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homospatiality, discernible elements in the unified entity presented by the figure must
be physically noncompossible. Moreover, if this is correct, then the fairly obvious
analogy between the falsity or apparent falsity of verbal metaphors and the physical
noncompossibility of the elements of the kind of visual images we are talking about
supply us with a further reason to call these images visual metaphors.
Because the homospatially linked elements in such figures are physically non-
compossible, the viewer of such symbols seeks some way to make the image intel-
ligible apart from resorting to the norms of physical possibility. The viewer
explores the possibility that the physically noncompossible elements in the array
allude to the categories to which they belong and that those disparate categories
(or, more precisely, members thereof) have been elided in a way that defies physi-
cal possibility not to represent a state of affairs but to interanimate the categories
in question. Specifically, the viewer explores the possibility that those categories
have been evoked in order to focus on aspects of one of the categories in terms of
aspects of the other category.
The physical noncompossibility of the homospatially fused but disparate ele-
ments in the visual array invites the viewer to comprehend the image not as a rep-
resentation of a physically possible state of affairs but as an opportunity to regard
one of the categories as providing a source for apprehending something about the
other category (the target domain), or as an opportunity for regarding each of the
categories as mutually informative (as alternatively the source and the target
domain for each other).
Moreover, since the structure of the six visual images previously discussed can
so readily be assimilated in terms of the language of source domain and target
domain, and insofar as the function of these domains in the pertinent images can
be persuasively modeled on a mapping relation from source domain to target
domain, we have further reason to call these visual images metaphors.
By now, I hope that I have provided some grounds to support the contention
that there are some visual metaphors. In what follows, I would like to suggest in
more depth the ways in which we go about identifying these visual metaphors.
However, before attempting to say more about how we identify visual metaphors,
356 ALTERNATIVE TOPICS

two hypotheses “ that are at variance with my own “ need to be confronted. I
claim that there are some visual metaphors. Consequently, I must consider the view
that there can be no such thing as a visual metaphor. Moreover, since I believe that
some visual images are visual metaphors and that some are not, I must also under-
mine the suggestion that all visual images are metaphors.Thus, it is to these com-
peting hypotheses which I now turn.


II. COMPETING HYPOTHESES

I I A . T H E R E A R E N O V I S UA L M E TA P H O R S

One consideration that has been advanced against the possibility of visual
metaphor has been raised with respect to the film image,13 though it is easy to
imagine it being raised specifically with any sort of visual image. Of the film
image, it may be said that it is always concrete; it is always a representation of a
particular. Similarly, it might be added, adapting freely from Berkeley, that any
picture is also a picture of a particular. But metaphors require abstraction.
Metaphors interanimate the relation between classes. Metaphors putatively
require that we pull free of the apprehension of concrete particulars in order to
imaginatively play with categories. In the metaphor “life is a journey,” we are
invited to map generic features of journeys onto lives in general. Therefore,
insofar as visual images are concrete and particular, they cannot serve as vehicles
for metaphors which are abstract.
Of course, the supposition that metaphor is abstract, in the sense in which it is
understood in this argument, is false. Many verbal metaphors refer to particulars.
In describing an overly ambitious colleague to a newcomer, I might say “That™s
Napoleon over there.”This is a noncontroversial example of a metaphor, but both
its source domain and its target domain are particulars. Moreover, such well
known metaphors as “Juliet is the sun” and “The moon is a ghostly galleon” also
contain reference to particulars.
Furthermore, the second presupposition of this argument is contestable.
Though every visual image may be a particular image in some sense (barring the
complexities of mechanical and electronic reproducibility), it is not true that every
visual image refers to particulars. Some visual images are depictions, that is, some
visual images are not intended to refer to particular persons, places, or things, but
to refer to classes or sets of persons, places or things.The illustrations in dictionar-
ies are examples of this use of visual images, while the workers pictured in certain
Socialist Realist paintings are intended and are understood to refer to the prole-
tariat as a class. Thus, since both of the premises of the preceding argument are
false, the argument as stated is not sound.
But perhaps the argument from abstraction should be understood to have a
more psychological cast than I have so far conceded. Maybe the idea is that
metaphor requires abstract thinking in terms of the interanimation of categories,
but the particularity of visual images blocks abstract thinking by keeping the
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viewer rooted in the perception of the particular. However, I see no reason to
accept this psychological hypothesis.
I have, for example, conjectured a rival hypothesis. I have argued that there is a
mechanism in certain visual images that prompts the viewer to abandon the
attempt to regard the image as the representation of a particular and to attempt to
interpret it in terms of the interaction of categories. Specifically, the physical non-
compossibility of disparate elements that have been fused homospatially encour-
ages the spectator to find a way to assimilate the image as something other than
the representation of a particular. One alternative available to the viewer is to
explore the possibility that the visual image provides an opportunity to plumb the
metaphorical insights suggested by the linkage of disparate elements and the cate-
gories they call to mind.
The scenario that I have just offered is a plausible one. It provides an
account of how the structure of visual metaphor can move a viewer from the
perception of the visual image as the representation of a particular to abstract
thought about the interaction of categories. Thus, unless some flaw can be
found in my hypothesis, the burden of proof lies with the skeptic to show that
visual imagery perforce thwarts the sort of abstract thinking that they maintain
is characteristic of metaphor.
Whereas the preceding line of argument denies that visual images can be
metaphors, another line of argument might maintain that, although my examples
are indeed metaphors, they are not visual metaphors. Rather, they are really verbal
metaphors in pictorial garb.That is, the presumption here is that if there are such
things as visual metaphors, then they must be uniquely visual. “The clergy today
are pigs” is a thought that one can readily imagine originating in language “ only
to be illustrated afterwards “ and, in any case, it does not rely on any visual corre-
spondences between its source domain and its target domain in order to make its
point. Therefore, it is not a uniquely visual metaphor. Moreover, it might be
claimed that any example that we might advance will confront the same prob-
lems. Indeed, the skeptic with respect to visual metaphors may go so far as to
assert that all so-called visual metaphors are nothing but the illustration of com-
monplace metaphors that already exist antecedently in language. And from this
standpoint, the skeptic maintains that there are no visual metaphors.
I am suspicious of the idea of uniquely visual metaphors. But even if we grant,
for the moment, the notion of uniquely visual metaphors, the previous argument
is too strong. For example, if the idea of uniquely visual metaphors depends on the
requirement that such metaphors have all and only visual content, then it would
seem that some of my previous metaphors, though not all, are uniquely visual. Le
Viol maps the look of the face onto visual features of the body.
Furthermore, whether a metaphor originates verbally or visually seems too
contingent a standard on which to hang a categorical distinction between visual
and verbal metaphors. It is just as likely that Phillipon™s caricature 1834 Les Poires
“ which engenders the thought that Louis Phillippe is a pear “ originated in a
context in which visual correspondences rather than verbal associations motivated
358 ALTERNATIVE TOPICS

