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Episteme

Abstract

This paper explains how we might comprehend Aristotle’s paradoxical theory of metaphor via Thomas Reid’s theory of natural signs. A realist, Aristotle believes that metaphor, as a stretching of the structure of language, relies on a fundamental relationship between things in the world. Metaphors are better or worse depending on the selection of fitting terms, and good metaphors are said to be the sign of genius. Metaphor mastery cannot be taught, but rather is an “intuitive perception”. Since what cannot be learned cannot be predicated on concepts, Reid’s account of the second type of natural signs helps clarify how Aristotle’s “similarity in dissimilars” is discoverable. Furthermore, that such natural signs do not depend on experience but rather are known to all given the “constitution of human nature,” explains away the problem of how a non-genius would be able to comprehend a metaphor without being able to create one.

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