Paul Ricoeur is one of the most distinguished linguists and philosophers of modernity. His book on the evolution of the understanding of metaphors, titled The Rule of Metaphor, observes its evolution from antiquity to modern times. Ricoeur postulates that metaphors brought about the ending of old rhetoric and the emergence of neo-rhetoric being used in communication and marketing today. First, the book advanced my theoretical knowledge of rhetoric and philosophy by demonstrating the importance of metaphors in rhetoric. Second, it showed the evolution of metaphors from simply being deviations in singular words to the sentence-context structure. Third, I learned that similarity of pronunciation and meaning is not always required for metaphors to be effective.
These notions, thoroughly discussed across different case studies, have challenged my existing perceptions of metaphors and their influence on modern discourse. My understanding of rhetoric and philosophy of communication advanced as well. I was able to see how the former was transformed under the influence of the latter, focusing on being holistic and accurately representing the meaning of what was meant to be said rather than simply remaining as an art of convincing people. While I am certain that our use and understanding of metaphors will further evolve in the future, this book offers an excellent perspective on its various elements.
Metaphor and Argument
The central question of scholarly inquiry guiding the book was to perceive the evolution of the meaning of metaphors as they transformed classical rhetoric, semiotics, semantics, and hermeneutics. The linguistic entity in which the metaphor functions was also expanded from simply one word or one sentence to the entirety of the discourse. The dominant themes and idea clusters as presented by the author are as follows:
- The views on metaphors as presented by classic rhetoric restricted it to deviations in word choices alone; this view was shallow and eventually led to the departure from classic tenets of rhetoric (Ricoeur 71);
- Expansion of metaphor to be viewed in the context of the entire sentence led to a greater understanding of them but was incomplete (Ricoeur 149);
- Finally, the evolution of the understanding of metaphor from a hermeneutic standpoint expands the reach of meaning and understanding of the subject beyond word, sentence, or even text, tying it to events outside of any given piece of writing to achieve a full picture being painted (Ricoeur 293).
My position is that metaphors were different for different people at different stages of developmental and historical progress. The rhetoric of the past reflected how metaphors were used back then and how different they are from now. I do not believe that our modern understanding of metaphors would be fully applicable to how they were used back then; it constitutes a modernist bias.
The hermeneutic viewpoint of metaphors in modernity applies to communication in the marketplace. They are widely used in constructing advertisements and reaching out to customers. Including deep metaphors in one’s message can positively affect advancing a product or a service. If they are utilized, they have to convey the message within the parameters of discourse and relate to the situation in the country the advert is aimed for, or even the entirety of the world. Some metaphors are universal, whereas others are useful only in a specific environment and time frame. Examples of universal metaphors could include transformation, balance, journey, safety, connection, resources, and control. These can be conveyed through scenarios, colors, objects, and actions in an advertisement and allow the customers to associate these metaphors with the product.
Other metaphors could be more region or idea-related. Traditions, modern problems, the issues of the environment, peoples’ rights, and so forth can be utilized to do social marketing. Advertisements using these metaphors can promote goods, services, and noble social causes. However, they would not work outside of their hermeneutic environment, where they are attached to words, events, and meanings relevant to specific places. This knowledge can be applied in crafting and designing ways to communicate messages to customers and advance the company through meaningful relationship-building.
Ricoeur, Paul. The Rule of Metaphor: The Creation of Meaning in Language. Routledge, 2004.