Models, Metaphors and Truth

  • Mary B. Hesse


In the English-speaking tradition of philosophy of language it has generally been taken for granted that the ideal rational language is literal and univocal and has a unique relation to truth. Its relation to the real world is atomistic, that is to say, small portions of language, whether words, phrases, or sentences, attach themselves to the world by some kind of correspondence or truth conditions, in a way that is essentially independent of linguistic context. The presence of metaphors and other tropes in language is a deviation from rational sense. As Hobbes put it, “such speeches are not to be admitted”, and metaphors are abuses of speech by use of words “in other sense than that they are ordained for; and thereby deceive others”. Literal language in its relation to truth is held to be the proper vehicle for science; it permits objective, testable, piecemeal accumulation of knowledge and expression of belief. Metaphoric language on the other hand is ambiguous, holistic in meaning and context-dependent, and in this view fit only to express subjective attitudes and emotions.


Natural Language Natural Kind Logical Priority Conceptual Revolution Mere Sign 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • Mary B. Hesse

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