Was tun mit Metaphern? Überlegungen zur Bedeutung von Metaphern und Metapherntheorie für die Wissenschaftsgeschichte am Beispiel medizinischer Schockmetaphorik

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Journal Article

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Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte








History of medicine; Inter-discourse; Metaphor theory; Metaphorology; Psychic trauma; Railway spine; Shock metaphor


© 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim. How to Do Things with Metaphors: Reflections on the Role of Metaphors and Metaphor Theory for the History of Science Using the Example of Shock Metaphors in Medicine. In recent decades, metaphors have attracted a great deal of interest within the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. The article takes the growing interest in epistemic metaphors as the starting point of a discussion of two conflicting motives prevalent in theories of metaphor and metaphoricity: On the one hand, metaphors are associated with the indeterminacy of scientific discovery and the emergence of new epistemic objects; and on the other hand, metaphors are said to provide a filter of possible meanings and vantage-points. It is argued that an approach, which aims to do justice to both tendencies, cannot exclusively rely on linguistic models but must expand its scope of inquiry to include the practical trajectories of a metaphor's usage as well as the problematizations to which they respond, since both engender metaphorical meaning, albeit at the cost of semantic precision. The exemplary case discussed in the article, the psychologization of nervous shock in nineteenth century medical discourse, demonstrates that the incremental process of shock's shifting semantics would be inadequately characterized as a metaphorical transfer. Instead, it is shown how the actualization of earlier meanings, in particular of shock as a state of altered consciousness, in novel professional and cultural contexts acted as a catalyst for the psychologization of shock and related nascent concepts such as psychic trauma. As a possible, and methodologically fruitful way of overcoming the one-sidedness of linguistic notions of metaphor, a combination of Jürgen Link's concept of inter-discourse with a philosophical metaphorology (Blumenberg) is discussed in the final section of the paper.

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