This post is originally published at BioLogos.org. You can view it here. Re-posted here with permission.
People tend to think of metaphors as simple poetic word plays to adorn or illustrate otherwise dull text. Positively, one might think of metaphors as useful for illuminating existing truths. Few, however, see them as indispensable to how we think and, hence, of how we arrive at truth.
Cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson once remarked, “There are few things as toxic as a bad metaphor. You can’t think without metaphors.”1
Cognitive linguist George Lakoff agrees: “A large proportion of our most commonplace thoughts make use of an extensive, but unconscious, system of metaphorical concepts, that is, concepts from a typically concrete realm of thought that are used to comprehend another, completely different domain. Such concepts are often reflected in everyday language, but their most dramatic effect comes in ordinary reasoning.2 ”In other words, a whole network of conceptual metaphors operates in our everyday language, often unnoticed, to support all our abstract and theoretical thinking. So, if we think in metaphors, then the kind of metaphors we use can shape our conclusions, or at the very least, the direction of our reasoning.