Genesis Of Metaphor Issue In Analytical Philosophy Of Xx Century


This article contains the results of the historical and philosophical study, held within 2014-2017, concerning the problems of metaphor in the analytical philosophy (AP). A new periodization of the genesis of metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century has been developed. According to the newly developed periodization, the beginning of the first stage in the genesis of metaphor issue dates back to 1954. The theories of iconic signification and semantic interaction are the first analytical theories of metaphor of the extensive type. Theories of this type dominated in AP until 1977. The second stage of the genesis of metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century started in 1977. Another well-argued criticism of extensive theories appeared in the article by Donald Davidson «What metaphors mean», published in 1978 in the journal «Critical Inquiry». All these meant the emergence of outstanding alternative (anti-extensive) theories and the beginning of its further domineering. Therefore, the genesis of metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century, according to the new interpretation, represents the process, made of two stages. The new periodization is an alternative to the concept, acknowledged in modern historical philosophy and expressed in the work by the professor Sergey Nikonenko «Analytical interpretation of metaphor». Based on the new periodization of the genesis of metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century, a new special course for master students of philosophy departments and faculties has been developed.

Keywords: Genesishistoryphilosophymetaphorperiodizationcourse


Analytical philosophy (АP) is an influential direction in modern philosophical (especially, research-oriented) thought. Its strong connection with science is hardly accidental: the methodological and theoretical principles of АP were developed at the turn of XIX-XX centuries in the works of mathematicians, logicians, linguists, engineers (G. Frege, B. Russell, G. Moore, L. Wittgenstein); in particular, within the issues of АP the theory of artificial intelligence was formed.

АP in its broad meaning – is a specific way of philosophical thinking, which is characterized by «such, for example, qualities, as rigor, consistency of applied terminology, caution when using broad philosophical generalizations and speculations» (Griaznov, 2006). Nowadays the methodological principles of АP are rooted in various scientific theories and disciplines (history, arts, political science and others).

АP has come a long way in its evolution. At present the most significant tasks are: (а) solid historical and philosophical research of АP (b) teaching АP in higher education.

The task (b) has the utmost practical importance, which will be discussed further on. However, its solution seems hardly feasible without the initial solution of the task (а). (It seems quite evident – writing lectures requires material (provided that it is plausible).

) Therefore this article logically starts with reporting the results of historical and philosophical research and is concluded with the contents of the special course, developed as a result of the data from this historical and philosophical investigation.

Historical and philosophical studies of АP, both in Russia, and abroad, seem a dynamic process: articles, coursebooks and textbooks are published (Banas, Ciszewski, & Dyrda, 2018; Cerutti, 2017; Hellmich, 2017); several scientific conferences and seminars are held (For example, in Russia there were the following conventions: in Saint-Petersburg in 2012 there was All-Russia scientific conference with international participation «Analytical philosophy: problems and perspectives in Russia». In Tomsk in 2014 there was All-Russia scientific conference with international participation «Modern analytical philosophy: history, problems and methods». In 2015 in Tomsk there was International scientific conference «Contemporary problems of analytical philosophy» and etc. ) ; a wide range of analytical theories is investigated (Turza, 2017), the issues, discussed within AP throughout its history, are analysed (Lacour, 2017).

One of the largely debated problems in the history of AP is the issue of metaphoric language use (or in short – metaphor issue). How do speakers manage with the help of a metaphor «to say something to listeners when they do not say what they actually mean» (Searle, 1990)? Does the statement with a metaphor generate some «implicit» (metaphoric) meanings, coexisting with «explicit» (literal), the explication of which enables to understand its cognitive contents? Does the meaning of at least a single word in the metaphoric statements change? Can a metaphoric statement refer to reference processes: is it possible to, for example, talk about a metaphoric way of reference, about metaphoric denotation. These and similar questions underlie the basis of metaphor issue (Makhaev, 2015a), the solution of which is presented in various (often, contradictory) analytical theories of metaphor.

The investigation of metaphor issue in AP is published in many works (Nikonenko, 2003; Gogonenkova, 2004; Cohen, 2005; Camp, 2006a; Camp, 2006b; Stern, 2011).

One of the most important for historical and philosophical science is the question concerning the genesis of metaphor issue in AP (sources, specifics and stages of its formation and development).

According to the concept of the genesis of metaphor issue in AP by the professor S. Nikonenko, «the problem of logical description of statements, containing metaphors, emerged in analytical philosophy in the first decades of its existence» (Nikonenko, 2003). The scientist establishes three stages of genesis: 1910-1940s (first stage), 1950-1970s (second stage), in 1970s (third stage). This concept has become wide-spread in Russian historical and philosophical science (Gogonenkova, 2004; Kubyshkina, 2012).

