Lakoff, Metaphor, and the world

Alan Ampolsk on Lakoff, via Andrew Sullivan’s blog.
Lakoff’s focus on frames is useful, but too shallow to be sufficiently powerful. It misses the depth of emotion and myth, and the reality-transforming power of reason.

I’m interested in metaphor and politics, so I’m supposed to admire Lakoff. But I don’t. Sure, he did important work on the central role of metaphor in our lives. Worth a look. But even there, you run up against the problem — which is that at the end of the day, he’s a linguist. That means he’s all caught up in the superficial mechanics of language, and has no handle at all on deeper, darker, messier stuff — such as, for example, values, beliefs, core myths — the things that drive actions and power movements.

To Lakoff it’s all a matter of “framing” — frame better, and the human sheep will follow. Because, you know, enlightenment has failed, and the best manipulator wins. Being a progressive, Lakoff is angry at the way Republicans frame. But, in despair over the need to frame — and operating far from the emotional core — the best he can come up with are tinny alternative phrases. Call trial lawyers “public protection attorneys.” Campaign for “poison-free communities.” And you’ve solved it.

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