Metaphors of the Mind: Inferences, Imagination, and Sublimation

Workshop, Roma





Inter- and transdisciplinary workshop, concert

Academic Approach: “Metaphors of the Mind: Inferences and Imagination”
Right now, your mind is processing this sentence. Yet did your mind literally process that sentence, like a computer does? It seems not. More plausibly, ‘processing’ is a kind of metaphor here, taken from the domain of computers and applied to the human mind. Our ordinary talk is shot through with such metaphors. Arguably, the same goes for scientific discourse. Is this use of metaphor innocent, even instructive? Or does it distort the reality of the thing we are talking about, the human mind, for instance, or any other topic, for that matter? The present workshop addresses these general questions about the nature and functioning of metaphors by engaging with current debates in philosophy and cognitive linguistics. To begin with, it faces the paradox that many metaphors are not perceived as such (Steen 2008) – ‘processing’ may be a case in point. Only if they are used deliberately, as in the beginning of this text, do they seem to force the reader to entertain the kind of comparison we deem distinctive of metaphor. What are the theoretical and practical implications of using metaphor deliberately as compared to using them in an unreflective way? Do we need to assume two different modes of interpretation for deliberate and conventional metaphors (Carston 2010)? What role does the imagination play here? Finally, does our ordinary talk about the mind, metaphorical as it is, turn out to be compatible with the rigorous standards of inquiry set by science and philosophy (Toon 2016)?

Carston, Robyn (2010). ‘Metaphor: Ad Hoc Concepts, Literal Meaning and Mental Images’. In: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society,110(3), pp. 295–321.
Steen, Gerard (2008): ‘The Paradox of Metaphor: Why We Need a Three-Dimensional Model of Metaphor’. In: Metaphor and Symbol,23(4), pp. 213–241.
Toon, Adam (2016). ‘Fictionalism and the Folk’. In: The Monist,99, pp. 280–295.

Artistic Approach: “Sublimation as Metaphor”
The psychoanalytical idea of sublimation scatters hidden Easter eggs not just through subjects, but also texts. If, as Freud says, instinct and civilisation are finally incompatible, this hiding or burying action is something we must all perform in order to function. But what happens when the repressed returns? What form does it take? And can this moment be mapped to art, to politics?

Speakers and discussants
Marianna Bolognesi (Metaphor Geeks Lab Siena, Metaphor Lab Amsterdam)
Robyn Carston (University College London)
Andreas Finsen (Metaphor Lab Amsterdam)
Giulia Frezza (University La Sapienza Rome)
Andreas Heise (Istituto Svizzero Rome, Institut Jean Nicod Paris)
Momus (Artist)
Gerard Steen (Metaphor Lab Amsterdam)
Adam Toon (University of Exeter)

This event is a prequel to Inscape Rooms, the trans-disciplinary final event on 23rd of June of this year’s artistic and research fellows of the Istituto Svizzero di Roma.

Marianna Bolognesi
Marianna Bolognesi has just finalised a EU Marie Curie project on the cognitive grounding of visual metaphor at the Metaphor Lab Amsterdam. There she leads the theme on metaphor and multimodality. Her research methods range from psychological experimentation to corpus-driven modelling. She is currently co-editing two books, one on building repositories of figurative language and thought, and another on the structure and processing of abstract concepts. She is also in charge of a special issue on conceptual abstraction of the journal Topics in Cognitive Science.

Robyn Carston
Robyn Carston is Professor of Linguistics and Graduate Tutor at University College London, and Research Coordinator at the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature at the University of Oslo. Her main research interests are in pragmatics, semantics, relevance theory, non-literal meaning, and metarepresentation. Her approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on cognitive-scientific approaches to language and communication and on the philosophy of language. She has published a monograph Thoughts and Utterances: The Pragmatics of Explicit Communication (Blackwell, 2002) and is preparing two collections of her papers to be published under the titles Pragmatics and Semantic Content and Pragmatics and Communicated Content, Oxford University Press.

Andreas Bilstrup Finsen
Andreas Bilstrup Finsen holds an M.A. in Rhetoric from the University of Copenhagen and is presently a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam. His dissertation analyses the argumentative properties of the computer metaphor of the brain/mind, as well as the resistance it elicits.

Giulia Frezza
Giulia Frezza is a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in History of Medicine at the University La Sapienza in Rome. She holds a PhD in Philosophy and Epistemology and History of Science, jointly awarded by the University Roma Tre and the University Denis-Diderot Paris VII. Her field of research is the history and philosophy of biomedical sciences. She organises popular science events for the European Researchers’ Night and for the Bologna Medicine Festival.

Andreas Heise
Andreas Heise is a PhD student in philosophy of language at the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris and a research fellow at the Istituto Svizzero in Rome. The topic of his thesis is the structure and interpretation of metaphor. He studied philosophy and linguistics at the Universities of Bern, Vienna, Zurich, Lucerne, and Warwick.

Momus was born in Scotland, lives in Japan, and has had parallel careers in songwriting, journalism, speculative fiction and performance art. The Guardian called him “the David Bowie of the art-pop underground” and the New Yorker said: “He lists Rabelais and Martial among his songwriting influences (with a side of Matthew Barney and Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange), and his music—from Brecht to Beck on Moog and simulated harpsichord—is suitably challenging. His songs, by the way, are quite dirty, as might be expected of someone who goes in for The Decameron, too.”

Gerard Steen
Gerard Steen is professor of Language and Communication at the University of Amsterdam and director of the Metaphor Lab Amsterdam. He has published widely in metaphor and discourse, serves on a dozen boards of international journals and book series, and is series editor for John Benjamins for the book series Metaphor in Language, Cognition and Communication. His most recent publications are The Routledge Handbook of Pragmatics (edited for Routledge, 2017, with Anne Baron and Yueguo Gu) and Genre in Language, Discourse and Cognition (edited for Mouton de Gruyter, 2016, with Ninke Stukker and Wilbert Spooren).

Adam Toon
Adam Toon is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Exeter and a member of Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences. Much of his research has focused on developing a new approach to scientific modelling that draws on philosophy of art and fiction. His current project focuses on the role of tools in thinking and explores the idea that ordinary talk about the mind can be understood in terms of metaphor and pretence. He is the author of Models as Make-Believe: Imagination, Fiction and Scientific Representation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).


Academic Approach: “Metaphors of the Mind: Inferences and Imagination”
Saluti istituzionali, Joëlle Comé (direttrice Istituto Svizzero di Roma)
Introduzione, Andreas Heise (Istituto Svizzero di Roma, Institut Jean Nicod)

Metaphor and Cognition: Intentions, Attention, Awareness and Consciousness
Gerard Steen (Metaphor Lab Amsterdam)

Mind the Metaphor: Mirror Neurons and the Risk of Science Communication
Giulia Frezza (Sapienza UniversitĂ  di Roma)

H11:15 Pause

Interpreting Metaphor: Inferences and Imagery
Robyn Carston (University College London)

Metaphysics versus Epistemology of Metaphor
Andreas Heise (Istituto Svizzero di Roma, Institut Jean Nicod Paris)

H13:15 Lunch Break

Mind as Metaphor
Adam Toon (UniversitĂ  di Exeter)

Metaphor and Argumentation: A Case Study of the Computer Metaphor of the Mind
Andreas Bilstrup Finsen (Metaphor Lab Amsterdam)

H16:00 Pause

Round Table
Moderation: Marianna Bolognesi (Metaphor Geeks Lab Siena, Metaphor Lab Amsterdam)

H17:00 Pause

Artistic Approach: “Sublimation as Metaphor”
Momus (Artist)

Momus in concert