Problem Statement

Analysing the genesis of metaphor issue in AP, this concept proceeds from such factors, dating back to the first half of the XX century within AP, as the domineering theoretical and methodological principles of logical atomism and positivism (in particular, the project of creating a «rigorous» language and targeting to drive all metaphors out of it and etc.), the crisis of logical positivism, pragmatic shift in the theory of meaning in «later» works by Wittgenstein. These factors have great importance for the purposes of investigating the genesis issue of metaphor in AP. At the same time the statement concerning the formation of metaphor issues in AP in the first half of the XX century or earlier requires argumentation in the form of referring to at least one analytical theory, which would interpret the questions, underlying the topic of metaphor (some of those were mentioned above). The proponents of Nikonenko’s concept (together with the author himself) note that metaphor is defined in AP as a language expression, the meaning of which is impossible to state clearly and unambiguously, though no reference is provided to any work that contains this definition. Following from our research, this kind of definitions could hardly be found in the first half of the XX century.

Presumably, this definition of metaphor in AP was accepted by Russian and foreign scientists as self-sufficient, i.e. which does not require any argumentation, such as reference to certain works. This approach has its reasoning – indeed, within the dominating in AP in the 20s of the XX century concepts of an ideal (universal) language the metaphoric expression is apparently ambiguous (meaningless), and, consequently, the object to be eliminated from the rigorous (universal) language. The general («paradigmatic») position in terms of the cognitive status of metaphoric expressions and their roles in the cognitive process was explained, mostly, in the works of logical positivists: as metaphors do not comply with the conditions of verification, they have no cognitive contents.

However the problem of this approach is that it does not follow from this point of view that within the given period in AP the issues of metaphor per se emerged.

Raising the question of metaphor presupposes the substantial analysis of the semantic structure of expressions containing metaphors, solving the problem of metaphor classification, boundaries of metaphoric language use and others, which is absent in the works of analysts in the first half of the XX century. It could be described as evidence of mostly practical (rather than theoretical) treatment of metaphor in AP in the first half of the XX century. (In this regard, as has been said before, at the forefront there was the purpose to eliminate or limit the use of metaphors in scientific knowledge. )

Therefore, the issue of metaphor was not formed in AP in the first half of the XX century and, consequently, the concept by the professor S. Nikonenko is hardly correct.

Research Questions

The subject of research is the genesis of metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this work is making the new periodization of the genesis of metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century, based on a wide range of sources and new facts.

Research Methods

Researching has involved, apart from general-logical methods (modelling, abstracting, idealisation), such methods as the conceptual analysis of language and historical philosophical approach.

In general, the present work is based on the methodological standards and principles, established by B. Russell, R. Carnap, L. Wittgenstein and related with precision and accuracy standards of employed definitions, as well as sound argumentation of thesis.


The analysis of a wide range of sources and facts has resulted in our conclusion that in order to solve the issue with correct periodization of the genesis of metaphor topic in AP it is necessary to start in the mid 1950s: on 7 May 1954 there was this presidential speech, addressed by P. Henley to the Western Department of American Philosophy Association, which included the first analytical theory of metaphor – the theory of iconic signification, and at the same time (in 1954) the journal «Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society» published the article of М. Black «Metaphor» with the theory of semantic interaction (Black, 1990). Both of these theories determined the problematic area of metaphor in the AP of the XX century, as well as generated certain «impulse», which was accepted as challenge by the scientists of the second half of the XX century and triggered fundamental theoretical (increasingly insightful) discussions concerning the nature of metaphors. In fact, since the mid 1950s within AP various theories of metaphor have been created, in which the metaphor was considered from different perspectives: reference (N. Goodman, К. Elgin), intentionality (J. Searle, А. Martinich), possible-worlds semantics (J. Hintikka) and others. (The thesis that the issue of metaphor was formed in AP not earlier than the second half of the XX century is also supported by Т. Cohen, М. Reimer and E. Camp. )

Within 2014-2017 we carried out historical and philosophical studies which resulted in the new periodization of the genesis of the issue of metaphor in the AP of the XX century, representing an alternative to the concept by the professor S. Nikonenko, as well as foreign concepts. The periodization is based on domineering types of analytical theories of metaphor (extensive / anti-extensive) at different times. According to the new periodization, the genesis of the issue of metaphor in the AP of the XX century consists of two stages.

The beginning of the first stage dates back to 1954. This was the stage when extensive theories of metaphor dominated, which claimed that there was the transformation of meaning in words of a metaphor, thus leading to the emergence of an additional (non-literal) meaning that compliments the original (literal) meaning of a metaphor. In particular, extensive theories include the theory of iconic signification by P. Henley and semantic interaction by М. Black. These theories not only formed the problematic area per se of the theory of metaphor in AP, as has been mentioned before, but determined the direction of its mostly extensive interpretation.

