Ricoeur traces the evolution of the metaphor from Hellenic Greece. He mentions Aristotle as the founding father of the metaphor. In Greece, the metaphor was used in poetry, especially tragic poetry. The metaphor was a general part of rhetoric. Metaphor according to Ricoeur functioned as an ornament of language. Metaphor went through a lot of changes during various historical epochs.
In the Hellenic period, metaphor was a vehicle to pay libation to the Gods. This is evident in Homeric hymns like the Iliad and the Odyssey. The metaphor was sheer poetry. The aesthetics of the metaphor was religious and allegorical. Thus we have Plato’s famous metaphor the cave which explains the theory of forms. People were in dark cave which was enclosed by a wall and they could see light outside. For Plato it meant that there was an ideal world beyond the physical world. Forms formed the ideality of the world
During the Renaissance era: metaphor underwent a transition. Metaphor became associated with the philosophy of romance. Thus we have the courtly love of the troubadours. Poets used metaphors to sanctify romantic love. Metaphor became a sensual earthly vehicle of salaciousness. Thus we have a famous verse which says: flow abundant stream into my loins and saturate me to a cathartic ecstasy.
In the modern and postmodern period metaphor underwent drastic changes. Metaphor became a discourse of ideology. Metaphor became rooted in disciplines like semantics, sociology, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry.
In Sociology we have Alvin Toffler’s famous work: The Third Wave where he characterizes civilization as metaphor of waves. The first wave was the agricultural civilization. The second wave was the industrial civilization and third wave was the technological society. For Toffler these waves are still evolving.
Let’s look at the role of the metaphor in postmodern philosophy. Post modern philosophy is characterized by the writing of metaphors. Texts are centers of privilege and marginalization. Postmodernism dissects texts and opens centers to play of meaning. Being is a metaphor for becoming. The white theology of the world became dissected into a metaphor of nihilism and nullification. Speech is Adam and Eve in innocence writing is the fleshy tree of good and evil; writing is sin. Being contextualizes into an ontological structure of consciousness. For postmodernism the Diaspora of the mind is left in the exile of the desert. Values fragment into a nihilism of chaotic anarchy.
In psychoanalysis dream symbols are metaphoric. Jacques Lacan said that all dreams are manifested in language. We have Roman Jacobson who analyzed the metaphor and the metonymy. According to Freud a dream can mean condensation or displacement. A condensed dream is the manifestation of reality facing the dream. Displacement in dreams is an escapism from reality. For Jacques Lacan the psychoanalyst: metaphor was condensation and is on the paradigmatic axis. Metonymy on the other hand was displacement and on the syntagmatic axis.
Kafka is one of the puzzling and enigmatic writers of the 20th century. He was a Jew in exile bearing the birth pain of an existential dilemma and angst of what makes up individuality. His fiction is marked by extreme romantic irony. In Kafka we find the stirrings of existential philosophy. Kafka had a negative attitude to life. His novels are marked by an oedipal trauma and his own conflict with authoritarian father.
In the castle: we find the dialogue in first person of individual K. K is entrusted with the job of surveying the castle. K arrives at the village and stays in an inn. He interacts with people from all walks of life. The castle is apparently an unfinished fragment. The life of the fictional character is one marked by extreme irony. Kafka brings through his fiction an eclectic synthesis of a literary pathos. His fiction is strange like a cross word puzzle. The landlord of the castle is extremely autocratic and authoritarian.
K’s life is marked by nausea and angst. His soul does not stir in cosmic delight. He embarks upon his work with diligence. There is a poignant portrayal of psychological insight and depth. K encounters a catharsis of mystery.
