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An Iconic Logic of Metaphors

Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen

Department of Philosophy, University of Helsinki, Finland

Department of Philosophy, Kyung Hee University, Republic of Korea

P.O. Box 3, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland


Abstract prevailing theses about linguistic meaning in

connection with metaphors: (i) The meaning
Three interconnected theses are defended: (1)
Metaphoric meaning is a matter of iconic forms of holism, (ii) the language of thought hypothesis, and
logic, (2) a comprehensive semantics for the logic (iii) psychologism about metaphoric meaning.
of metaphors requires a modal („many-world‟) According to Peirce, metaphors are specific
interpretation, and (3) similarity considerations are kinds of iconic signs, which he termed the third
a species of iconicity exemplified in modal class of hypoicons. He takes such hypoiconic signs
diagrammatic logic. The logic for metaphors builds to lie at the heart of metaphoric meaning (Peirce
upon Charles Peirce‟s theory of diagrammatic logic
he suggested a century ago. He took metaphors to
1931-58; Peirce 1998). His characterization takes
comprise iconic representations of “parallelisms” in metaphors to convey non-literal meanings through
another media. This remark is explained by virtue unique figurativity that they give rise to. In
of the defense of the theses (1)–(3). These particular, I will observe that iconicity is the key
explanations imply a refutation of another set of characteristics of the types of signs that enables a
prevailing theses about linguistic metaphoric creation and assessment of similarity
meaning that will be pointed out: (i) The meaning considerations essential to linguistic tropes,
holism, (ii) the language of thought hypothesis, and
(iii) psychologism about metaphoric meaning. including those of metaphors.

Metaphors as Hypoicons? In the course of

1. Introduction arguing for the logical meaning of metaphors being
grounded on diagrammatic similarity
What is in a Metaphor? In this paper, three
considerations, one offshoot will be an explanation
theses are defended: (1) That metaphoric meaning
of Peirce‟s somewhat enigmatic remark about
is a logical matter having to do with iconicity of
metaphors as the „thirdness‟ of hypoicons:
representations, (2) that such meaning is to be
accounted for in terms of a modal („many-world‟) Hypoicons may be roughly divided according to the
interpretation, and that (3) similarity considerations mode of Firstness of which they partake. Those which
are a species of iconicity in the sense of the partake of simple qualities, or First Firstnesses, are
diagrammatic forms of the logic of metaphors. images; those which represent the relations, mainly
The logic of metaphors proposed in this paper dyadic, or so regarded, of the parts of one thing by
takes similarity considerations to be the central analogous relations in their own parts, are diagrams;
characteristic of iconicity in metaphoric signs. those which represent the representative character of a
Similarities are a species of iconicity in the sense representamen by representing a parallelism in
of Charles Peirce‟s theory of diagrammatic signs. something else, are metaphors. (Peirce, 1931-58: 2.277,
Peirce took metaphors to be iconic representations
that exhibit parallelism in another media. My
explanation of his remark is contained in the
arguments defending the theses (1)–(3). In
conclusion, I will argue that a consequence of these 1
The reference x.yyy is by volume and paragraph
explanations is a refutation of another set of number.

Hypoicons are Peirce‟s substantives for those diagrammatic representations involve images. As
iconic signs (iconic representamens) that mediate the relation of involvement is typically transitive,
and represent by virtue of a relationship between metaphors are bound to have plenty of image-like
signs and objects that is based, broadly understood, qualities in them. Thus there is partial truth in
on some similarity, resemblance or likeness, those theories that attempt to explain the nature of
without any need to consider what the mode of metaphors in some image-schematic fashion.
being of the objects represented may be. This
passage is the only one in which Peirce Cognitive Semantics? However, in contrast to the
pigeonholes metaphors according to his recently promulgated cognitive approaches to
classification of signs, finding them to comprise metaphors, my proposed position takes logical
the third compartment of iconic signs. He also notions to be the starting points for the analysis of
mentions images as the first, and the logic of metaphoric meaning. One consequence is that our
diagrams (Existential Graphs, EGs) as the second proposal is plainly non-psychologistic. It will
main class of iconic signs. I have studied the therefore fundamentally differ from the cognitive
former in more detail and in relation to logic in semantic theories that have originated from the
Pietarinen (2007, to appear b,d). An increasing conceptual and blending theories of Lakoff &
number of publications has recently emerged on Johnson (1980), Lakoff & Turner (1989) or Turner
the latter (see Pietarinen 2006, Roberts 1973 or & Fauconnier (1995), and criticized as well as
Sowa 2000, among others). developed in various directions by new
As to the “third firstnesses”, the third main class formulations of the conceptual metaphor theory
of iconic signs that Peirce mentions in the passage integrated with blending (Grady, Oakley &
above, my proposal for the logic of metaphors is Coulson 1999) or the cognitive-semiotic theories
built upon a modal extension of EGs. The of metaphors (Zlatev 1997, Brandt 2004), among
expressions of EGs are logical diagrams, which many others.
comprise the second main class of hypoicons. Generally speaking, the conceptual metaphor
Images, on the other hand, can be viewed as those and cognitive semantic approaches propose that it
„indecomposable‟ ingredients (see Section 3) that is the operations of blending, or in somewhat
are the primitive constituents of the diagrammatic different senses the source-target domain transfers
representations of the contents of thoughts. The or integrations over the image schemas of our
indecomposables provide the points of termination cognitive structures, that are the key mechanisms
to the meaning-constitutive processes by which for metaphoric meaning. Though this idea is on the
those representations are interpreted. A longer right track as far as the imagistic component of
explanation of Peirce‟s notion of images in logical figurative meaning is concerned, the nature of the
contexts is presented in Pietarinen (to appear a). operations and processes in question has not been
The key phrase in Peirce‟s remark about adequately explained. Nor have they been related
metaphors is that they represent “by representing a to, or differentiated from, that of Peirce‟s iconic
parallelism in something else”. Because metaphors logical signs. My theory, as will be explained
are certain fairly sophisticated forms evolving from below, only needs to account for the „composition
diagrammatic representations, I propose that the of concepts‟, and that process is logical.
logic of metaphors needs to be formulated in an Johnson (1987) has argued that image schemata
iconic language of diagrammatic logic with a should not in fact be taken to be logical or
special modal ingredient. A modal diagrammatic propositional at all. From the point of view of the
system of representation accomplishes, I submit, diagrammatic logic for metaphors, they indeed are
what is needed for the representation of not. Images, as the firsts of hypoicons, correspond
metaphorically figurative non-literal meanings. to what Peirce termed the “spots”, small bounded
The distinction between the three classes of regions of the space that are distinguished from the
hypoicons is by no means sharp. Images, diagrams surrounding space by their simple qualities. Their
and metaphors rest in the continuum of closest symbolic correlates are the non-logical
increasingly complexity of iconic signs. Metaphors constants of the alphabet of a logical language.
involve diagrammatic representations and There is nothing propositional in the interpretation