In the 1960s other theories of extensive type were developed. In 1962 the journal «Philosophy and phenomenology studies» published the work of М. Beardsley with his theory of verbal opposition (Beardsley, 1990). In 1968 N. Goodman presented his work «Languages of art» with his theory of metaphoric reference (Goodman; 1968), and in 1975 there was the work by P. Ricoeur «La metaphore vive», which put forward the theory of metaphoric sense and reference, based on three-term semantics by Frege and the interaction concept by Black (Ricoeur, 2015).

However, in the late 1970s the extensive theories were criticized. The report of John Searle in 1977 contained well-argued criticism, which was further published as an article (Searle, 1990), and later supported by Donald Davidson in his work in 1978 (Davidson, 1990). Those articles put forward first fundamental anti-extensive theories, which reject the idea of semantic shift in the metaphoric use of a language (and, consequently, the idea of an emerging additional, non-literal meaning) – and state that metaphoric expressions have only one (literal) meaning.

The works by J.Searle and D.Davidson established an anti-extensive trend in the interpretation of metaphors in the AP of the XX century, as well as influenced several later theories of anti-extensive type.

Therefore, this gives rise to the second stage of generating the issues of metaphor in the AP of the XX century, and its beginning dates back to 1977-1978.

In the 1980s new anti-extensive theories of the metaphor were formulated (Danto, 1981; Bergmann, 1982; Martinich, 1984; Fogelin, 1988). In 1989 the book of Richard Rorty was published «Contingency, Irony and Solidarity», which advocated Davidson’s point of view on the issue of semantics in metaphoric statements (Rorty, 1996).

Thus, the genesis of the metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century is the process, made of two stages, the second of which represents the critical reaction to the theories of the first one.

A more detailed description of these stages, as well as the analysis of extensive and anti-extensive theories can be found in our works (Makhaev, 2015b; Makhaev, 2016).

As has been said in the introduction, apart from the historical and philosophical research of AP, it is vital to solve the problems related with teaching AP in higher educational institutions. Courses on AP have long been given in American, British, Australian, Russian and other universities. At the same time the special course on the issue of metaphor in AP is unheard of (especially this is true for Russia).

Based on our research data the special course «The problem of metaphor in the analytical philosophy of the XX century» was developed for master students, either majoring in philosophy or doing other degree courses. This special course is aimed at specifically master students who are interested in the in depth study of western philosophy. The purpose of the course is to acquaint students with major stages in the genesis of the issue of metaphor in the AP of the XX century, the principles of analytical theories of metaphor of both extensive and anti-extensive types and etc. This special course takes 1 term and consists of lectures and seminars (Table 1 ).

Table 1 -
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The important practical value of this course includes not only the knowledge of new facts, but the developing skills such as logical and critical thinking and creative solution of problem situations that students acquire as a result of their studies.


Therefore, the obtained results of the historical and philosophical studies of metaphor issues in the AP of the XX century contribute to the active process of the acquisition of AP legacy. In Russia this process has objective prerequisites and related with, firstly, lacunas in the knowledge of its original source, basic principles and broad range of theories of AP, and, secondly, with the existence of certain stereotypes regarding AP, that need correction. Thus, the stereotypical views on the genesis of the metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century have been reformed in this work. The new (more precise) periodization has been put forward, grounded in the analysis of a wider range of sources and facts, according to which the genesis of the metaphor issue in AP started in the second half of the XX century. First analytical theories of metaphor (those of iconic signification and semantic interaction) were generated in 1954 and formed the problematic area of metaphor theory in AP. The first stage of the genesis (1954) was dominated by the extensive analytical theories of metaphor. At the second stage (since 1977) the anti-extensive theories prevail.

At the same time, despite all the hard work and effort, as noted by the professor Andrei Lvovich Zolkin (2005), «it would be premature to say that investigation of evolving analytical philosophy approaches its completion». The opposite seems true, the research of many aspects of analytical movement is now at its initial, possibly even preparatory, stage of its realisation».

Besides, science is hardly a rigid system. Probably, in the future the works will be published that may correct the suggested periodization, suggested in this article, and further improve the timeline of the genesis of metaphor issue in the AP of the XX century (or put forward an alternative periodization, based on new solid argumentation). As the philosopher Karl Popper said, «it is possible to prove any theory, if only evidence is sought for. Genuine testing of a theory is an attempt to disprove it»..


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29 March 2019

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Makhaev, М., Aliev, R., Soltamuradov, М., Tovsultanov, R., & Shamsuev, М. (2019). Genesis Of Metaphor Issue In Analytical Philosophy Of Xx Century. In D. K. Bataev (Ed.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 58. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1334-1341). Future Academy.