Analysis of Ricoeur’s: The Rule of the Metaphor

Ricoeur traces the evolution of the metaphor from Hellenic Greece. He mentions Aristotle as the founding father of the metaphor. In Greece, the metaphor was used in poetry, especially tragic poetry. The metaphor was a general part of rhetoric. Metaphor according to Ricoeur functioned as an ornament of language. Metaphor went through a lot of changes during various historical epochs.

In the Hellenic period, metaphor was a vehicle to pay libation to the Gods. This is evident in Homeric hymns like the Iliad and the Odyssey. The metaphor was sheer poetry. The aesthetics of the metaphor was religious and allegorical. Thus we have Plato’s famous metaphor the cave which explains the theory of forms. People were in dark cave which was enclosed by a wall and they could see light outside. For Plato it meant that there was an ideal world beyond the physical world. Forms formed the ideality of the world

During the Renaissance era: metaphor underwent a transition. Metaphor became associated with the philosophy of romance. Thus we have the courtly love of the troubadours. Poets used metaphors to sanctify romantic love. Metaphor became a sensual earthly vehicle of salaciousness. Thus we have a famous verse which says: flow abundant stream into my loins and saturate me to a cathartic ecstasy.

In the modern and postmodern period metaphor underwent drastic changes. Metaphor became a discourse of ideology. Metaphor became rooted in disciplines like semantics, sociology, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry.

In Sociology we have Alvin Toffler’s famous work: The Third Wave where he characterizes civilization as metaphor of waves. The first wave was the agricultural civilization. The second wave was the industrial civilization and third wave was the technological society. For Toffler these waves are still evolving.

Let’s look at the role of the metaphor in postmodern philosophy. Post modern philosophy is characterized by the writing of metaphors. Texts are centers of privilege and marginalization. Postmodernism dissects texts and opens centers to play of meaning. Being is a metaphor for becoming. The white theology of the world became dissected into a metaphor of nihilism and nullification. Speech is Adam and Eve in innocence writing is the fleshy tree of good and evil; writing is sin. Being contextualizes into an ontological structure of consciousness. For postmodernism the Diaspora of the mind is left in the exile of the desert. Values fragment into a nihilism of chaotic anarchy.

In psychoanalysis dream symbols are metaphoric. Jacques Lacan said that all dreams are manifested in language. We have Roman Jacobson who analyzed the metaphor and the metonymy. According to Freud a dream can mean condensation or displacement. A condensed dream is the manifestation of reality facing the dream. Displacement in dreams is an escapism from reality. For Jacques Lacan the psychoanalyst: metaphor was condensation and is on the paradigmatic axis. Metonymy on the other hand was displacement and on the syntagmatic axis.