of non-logical constants, and thus there is nothing explained by the fact that, while these theories
propositional in what the spots alone express, rightly emphasize the iconic nature of thinking
either. Only when EGs are composed of spots, over linguistic forms, an insight that Peirce would
iconic logical signs, and associated with symbols, share, they have not proceeded to specify what
can hypoicons acquire propositional content. The specific types the icons are that are being aimed at
reason for Johnson arguing against the feasibility as the preferred „embodiments‟ of the cognitive
of the idea of reconstructing our embodied, pre-linguistic experiences. Yet the neglect of the
familiar, and pre-linguistic structures of cognition latter leaves the theories hanging in the air. In the
as logical, and taking these image schemas the last analysis, the theoretical claims in cognitive
primitive notions in metaphor construction, is studies of metaphors are unfalsifiable. At the same
based on the obsolete conception of logic as a time, such inherent generality serves to explain
symbolic mode of representation. popularity. However, the reason for the neglect is
Theories of metaphors in the cognitive semantics nevertheless not hard to find. Behind all
tradition have also resorted to the idea of formulations of cognitive semantics is the
conceptual spaces (Gärdenfors 2000). But internalist presupposition that meanings are „in the
conceptual spaces do not fare much better, either. head‟. Semantics is a mapping from linguistic
Conceptual spaces and mappings between them expressions to cognitive conceptualizations, such
have equally fallen short of providing logical as cognitive spaces of some geometrical kind.
structure in accounting for the general processes at However, an account of a comprehensive
the back of image-schematic blending, domain metaphoric meaning nevertheless should be the
transfer or conceptual integration. primary goal of any realistic semantics, cognitive
Cognitive semantic theories for metaphors do or otherwise. But cognitive semantics rests content
have a germ of truth in them, including the with the idea that the meaning of an expression is
basically correct insight that a metaphor “expresses in the conceptual structure, variously manifested as
an identity in topological or geometrical structure image schemata or alike mental, visual or
between different domains” (Gärdenfors 2000: geometric embodiment of the conceptualization in
176). Identity may be too strong a requirement question (see e.g. Jackendoff 1983). Those
here, but some special activity is surely taking structures are for these people concepts of a certain
place when an interpreter of a metaphoric assertion kind. Yet this is an untowardly nominalist way of
is contemplating a merger of one conceptual stating the issue. It is unlikely to satisfy anyone
domain with another. But cognitive theories have who takes the contextual and the language and
not told or shown us what the precise structures brain external factors to be the key constituents of
underlying the supposed processes of integration or any realist semantic and pragmatic theory of
transfer between conceptual domains are supposed meaning.
to be. Nor, it needs to be acknowledged, should the Can the conceptual metaphor/cognitive
structural relationships between the domains be semantics accounts be reconstructed so as to
taken to be those of identities. Objects of the achieve a more realist status, for instance by
domains and predicates of the space, conceptual or assuming that the icons they are talking about with
otherwise, require looser criteria for their the image schemata lingo themselves be
connection. subordinate to some well-defined processes of
Consequently, cognitive theories have largely interpretation? What would it mean that the image
failed to account for the full meaning of metaphors. schemas need a semantic interpretation of their
Yet their popularity might convince some to think own? My explanation is that this natural
otherwise. There have been surprisingly few desideratum is accomplished as soon as we
critical discussions concerning the presuppositions construe „iconic schemas‟ for metaphors that are
and the theoretical and empirical problems composed of logical ingredients. Then, and only
thwarting cognitive metaphor theories (but see then, would the schemas in question be both pre-
McGlone 2007). I shall refrain from discussing linguistic and embodied and, first of all, logical,
these points further in the present work, and merely and hence be the truly materially embodied
point out that the popularity may partially be