it.And, of course, it does mobilize recognition of visual correspondences between
its source domain and its target.
Of course, the charge that there are no uniquely visual metaphors may rest on
another idea, namely, that there are no visual metaphors because they can all be
stated in language. But even if this is the relevant standard of uniquely visual
metaphors, it is not clear that there are absolutely no visual metaphors. Recon-
sider the case of Oldenburg™s Typewriter-pie.14 As a linguistic metaphor, I submit, it
is very obscure, if not completely inert. The visualization, however, is absolutely
clear. If anything, it takes the visualization to make sense of the verbal metaphor.
And, furthermore, it is not evident that one can really paraphrase all the relevant
visual correspondences that the visual metaphor raises in language.This is at least
a case where it is very hard to reduce the visual metaphor to a linguistic statement.
Indeed, it may be practically impossible. Moreover, this example not only pertains
strictly to visual content, but it is also easy to imagine this visual metaphor suc-
ceeding independently of language and, in fact, preceding its title. Surely, Type-
writer-pie counts as a uniquely visual metaphor in terms of all the criteria canvassed
so far.Therefore, there are at least some visual metaphors.
The case of Typewriter-pie might force the skeptic to concede that there is at
least one visual metaphor, but the requirement that such metaphors be uniquely
visual may seem to disqualify my other examples as candidates for the status of
visual metaphor. But this relies upon the plausibility of the notion of uniquely
visual metaphors. I cannot say that I find this to be a compelling category. For, on
the most straightforward understanding of its application, it certainly would
undermine our ordinary classifications of metaphors.
The presumption that if a metaphor has visual content (refers to visual corre-
spondences), it is a visual, rather than a verbal, metaphor, implies that a spoken
metaphor “ such as the utterance “The sun is a red rubber ball” “ is really a visual
metaphor, rather than a linguistic one. But this is a peculiar, counterintuitive
result. Moreover, the distinction between where metaphors appear first “ in lan-
guage or in pictures “ seems a completely arbitrary way of classifying metaphors,
while the notion that uniquely visual metaphors cannot be fully paraphrased in
language fails to mark a reliable distinction between visual and verbal metaphors
for a reason not stated so far, namely, many linguistic metaphors are said to be such
that they cannot be fully paraphrased.
Thus, I reject the idea that whether there are visual metaphors hinges upon
whether there are uniquely visual metaphors. Something is a visual metaphor if
it encourages the mapping of source domains onto target domains by visual
means “ specifically through the homospatiality of physically noncompossible
elements. In this sense, all my previous examples are visual metaphors; so, there
are some visual metaphors.
One may want to deny that there are visual metaphors because one holds that
metaphors are essentially linguistic.15 But such a view simply begs the question
against the notion of visual metaphors unless some reason can be supplied to sup-
port it. One such reason might be that the best the sort of visual images that I have
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cited can do is to provoke comparisons between the disparate objects co-presented
in the homospatial figure. However, as proponents of the “Verbal-opposition theory
of metaphor” have pointed out, metaphor involves more than object comparison.
In his discussion of T. S. Eliot™s “smoke is briars” metaphor from “East Coker,”
Monroe Beardsley argues that the metaphor cannot be grasped simply by com-
paring smoke and briars. One must also recognize that the word “briars” carries
certain biblical connotations, recalling to mind Christ™s crown of thorns.Thus, an
adequate mapping of the source domain “ “briars” “ onto the target domain “
“smoke” “ requires access to the history of the word “briars.”16
Putatively, this is not an adventitious feature of metaphors. No metaphors can
be adequately grasped by object comparisons; all require some sense of the histor-
ical connotations of the words that are in metaphorical play. So, it might be
argued, since so-called visual metaphors can at best motivate object comparisons
and since they do not mobilize knowledge of verbal connotations, they are not
genuine metaphors. Genuine metaphors are essentially linguistic (insofar as they
rely upon the historical connotations of words).
I am not aware of anyone who has made this argument so explicitly. However,
were one to attempt to do so, certain objections would appear inevitable. First, it
is not the case that visual images only call attention to the objects they portray.
Visual images, apart from visual metaphors, can make allusions to other visual
images, to the history of certain visual motifs, to ideas related to the history of cer-
tain visual motifs, and to concepts.Thus, there is no reason to suppose that visual
metaphors would be restricted to guiding the viewer™s attention solely at the level
of object comparisons. In the “man-eating machine” metaphor from Metropolis,
we are prompted to think of human sacrifice that also, I submit, makes us think of
injustice. The “man-eating machine” metaphor carries the connotation that the
machine in question is unjust. Consequently, it is a mistake to suppose that our
visual metaphors can only induce object-comparisons and cannot mobilize
knowledge of connotations.17
Perhaps at this point, it will be claimed that all the connotations that such
metaphors mobilize are essentially verbal. But if this means that they all concern
the history of words, this is false. Some may involve the history of images and
nonverbal features of the typical ways in which things are portrayed (such as the
way in which Typewriter-pie exploits one of the customary approaches for illustrat-
ing slices of pies).
And, in any case, it seems to me to be wrong to believe that even with verbal
metaphors the only knowledge we bring to bear is knowledge of words and their
history.The knowledge that we bring to bear comes from many sources, including
what we know about the world and what we understand about our concepts apart
from what is written in our dictionaries. In expanding the insights offered to us by
verbal metaphors we depend upon more than linguistic knowledge. And this is
also the case with visual metaphors.
Metaphors do not essentially involve the interaction of words, though words
are one of the means of securing metaphorical interaction. Rather, metaphors
360 ALTERNATIVE TOPICS