Philosophically speaking Kafka’s novel—the Castle adumbrates an ethos of aesthetics. The novel castle is set up on theme of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Kafka’s existential search for the meaning of life is akin to Don Quixote. Life leaves him in the lurch. Kafka is endowed with the passion of writing. Kafka was always in conflict with Jewish and Christian thought. There is rich tapestry of words and thoughts in the Castle. The Castle as a fictional work is strange and mystic and it does not leave the moorings of a story. The Landlord is an internalized projection of the alter ego of his father. The blustering image of his father haunts Kafka. Kafka is a feeble minded individual. Kafka is confronted by the magnitude of existential guilt. In the novel K is a character caught up in decadent monarchy with its outdated petite bourgeoisie living a tormented life? Kafka’s work is not an aesthetic master piece but littered with allusions and ambiguity. The intention of K as a character is not very legible. What does K intend to do? Why is life of K so demeaning? These remain a mystery. Perhaps if someone encounters Kafka through a séance we might get answers to these questions. Kafka’s intellect is so acute and so sensitive. Kafka through the character K questions the meaning of life. One can’t appraise Kafka’s work to be a literary master piece.
Jacques Derrida is a post-structural, post modern philosopher known for his flaming contribution of the philosophy of Deconstruction. Derrida has been very controversial and his philosophy provides a detailed frame work for the interpretation of texts. He is notorious as a person belonging to the Yale Mafia.
Of Grammatology is a dense text and he stirs up an argument that in Western Philosophy speech was privileged over writing. He takes up his argument from the structuralism and that being one of the Sign. A sign in structuralism is divided into the signifier and the signified. The signifier belongs to the sensate realm and is a physical tangible object where as the signified as an abstract idea. For example if I say Dove is Peace. Dove represents the signifier and peace represents the signified.
For Derrida all language is a system of signs. The problem of Philosophy is that some signs privilege certain people and some signs marginalize others. Deconstruction aims to rupture the sign from its privileged status. For example: international schools in South East Asia advertise: wanted only native speakers of English. What about speakers of English that live in Asia especially countries like India? Deconstruction is a philosophy that dissects how privilege is constructed in texts. Another example is women are marginalized against men.
Derrida questions the predominance of speech in philosophy. Speech is privileged where as writing is marginalized. Derrida deconstructs religion where he says that God does not envisage a presence. Derrida’s writing has undermined and demeaned all metaphysical systems of thought. Socrates was philosopher who did not say anything. For Derrida there is no validity in truth and truth is only a conjectural possibility. God is an empty signifier. For Derrida, the whole history of writing is one of metaphors and metonymies.
To write is to have the passion of origin. Derrida also questions the ontological status of being as espoused by the Philosopher Heidegger. For Derrida, the sign is a rupture and leaves a trace which he calls as arche-writing. Derrida esteems the work of Nietzsche which though provokingly made a rapid progress in undoing the signifier from the signified. For Derrida speech is logo-centric and phallic. Writing has to become detached from speech with a free reign of signifiers and signifieds. The writer has to engage in the play of meaning. For example: I can deconstruct my race of being Asian and Indian by saying that I have white mind, a black soul and a brown body. I can also deconstruct my religion by saying that I am a gentile Jew, an atheistic Muslim, a disgruntled Christian and materialist Hindu. For Derrida the sign is not a fixed entity marked by closure. A sign becomes related to another sign and so on. The creation of meaning results in the play with signs. Writers have to deconstruct logo-centric texts. For Derrida, a sign, as a rupture or play consists of differing and deferring. Derrida’s deconstruction has contributed a lot to the interpretation of texts and the dissemination of meaning.
Joseph’s story comes from the Old Testament. He was sold by his brothers to the Egyptians. When Potiphar’s wife asked to bed with him: he refused. He was put in jail. When he interpreted the dream of some prisoners: he was later on called by the Pharaoh to interpret the dreams he had. Joseph with God’s intervention was successful in interpreting the dreams and the Pharaoh made him a minister of Egypt. Joseph as a meaning has got two idioms: one the dream interpreter and the other rising to success after a period of downfall.
Example: Freud was an excellent Joseph.
We should be a Joseph of our dreams.
When will God allow me to become a Joseph?
I would like to be a Joseph of the society.