schemas for all representations of metaphoric different kinds of modalities give rise to, including
meaning. metaphoric modalities.
A related argument is that the lack of real More precisely, it has become in the literature a
representational structures in current theories of special case of modal-logical increasing domains
cognitive semantics has the shortcoming of such assumption to make use of the idea of domain
internalist theories failing to distinguish between extensions (Engberg-Pedersen 1995). Domain
true and false metaphors. They may give us rough extensions are typically defined such that one
and ready schematizations of how subjects are able domain is embedded into another according to
to comprehend idiomatic expressions of some given accessibility relations that link the worlds
natural language, but they fall short of explaining with one another. Whether one at the same time
what the metaphoric meaning at bottom is. My passes from literal to non-literal (metaphoric)
logical approach does not share that shortcoming, meaning depends on the actual constitution of
either. „meaning lines‟ (Hintikka & Sandu 1994, see
below) that are taken to obtain between the
2. The Meaning of Metaphors predicates and aspects of objects in different
Non-literal Meaning and Possible Worlds We possible worlds linked with accessibility relations.
take it to be a truism that metaphors communicate Again, the modal, possible-worlds component is
non-literal meanings. In metaphors, representations indispensable in the constitution of meaning lines
come to be translocated from one medium into and hence must be taken to be prior to the
another. This translocation, or transference, or interpretation of metaphoric meaning.
what in Peirce‟s terms is the “parallelism” of
representations and accomplished via variability in Iconicity Peirce‟s famous but no means the only
the representational media, is what effects a change trichotomy of the basic kinds of sign
in meaning from linguistic or literal to non- representations was that of between icons, indices
linguistic or non-literal meaning. and symbols. Icons have a peculiar mode of
However, the nature of such non-literal meaning reference to their objects: it happens via
does not become sufficiently clear if it is thought resemblance, likeness, or perhaps some analogy of
of solely in terms of conceptual spaces or image that which represents something with that
schemas. An alternative that I suggest is to take something that is being represented. Such iconic
non-literal meaning to be created in the processes forms of connection between signs and their
of interpreting logical diagrams, which in Peirce‟s objects may come in many forms. They may be
terms are related to the character of secondness of qualitative, structural or functional, for example.
hypoicons. Hence they can also be abstract and intellectual,
A further but no means less significant question and need not be based only in closeness in looks or
here is, can non-literal meaning after all be in some visual or sensuous features of
satisfactorily distinguished from literal meaning? representations with their objects. There was a
In brief, my suggested answer is that, although the considerable confusion and misinterpretation since
line between what is non-literal and what is literal the 1960s that persisted for quite a while in the
may oftentimes be blurry, the required literature when visual similarity was erroneously
differentiation between the domains that taken to be the defining property of iconic signs.
metaphoric representations relate to, is adequately In Peirce‟s parlance, logical diagrams, which in
accomplished by virtue of the domains being the the present paper serve as the basis for representing
domains of different possible worlds. metaphors, are as such the secondness of iconic
One notable implication is that possible worlds signs. This means that the relationships exhibited
are entities that are conceptually prior to the in diagrams bear the qualitative, structural, or
emergence of metaphoric meaning. Once we have perhaps intellectual resemblances, mappings or
the machinery provided by possible worlds at our analogies to that what is being represented.
disposal, we at once have at our disposal a way to Moreover, to get at the non-literal, metaphoric
deal with different kinds of multiple references representations, those relational structures are
interpreted against variable and transferable

domains in the structures. I will argue that the 3. Diagrammatic Logic for Metaphors
needed variability can be realized by adding a new
Diagrams Peirce took diagrams to exhibit the
modal ingredient to diagrammatic representations
„secondness‟ of hypoicons: they are iconic
of metaphoric assertions. The ensuing diagrams
representations that bring to the fore the continuous
will thus become the thirdnesses of iconic signs, to
connections between “rationally related objects”
use Peirce‟s phraseology.
(Peirce 1967, manuscript 293). Diagrammatic logic
of Existential Graphs (EGs), which he introduced
Modality and the Understanding of Metaphors in 1897, is a system of logical description and
Hintikka & Sandu (1994) have argued, following
reasoning build up from specific kinds of
Roman Jakobson (1956) on metaphors and
diagrammatic expressions. They function as the
metonymes, that metaphoric meaning is a matter of
iconic counterparts to logical and non-logical
a special type of possible-worlds semantics
constants familiar from the definitions of symbolic
extended with non-standard „meaning lines‟. Such
systems of logic. My proposal here is that a novel
meaning lines are connections linking not only the
extension to EGs to be described below reveals to
objects of domains in possible worlds but also
us that the essential working of metaphors and
showing the connections that obtain between
their meaning is after all logical.
interpretations of predicate terms across different
possible worlds. The links that the meaning lines
Modality and Identity Since metaphoric meaning
draw are not based on considerations of continuity
is a matter of the many-world interpretation, the
as when establishing identities, but on similarities.
modal dimension is indispensible in diagrams. We
I take that modal approach to metaphors to be
can capture this requirement by adding to the
based on an essentially correct insight to the
diagrams certain „tinctures‟: shadings or colors that
meaning of metaphors (see also Engström 2001 for
represent different modes of interpretation of the
an assessment of Hintikka & Sandu‟s proposal).
objects of the domains of the worlds and the
My own, preferred way of dressing up this insight
diagrammatic counterparts to the predicate and
is somewhat different, however: in understanding a
relation terms.
metaphor, we need to understand what the
Peirce never came to consider such a possibility
extensions of the „indecomposable elements of
to capture metaphoric meaning. There are no hints
thought‟ (that is, iconic images) are as we move
in his published or unpublished papers that he ever
from one possible world to another. Thus, in order
considered the possibility of applying
to understand metaphors in the first place, we must
diagrammatic logic to the analysis of metaphors.
first be able to vary the circumstances and contexts
Interestingly, however, he did suggest that by using
in which metaphoric assertions are to be evaluated.
the idea of tinctures, diagrammatic modal logics
This approach may be termed the „many-world‟
could be expanded to cover many other kinds of
interpretation of metaphoric meaning.
modalities, such as epistemic, deontic, intentional
Moreover, we need to understand the
and non-declarative moods, including commands,
underlying mechanisms by which the meaning
interrogatives, and “the compelled” (Pietarinen
lines come to be drawn in a non-standard fashion. I
2008). Peirce‟s consideration of these belongs to
shall maintain that such non-standard meaning
the gamma part of his theory of EGs (Pietarinen
lines are effectuated by suitable similarity
2011e). His alpha part, on the other hand, is an
considerations between the interpretations of
iconic counterpart of propositional, and the beta
metaphoric terms. Such similarity is, to my
part an iconic counterpart of first-order predicate
opinion, best accomplished by taking the logical
logic (there are certain qualifications that need to
representations of metaphors to be species of
be acknowledged here, see Pietarinen 2011d). My
iconicity of the main logical signs involved in
diagrams for metaphors continue the development
diagrammatic representations. Similarity is,
of his incomplete gamma systems into a new
therefore, itself an outcome of the various ways in
which the key logical constants constitutive of
Figure 1 is an example of a tinctured existential
metaphoric assertions are composed to give rise to
graph which contains a logical modality,
complex diagrammatic logical representations.

