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The Critical Imagination$
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James Grant

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199661794

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199661794.001.0001

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The Dispensability of Metaphor

The Dispensability of Metaphor

(p.125) 5 The Dispensability of Metaphor
The Critical Imagination

James Grant

Oxford University Press

This chapter attacks the belief that metaphor is needed in order to think, express, communicate, or discover certain things. This claim is dubbed the ‘Indispensability Thesis’. This thesis is accepted by a variety of metaphysicians, philosophers of language, philosophers of science, philosophers of mathematics, and philosophers of religion. Some aestheticians appeal to it to explain metaphor’s prevalence in critics’ descriptions of artworks and of our responses to them. The chapter argues that recent arguments for metaphor’s indispensability, by Stephen Yablo, Richard Boyd, Elisabeth Camp, and Berys Gaut, are unconvincing. It provides an explanation of why the Indispensability Thesis seems plausible. It also distinguishes it from several related claims about metaphor. Some of these other claims are plausible, and the Indispensability Thesis acquires an air of plausibility when not clearly distinguished from them. The chapter concludes that the thesis is far from obviously true, and has not been supported by convincing arguments.

Keywords:   metaphor, indispensability, paraphrase, yablo, nominalism, walton, make-believe, pretense, theory change, language of criticism

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