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Rorty on the literalization of metaphor

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

In his recent writings, Richard Rorty has sketched a theory of cultural change. He finds that metaphor is at the leading edge of culture, and that the gains of metaphor are consolidated in literalization. Yet his understanding of meaning and metaphor requires him to draw a sharp "line" between metaphorical and literal uses - a line that has some unfortunate implications for the study of religion. As it turns out, however, Rorty's line is difficult to discern in actual cases of literalization. By examining his account of one of his own acts of literalization, I argue that the problem lies not merely in the application of Rorty's theory but in the theory itself.

Affiliations: 1: University of Pittsburgh


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