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Metaphor, indeterminacy, and intention

McGonigal, A. (2002) Metaphor, indeterminacy, and intention. British Journal of Aesthetics, 42 (2). pp. 179-190.

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David Cooper has argued that it is a constraint on any acceptable theory of metaphor that it account for the 'indeterminacy' of metaphorical content, that is, the sense that many metaphors admit of more than one acceptable interpretation, none of which can be uniquely demonstrated to be correct. He further argues that the 'speaker's meaning' model of metaphorical content proposed by Searle and others cannot meet this constraint, and thus must be disregarded as a prospective account of such content. In this paper I argue firstly that Cooper's characterisation of the proposed constraint is misguided, and that we should be careful to distinguish the role that intention plays in determining metaphorical content from the question of whether we can have satisfying interpretations of metaphors that do not take speaker intention into account. I then give my own characterisation of the problem, relating it to a more general tension between the intuition that first person ascriptions of intentions carry a certain authority, and the fact that it seems to misrepresent the phenomenology of metaphor production to ascribe to the speaker a pre-existing and precise cognitive content which his metaphorical utterance is intended to convey. I go on to argue that we can resolve this tension by following Crispin Wright in viewing self ascriptions of intention as essentially response dependent; with our best judgements constituting rather than tracking the facts about what we intend. I conclude that while such an account must be refined in order to distinguish intentions related to specifically metaphorical content from the literal case, the general shape of the account is sufficient to remove the intuitions that Cooper's objection trades on.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Leeds Philosophy Department
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2007 09:41
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:04
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3250

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