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Original scientific paper

Defining Metaphor. On Two Early Accounts on Metaphor by Aristotle and Hermogenes of Tarsus and Their Reception by Modern Interactionists

Borislav Mikulić ; University of Zagreb, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb, Croatia

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page 211-229

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The article discusses linguistic and epistemological presuppositions of the thesis, raised by the Irish classicist W. B. Stanford (1936), that the rhetorician Hermogenes of Tarsus, in his definition of metaphor, provided – in contrast to Aristotle’s “mere linguistic” description – a radically new, dynamic and reference-based conception of metaphoric speech, which he called tropé. For Stanford, it was a historical pre-figuration of his own “stereoscopic” account of metaphor, which later on, with Max Black and Paul Ricoeur, inspired the so-called interactionist view of metaphor in various areas of philosophy of language and science, and in linguistics. In the article, Hermogenes’ idea of metaphor as a “common” name for different things has been related throughout the text to a three-level (linguistic, logical and epistemological) analysis of the theory of transference in Aristotle. The paper points, through brief references or more extended comments, to systematic relations between the two ancient theories and some contemporary, interactionist and cognitivist, contributions on metaphor theory (Ricoeur, Lakoff and Johnson, Kittay). As a result, the supposed interactionist explanation of metaphor in Hermogenes turns out to be rather continuous than hostile with respect to Aristotle’s analysis, which appears no less conceptual than linguistic. Moreover, both accounts clearly call for further analysis on more complex systematic levels, which modern writers on metaphor scarcely acknowledged neither in Hermogenes nor in Aristotle.


Aristotle’s and Hermogenes of Tarsus’ definition of metaphor, interaction vs substitution, linguistic vs conceptual analysis, double reference, naming vs transference of names, assertive logos, referring and speech act

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