mobilize the interaction of categories and concepts that include all sorts of infor-
mation “ including beliefs about the world and systems of commonplaces “ some
of which may be verbal, some of which may be visual, and some of which may
not be easily classifiable as either. Any of this information may be brought into
play by a metaphor. Moreover, conceptual systems of commonplaces can be acti-
vated by visual juxtapositions as well as verbal juxtapositions. Insofar as metaphors
are conceptual and categorical, rather than exclusively verbal, there is no reason to
suppose that there are necessarily no visual metaphors.

I I B . A L L V I S UA L I M AG E S A R E M E TA P H O R S

I have maintained that there are some visual metaphors. But this position is triv-
ially and uninformatively true if all visual images are metaphors. And though no
one has defended this position openly, it would seem to follow from certain recent
views of the nature of art. That is, a number of recent philosophers of art have
been arguing lately that all artworks are metaphors.18 Granted, this does not com-
mit them to the view that all visual images are metaphors. It only commits them
to the view that all visual images that are artworks are metaphors.And, if like me,
one counts a metaphor as visual if it is secured by visual means, then such a posi-
tion implies that any visual image that is also an artwork is a visual metaphor.
Moreover, if you accept that any visual image is an artwork, then, of course, you
will be driven to the conclusion that all visual images are metaphors.
Admittedly, unless one views all visual images as art (which is not an altogether
inadmissable position for the contemporary art theorists), this will fall short of a
commitment to the idea that all visual images are visual metaphors. But since even
this view populates the world with far more visual metaphors than I am prone to
countenance, I regard it as a rival position to my own.
Perhaps the most obvious problem with the conclusion that all visual images that
are artworks “ which some may regard as a class to which all visual images belong “
are metaphors is that it depends on the premise that all artworks are metaphors. But
this strains credulity. It seems to me obvious that there are naturalist paintings such as
Thomas Eakins™ 1873 The Biglen Brothers Turning the Stake that defy metaphorical
readings of the paintings as a whole as well as metaphorical readings of any of their
constituent elements. Such paintings are art; but there is a daunting burden of proof
to be met by anyone who would claim them to be metaphors.19
It may be that the temptation to regard artworks as metaphors rests upon the
hunch that all artworks invite some sort of exploration from audiences “ such as
interpretive activity “ just as metaphors invite audiences to test the extent to
which the source domain can be mapped onto the target domain. But, of course,
it is not clear that all artworks invite interpretations in any full-blooded sense;
there is, for example, nothing enigmatic or nonobvious “ nothing that would call
for an interpretation “ about the Eakins™ painting cited above.
Moreover, even if there is some very weak sense in which any artwork invites
exploration, that is not enough to establish the putative correlation between art-
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