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Understanding Metaphorical Understanding (Literally)

Stuart, Michael T. and Wilkenfeld, Daniel (2022) Understanding Metaphorical Understanding (Literally). [Preprint]

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Abstract

Metaphors are found all throughout science: in published papers, working hypotheses, policy documents, lecture slides, grant proposals, and press releases. They serve different functions, but perhaps most striking is the way they enable understanding, of a theory, phenomenon, or idea. In this paper, we leverage recent advances on the nature of metaphor and the nature of understanding to explore how they accomplish this feat. We attempt to shift the focus away from the epistemic value of the content of metaphors, to the epistemic value of the metaphor’s consequences. Many famous scientific metaphors are epistemically good, not primarily because of what they say about the world, but because of how they cause us to think. Specifically, metaphors increase understanding either by improving our sets of representations (by making them more minimal or more accurate), or by making it easier for us to encode and process data about complex subjects by changing how we are disposed to conceptualize those subjects. This view hints towards new positions concerning testimonial understanding, factivity, abilities, discovery via metaphor, and the relation between metaphors and models.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Stuart, Michael T.mike.stuart.post@gmail.com0000-0002-4165-2641
Wilkenfeld, Danieldawilk@gmail.com0000-0003-2600-3237
Additional Information: Forthcoming in the European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Keywords: Metaphor in science; Scientific understanding; Objectual understanding; Explanation; Philosophy of science; Philosophy of language; Factivity; Imagination; Models; Creativity
Subjects: General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Rhetoric of Science
Depositing User: Michael T. Stuart
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2022 19:56
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2022 19:56
Item ID: 20796
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s13194-022-00467-9
Subjects: General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Rhetoric of Science
Date: 2022
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20796

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