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41. Metaphor in Science


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00044.x


It is widely acknowledged that metaphors are used in science. Great scientists, such as Darwin and Einstein, believed that the use of metaphors is vital to the development of scientific ideas. The history of science is full of examples of scientific metaphors as tools at the forefront of discoveries of new facts and new concepts. The question which concerns the philosopher of science is how to understand the role of metaphor in science - namely, what theoretical or methodological function is to be ascribed to metaphors in scientific language. A short answer to this question, I believe, can be found, emblematically, in the title to a well-known article by Richard Boyd (1979): “Metaphor and theory change: what is ‘metaphor’ a metaphor for?” This title points up the fact that metaphor has been used by the philosopher of science as an instructive paradigm for the description of certain constructs in science. In particular, metaphor has entered the vocabulary of the philosophy of science to illustrate how models work in relation to scientific theories (see models and analogies ), and how theoretical terminology is introduced into scientific language and its meaning developed (see theoretical terms ). In other words, metaphor (its linguistic mechanism) is mainly used in the philosophy of science as a “metaphor for” models and theoretical terms. It is interesting to note that each tradition ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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