Metaphor: Hidden Motivators, Part II

by Eston on July 28, 2011

Aristotle made a mistake when, in Poetics, he limited metaphor to rhetoric.  That he did so is understandable, given that Quantum Mechanics was yet over two thousand years away, but the fact is that limiting metaphor to language—as important and essential as human communication is—has blinded us to the fact that everything in nature is traceable to metaphor.

When Aristotle proposed that a metaphor says one thing IS another, he was right.  What he didn’t know is that when one subatomic particle recognizes affinity in another particle—a process that, like all metaphors, involves comparison— it says, “let’s get hitched.”  And so it was that those two particles united and, in effect, became “another”–an object that had never existed before.

From this initial comparison, and driven by the need to repeat the process, all forms of matter derive.  This drive—and my term for it is survival drive—is the force behind all planetary motion, the changing of the seasons, the swinging of the ocean tides, and the propagation of all living things—yea, even the falling of an acorn in autumn-time.

But metaphor and evolution (one of metaphor’s most important products) were not done with us.  Not content with the creation of inorganic and organic matter, not satisfied with its many forms of reproduction and its successful propagation of species capable of surviving in the venues of air, water, and land, survival drive extended itself onto yet another plateau—this time, the world of mind.
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All living things have brain—be it the most miniscule of cells, Eric Kandel’s sea snails, or a silver-backed gorilla—and all brains are dedicated to one end, survival—procreation and survival being synonyms.  Brain is the organ of survival, the incarnation of survival drive.

And while it must be said that all living things have brains, it does not follow that all living things have mind; and it is the evolution of mind that makes possible that most important of  survival metaphors, the concept of self.

Just where the line of demarcation lies between that most rudimentary concept of self (represented, for instance in Dr. Paul McLean’s male rainbow lizards’ loss of radiance when defeated) and that most elevated form found in humans, I cannot say with any certainty.  This, however, I can say:  Self concept is a metaphor with important ramifications for survival in the realm of  psychology.

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