Abstract: A theoretical approach to the study of a traditional metaphor

As I had previously announced in the WIP talk, my paper will discuss some theoretical and methodological aspects concerning my research, which consists of a historical re-construction of the craftsmanship metaphor’s successive transformations in the context of early Greek cosmologies. The book I am currently completing at the CHS is structured in five chapters, each corresponding to what I consider to be five significant points of inflection within the historical continuity of the craftsmanship metaphor in early Greek cosmology: (1) The shield of Achilles (Il. 18), (2) Hesiod’s Theogony, (3) Parmenides, (4) Empedocles, (5) Plato’s Timaeus. In each of these texts, I examine the fundamental connection between, on the one hand, their content – the physical world conceived as the object of a demiurgical technique – and, on the other hand, the reflection they develop concerning the linguistic and poetical means necessary to present that content. Although explicit in these texts, this reflection is not developed in a theoretical form, but through metaphors. Each of these texts articulates the craftsmanship metaphor in a specific way, reflecting different compositional, mythical and doctrinal agendas. At the same time, they all coincide in giving the craftsmanship metaphor a structural role in the representations of both the cosmos and the discourse itself. My research explores simultaneously the historical dimension and the theoretical importance of this metaphor in the context of cosmological discourses, and so necessarily addresses crucial linguistic and philosophical positions. Thus, my talk will have less the character of a description of results than that of a protocol of an exploration.

I will be discussing some prominent approaches to the study of the craftsmanship metaphor in recent decades —namely deconstructionist (P. Pucci 1977), sociological (J. Svenbro 1976), cognitive (G. Lloyd 1966), and the predominantly historical perspective of comparative linguistics (M. Durante 1976, G. Nagy 2012). I will advocate for a method taking in account both the cognitive and the historical dimensions this metaphor articulates. My approach will combine two contemporary philosophical theories of metaphor: Paul Ricœur’s (1975) theory, which considers the metaphor as a fundamental linguistic device aiming at the “re-description” of a reality with a cognitive aim; and Hans Blumenberg’s theory (1960), which develops the notion of “absolute metaphors” to isolate those historically determined metaphors that account for a reality that is inaccessible through direct experience. In this way, and by taking brief examples from each of the authors I’m dealing with, I intend to show how this metaphor, first imbedded in the epic tradition, was adopted by philosophers to reflect on problems of knowledge.