On absolute metaphors: The Dignity of Man

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Talk held at the conference: "Dignity, Respect, and Self-Respect. Ancient, Modern, and Contemporary Positions" at the University of Bologna, May 2014.

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On absolute metaphors: The Dignity of Man

  1. 1. On Absolute Metaphors: The Dignity of Man Dr.Thomas Wachtendorf wachtendorf@akademiephilosophie.de Research center Erkenntnis, University of Oldenburg, Germany Dignity, Respect, and Self-respect.Ancient, Modern, and Contemporary Positions University of Bologna, Italy
  2. 2. Thomas Wachtendorf 1. Dignity of Man: meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of Dignity of Man 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute Metaphors 5. Dignity of Man as Absolute Metaphor 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man
  3. 3. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Dignity of Man: Meaningful concept or empty formula? Opponents say: • Dignity of man has no meaning, because there is no object it refers to • It is a solely rhetorical concept • It is a religious concept ! Proponents reply: • Dignity of man has a explicable meaning • It is a regulative concept • It is transcendental necessary and therefore irreducible 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  4. 4. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man The meaning of dignity of man ! • Ancient times (before Christ): honour, the task to live your life in accordance with the common habits • Modern age (beginning with Christ): essential feature • Nowadays: mixture of both, whereas the core of this notion is its essentiality, a thought mostly influenced by Kant and his concept auf autonomy. Moreover: not-humiliation. 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  5. 5. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Meaning as use ! Not every concept needs a concrete reference nor must it refer to an object.According to Ludwig Wittgenstein, meaning arises from how a word is used within the language: ! „For a large class of cases — though not for all — in which we employ the word ‚meaning‘ it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.“ (PI, §43) 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  6. 6. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man This claim leads to some important consequences: ! „Explanations come to an end somewhere.“ (PI, §1) ! Where is this end? „Giving grounds, however, justifying the evidence, comes to an end; but the end is not certain propositions’ striking us immediately as true, i.e., it is not a kind of seeing on our part, it is our acting which lies at the bottom of a language game.“ (OC, §204) 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  7. 7. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man What is a language game? „I shall also call the whole, consisting of language and the actions into which it is woven, the ‚language-game’.“ (PI, §7) 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  8. 8. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man This leads to the concept of a rule: ! „And is there not also the case where we play and —make up the rules as we go along? And there is even one where we alter them—as we go along.“ (PI, §83) ! Rules in this sense are not true or false. But, nevertheless they define the way we interact with the world and, moreover, how we see the world:
 Rules define our world picture (Weltbild). 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  9. 9. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man World Picture (Weltbild) „But I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness; nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false.“ (OC § 94) „The propositions describing this world-picture might be part of a kind of mythology.And their role is like that of rules of a game; and the game can be learned purely practically, without learning any explicit rules.“ (OC § 95) 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  10. 10. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man What about mythology? ! Wittgenstein claims that mythology, in spite of itself not being true or false is „the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false.“ Nevertheless, this mythology has a certain structure which can – in part – be described as metaphors. 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  11. 11. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Hans Blumenberg claims that this mythology (the specific world picture) is structured by metaphors which influence the way one thinks: ! „Metaphorology seeks to come on the substructure of thinking, the underground, the systematic crystallization’s nutrient solution, but metaphorology will also make comprehensible, by which ‚courage’ the mind is ahead of itself when using certain pictures and how by having courage to make certain assumptions its own history develops.“ (Hans Blumenberg, Paradigms for a metaphorology) 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  12. 12. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Preliminary remark: George Lakoff and Mark Johnson pointed out (in: Metaphors we live by) that beyond their rhetorical and poetical functions metaphors have the ability to illustrate fundamental cognitive structures.They influence the way we act and think. 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  13. 13. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man A specific kind of metaphor is called Absolute Metaphor, a term invented by Hans Blumenberg in 1960 in Paradigms of a metaphorology. Absolute metaphors while lying on the bottom of our world picture thereby generate reality, because they make us see the world in a certain way. ! The other way around, metaphors inform us about a human’s lifeworld (his reality). 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  14. 14. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Why can’t Absolute Metaphors be identified and refuted as unprecise by science? ! Because an important part of one’s lifeworld are existential questions! 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  15. 15. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Existential questions can not be answered by science, because they reach beyond science’s theoretically structured cognitive capacity (science and theories are finite as well as humans are. Existential questions aim at the infinite). Absolute metaphors say something about what science can not explain. 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  16. 16. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Absolute Metaphors answer • Questions of totality, e.g. :What is time? What is the meaning of life? • Questions of orientation, e.g.: How to deal with murderers? How to find out what is true? ! Absolute Metaphors "structure a world, they represent the whole of reality, which neither can be experienced nor overlooked.Their content determines behaviour like a landmark one is guided by." (Blumenberg) 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  17. 17. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Thus,Absolute Metaphors deliver answers where science fails to do so.This is why they are a sufficient pattern of explanation in an important sense. 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  18. 18. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man Explanations come to an end somewhere, because all explanations must rest on some ground, which itself cannot be explained. Otherwise there would be another explanation for this ground and so on.A circulus vitiosus would be the consequence. Absolute Metaphors take over the role of a ultimate grounding science can not deliver.They in this sense represent a world picture. 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  19. 19. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man To be justified to call a concept an absolute metaphor three conditions must be fulfilled: ! 1. The concept needs a content (intension) 2. This content must aim at totality 3. The concept must be suitable to give orientation 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  20. 20. Thomas Wachtendorf On Absolute Metaphors:The Dignity of Man The concept of the dignity of man fulfills all of the three conditions: 1. The concept has a content 2. The concept tries to say something about what humans are 3. The concept thereby helps to find a way how to deal with people ! Therefore, dignity of man can be considered as an Absolute Metaphor.Absolute Metaphors are transcendentally necessary for organizing social coexistence.They are necessary for pragmatic reasons. 1. Meaningful concept or empty formula? 2. The meaning of dignity 3. Meaning as use 4. Absolute metaphors 5. Dignity as Absolute Metaphor
  21. 21. On Absolute Metaphors: The Dignity of Man Dr.Thomas Wachtendorf wachtendorf@akademiephilosophie.de Research center Erkenntnis, University of Oldenburg, Germany Dignity, Respect, and Self-respect.Ancient, Modern, and Contemporary Positions University of Bologna, Italy

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