Panel 2.1: Philosophical Metaphor

This panel was chaired by Ben Chwistek and included papers from Ana Kortarcic, Caterina Pello, Melanie Lee, and Alex Ferron, the abstracts, powerpoints, handouts, and audio for which are shown below.

Ana Kortarcic, The University of St. Andrews

Title: Metaphor in Relation to Aristotle’s Concept of lexis.

The exceptional quality and universal applicability Aristotle attributes to metaphor places this linguistic and stylistic phenomenon outside the ordinary signifiant/signifié-system and accords it a special place within his considerations of language. Accordingly, Aristotle’s thoughts on metaphor have received much attention from modern scholars. Interestingly, lexis, the concept under which most of Aristotle’s remarks on metaphor feature, has been vastly neglected in their scholarship. However, it is precisely the nature of the concept of lexis that helps shed further light on the nature, function and applicability of metaphor. The aim of this paper, therefore, is to approach metaphor from the point of view of lexis in order to demonstrate that the nature of lexis has immediate bearing on Aristotle’s characterisation of metaphor. This will be done by concentrating on three key moments in Aristotle’s discussion of metaphor: the place at which he first introduces metaphor, the manner in which he defines it and the characteristics he attributes to it. By shifting the focus from a predominantly philosophical to a linguistic approach, this paper seeks to highlight the importance of Aristotle’s thoughts on metaphor not only for poetic and rhetorical compositions, but also for language more generally. As such, it also endeavours to explore the extent to which mimēsis is present in the metaphorical process. As a result, the features Aristotle assigns to metaphor appear in a new light and the conclusions drawn partly confirm and partly challenge existing scholarly interpretations of metaphor in Aristotle, thus stimulating further interdisciplinary discussion.

Ana requested that the details of her paper not be included on the blog.

Caterina Pello, The University of Cambridge

Title: The Pythagorean Symbola.

As a general rule, into the category ‘Pythagorean symbols’ falls a collection of orally transmitted maxims, short instructions, dietary vetoes, moral and religious precepts and cryptic sayings by means of which Pythagoras is reputed to have codified his teachings. This collection constitutes an invaluable source for our understanding of the Pythagorean way-of-life and the reconstruction of early Pythagorean doctrines. KRS depicts these precepts as a way of introducing and initiating disciples to Pythagoreanism. Burkert understands them as the rule of Pythagorean communities, some sort of set code of practice and discipline for the followers, and thus the core of Pythagoras’ legacy to his disciples. That being said, the symbola stand at the centre of lively academic disputes.

For neither do we know what maxims are to be classified as such, nor can we state which of them may count as early Pythagorean and which, instead, constitute later re-elaborations of Pythagorean doctrines. These sayings have been handed down to us in different forms – whether as questions, imperatives or statements – and with regard to various topics – from ethics to religion, from cosmology to eating habits. Moreover, some of them include quasi-arguments, whereas others appear as enigmatic aphorisms. This paper aims to investigate the puzzles surrounding the symbola, their significance and relation to Pythagoreanism so as to widen our understanding of the

Pythagorean philosophy as a whole. In the first part I will provide an overview of the issues and scholarly controversies concerning these maxims (e.g. their reliability as evidence of Pythagorean doctrines, their content and function). In the second part I will focus on two particular symbola and show how to interpret them. The purpose is to shed light on the meaning of these precepts and show that they are of the utmost importance for the comprehension of Pythagoreanism.


Sadly, due to technical difficulties the audio for Caterina’s paper was lost.

Melanie Lee, Staffordshire University

Title: Using Aristotle’s Metaphor for Persuading through Images.

Persuasion Theory is a psychological tool that is used throughout media to engage an audience, to instil certain thoughts and practices and to mould people’s opinions.  Most authors acknowledge that Persuasion Theory has its roots within the teachings of Aristotle, focussing particularly on his concepts of ethos, pathos and logos to carry the message.  These concepts, which are discussed in depth by Aristotle in his Rhetoric and Poetics, may be applied beyond the use of speech or written word to that of images in which the three concepts are used as metaphor within the image.  Using these concepts, as discussed within Aristotle’s Poetics and as underpinning for images, this paper will show that logos, pathos and ethos can be used successfully as a metaphor for representing narrative through imagery.

Imagery often holds a hidden key to unlocking people’s thoughts, fears, and feelings and can become a metaphor for real experiences, enabling people to tell their story.  However, the problem for the artist is how to relay that story to an audience while also evoking a reaction of understanding, empathy, and belief which allows the viewer to explore the narrative (logos) which lies behind the actual image.  This is particularly true of narratives which can cause feelings of doubt or rejection (pathos) while remaining ethically sound (ethos).

The images exhibited in this paper are not designed to test the validity of semiotics, but they have been used to test an audience’s reaction and openness to exploring the underlying narrative of a ‘hidden’ situation such as child abuse as seen through a narrative written many years after the event.


Audio –

Alex Ferron, Swansea University

Title: ‘A Good Ruler is not at all different from a Good Father’ – The State-Oikos Metaphor in the Works of Xenophon.

Xenophon is arguably the most diverse author of Classical antiquity. The Athenian solider-turned-intellectual was responsible for the composition of works in a number of generic traditions which engaged with an impressive variety of subjects ranging from the organisation of an army to the organisation of a kitchen. In spite of the variations of both form and subject matter in the Xenophontic corpus it has long been recognised (Gray, 2010) that the art of leadership, and the qualities of the ideal leader, was the central concern of Xenophon as an author and the dominant theme in his body of work.

When examining the relationship between leader and state, or commander and army, Xenophon frequently invokes the image of the state as a household. In this comparison between state and oikos the philosophically ‘good’ leader is cast in the role of the head of the household. In fact, the highest praise that Xenophon could confer on a leader, be they real or hypothetical, was that he was regarded as a ‘father’ by his subordinates; a feat only achieved by the most accomplished of statesmen in the Xenophontic corpus: Agesilaus, Cyrus the Great and Xenophon himself.

The ‘state-oikos’ metaphor is, therefore, central to Xenophontic political philosophy. My paper will examine Xenophon’s usage of this metaphor throughout his corpus, paying special intention to his Agesilaus, Anabasis, Cyropaedia and Memorabilia, in order to demonstrate how Xenophon uses this analogy to explain the relationship between leader and subordinate. In particular, my paper will explore how Xenophon handles the less savoury aspects of rule and justifies the ethical compromises involved in leadership by couching discussion of discipline, corporal punishment and necessary deceit within the metaphor of state and household; thus, providing a heuristic blueprint for perspective statesmen within the familiar context of the oikos.


Audio –


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