A Series of Rhetorical Devices: Quick Summary of Analogy, Metaphor, and Allegory

There has been some really great work done on metaphor and similar figures in cognitive theory and related fields recently. I don’t have enough knowledge of this stuff to critique it, but it seems like lots of it is directed at trying to figure out the way brains manipulate concepts, or elements similar to postulated conceptual units, and that neglects a whole bunch of philosophical questions many people are still struggling with. I do not know about brains, nor do I know what concepts qua brain excretions would be like unless they are simply electrical bursts connected by and shot through synaptic nerves, but even if it is the case that the patterns created by the dance of electricity and neurotransmitters direct our nerves and correspond to the use of language — a simplistic idea, surely — the brain is so flexible an organ that it would be a great surprise if we would ever be able to map out consciousness against language using this paradigm. Then again, what do I know. It might be the case that it is merely our philosophical notions that need adjusting.

I’m not really that interested in all that stuff. Or rather, I’m more interested in what we actually do with languages, because that is the way we communicate and make our common world. Sure, there are other things as well, but what else comes even close to their broadness and precision as forms of expression? Interpretive dance? Mathematics? Both interpretive dance and mathematics are great (especially mathematics like the one that makes it possible for me to be writing this right now), but they come in second to Latin, Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, German, English, French, and the like. Furthermore, you can train your thinking through your knowledge of languages, so knowledge of the use of these languages and others like them is not simply a case of translating innate ideas into the media of language. That’s where analytical treatment of languages, grammar, becomes important. And not only the sort of grammar we all know from school (parts of speech, conjugations, declinations, etc.), but the manipulation of larger entities like analogies, metaphors, and even allegories. These things make you understood in ways which are somewhat similar to our usual notion of grammatical manipulations, but there does not appear to be much grammar written about them anymore.

There is of course some, but it’s too late in the evening to start indicating sources. Besides, I had a couple of glasses of wine at dinner and thus I’m not all that sharp right now. What could be useful is a brief index of the stuff I wrote the last couple of days. Like so:

(1) Analogy
(2) Metaphor
(3) Allegory
(4) Rudimentary Diagramming
(5) Metaphorical Morals
(6) Is the Three-Term Analogy an Analogy?
(7) Why Study Literature?

All these are based on analogy. That is, the unified scheme of these tropes and figures is based on the simple view that we can elaborate on an analogical way of thinking through resemblances, the way one thing is like another, when talking about their use. It’s not necessarily the case that this sort of thing always happens in practice, but it’s a good place to begin the task of schematization and analysis.

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