What Metaphors Mean

Donald Davidson

in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246298
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191715181 | DOI:

Series: The Philosophical Essays of Donald Davidson (5 Volumes)

 What Metaphors Mean

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Davidson argues that there are no strict rules determining which expressions in a language must count as metaphorical; and that metaphorical meaning is to be expressed in terms of, even though it cannot be fully paraphrased by, literal meaning. He argues against theories (such as Max Black's and Paul Henle's) that posit distinct ‘metaphorical meanings’, claiming that such posits are explanatorily inert. Instead, the meaning of metaphors has to proceed via a literal understanding of what is said and then progress to a special use of the words thus understood. Metaphors have to be defined, claims Davidson, by their characteristic ‘effect’ on the hearer (by what they make him ‘notice’) rather than as distinct cognitive contents; this also accounts, he says, for our frequent difficulty in paraphrasing metaphorical meaning into literal talk.

Keywords: Black; Henle; literal meaning; metaphor; use of language

Chapter.  8522 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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