The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Metaphorical Ignorance

There is one weakness in the experimental praxis of linguists: they only study people who are fluent in a language. If you want to study Chaxipean, you go to Chaxipe and talk to Chaxipeans. They are the world experts in Chaxipean. Most of our ideas on language, categorization and metaphors come from studying people who are fluent in a language.

But the brain of a person who is not fluent in that language should be working the same way. My "use" of the German language, though, is not the same as a native German's. I stay away from metaphors in a language like German that i barely understand. Using a metaphor in German sounds scary to me. If i am speaking in a foreign language, i stick to simple sentences whose meaning is transparent. I do not say "their marriage is going nowhere": i say "their marriage is not good". I reduce all concepts to elementary concepts of good and bad, ugly and beautiful, etc. My mastery of the foreign language is not such that I can afford to use metaphorical expressions.

This goes against the claim that metaphor is useful to express meaning in a more efficient way. People who do not master a language should use metaphor precisely to compensate that deficiency. Instead, we tend to do the opposite: if we do not master a language, we avoid metaphors. Metaphorical language requires mastering the language skills first, and is proportionate to those skills. This is what the traditional theory predicted (metaphor is for poets, language specialists). There was a grain of truth in it.


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