In this article I would like to focus on how we try to discern a metaphor. I would like to focus on the cognitional faculty associated with metaphors. Discerning a metaphor can be aesthetic, religious, secular, cultural-historical and philosophical.
A metaphor in common day language is an adornment of words where there occurs a comparison between things. For example: His thoughts are a flying saucer. It means that his thoughts are fanciful and unrealistic. This metaphor has only one effect on the reader which is a pure aesthetic one, one of pleasure.
Let’s look at another example: He is a shady night. Here the metaphor embodies a semantic concept, meaning that he is not a straight forward person. This semantic attribute is related to a particular emotional quality and there by casting its roots into the soil of judging human qualities.
But some metaphors go beyond the aesthetic. Let’s take a Biblical metaphor which is also simile: ‘You should have faith as a mustard seed’. A simile is also related to the metaphor and uses like or as. Here mustard seed takes a meaning of the supra-sensible realm, beyond the aesthetic. Faith becomes dichotomized into smallness and reliance on the super-natural. We can utilize its meaning in the secular sense as the tininess of faith for obtainment of a thing or with a religious tinge, having faith as small as a mustard seed and relying faith on a transcendental power. The hermeneutic meaning is left to the discernment of the reader.
Next I would like to take an example of a metaphor having political and historical connotations. For example: Fascism and Nazism have become religious entities of fanatic Islam in the contemporary geo-political world. Here the meaning becomes a thesis (far- right dictatorships), an antithesis (unfair barbarism and cruelty and the holocaust) and synthesis (the aim of fanatic Islam to create terrorism and also dominate the world). I am using Hegelian Philosophy here. The meaning of this metaphor bifurcates into cultural, political and historic roots and brings up a daunting similarity with the contemporary comparison.
Next I would like to analyze a metaphor from feminist philosophy. For example: We or they are gender twins. This refers to woman who does not like to be labeled as she or he. Being gender neutral and the same time having a gender is an accepted norm of conceptual democratic post-modern philosophy.
Thus in my readings of the metaphor, I have left its discernment as aesthetics, as the religious, as the semantic, as the secular, as the historical, cultural and the political and also the philosophical.