represented by a lightly shaded (yellow) area, not give us objects in the worlds, they are
which subsumes the verb of „suiciding‟:2 constitutive of what the objects are, given the
entire structure of possible worlds.
Another key point to be remarked is that the
fails possible worlds and their respective domains are
woman transcendental with respect to the meaning of the
quantification (lines of identities). Therefore,
suicides world-lines must be taken to be entities that are
conceptually prior to the existence of objects as
objects of the domains of possible worlds. Such
Figure 1: There is a woman who will commit a world-bound objects themselves are but pale
suicide if she fails in business. reflections or aspects of what the objects proper are
– in other words, objects in the modal sense are the
Notable in this graph is that the thick (red) line world-lines that live in the trans-world space of
of identity, the diagrammatic counterpart to multiple references.
quantification and its binding scope, enter the field Accordingly, I propose that we need to add a
of modalities. That is, the thick line attached to the special tincture to express metaphoric meaning.
one-place predicate term „__is a woman‟ spans not Whatever is interpreted within such areas by
only to the verb „__fails‟ but also to the verb necessity refers to domains that call for non-
„__suicides‟ interpreted within a modal context. standard interpretation of its predicate terms. More
Whenever a line of identity occupies an area precisely, whenever a line of identity occupies an
covered by a tincture, one or several „world-lines‟ area colored or tinctured with the metaphoric mode
(sometimes termed the „individual concepts‟, of modality, a meaning line, or a bundle of
although this terminology is not entirely accurate) meaning lines, is created to signify those non-
will be created. These world-lines are, in brief, standard interpretations. These meaning lines,
mappings from possible worlds to the extensions of connecting the various areas and components of
predicates. World-lines signal identities of objects diagrammatic graph representation, manifest those
across different situations or possible worlds in connecting links that signal that the intended
which terms and objects are interpreted.3 They do interpretation is the metaphoric one. In distinction
to quantificational lines of identities, I propose to
For the explanations of the basic notation and of EGs term such non-standard meaning lines lines of
the reader is referred to Roberts (1973) or Pietarinen similarity.4
(2006), among several other sources available. The
graphical representation of the sentence in question
constituted part of Peirce‟s own solution to the famous
4. Similarity and Composition
“Peirce‟s Puzzle”, which concerns the nature of material Similarity The essence of the meaning of
implication and the notion of equivalence in first-order metaphors is based on considerations of similarity
logic (Peirce 1931-58, 5.569). I have slightly modified between constituent parts of logical diagrams.
Peirce‟s own example for readability. Typically, these parts can make multiple references
See e.g. Hintikka (1969) and Pietarinen (to appear to the domains of the possible worlds and can for
c). Pietarinen (2006, p. 174-175) discusses Peirce‟s
notion of “references” (Peirce 1931-58, 4.579, c.1903)
that reason indicate various universes of discourse
and argues that it foreshadows the much later modal- besides the actual one.
logical problem of cross-world identity that is needed to However, similarity per se is a vague notion
understand quantification in modal contexts. Peirce and is in a need of a more precise characterization
noticed, in relation to gamma graphs such as the one in than what its ordinary meaning suggests. Nor is its
Figure 1, that there is a real problem of composing the meaning exhausted by what the similarity of
parts of the line that extend from the contexts of objects in the counterpart semantics for modal
actuality into the areas of modalities, with the parts of
lines that must be interpreted in the contexts of
modalities, especially whenever the epistemic modalities Think of a metaphoric modality as an operation
of subjective possibility are at issue (Peirce 1967, effectuating a change in what might originally have been
manuscript 470). conceived as a line of identity into that of a similarity.
logic attempts to accomplish, either, as that is brought to and welded together in order to yield a
merely an incomplete attempt to sweep away the complex proposition that can have determinate yet
cross-world identity problem altogether: the same non-literal meaning.
individual can never exist in two different possible If we were to compose the two expressions in
worlds (Lewis 1968). their literal senses, it would mean joining two loose
My suggestion is that similarity is preceded by ends of the line of identity to yield a compound
yet more fundamental logical processes that we composition that expresses identity between the
need to focus our attention to. These processes, I two beings. 6 But that is not what takes place in
will argue, refer to various ways constituent terms metaphoric expressions, and the is in the sentence
and iconic elements in logical diagrams are (1), for instance, is not one of identity.
composed, including those that fall under Generally speaking, indeterminate expressions
metaphoric modes of interpretation.5 joined with a copula mean beings indeterminate in
some such respects in which the other one is not.
Composition of Concepts Take, for instance, the They both determine one another in an operation of
well-worn sentence joining, as their indeterminacy is in certain senses
mutually supportive. In other words, a perfect
(1) This surgeon is a butcher. composition of two (or more) rhematic concepts
would be one in which the meaning of the complex
This sentence is a proxy for one of the most expression is determined under the literal, non-
archetypical and commonly figuring format for metaphoric interpretation of predicates. As far as
metaphors, “An/The X is a Y”. Such metaphors the example (1) is concerned, its literal meaning is
typically come with some comic hyperbole of course one in which one and the same individual
associated with its meaning (cf. “His lawyer is a is really the hard working one in the family, so
shark”, “My wife is a dragon”). These expressions much so that she is enjoying two professions at one
consist, in their basic format, of two rhematic and the same time.
concepts, represented by the two incomplete The composition under non-literal, metaphoric
expressions, here “__is a surgeon” and __“is a interpretation nevertheless succeeds in an equal
