ most of the time. The concepts and propositions may be
served by representations of the imagination which will invite us to think more
about them: about the identity of the concept and the validity of the proposition.
Such ‘prompt to thought’ including the interplay between resemblance and
difference that revolve around identity and validity, happens in a ‘controlled
environment’, and is targeted at a definite thought and proposition. This is
dissimilar from the case of aesthetic ideas in art which, for Kant, have no specific,
definite thoughts adequate to them, and even if they make us ‘think more’, the
identity of the rational ideas produced in the process and the validity of the
derived claims are not the targets and do not control or force limits on we can
think about when experiencing metaphors in poetry and art. This explains why
Kant chose to use the expression ‘vast array’ when he discusses the ‘kindred
representations’ invoked by aesthetic ideas.
On a final note: certainly not all philosophical metaphors provoke our minds to
think more than they would do in the absence of such metaphors. This will
probably depend on the ‘genius’ of the philosopher, as much as invoking the
artistic ‘thinking more’ for Kant depends on the ‘genius’ of the artist. Great poets
and great philosophers share the mastery of observing resemblances in things far
apart as Aristotle has taught us, which is why great poetry and great philosophy
have both always pushed us to ‘think more’, although not in the exact same
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