Monday 22nd October – Generative Metaphor: A Perspective on Problem Setting in Social Policy by Donald Schon
Chapter 9 from Metaphor and Thought, edited by Andrew Ortony. Text chosen by Helen Smith
Text: Generative metaphor: A perspective on problem-setting in social policy by Donald A. Schön.
By way of introduction to the text I offer Schön’s own introduction to the book it is taken from. Metaphor and Thought. Ist published in 1979. Cambridge University Press.USA. And a cheeky wikipedia paragraph about the man himself .
Much of the interest in metaphor on the part of linguists and philosophers of language has had to do with metaphor as a species of figurative language which needs explaining, or explaining away. (See, for a notable example, Searle, this volume. Two classic articles, Black, 1962b, and Beardsley, 1967, are also in this vein.) Metaphor, in this tradition, is a kind of anomaly of language, one which must be dispelled in order to clear the path for a general theory of reference or meaning. There is a very different tradition associated with the notion of metaphor, however – one which treats metaphor as central to the task of accounting for our perspectives on the world: how we think about things, make sense of reality, and set the problems we later try to solve. In this second sense, “metaphor” refers both to a certain kind of product – a perspective or frame, a way of looking at things – and to a certain kind of process – a process by which new perspectives on the world come into existence. In this tradition, metaphorical utterances – “Man is a wolf” along with the rest of the rather dreary repertoire of hallowed examples – are significant only as symptoms of a particular kind of seeing-as, the “meta-pherein” or “carrying over” of frames or perspectives from one domain of experience to another. This is the process which, in the remainder of this paper, I shall call generative metaphor.
Donald A. Schön was born in Boston and brought up in Massachusetts, at Brookline and Worcester. After doing a Bachelor’s at Yale University, he completed Master’s and doctoral studies in philosophy at Harvard University. His thesis dealt with Dewey’s theory of inquiry. He also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and pursued advanced study in music (Piano and clarinet).