Re: power: Idol broke the silence - new isms ahead.

Robert Owen (
Wed, 24 Nov 1999 20:44:00 -0500

Alexander Bard wrote Tue, 23 Nov 1999 22:51:45 +0200 (his quotations refer to comments by Mark Pesce):

> >I think perhaps it would be appropriate to call for an archaic return to the
> >poetic. Which overloads itself beyond reason, beyond violence.
> >And, as a plus, it's downright anti-Platonic.
> Yes. As such the return of the poetic could be viewed as a protest movement
> directed against the last 300 years of mathematicization of language.

My post of the passage from Tennyson was meant as an illustration; I made no comment because I wanted to think more about this. What interests me specially is the historical process by means of which ideas become conscious of themselves within human cognition, ideas such as "transhuman" and "extropian". No, Alexander, this is not "Platonism" nor "Hegelianism" -- it is a METAPHOR. This is where I believe the work of Stephen Pepper becomes relevant. Webster says a "metaphor" is

"a figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or action is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them."

Of course, "metaphor" is the language of poetics as well as "precognitive" fictional literature, e.g. [much] science fiction. But Pepper investigated the role of metaphor in "philosophy":

"Metaphor in philosophy may be distinguished from metaphor in poetry by being primarily an explanatory rather than aesthetic device. Its explanatory function is to aid in conceptual clarification, comprehension, or insight regarding a mode of philosophical thought, a problem area of philosophical subject matter, or even a total philosophical system." [1]

While Pepper was primarily interested in the "root metaphor" that underlies any system of thought (including, of course, science) his insights may be helpful for the progressive objectivisation of the NATURE of our disciplines and not the more or less anecdotal descriptions of transhumanist and extropian "phenomena" that characterize us presently.

"By a root metaphor, I mean an area of empirical observation which is the point of origin for a world hypothesis. When anyone has a problem before [her or] him and is at a loss how to handle it, [s]he looks about in [her or] his available experience for some analogy that might suggest a solution. This suggestive analogy gives rise to an hypothesis which [s]he can apply towards the solution. The method of development of world hypotheses for the problem of gaining comprehension of our world follows, I find, involves the same procedure. The originating analogy, I have called the root metaphor of a world hypothesis. An analysis of the root metaphor generates the categories of the hypothesis. The adequacy of the hypothesis then depends on the capacity of the categories to render interpretations of the features of our world with precision and unrestricted scope." [2]

[1] Quoted from "Metaphor in Philosophy" in Philip S. Wiener (ed.),

Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 1973.

[2] Concept and Quality: A World Hypothesis (LaSalle, IL: Open Court,

1967), p.3.

Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA