Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review of The Extraordinary in the Ordinary by Christopher Dowling

I would like to acknowledge Christopher Dowling's excellent review of my book The Extraordinary in the Ordinary and make some comments on the issues he raises.  I particularly appreciate the way that Dowling focuses quickly on Chapter 4 in which I begin to develop my own view of aesthetic experience as experience with what I call "aura."  Dowling provides an extremely good explication of my concept of aura, making all of the appropriate connections.  It would be silly for me to summarize what he has done here:  the reader can see it by going to the review, or better, reading my book.  Dowling goes on to stress that my approach to aesthetics is eclectic, and that there are advantages and disadvantages to this.  My eclecticism involves drawing from several different traditions that many philosophers see as involved, rather, in a death struggle.  Thus I may speak of Dewey on one page, Heidegger on another, and Danto on a third, without privileging any of these competing traditions.  I mainly try to interpret the writings of great thinkers of the past and present them in a way that brings out their significance for my own projects.  This idea, as Dowling is aware, is inspired partly by Gadamer's theory of interpretation.  Partly this is the result of the particular kind of intellectual training I received, which was quite interdisciplinary as well as crossing many theoretical boundaries.  My philosophical heroes, people like Sandra Luft, Marx Wartfosky, Joseph Margolis and Richard Shusterman, have also been good at crossing such boundaries.  There should be more of this, in my view.  Dowling, I believe, is not unsympathetic himself.  Of course, there is a unifying perspective, which is Dewey's pragmatism (something I also share with Margolis and Shusterman ... and I think Wartofsky, my lead dissertation adviser, was a pragmatist of the same sort without quite realizing it.)  It is interesting to me that Dowling thinks my eclecticism is what leads me to a "fairly broad characterisation of aesthetic experience encompassing both 'low-level' or 'background' aesthetic experiences -- expressible via predicates such as "clean", "well-ordered", "good-looking", "pleasant" -- together with the more extra-ordinary, intense, and complex experiences -- often expressible via the same predicates as the first class but with the addition of terms such as "very", "strikingly", "remarkably" and so on."  His way of expressing my view is correct:  I had just never thought of this as coming out of my eclecticism.  He may be right.  Certainly the idea of continuity goes back to Dewey.  Dowling also recognizes that although my rhetoric is sometimes anti-analytic, this is all from a Deweyan perspective, one which has many real affinities with analytic philosophy....something which often emerges in the later writings of such important analytic philosophers as Danto, Wittgenstein, Goodman, and Korsmeyer.  My eclecticism seeks to enfold analytic aesthetics too, although, as Dowling observes, I seek to overcome the rigidity of certain distinctions that are dear to those who wish all of their philosophy to be "clear and distinct."  Dowling further correctly stresses the way in which I talk about the close dialectical relationship between the aesthetics of art (including popular art) and the aesthetics of everyday life.  He nicely summarizes:  "By emphasising the artistic creative process (often neglected in analytic aesthetics) Leddy identifies what he sees to be a continuity between art and everyday life according to which the transformation of everyday experience is itself part of the nature or art. This dialectical relationship is, he thinks, most prominent in the artist's studio or in the moments at which the artist draws inspiration from the world."  Dowling notes, however, a possible contradiction between my claim on pg. 261 that everyday aesthetics is not the sole domain of experts and pg. 121 where I say that artists are the true experts of everyday aesthetics.  I can only reply that artists, including painters, poets, dancers, and composers, pay attention to the aesthetic aspects of non-art things (as well as to the aesthetic aspects of other works of art) and bring these to our attention:  yet at the same time,  we non-artists (and we artists as audience members for other art) are all at least subconsciously aware of these same phenomena.  That is why what the artists do actually works:  it works because it relates to what we have already done in our lives, for example in paying attention to the exact taste of coffee in the morning cup, to choosing a color scheme, to gauging whether the house is "comfortable" or the trip "interesting."  Aesthetic properties are everywhere.

Dowling's criticisms of my book are subtle but interesting -- perhaps interesting because subtle. (He knows full well that my non-analytic approach may be irritating to some, and perhaps this reflects some irritation on his part.)  He says: "in the end his 'something new and valuable' is probably situated with the debates that might ensue from these proposals (see, e.g., 203), and the possibility for reflexivity that might arise from our encounter with his work."  Perhaps the point is that I haven't really come up with something that is directly new and original, or well-argued or "solid theory" but rather with some nice meat to chew on for future discussion in the field. I hope that is so.  


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do Aesthetic Properties Supervene on Non-Aesthetic Properties?

Ted Gracyk, in his The Philosophy of Art Chapter 7 "Aesthetics," discusses the question of the nature of aesthetics with the assumption that aesthetic judgments are a matter of determining how aesthetic properties supervene on non-aesthetic properties.  He discusses problems with a couple types of supervenience theory, but never questions the very idea of supervenience.  To be fair, in the resources section of the chapter, he does mention two challenges to supervenience theory, one by Marcia Eaton and one by Ben Tilghman.  I could add my own objections which are in my book The Extraordinary in the Ordinary pp. 144-149.  But why is supervenience theory accepted without question in the body of the chapter?  The answer to this question can be seen in how the chapter is set up.  We begin with a shocking quote (not apparently shocking to Gracyk) from Alfred North Whitehead that "Nature is a dull affair."  We learn that what this means is that nature itself is colorless and in general has no secondary qualities.  This dualistic view of nature -- that the material world cannot be beautiful or have any other aesthetic property since such qualities are secondary and based on the mind -- is a basic assumption in the chapter.  Mind is one thing, body is another.  (I do not intend to imply that Gracyk is assuming the metaphysical theory of mind-body dualism in which the mind and body are distinct substances.  The form of dualism found here is what I would call "property dualism" or, better,  "functional dualism."  Although not metaphysically dualist, supervenience theory works in the same way as metaphysical dualism, and so is functionally dualist.) Pragmatism traditionally rejects dualism and, as a pragmatist, I knew we were off to a bad start with this quote.  Moreover, there is something almost immoral in the idea that nature is "a dull affair," as though environmentalism is a waste of time since all of the good qualities of nature are actually just in our separated-from-bodies minds (or are just properties of mental things), and as if humans somehow existed in another realm than nature and thus are not responsible for what happens to nature.  (I realize that this may not seem fair to Gracyk who is probably an environmentally sensitive guy.  The point is though that a functionally dualist view is assumed by supervenience theorists, and the same problems adhere to that as to metaphysical dualism.)  

Gracyk thinks it ironic that when we discover new scientific facts about a painting, facts that are hidden from direct observation, that we change our response to the sensory properties of the painting.  This would only seem ironic to someone who accepted the idea that nature is a "dull thing."  The woman in Raphael's painting "The Madonna of the Pinks" seems much more graceful after we discover that the painting is actually by Raphael and not by a student.  Is it a mistake to see the painting differently?  Neither Gracyk nor I think so, but for different reasons, as we shall see. 

Gracyk lists six types of judgment concerning paintings:  scientific, historical, sensory appearance, interpretive, aesthetic (woman is graceful), and economic.  He then launches into the supervenience view.  People define this differently but I am sticking with Gracyk here.  He understands supervenience as present if "the existence of a property of one type depends on the presence of some property, or arrangement of properties, of another type." (126)  In aesthetics, aesthetic properties are said to depend on the "presence of ordinary perceptible properties, such as colors, sounds, and textures."  Moreover, you cannot change the aesthetic properties without changing the non-aesthetic properties.  Later, he considers adding other sorts of non-aesthetic properties than sensuous properties to the supervenience base.  This of course would be needed to explain why it would be justified to see the woman in the Raphael painting as graceful when the sensory properties have not changed.  Gracyk observes that a painting will have multiple supervenience relationships, for example the sensory properties of the paint will supervene upon chemical properties as well.  So, in general, a family of properties depends on one or many others.  He observes that this metaphysical claim is distinct from the epistemological claim that in order to properly judge something as having a certain aesthetic property one must need to know about the supervenience base.  Epistemological supervenience is not always necessary, he argues.  For example, it is not required to know the chemical supervenience base for certain perceptual properties of paint to know that the paint has those properties.  Further, some interpretive judgments depend on properties of the supervenience base that we know and some do not.  We know that the painting is of Mary and Jesus and this is because of knowledge we have of provenance, i.e. of Christian traditions.  

So far, so good.  But why accept supervenience theory?  The only support Gracyk gives for the idea that aesthetic properties supervene on non-aesthetic properties is the note that if Raphael had given Mary bulky shoulders she would have been less beautiful.  This is an odd example, however, since "bulky" is an aesthetic property and already contains within it an aesthetic judgment.  Gracyk of course would reply that the supervenience base is the "shape of the continuous line that forms Mary's shoulder and neck" and not the bulkiness:  "bulkiness" is shorthand for a change of this shape that causes us to experience the aesthetic quality of bulkiness.  The other support Gracyk provides is that the painting would be less beautiful if it we added fluorescent colors.  This is certainly true.  However, is this truth enough to support the claim that aesthetic properties must supervene on a non-aesthetic base?  Note that, if the fluorescent paints were added, the painting as a whole would be experienced in a different way:  it would perhaps now have the property of "aesthetically damaged."  The fluorescent paints would be seen as damaging.   Could they be separated in our experience from their anti-aesthetic or aesthetically damaging nature?   Note that adding fluorescent paints does not always damage a painting.  So it is these paints in this context that gives us the experience of aesthetic damage.  What does this tell us about the need for talk about a supervenience base for aesthetic properties?  For my argument against the adequacy of such arguments for supervenience theory please see the above-mentioned pages in my book.  However, very briefly, the argument makes two separate points, first, that Hume was right that value statements cannot be based on factual statements (the "is-ought" problem), and second, and related to this, that anytime someone makes an aesthetic claim and backs it up, that claim must be based on another aesthetic claim using words in their aesthetic meaning. 

Gracyk now elaborates that supervenience theory does not identify aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties but simply says that "there cannot be differences in supervening properties unless there are differences in base properties" and that a particular base property is sufficient to generate a particular aesthetic property, although that aesthetic property (for example "beauty") could be based on other base properties (as in music).  So, on his view, no fixed set of base properties is necessary for any particular aesthetic property, and indeed base properties can interact unpredictably.  

Once supervenience theory is accepted based on a commitment to functional dualism we need only choose between two kinds of such theory.  So Gracyk proceeds to discuss these two kinds.  One, proffered by Nick Zangwill, says that the supervenience base for aesthetic properties must be sensory properties.  This is the "weak dependence" theory.  The second called "aesthetic empiricism," is represented by Gregory Currie.  It holds that aesthetic properties are restricted to sensory properties, and that other properties, for instance historical properties, cannot form part of the supervenience base.  This view would imply that a perfect copy of a Rembrandt would be as beautiful as the original.  Gracyk believes the second view is so popular that it is taken as common sense.  But actually it is not popular among philosophers and is easy to shoot down. It seems obvious that non-sensory art-historical properties do contribute to aesthetic properties.  Moreover (Gracyk argues), as Kendall Walton showed, even though piano music in general sounds percussive, you can still have a piano piece that sounds delicate because of its comparative delicacy...but this comparison requires going beyond the sensory qualities of the object itself.  Similarly imitators of certain work may seem trite or tired in relation to the original. 

More interesting is an issue with Zangwill's weak dependence theory:  it would seem to imply that scientific laws and mathematical proofs could not have aesthetic properties.  There is no sensory property of a mathematical proof that supports our saying it is beautiful.  It also implies that conceptual artworks have no aesthetic properties.   (I will question these ideas below.)

The case is difficult for science and math but one wonders how a scientist who gains his data from the world by way of the senses could, in appreciating the beauty of a law, detach himself completely from that fact.  Laws are manifested in perceptual phenomena and talk of such laws would be meaningless without such manifestation.  This goes for mathematics as well.  It is arguable that mathematics is just a special form of natural law, and so, if this is true, the argument above for a sensual base for the beauty of natural laws would also apply to mathematical laws.  Admittedly, the case for basing mathematical beauty ultimately on sensory experience is difficult to make, but it is worth trying.  Mathematicians do not live in a world separate from the world of experience:  they too are live creatures interacting with their environments.  Everything they do is based ultimately on that.

Gracyk gives the work of Yoko Ono as an example of conceptual art.  The question is whether a work such as Ono's "Earth Piece" in which we confront a piece of paper that has the following typed phrase on it "Earth Piece.  Listen to the sound of the earth turning.  Spring 1963" has aesthetic qualities.  Some would argue that it does not.  But, the truth is that Ono's work is apprehended in galleries or in artist's books through our senses.  All conceptual art is apprehended through our senses in some way or context.  The fact that the words are arranged in a certain way on the page is important.  The look of the page is important.   The typeface is important (as can be seen in the fact that she chose a different typeface when recreating the work later).  To claim that conceptual art has no aesthetic properties is absurd.   Gracyk would agree with that point.  He argues that Ono's work can have the aesthetic properties of being funny or elegant.  Still, I would insist that these properties are based on sensuous properties. 

Where I would disagree with the supervenience theorist, and even with the weak supervenience theorist, is that these sensory properties are themselves non-aesthetic.  On my view, if an experience is aesthetic, all of the properties within the experience are aesthetic.  Gracyk says that "Freshness, wittiness, and elegance are aesthetic properties.  Therefore there appear to be aesthetic properties that do not include sensory properties in their supervenience base."  This seems wrong in two ways.  First, freshness etc. do depend on perception and hence on sensation.  Second, there is a problem with the whole idea of there being "sensory properties" i.e. of there being properties that are non-aesthetic even in an aesthetic situation in which the thing being experienced is being experienced aesthetically.  To use Dewey's language, when a live creature interacts with its environment it does so by way of its senses.  But these senses do not, I suggest, provide a base of properties upon which something else is based r epistemologically.  At the same time, I will remain an agnostic concerning whether supervenience works solely on a metaphysical level.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Aesthetic Atheism and Terry Eagleton's Reason, Faith, and Revolution

In a previous post I discussed a talk Terry Eagleton gave at Santa Clara University.  Since then I have read his book Reason, Faith, and Revolution (New Haven:  Yale, 2009).  This is the print version of the Terry Lecture Series at Yale.  I confess an experience of strangeness here since reviews and commentaries insist that Eagleton remains an atheist, and yet I could find little evidence for it in this book. (He seems to think one can believe in God without believing that God exists, if that makes any sense.)  For the most part, the book reads like a classic form of Christian apologetics mixed with a lot of ranting against such atheists as Dawkins and Hitchens, which Eagleton, oh-too-cleverly, calls "Ditchens."  Whereas some readers find Eagleton funny, I do not ...but then in humor, there is no accounting for taste.  This comment is not however intended to be a book review.  I am more interested in treating him as an inspiration for thoughts about aesthetic atheism. (See my other posts on this topic.) I am actually sympathetic to Eagleton on some counts. 

But, to begin with, is he really an atheist?  When he describes to us what orthodox Christians believe, he does so in his own voice and frankly it sounds like he himself is talking here.  For instance he says that God created us in his own image, that he himself is pure liberty, and is also the source for atheism as well as faith. (p. 17) Which would be true, if there were a God (i.e. the Christian God he describes)! but which otherwise begs all the philosophical questions.  The oddest experience I have reading Eagleton is how often he seems to know (seems to think he knows!) exactly what God is or is not.  This is strange for a so-called atheist.  So he says, for example, that the view of "God as Big Daddy" is a "naïve misconception."  But in what way could any conception of God be more naïve than any other if you are an atheist?  How can you have more or less naïve knowledge of an entity that does not exist?  (That the Catholic God is more complicated than can be summed up by "Big Daddy" goes without saying...but the sum-up seems not bad to me, as sum-ups go.) Then he claims that many liberals fail to see that the liberal doctrine of freedom and the liberal belief in progress derive in part from the Christian notions of free will and Providence.  It would be foolish to deny that current Western ideas derive in large part from earlier Christian civilization. Yet this begs all the questions.

Sometimes Eagleton reads as someone who simply believes that to be a good Christian is to be a good leftist:  for example "You shall know him [God] for who he is when you see the hungry being filled with good things and the rich being sent empty away." (18) I confess some sympathy for this vision of distributive justice, but do not see why it has to be connected with some sort of belief in God or Jesus.  Is anything more being said than that it would be satisfying to see some of the wealth of the rich transferred to the hungry?  Eagleton's Christianity seems to be based on the idea that it is equivalent to the notion that political love, the ethical basis of socialism, should be the ruling principle of our lives. (p. 32)  I can see how this might be a creed to live by.  But Eagleton goes on to complain that atheists fail to see that faith "is not primarily a belief that something or someone exists, but a commitment and allegiance - faith in something..."  Maybe it isn't primarily belief in existence, but faith in something that does not exist is meaningless.  

