i approached the book as a closet/archair linguist, taking cautious sips from the academic linguist’s drinking fountain (how’s that for metaphor?). the water was very sweet. i sipped in the first ten or twenty chapters, thinking about how every professional communicator (pastor, youth pastor, writer) should read this book.
but then i hit page 159, chapter 24. and i realized i was gulping, trying to drink from a firehose, in a chapter with the false-meek simple title: truth. here’s a sample:
what all of this shows is that truth depends on categorization in the following four ways:
– a statement can be true only relative to some understanding of it.
– understanding always involves human categorization, which is a function of interactional (rather than inherent) properties and of dimensions that emerge from our experience.
– the truth of a statement is always relative to the properties that are highlighted by the categories used in the statement. (for example: “light consists of waves” highlights wavelike properties of light and hides the particle-like properties.)
– categories are neither fixed nor uniform. they are defined by prototypes and family resemblances to prototypes and are adjustable in context, given various purposes. whether a statement is true depends on whether the category employed in the statement fits, and this in turn varies with human purposes and others aspects of context.
i thought this chapter might be an anomaly, and i could get back to the easier task of thinking about linguistics. but no. the following chapters read like that water torture where they make you drink too much:
– the myths of objectivism and subjectivism
– the myth of objectivism in western philosophy and linguistics
– how metaphor reveals the limitations of the myth of objectivism
– some inadquacies of the myth of subjectivism
then, in an attempted “third way” chapter, the authors outline “the experientialist alternative”. a quote:
metaphor is thus imaginative rationality. since the categories of our everyday reasoning involve metaphorical entailments and inferences, ordinary rationality is therefore imaginative by its very nature. given our understanding of poetic metaphor in terms of metaphorical entailments and inferences, we can see that the products of the poetic imagination are, for the same reason, partially rational in nature.
and then the book ended. my thirst wasn’t slaked. i found myself longing for four or five responses, from a variety of thinking friends, like brett kunkle (youth worker and “stand to reason” apologist), roger overton (blogger at “the a-team blog”, gadfly, apoligist), tony jones (author, former youth worker, emergent village national coordinator), andrew jones (uber-blogger, missionary, emerging church voice of the non-u.s.) and doug pagitt (author, opinionator, and pastor of solomon’s porch). i wanted to have a book group and meet monthly to talk about what we thought, with friends like david nasser (conservative baptist-y youth communicator and all-around good guy), dan kimball (author, pastor of vintage faith church, moderate emergent), mike king (author, contemplative, and CEO of youth front), and greg stier (youth evangelist, apologist and wonderfully-inquisitive guy). shoot, i’d crave a paragraph of response from never-short-of-words uber-authors like len sweet and brian mclaren. and a blog post series from scot mcknight on this book would go a long ways to slaking my thirst (c’mon scot!).
all that to say: this fire-hose drink was almost more than my nominally-thinking mind could take in. i need the community of other thinkers, friends i trust (even if i don’t always agree with them) to help me unpack it. i need these thinker-friends to help me understand and define the metaphors we (christ-followers) live by.
read this book.