butcher”. Lacking a subject, rhematic expressions manner. The composition is not predicated on the
alone have indeterminate meanings. How a success or failure of identity considerations. It can
metaphor now emerges in this setting boils down happen as soon as a sufficient number of
to the question of how these two indeterminate connections (meaning lines) are there to be
concepts are compounded. So how does a discovered that obtain between the different
composition of concepts at bottom operate? That occurrences of “__is a butcher” and according to
is, how do we in fact manage put together two (or which the copula can thus be seen to transmit the
more) indeterminate expressions to create non- intended metaphoric meaning between the two
literal meanings such as metaphors?
The underlying problem is even more 6
The connecting lines, be they of identity or of
fundamental than this. The key question really similarity, serve many purposes in the logic of
concerns the indeterminacy in the word for being. Existential Graphs: in connecting different predicate
The copula that is expressed by the English word terms they express identities, in attaching to predicate
„is‟ has two (or more) instances that need to be terms they express predication, and in being drawn upon
sheets of assertion they simply hit on something that is
there in the domain of the sheet, thus expressing
As such, how to compose simple concepts into existence (existential quantification with existence
complex ones is a venerable, centuries-old question in presuppositions). An immediate consequence is a failure
logic and philosophy that far antedates cognitive of the so-called Frege–Russell thesis, namely the view
sciences. Discussions that have recently surrounded the that the word for being is ambiguous between the
topics of blending and domain mappings in cognitive various meanings and that it therefore requires separate
metaphor theories strike me as shadows of this old symbols for identity, predication and existence whenever
problem. My remarks here should nevertheless not be attempting to capture the alleged fundamental logical
taken to imply an answer to the general question of the differences. This point is argued more fully in Pietarinen
nature and possibility of composition of concepts. (2006).
concepts which, taken in isolation, will be meaning repose on creativity and thus the door
incomplete. The composition of concepts that needs to be left open for endless number of future
amounts to expressing metaphoric meaning is uses and possible unfinished interpretations.
equivalent to showing that a connection obtains What is really taking place when the line of
between indeterminate rhematic concepts. That similarity crosses the boundaries of metaphoric
connection is not required to be a continuous one, modalities and penetrates into the areas of
however. A connection is thus not that of identity metaphoric interpretation? Identity lines in Peirce‟s
but a weaker one created by the systems of theory of EGs normally exhibit continuity between
meaning lines that span the predicate terms across their extremities. When such lines are hooked into
varying universes of discourse in different possible the spots (rhemas, predicate terms), a predication is
worlds. created and any two or more such predications turn
We illustrate the general nature of this idea by out to denote a (numerical) identity between the
representing the metaphor communicated in (1) in spots thus connected. Moreover, any line that
terms of the EG depicted in Figure 2: crosses a cut (negation) will actually be a
composition of two or more lines, which Peirce
termed not lines but ligatures. Any line of identity
surgeon is a graph, but a cut-crossing ligature is not a graph
butcher but a ligature, a composition of several lines of
identity. The reason is that a ligature rests on more
Figure 2: This surgeon is a butcher. than one area of a graph and thus cannot function
as the compositional building block for complex
We use a thick (green) line to represent the line graphs.
of connection between various areas of a given EG. But what about the lines of similarities? There
We also use a special color (purple/dark shading) the situation is somewhat different, since the
to represent the area governed by metaphoric boundary of the modal area is, so to speak, more
modalities. The green line of connection spans fragile and more easily penetrable than the
from its attachment to the hooks of the rhema boundary of the cut that effectuates contradictory
(diagrammatically, the spot) of being a surgeon to negation (denial). Contradictory negation cuts the
that of being a butcher. It corresponds to the line and blocks any attempt to communicate
predicative use of the copula in the correlated identity by its means. But modality is an operation
sentence. Unlike in the non-modal parts of EGs, weaker than negation, yet of course stronger than
the connection is not that of an identity but of a the presence of no tincture at all. (This is the
similarity that prompts relevant similarity dashed rim drawn around the areas of modality in
comparisons between the predicate terms (spots) contradistinction to continuous rims for negations.)
evaluated in the non-modal (where “__is a What is the natural interpretation of such an iconic
surgeon” lies) as well as in the modal metaphoric description of the situation? I suggest that it means
context (where “__is a butcher” lies). The evoked partially successful and partially failed
similarity comparisons constitute the key factor in identification. It is not entirely unlike the
metaphor interpretation. counterpart idea Lewis (1968) proposed for the
However, the indeterminacy of those concepts semantics of modal logics to make some sense of
that are to be paired here is considerably greater for the cross-world nature of objects by definition of
metaphoric than for non-metaphoric, literal similarity relation. We, however, arrive at such a
interpretations of predicates. In other words, notion beginning with very different background
metaphoric concepts do not, to borrow Peirce‟s assumptions, namely one that takes objects to be
phrase, “supply each the other‟s lack” in full irreducibly cross-world notions in the first place
(Peirce 1931-58, 5.572). But this is precisely as it (that is, world-lines). These world-line objects
should be, since it is one of the everlastingly become, so to speak, shattered whenever their
fascinating aspects of metaphors. Their meaning is objective continuity is disrupted by the lines of
not, and cannot be, exhausted by any „one-shot‟ identities (within which bundles of world lines are
interpretation: their emergence as well as full transmitted) clash with the boundaries of

