Metaphorical Chaos

in Borrowed Knowledge

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780226429786
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226429809 | DOI:
Metaphorical Chaos

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This chapter investigates the creative transformations made possible by the metaphorical use of scientific knowledge. First, it briefly examines how metaphor works, in order to outline the ways it can function in the transfer of knowledge across disciplines. Then, it argues that such metaphorical borrowing can serve a useful purpose. It concludes with general remarks on the curious relationship between chaos and metaphor. Here, the main target is the belief that metaphorical borrowing cannot or should not be subjected to detailed investigation. Among those who hold this belief are some self-styled defenders of science who claim that any metaphorical use of science is always an inappropriate misuse. In contrast to all these views, the chapter considers metaphorical uses neither so freewheeling as to be immune from criticism nor so wrongheaded as to be unworthy of criticism. Both sweeping condemnations of metaphors and blanket licensing of them fail to pay adequate attention to the way metaphor actually works in the transfer of knowledge across fields.

Keywords: scientific knowledge; metaphor; knowledge transfer; metaphorical borrowing

Chapter.  7366 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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