What is faith?  Eagleton speaks of faith in feminism, as an example.  Certainly feminism is an ideal and, arguably, ideals do not exist (i.e., we do not exist in a world in which feminist ideals have been fully actualized), although they may be exemplified, partially.  So perhaps his point is that one can have faith in God in the same way one can have faith in feminism, or rather that faith in feminism is just one of the ways to have faith in God.  But faith in God is based on the assumption not that there is some ideal possibility but rather in the idea that something actual (God) is the ground of ideal possibility.  That's a very different thing.   

Eagleton says, "Even after Auschwitz, there is nothing in [the atheist] view to be redeemed from" -- to which one can only reply first, that if anything has disproved the existence of God it has been Auschwitz (the problem of evil has never been answered in any way that is not just absurd), and second, that there is no point in talking about being redeemed from Auschwitz if there is no redeemer God.  Eagleton somehow thinks that liberal rationality takes away hope from those who suffer torment.  Liberal rationalism has not only never denied such hope but has often been defined as a commitment to the elimination of cruelty.  One cannot be a liberal without hoping.  (All of this sounds deliberately like Richard Rorty.) Although Eagleton may well be right that "only through a tragic process of loss, nothingness, and self-dispossession can humanity come into its own," this does not mean that institution of the kingdom of God is to be recommended, especially if the meaning of that kingdom is interpreted by mainstream believers. (A woman's right to choose would be out, for example.)

Eagleton says that, like God, we exist, or should exist, merely for the pleasure of it.  Setting aside the fact that even if there were a God we would have no reason to believe He exists in this way, there is something to the notion that we should exist merely for the pleasure of it.   Eagleton further writes, that  "It [ethics?] is a question of how to live most richly and enjoyably, relishing one's powers and capacities purely for their own sake.  This self-delighting energy ...stands in no need of justification" (13) This is the Epicurean approach to life, one that, contra Eagleton, has little to do with Christianity or with faith in general.  But this is at least a sentence I could agree with.

Atheists do not have a problem with the question "why is there anything at all?"   They just do not think that the answer to this question is even plausibly "God."  Eagleton seems to think that questions like "where do our notions of intelligibility or explanation come from?" obviously lead us to believe in God, and yet science does a pretty good job (and the best currently available) of answering those questions:  they come from evolutionary processes. (p. 11) Do we presuppose rationality in accounting for rationality?  Yes, that's the way it works.  There is no real paradox here:  what alternative does Eagleton suggest, irrationality as way to account for rationality?

Is it a matter of wonder that we understand so much of the universe with no evolutionary advantage, as Eagleton says it is?  Well, it is not clear yet what evolutionary advantage we get from different kinds of knowledge (although it is clear that we are, by far, the most successful medium-size to large animal on the planet, currently  -- and this is probably due to this thing we call "knowledge"), and we haven't worked out the causality of the development of human knowledge, but this is no reason to go to a failed hypothesis, an intelligent creator-being, to "explain" it. 

Eagleton, in sum, gives us a not-too-objectionable socialist/Epicurean philosophy combined with a kind of nostalgic recounting of religious myth and a bit of theological oddity, including his own idea that God and the world are to be included among non-instrumental things, things good-in-themselves. 

Fondness for religious stories is not inconsistent with aesthetic atheism.  As this Christmas season approaches, it is hard to ignore this fact.  So I find myself wondering why I find Eagleton so irritating --- it must be his smug sense of superiority and his hypocritical attitude towards atheism which he seems, at best, to half-accept.  I also have a problem with the idea that anything is "in-itself" in any way:  no man is an island, and no good is disconnected from other goods.  Not even God (if he existed). 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Is there an Aesthetics of Philosophy?

