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This article is taken from PN Review 225, Volume 42 Number 1, September - October 2015.

The Problem of the Image: A Note on Language Will Eaves
The crime novelist and Dante scholar Dorothy L. Sayers, most readable and concise of lay philosophers, once summarized the empirical approach to words: ‘all language is metaphorical’ (Mind of the Maker, p. 17). That is, all of human language relates one experience to another – one experience in the ‘real’ world of objects, thoughts and feelings to another experience on the plane of description and articulation.

Of course, language is itself a real experience, and often a frustrating one. It lacks dimensions. Saying ‘a walk in the park’ is not the same thing as going for a walk in the park. Then, too, the conceptualization of a walk in the park is suspect: how far is it a non-verbal, non-symbolic feat of primary cognition – of intuition – and how far an effect of language, an idea shaped by the terms in which it is expressed? Would you want to go for a walk in the park if the words to convey your meaning did not exist and had not been developmentally embedded in your brain?

The pragmatist will object: just go for the walk. Picture the intention. Act on it!

But: how do I know what the picture means?

The pragmatist heaves a sigh and, sensing the presence of an aesthetic rather than strictly philosophic mind, invokes the spirit of W. H. Auden in ‘Making, Knowing, Judging’, his inaugural lecture as the Oxford Professor of Poetry (given in 1956 and published in The Dyer’s Hand). There is a class of primary ...


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