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This study makes an intervention into the contemporary theory of metaphor by extending it with the notion of material metaphor, including a manifest for hacking digital-material metaphors. Marianne van den Boomen studied psychology in Utrecht and political sciences in Amsterdam. For twenty years she has worked as editor, journalist, and web designer; from to mainly for the weekly opinion magazine De Groene Amsterdammer. She was involved in the development of the early Dutch Digital City , and published several articles and books on internet culture including Internet ABC voor vrouwen and Leven op het Net: De sociale betekenis van virtuele gemeenschappen They distort appraisals of reality and make us ever ready to invoke the toddler coping mechanisms of blame, denial, or avoidance.

Because metaphors are critical to understanding the world around us, choosing the wrong ones can make the struggle for autonomy and connection seem like standing astride two galloping horses.

Metaphors in Matter

Many studies have shown that such techniques actually make people angrier and more hostile, not to mention more entitled to act out their anger. Scientific evidence shows that emotions are not like steam engines at all. Rather, they function more like muscles—the more you use them, the stronger the neural connections underlying them grows.

The best way to mitigate Toddler brain influence on appraisals of reality—and subsequent choices of behavior—is to base metaphors on values, rather than transitory feelings. These are the implicit feelings-based metaphors that intensified and prolonged the painful standoffs between a recent client and his wife:. With nurturing and care, they develop into a lovely garden. Every post is an answer to unasked questions. Steven Stosny, Ph. Resentment impairs health, well-being, relationships, and work performance.

Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Back Magazine. The New Science of Sleep Experts suggest ways to correct the habits that keep us from resting well. My concern is that the distinctive ideas and practices of market society implicit in the market meme are prone to infiltrate even here, corrupting these institutions from within and undermining their ability to fulfill their traditional— and valuable—roles. It suggests an inevitable correction, however violent. To the contrary, I expect that non-market society will not be destroyed but rather subordinated and subsumed.

Market society perpetuates itself, shaping the surrounding social and intellectual terrain to suit itself and thus incorporat- ing that new territory into itself. It achieves this through the simple mechanism of the market meme—a simple and compel- ling set of values built around a simple and compelling and attractive para- digm of the person.

We like the image of ourselves that the market meme reflects back to us. This image authorizes behaviors that are effective and empowering, and we are thus prone to adopt both the paradigm and the values 9. Piketty I take this term from Muller , pp. Muller briefly considers the possibility that markets will affect these institutions, but the effects he considers are more concrete and practical than the conceptual shifts discussed below—things like family size and use of leisure time pp.

This is not a conspiracy theory. I use the idiom here as it is used in discussions of evolutionary theory and ecosystems inter alia, to mark systems with a clear, verifiable tendency to tend toward certain states after disruption. See Trestman for a discussion. All of this gives us a powerful set of interrelated metaphors to work with, and it is in the nature of metaphors to move into new areas.

That is what they do, and what they enable us to do. The problem is that these metaphors bring their underlying commitments with them when they move, and the underlying commitments then shape and limit our understanding of the new areas that they have opened up to us. The metaphors we use to make sense of the world matter, and the increasing use of market metaphors to understand and navigate counter-market institutions may be the most insidious violation of ethical limits to date.

This construct, generally associated with the Enlight- enment, was gaining both power and popularity right at the time when markets first began to emerge as a significant social phenomenon. In many ways, the set of commitments embodied in this construct is the Enlightenment, and its impact was hardly limited to the rise of the market and market society. This construct remains broadly influential in ethics and politics and elsewhere , but it is most clearly and unapologetically asserted in the science, ethics, and politics of the market.

Moreover, the market version of the construct is distinctive in being harsher, more sharply delineated, and more completely severed from other non-paradigmatic aspects of persons and associated values. It is this version in particular that concerns me, and I will return to it later in this section.

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This does not or need not make them particularly selfish. Persons can be self-interested in this sense and still choose to value the well-being of others, without any contradiction. But this is only appropriate to the extent that they have chosen to do so; it is not something that can be insisted upon, or imposed upon them. It is appropriate to their nature to live in this way, guiding their own pursuits by their own values, and it is a deep violation to interfere with their ability to do so.

To use more familiar language, they have a right to live this way. The construct that begins from this paradigm of the person thus expands to incorporate a mutually reinforcing set of values appropriate for such creatures—things like freedom, choice, consent, and, above all, contract, which embodies all of these things.

One final point about this construct: it is attractive. At the extreme end of this idea, Kant builds from this paradigm to suggest that we humans are quite literally the only things in the world that really matter and that we are in fact the source of all value in the world. Even on a less grandiose scale, however, the paradigm suggests that each of us is of great significance, entitled to a great deal of attention and deference. Second, the paradigm suggests that we are free in ways that we often feel we are not: free to ignore or abandon burdensome obligations and limitations imposed by others, free to stand at a polite distance and simply ignore the demands implicit in their wants and needs.

It also tells us that we are on our own; the freedom granted is reciprocal, and others are equally free to stand at a polite distance from us. Even that can be liberating, though, and gratifying in a culture that equates independence with maturity. We thus have a number of reasons to be drawn to this particular paradigm and its associated values in addition to whatever virtues of accuracy or clarity it may bring, and the paradigm has indeed proven very popular. Now this paradigm of the rational, autonomous, self-interested chooser is just that: a paradigm.

It is an abstraction that purports to capture what is essential, relevant, and omnipresent for human beings—a kind of complex variable that can be inserted into a theory whenever we attempt to make broad claims about persons. It is not presented as a full account of human persons, and it does not purport to capture everything that is true or even significant about human beings. Neither the Enlightenment theorists nor their successors are suggesting that there is nothing more to human persons than the attributes recognized by the paradigm.

People were still people during the Enlightenment. They had the same rich mix of emotion and irrationality, attachment and identity, confusion and vulnerability that we see around us today, and theorists can make use of this paradigm without having to deny those characteristics or suggest that they are somehow unimportant.

Making use of the paradigm simply says that these other characteristics are not relevant to the inquiry at issue. See Sandel about the attractiveness of this paradigm in particular p.


  1. Why Metaphors Matter.
  2. Il segreto per diventare ricchi (Italian Edition).
  3. Romans: The Gospel of God;

See Hess for discussion of the use and abuse of this particular paradigm in connection with the current corporate personhood debate. It is not neutral. They are less sensitive to factors that affect other human capacities, such as emotion, attachment, identity, and vulner- ability. As a result, the theories built around this paradigm are quick to identify threats to the capacities necessary for free choice and free action and well-suited to protect them. They are less quick to identify threats to other, equally human capacities and not particularly well-suited to protect those capacities.

In fact, in more extreme cases, theories built around this paradigm may go beyond simply ignoring the latter capacities and positively identify them as failures—as barri- ers to the rational processing that is the essential work of persons as in some economic theories, for example.

As we move closer to the present, however, the discourse of the market comes to be almost completely dominated by the paradigm of the rational chooser, with its concomitant commit- ments to the values of freedom, choice, and instrumental rationality. It has become more clearly delineated and cut off from non- paradigmatic concerns; the silence regarding non-paradigmatic characteristics has become principled and more sharply enforced, and the values of freedom, choice, and instrumental rationality start to look absolute. It is not just that non-instrumental compassion, generosity, and openness are not required by contemporary professional ethics so-called , or that they are not presented in a positive light.

Such things are utterly absent from the codes, in either explicit or implicit forms and may well constitute violations of the professional code where Again, see Sandel for further development of this point. Theories built around this paradigm can also be quite sophisticated and can be developed in ways that bring these other aspects of human beings into play. The starting paradigm of the abstract individual does not fully determine the shape of the theory that follows; it simply gives it a solid kick in a certain direction.

Here again, any government action that moves to address those other human characteristics is inappropriate, an actual violation of proper conduct. In the dominant economic discourse, the paradigm becomes homo economicus. It is simply an intellectual construct, a tool that—like all tools—tends to impose a particular shape on everything it touches. Of course, it can have a darker side rabid selfishness or the utter absence of compassion when over-simplified and taken to an extreme.

When subject to careful and sophisticated development, however, it can also serve as the basis for a surprisingly other-focused ethics and politics as in some interpretations of Kant20 and some versions of modern liberalism Once the paradigm moves beyond theory and into practice, however, things get more complicated. If they stayed in their theories, where everyone understands their limitations and implications, everything would be fine.

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Instead, they are incorporated into real-world practices like professional ethics and politics and discourses that seep into the public consciousness. They are embodied in the ethical choices and political policies that shape the social landscape, and they are bound up in the language we use to clarify and communicate about it.

At this point they become memes, cut free from the cautious handling of theorists and released into common usage—into the hands of users less aware of the baggage that comes with them. With the possible exception of medical ethics; I am less familiar with those codes. See Persky , pp. Rawls would be the most familiar example.

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Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press.

Acknowledgments

Classic examples include catchy tunes and quotable lines from movies, but memes are hardly limited to such frivolous items. Dawkins pointed to the spread of scientific ideas as a prime example and noted that religious memes can be so powerful that their bearers may subordinate their entire lives to the meme and its perpetuation. Having now adopted the practices built around the meme, it is increasingly likely that the underlying commitments will start to sound reasonable, familiar, and attractive whenever they are next encountered.

Beyond that, a practice or mindset adopted for one purpose, if effective, is often adapted for another, and the underlying memes begin to colonize adjacent territories. This is just one of the many ways that ideas get passed around. In the case of the market meme, however, I think it may be worthy of concern. Wilkins , p. Dawkins, Richard , pp.

The mutations are clearly far more successful than the originals. It carries with it a certain set of assumptions about the motivations of others exclusively rational and self-interested and the nature of relationships sharply limited, contractual, consensual, and between equals ; it also imparts a certain sensitivity to matters of autonomy and choice and a certain indifference to vulnerability. This is an increasingly valuable set of assumptions to carry as we find ourselves spending more and more time in precisely these kinds of settings.

Again: metaphors matter when it comes to navigating social space. That is not how memes work; they would not be useful and would not get passed along if they did. What I am suggesting is that they shape our perceptions and our sensitivities, making us more likely to notice and give significance to some things and less likely to notice and give significance to others. It is a subtle thing, on an individual level, but subtle changes add up to big social phenomena.

So what happens when the market meme invades the proposed counter- market institutions? What does participation in family, governance, the profes- sions, and education look like from the perspective of the market meme? What does it mean when we use the metaphors of the market to understand it?