metaphoric modalities. That clash necessitates being that of an identity or being that of a
anyone encountering linguistic tropes to suspend predication. Far from being a defect or ambiguity
the identity of objects in question and to in the system of diagrammatization of metaphors,
reconsider, within the confines defined by the lines this notational scarcity is an expected feature
of similarity, the ways in which the lines of whenever representing logical ideas using icons, as
connection (meaning lines) could be drawn in they are signs appearing closest to our actual
wholly new ways. Such reconsiderations do not cognitive processes. Being such special icons, they
create or constitute new objects, but they do are at the same time reflections of the special
change the ways in which linguistic communities economy and facility of expression involved in
behave when encountering, learning and creating those processes.
new metaphors. To talk about there being singular The lines of similarities having a direction is a
or novel objects of metaphors would be a grave straightforward consequence of the fact that all
error of lapsing into the fantasy realm of literal logical graphs, although not linear in the sense in
meaning: that there really are butcher-doctors, which natural languages are, are interpreted by
shark-lawyers, and dragon-wives. proceeding from the outside-in direction. 8 This is
It is not only the disruptions of the continuity of how it really should be in the context of metaphors,
cross-world objects that takes place in my iconic too, since similarity is an asymmetric relation.
explanation of the workings of metaphors. We also There was a considerable and prolonged confusion
get a vivid illustration of what the requisite in the literature in the wake of the iconoclast
discontinuity in interpreting predicate terms commentaries of the 1960s to persistently claim
(diagrammatically, the spots or rhemas) is when symmetry for similarity considerations. A well
moving from world to world. To see this, it is known fact nevertheless is that in the most typical
sufficient to realize that interpreted terms always of cases, metaphors give rise to comparisons that
have lines of identities (minimally, one- are anti-symmetric in nature.
dimensional dots) attached to the hooks on their If there be no metaphoric area of interpretation
peripheries. 7 Since for metaphorically interpreted in (2), the line connecting the two rhemas would
predicate terms such attached lines or dots rest on indeed be symmetric and hence to be read as that
areas of metaphoric modalities, any property of an identity. The modal context within which the
predicated on them is readily interpreted in predicate term “is a butcher” needs to be
metaphoric cross-modal contexts. interpreted tells the interpreter, however, that the
Moreover, there is a direction in the reading of copula must be taken in its predicative senses.
the sentence (1). The literal reading is the preferred All these manifold facets relevant to metaphoric
one only if the sentence could as well be read to meaning are logically provided in one compact
express that “This butcher is a surgeon”. (This is graph representation in Figure 2.
not to say that such a sentence could not have a What these remarks imply, first of all, is that
metaphoric meaning, too; it could, and one that is there is a difference between literal and non-literal,
even more amusing than the more salient such as metaphoric, meaning tropes. Literal
metaphoric meaning, think of it as implied in a meaning is created by the system of world-lines. In
question expressing surprise: “This butcher is a the simple cases, they are mappings from worlds to
surgeon?”) The direction of reading, which is extensions. Even if the domains vary from worlds
preserved in the diagrammatic representation of to worlds, world-lines do not change the meaning
Figure 2, reinforces the fact that the meaning of the from literal to non-literal. Non-literal meaning, in
verb for being in (1) is not that of identity but contrast, emerges from there being bundles of
predication: the surgeon in question shares some meaning lines which can, at best, give rise to
chosen characteristics or properties of a butcher. similarities but never to cross-world identities, let
However, there is no notational difference in the alone numerical, world-bound identities.
diagrammatic representations between the copula
These minor details of hooks that are located around
the peripheries of spots are not depicted in the graphs of This is Peirce‟s “endoporeutic” interpretation, see
the present paper. Pietarinen (2006, Chapter 4).
Secondly, as noted, the indeterminacy of that One important consequence from the proposed
which is a butcher does not completely evaporate processes of joining, composing and associating
when it is connected by the line of similarity to that the various parts of diagrammatic representations
which is a surgeon. Since the rhema “__is a with one another is that the more poetic or creative
butcher” in (1) lies on the colored area of a metaphor is the more indeterminacy needs to be
metaphoric domains, it obtains modality not shared admitted in accounting for the composition of
by the rhema “__is a surgeon”, which in turn gets predicates. Poetic metaphors engage in a
to be interpreted on the domain of actuality. The considerable amount of referential multiplicity.
potentiality can never become entirely actual in the However, it is even more important than this to
sense that we could truthfully assert that „here is note that there need not be any fundamental
the butcher that I in fact meant by asserting (1), difference in kind between creative or poetic
and this butcher is the named surgeon in question‟. metaphors on the one hand, and the ordinary ones
Accordingly, connections based on similarity on the other, though there may well be a
considerations are no more and no less objective as considerable difference in degree as to how large
being of the character of “associations of mental the sets of multiple references in possible worlds
facts”, to quote Peirce‟s expression of what he took are that must be taken into consideration in
the working of the composition of concepts to be interpreting the requisite parallelisms. Novel,
(Peirce 1931-58, 7.467). It is the part and parcel of poetic metaphors increase the size of the sets of
his general theory of meaning (pragmaticism) that multiple references in comparison with ordinary
a lot of what goes under the umbrella of objective metaphors, but the fundamental rules of
facts may be the results of imaginative, creative interpretation that govern their meaning need not
thought. Associations of mental facts are real and change.
objective features of the world and they can be The interpretation of predicates (rhemas) that
studied by analyzing the nature of propositions falls within metaphorically modal areas on the
contained in the assertions of such facts. diagrammatic sheets of assertion is world
dependent. That is, interpretations change when
Examples and Illustrations Yet the kinds of moving from one possible world to another,
similarities that are at play in metaphoric accessible possible world. How the interpretations
comparisons have to be taken in a relatively loose change is constituted by the meaning lines that
and wide sense. Sometimes it is in fact the effectuate the similarities between different
contraries that need to be joined in the first place. interpretations of predicate terms in metaphors.
Think, for example, of the sentence: Sufficiently complex and comprehensive systems
of such mappings are thus capable of creating what
(2) His son is a real Einstein.9 was called similarities between mental facts. That
such meaning lines are in operation is depicted by
In some instances, as is likely to happen in the line drawn between predicate terms in different
interpreting the sentence (2), this joining of areas of logical diagrams. Notation-wise, it is
contraries adds another non-literal dimension to the shown by the lines of connection that become
interpretation of metaphors, namely that of irony. those of lines of similarity whenever they enter the
However, irony can likewise be handled with the tinctured (purple) areas of metaphoric modality.
similarity (or difference) connections that are given For one thing, we can diagrammatically
by systems of meaning lines, although in the case represent complex forms of metaphors. For
or irony, for example, they need to be drawn quite instance, the following kinds of metaphors are
differently from those systems of connections that represented by the diagrams in Figures 3, 4 and 5.
are at the back of the interpretations of at least the
most common and typical metaphoric expressions.

