Metaphor Theory Paper

Submitted By chrisacole
Words: 1448
Pages: 6

The Imperfection of Truth

“Every idea originates though equating the unequal” (Nietzsche, 5) which implies that truth, as we know it, is inherently imperfect because “through a forgetting of the differentiating qualities” (Nietzsche, 5) that make up everything we experience through our senses, the only thing we really know about is the “numerous individualized, and therefore unequal actions, which we equate by omission of the unequal, and now designate as honest actions” (Nietzsche, 5). In other words, when we see something (or experience something through any other sense), we develop an idea of it in our heads and everything we have seen in the past and will see in the future that is related to this thing we just saw is then added to our brain’s collection of what that thing is. Nietzsche believed that metaphor directly influenced the perception of something though sense experience because our perception of anything is a result of the amalgamation of all the past sensual experiences a given entity has conjured in our minds. Therefore, all of our knowledge must be rooted in the association produced when a nerve stimulus is transformed into a percept. This is metaphorical because our understanding lies within the contextual significance of an occurrence, which is then used as the basis for any future interaction with a similar occurrence. Even though the initial occurrence may be different than any future occurrence, it will be used for comparison and considered as a representation of it, just like a metaphor. Nietzsche was a philologist before he was a philosopher, which makes his passage about language and metaphor particularly interesting. Language “designates only the relations of things to men and for their expression he calls to his help the most daring metaphors” (Nietzsche, 4). In this passage, Nietzsche describes how language is a metaphor because it is a collection of experiences that we associate with different sounds or words in order to access them for future reference. People need these words as a foundation for cognition. Our understanding of a given word relies on what it has meant to everyone who has used it in the past because “every word becomes at once an idea…by having simultaneously to fit innumerable, more or less similar (which really means never equal, therefore altogether unequal) cases” (Nietzsche, 5). More simply, the origination of a word would not be accurate if it only “serve[d] as a reminder for the original experience happening but once and absolutely individualized” (Nietzsche, 5) because that would mean it was only one person’s perception of the experience. It could only be accurate if it took into account the immeasurable instances that lead to the formation of that word. Along with this idea, consider Nietzsche’s example of the “leaf”, where he believes “that in nature there is, besides the leaves, a something called the “leaf,” perhaps a primal form according to which all leaves were woven, drawn, accurately measured, coloured, crinkled, painted but by unskilled hands so that no copy had turned out correctly and trustworthy as a true copy of the primal form” (Nietzsche, 5). So, in asking someone from the Amazon, who knows no other place, what they associate with the word “leaf”, they would probably think of a jungle-like leaf. Under the same logic, if you asked someone from Canada, they would most likely think of a Maple leaf. Hence, “no one leaf is similar to any other, so certain is it that the idea “leaf” has been formed through an arbitrary omission of these individual differences” (Nietzsche, 5). By definition, metaphor is “all language that involves figures of speech or symbolism and does not literally represent real things” (American Heritage, 533). Nietzsche would refute this because metaphor is inherent in everything and at its core is a representation of a real thing. This truth is lost however, because words have become “fixed, canonic, and binding; truths are illusions…