My dying breath is a magician.

breathMy dying breath is a magician.

This sits, written in chalk dust, on the board, bored bored bored board. Metaphor, all three elements from Aristotle, those elements it’s not supposed to have (supposedly), the tradition that’s opposed (opposedly) by Lakoff and Derrida, with metaphor as domain translations or catechresis as metaphoric literality.

The moment that is unexplainable is the new. The poetic metaphor. That which is ruled out of court or which doesn’t fit into the domain maps of Lakof (is it one F or two?) and Johnson, that which doesn’t accept itself as catechresis, which isn’t reducible to simply a concept. He focuses on one moment. For some of the terms of the proportion there is at times no word in existence; still the metaphor may be used. Each time the word that seems to be used is a good metaphor and allows someone to see something.

I never know what to make of this. I remember a long time ago a science fiction story about a community of blind people, about the way in which they adapt their social environment to become a touchable space and interlacing bodies, about – I think – someone on the run who takes refuge in this community, about the strange eroticism of the body in a space where the blind revel in exploring the positivity of the touch that is dominant without ever falling foul of a notion of lack (there is never any lack).

To talk of seeing things is just too facile. So they use the greek don’t they – theorein – to see. Theoria, theoros, the spectator, theoreo, to look at. Supposedly. The greek root seems to be thea. My dictionary cites it as ‘a seeing, looking at’ as well as, in the listing before that which mentions sight – with a minor change of accent – goddess. But they wouldn’t deign to speak of the goddess.

My dying breath is a magician.

The story, the anecdote (good philosophy always needs a good anecdote), is about a lecturer on Hegel, Professor Harris, this is Paul’s anecdote not mine, a lecturer on Hegel who is tedious, boring, Hegelian (all Hegelian’s are fools) and who is being listened to by Paul and his colleague and Paul turns to his colleague and says ‘Harris is Quixote’ but not the Quixote of the first book alone but also of the second where the Quixote of the first book victimises the Quixote of the second who is the real Quixote of the fictional Quixote that Cervantes invents who now reveals Harris as tilting at Hegelian windmills. ‘Harris is Quixote’ is said with some humour but Harris is then lost, like the Quixote of the second book, under the weight of the metaphor, the new vision.

I see him anew. This is the only form of new metaphor. I see it anew.

My dying breath is a magician.

I sit and stare at this chalk dust line. The magician brings about a magical event. The magician transforms things.

Like a dying breath.

My dying breath is a magician.

My explanation is death.

The metaphor can be paraphrased but the poem cannot.

My explanation is death.

“Metaphor is the application of an alien name by transference either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or by analogy, that is, proportion. Thus from genus to species, as: ‘There lies my ship’; for lying at anchor is a species of lying. From species to genus, as: ‘Verily ten thousand noble deeds hath Odysseus wrought’; for ten thousand is a species of large number, and is here used for a large number generally. From species to species, as: ‘With blade of bronze drew away the life,’ and ‘Cleft the water with the vessel of unyielding bronze.’ Here arusai, ‘to draw away’ is used for tamein, ‘to cleave,’ and tamein, again for arusai- each being a species of taking away. Analogy or proportion is when the second term is to the first as the fourth to the third. We may then use the fourth for the second, or the second for the fourth. Sometimes too we qualify the metaphor by adding the term to which the proper word is relative. Thus the cup is to Dionysus as the shield to Ares. The cup may, therefore, be called ‘the shield of Dionysus,’ and the shield ‘the cup of Ares.’ Or, again, as old age is to life, so is evening to day. Evening may therefore be called, ‘the old age of the day,’ and old age, ‘the evening of life,’ or, in the phrase of Empedocles, ‘life’s setting sun.’ For some of the terms of the proportion there is at times no word in existence; still the metaphor may be used. For instance, to scatter seed is called sowing: but the action of the sun in scattering his rays is nameless. Still this process bears to the sun the same relation as sowing to the seed. Hence the expression of the poet ‘sowing the god-created light.’ There is another way in which this kind of metaphor may be employed. We may apply an alien term, and then deny of that term one of its proper attributes; as if we were to call the shield, not ‘the cup of Ares,’ but ‘the wineless cup’.” (Aristotle, Poetics, XXI)

Article written by

philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

Leave a Reply