Though perhaps only under the most colloquial
understanding does this metaphor in fact express the
intended or the most salient meaning.
and prompting another kind of modal interpretation
within which rest of the metaphoric terms are
I‟m eyebeam interpreted.
your eye
As before, the interpretation of objects, in
addition to the continuity of non-metaphoric
objects, is world dependent and based on
Figure 3: Of thine eye I am eyebeam. appropriate similarity considerations from world to
world. Similarity considerations at the level of the
interpretation of metaphoric objects exemplify
city iconic relationships just as they are exemplified
when indeterminate predicate terms are
Chicago metaphorically interpreted. The metaphor
windy contained in “My son is a real Einstein” serves as
such an example that illustrates the two modes of
non-literal tropes: the considerations of similarities
Figure 4: Chicago, the windy city. in the metaphoric as well as ironic senses obtain
between individuals in the domains of those
possible worlds that are contained in the range of
those worlds in which metaphorical and ironical
decay interpretations are to take place.

words Parallelism and Materiality The explanation

in place outlined here falls within Peirce‟s classification of
metaphors as the „thirdness‟ of hypoicons (and
stay recall that the first being the images and the second
still the diagrams). Since the basic constituents of
diagrams are images, it is only to be expected that
representations of metaphors are built up from
Figure 5: Words decay, will not stay in place, diagrams whose terms acquire multiply referential
will not stay still. interpretations.
This, in a nutshell, is what we take Peirce to
mean in the quotation given in the introductory
These diagrammatic forms are largely self- section that metaphors are able to represent “a
explanatory. Figure 3 illustrates a graph for a parallelism in something else”.
sentential metaphor. It is composed of a rhema There is another important character of
“__is eyebeam”, interpreted with demonstrative metaphors that is termed their “materiality” in
indexical, which will be subject to metaphoric Anderson (1984). The materiality of metaphors
interpretation, and the value of which will be means that meanings are grounded in the domains
connected by the line of similarity to the non- of the worlds in which they are evaluated. It may
metaphorically interpreted rhema of “__is your be the actual world with its domain, or perhaps one
eye”. Being a windy city in Figure 4 did not, of the possible worlds. In the latter case, the worlds
contrary to its common usage, originally mean in which meanings are grounded can be worlds of
metonymically just the harsh weather conditions fiction, imagination, or story-telling, for example.
taking place in Chicago but the constantly In all cases, the common feature nevertheless is
changing city mayors in the turmoil of the 19th- that the meanings must be grounded or anchored in
century municipal politics. Note also that in Figure the domains of the models in one way or another.
5, the metaphoric interpretation of “staying in Otherwise the bulk of metaphors would be of no
place” and “staying still” takes place inside a good and no real metaphoric meaning could take
logical modality of a different tincture (light place. It is such grounding and the material
shading/yellow), representing the “will”-operator character of metaphoric meaning that goes with it

