Metaphor - Metaphor 31 JOHN R SEARLE FORMULATING THE...

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Metaphor 31 JOHN R. SEARLE FORMULATING THE PROBLEM If you hear somebody say, "Sally is a block of ice," or "Sam is a pig," you are likely to assume that the speaker does not mean what he says literally but that he is speaking metaphorically. Furthermore, you are not likely to have very much trouble figuring out what he means. If he says, "Sally is a prime number between 17 and 23," or "Bill is a barn door," you might still assume he is speaking metaphorically, but it is much harder to figure out what he means. The existence of such utterances-utterances in which the speaker means metaphorically something different from what the sentence means literally-poses a series of questions for any theory of lan- guage and communication: What is metaphor, and how does it differ from both literal and other forms of figurative utterances? Why do we use expressions metaphorically instead of saying exactly and literally what we mean? How do metaphorical utterances work, that is, how is it possible for speakers to communi- cate to hearers when speaking metaphorically inasmuch as they do not say what they mean? And why do some metaphors work and others not? In my discussion, I propose to tackle this latter set of questions-those centering around the problem of how metaphors work-both because of its intrinsic interest, and because it does not seem to me that we shall get an answer to the others until this fundamental question has been answered. Before we can begin to understand it, how- ever, we need to formulate the question more precisely. The problem of explaining how metaphors work is a special case of the general problem of explaining how speaker meaning and sen- tence or word meaning come apart. It is a special case, that is, of the problem of how it is possible to say one thing and mean something else, where one succeeds in communicating what one means even though both the speaker and the hearer know that the meanings of the words uttered by the speaker do not exactly and literally express what the speaker meant. Some other instances of the break between speaker's utterance meaning and literal sen- tence meaning are irony and indirect speech acts. In each of these cases, what the speaker means is not identical with what the sentence means, and yet what he means is in various ways dependent on what the sentence means. It is essential to emphasize at the very beginning that the problem of metaphor concerns the relations between word and sentence meaning, on the one hand, and speaker's meaning or utterance meaning, on the other. Many writers on the subject try to From Metaphor and Thought, Andrew Ortony, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 92-123. 416
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METAPHOR locate the metaphorical element of a meta- phorical utterance in the sentence or expres- sions uttered. They think there are two kinds of sentence meaning, literal and metaphori- cal. However, sentences and words have only the meanings that they have. Strictly speak- ing, whenever we talk about the metaphorical meaning of a word, expression, or sentence,
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