that reveals in which ways metaphors can indeed particular mode of representing metaphors in
be true or false, interpretable or uninterpretable, or diagrammatic representations of logical graphs.
better or worse. The choice of the mode of representation does not
However, this material and grounding aspect of depend on whether the copula „is‟ is used in
metaphors is lost in cognitive metaphor theories. predicative, existential or inclusive senses.
But if metaphors can indeed be either true or false, But then, there will be no need for any
cognitive theories on the semantics of metaphors „language of thought‟ determining the correct
that rely on internalistic presuppositions of interpretation of what such a line could mean. It is
conceptual meaning fall short of providing an one of the curious facts of metaphoric meanings
adequate account of the constitution of the core that the same notational device can be applied in
meaning of metaphors. all of these different uses of being. Consider, for
instance, the following sentences:
5. Implications
No Meaning Holism Some wider repercussions to (3) Consciousness is a bottomless lake.
linguistic theorizing can now be derived from the (Predication)
iconic-logical theory of metaphors sketched above. (4) Look at that rug rat. There she goes
What I have presented here tells against the again.
possibility of meaning holism, among others. (Existence)
Lakoff & Johnson (1980) argue that metaphors (5) Human beings are animals.
affect the way an entire network of interconnected (Class-inclusion)
words behaves. If, as it seems to me to be a
justified interpretation of their argument, this One might think that, since diagrams only use
assertion is an expression of meaning holism of the very few signs to logically represent and capture a
underlying semantic theory, including metaphoric diversity of factors contributing to metaphoric
meaning, my proposal in the present paper implies meaning, they are too ambiguous and thus less
its rebuttal. For, it cannot be the case that all action rigorous as their symbolic counterparts. And since
concerning the ways in which metaphoric words diagrams apparently can, the thought continues, be
are interpreted could contribute to the ways in perceived and interpreted in many such ways, there
which similarities between the objects of must be some deeper level of symbols or a code
metaphoric terms and predicates are drawn and that ultimately determines the correct or intended
conceived given their constitution through the reading and interpretation.
systems of meaning lines. For otherwise, there However, postulating such bottom levels of
could be no false metaphors. Since metaphoric language or symbolic systems at operation in
meaning is grounded in the domains of actual or thought is altogether unnecessary. Ambiguity is a
possible worlds, that is, they have materiality in property of symbolic, not iconic representations. It
actual world or in one of the possible worlds, there is a virtue of diagrams that they can be „read‟ or
is some fact of the matter that distinguishes true appreciated in so many ways. Their underlying
from false (or good from bad) metaphors. Hence, notational repertoire is deliberately simple and
there can be false metaphors. But if there are false uncomplicated for us to use and learn to process.
metaphors, then not all action that is actually Diagrams enjoy notable cognitive economy in this
performed (cf. Lakoff‟s idea of „online processing‟ regard. At the same time, however, such qualities
of metaphor concepts) in interpreting metaphoric do not sacrifice anything of their logical detail
representations, and not all practices that actually contributing to the meaning of diagrams.
take place in such processes, can be constitutive of In fact, it does not even make sense to presume
metaphoric meaning. the existence of a deeper level of symbolism
providing the basis according to which we would
No Language of Thought In metaphoric select the intended meanings for pictorial and
statements, the word for being, which is iconic signs. The reason for this is fundamentally
represented iconically by the line of similarity, pivotal to understand. In the three-fold
receives its intended mode of interpretation by the classification of signs familiar from Peirce‟s

theory, symbols are signs that typically, if not This argument supposedly contradicts the
always, involve at least some aspect of theories of metaphors that take similarity
indexicality, and indices are signs that involve at comparisons essential to metaphoric meaning.
least some aspect of iconicity. The relation of However, the argument will not affect the theory of
involvement is transitive, and it is therefore quite metaphors outlined in the present treatise. The
commonplace that symbols contain aspects of answer is that similarity comparisons need not be
iconicity in them. based on straightforward interpretations of simple
It is icons, and not symbols, that are the closest qualities expressed by predicate terms. Instead,
we can come up with to representations of actual they can, and in most cases ought to, be based on
thought processes taking place in the variety of the consequences of the application of those
cognitive systems. This „icons first‟ shows up in predicates. A clear-cut parallelism will obtain
the metaphoric and as well as in many other kinds between the effects of something or someone being
of non-literal meanings in the fact that, in cold and something or someone being insensitive
effectively understanding a metaphor, it does not or socially exclusive, such as making you feel the
really matter which of the plurality of same emotional reaction as that of shivering or
interpretations is the „correct‟ one. If truth be told, going goosey. In fact, such effects can be
it may often be the case that no intended or unique extraordinarily concrete. Empirical studies
meaning of a metaphor exists at all, although a demonstrate the surprising similarities between
metaphor can still be well interpretable and feelings of loneliness and feelings of cold, or those
understandable. of feeling immoral and feeling unclean (Zhong &
Leonardelli 2008). The latter kinds of feelings,
No Psychologism The importance of the those of coldness or dirt, do not of course result
mechanisms of metaphoric similarity comparisons from any physical presence of low temperatures or
that I have emphasised in this paper to take place unsanitized environments. Thus Searle presents no
in terms of the composition of iconically conceived trouble for the present theory. The informativity of
ideas, or mental facts, does not imply any lapse many metaphors need not reside in any concrete
into cognitive psychology. The creation of a features two or more objects actually share, unlike
metaphor is the matter of logical representation. what not only Searle but also Fogelin (1988) has
Hence, it is the matter of semantics, truth and assumed. Nor are the reconstructions of such
falsity, and that of non-literal meaning. How such shared features in terms of higher-order properties
meaning comes across admits, as we have seen, of any more helpful, contrary to what Reimer &
a comprehensive logico-semantic explanation and Camp (2006: 853) suggest in their handbook article
need not be governed by laws and rules of on metaphors (which the editors have misplaced
psychology. under “Varieties of Speech-Acts” part). Indeed, the
theory of pragmaticism which Peirce originally
Counterexamples? Searle (1979) has argued in suggested as the theory of meaning of assertions
favor of a proposition theory of metaphors. In was precisely in terms of taking the sum total of
brief, his account rests on the possibility of the effects and consequences they could or would
counterexamples to simile theories: that there are have in any conceivable situation.
metaphors that have nothing to do with similarity.
If Searle is right, they would thus have nothing to 6. Conclusions
do with Peirce‟s notion of parallelism, either. An I have presented what I take to be a new attempt at
example the Searle is after is the metaphor found in a logical and semantic approach to metaphoric
the sentence: meaning. It takes the idea of „figurative meaning‟
seriously: at bottom, however, the truly figurative
(6) Julia is icy. component in metaphors is not in the kind of
„mental imagery‟ evoked by creative uses of
There is no reasonable comparison, according to linguistic predicates (such as those proposed by the
Searle, between the quality of being icy and the general cognitive semantics approach, conceptual
quality of being insensitive, for example. metaphor theories, or even Donald Davidson‟s

(1978) famous non-cognitivist argument, which 2008. Preliminary versions were presented in the
crucially hinges on the presupposition of nil 6th International Conference in Cognitive Science
explanatory value, with respect to meaning, of (ICCS‟08) that took place at Yonsei University in
hypostatic abstractions over what is expressed by July 2008, and in the 2010 Stockholm Metaphor
the propositional content of first-order predicate Festival in September 2010.
terms), but in the logical representation of
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