Donald Phillip Verene says "yes."   More specifically, he argues that "philosophical discourse, as well as philosophy itself, depends upon an aesthetic that cannot be overcome by reason, that there is a philosophical imaginary that necessarily accompanies philosophical rationality. The concept, the idea, always has a shadow, a doppelganger through which the aesthetic haunts reason." (Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Winter, 2006), pp. 89-103.)  I think Verene is right.  And isn't it interesting that his is the only paper I can come up with that deals with this topic?  Surely aesthetics is much broader than the aesthetics of art, nature, and everyday life.  Surely it covers what philosophers do too.  There must be a reason for the neglect:  and it goes back to the ancient debate between philosophy and poetry.  As Verene observes, the great philosophers have tended to downplay the imagination, especially with regards to the role it plays in philosophy itself.  Yet as much as Plato attacks the imitative arts, including ancient Greek tragedy, he also used images, such as "the allegory of the cave," in his own work.  Yet John Dewey argued that thinking has an ineluctable aesthetic element.  An example of good thinking is an example of what Dewey calls "an experience."  The conclusion of a thought process is a consummation.  Dewey observes in Art as Experience that we philosophers would not engage in the process of thinking if there were not aesthetic satisfactions in the process of thinking itself.  So too, we should not forget the pleasures of reading the great philosophers, or listening to them if they are still alive.  Moreover, as I have argued elsewhere, the preferred products of philosophical debates, i.e. theories, which usually take the form of definitions, have a structure that is remarkably similar to that of creative metaphors. (I have gone so far as to say that they are metaphors, perhaps of a special secret sort.) When one makes a claim about the essence of X one usually wants to say that X is Y, and yet, usually, within traditional classificatory schemes, X is hardly ever literally Y.  Philosophical definitions are intended to shock a bit. Great definitions typically leave out as much as they include:  they are intended to highlight some things and neglect or even disrespect others.  That is why it is so easy to come up with counterexamples to philosophical definitions.   It was brilliant of Clive Bell to say that "art is significant form" and yet this definition was deliberately intended to exclude merely descriptive art such as Paddington Station, art that serves the purposes of everyday emotions, rather than generating the aesthetic emotion proper to art. It is not just that "art is significant form" is a metaphor or metaphor-like, but "significant form" itself is a rich and complex concept that needs to be teased out:  it, as used by Bell, has a metaphorical nature itself.

I agree with Verene that philosophy itself has a foundation in sense and sensibility, especially by way of imagination.  It is not the product of pure thought or rationality, despite the history of claims to the contrary.  I like it that Verene quotes Aristotle's famous saying in the Poetics, that "the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others and it is a sign of genius. For the right use of metaphor requires an eye for similarities in dissimilars."   Would that philosophers, including Aristotle, had taken this claim more seriously in the history of philosophy.  

Verene finds assistance for his project in the writings of Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico.  Here's a quote from Verene on Vico: "The wisdom of the poets is that of the first two ages, in which the world is formed by the power of imagination (fantasia). The first humans form their world through "imaginative
universals." These are the "poetic characters" of the fables. The first humans of the gentile nations think in metaphors, not in concepts or "intelligible universals" (universali intelligibili). Vico says that every metaphor is a fable in brief."  The assistance might be that Vico dimly saw what concepts, including universals, originate in metaphor, and that metaphors are not just sentences where A is seen as B but are entire stories in brief.  Moreover, they are ones that create worlds in the sense of creating entire ways of seeing things.  So on this view the business of philosophy is to study and construct these "stories in brief."  Histories and myths involve grasping particulars as universals.  Philosophy, then, shares a lot with literature.  Plato was simply a descendent of the mythologists and playwrights he sought to replace. 

Verene also observes that in an early writing Hegel advocated an aesthetic view of philosophy, saying that "the philosopher must possess just as much aesthetic power as the poet. Those without aesthetic sense are our literal-minded philosophers
[unsere Buchstabenphilosophen] The philosophy of spirit is an aesthetic philosophy." (97)  (from the System-Program of 1796)  Verene argues that Hegel conceived of his Phenomenology as a "mythology of reason." with a gallery of philosophical images. Verene brings both Socrates and Collingwood to the cause of the aesthetics of philosophy when he says "Socrates says that the Muses also inspire the philosophical life (Phaedrus 259D). To attempt to say something original in philosophy we must, as R. G. Collingwood said, 'go to school with the poets in order to learn the use of language... .The principles on which the philosopher uses language are those of poetry..' Philosophy and poetry begin at the same point-with the metaphor" although, as Verene observes, the philosopher uses the metaphor to elaborate a conceptual structure.  As he also notes, Stephen Pepper first noted the importance of "root metaphors" in philosophical systems.  These ideas, I may add, were developed further in the writings of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.  

Verene adds that "In educating students to think philosophically on their own we can attempt to make them aware of the importance of metaphor in this process." (100)  He also encourages us to pay attention to style and images in philosophical texts as well as argumentation.  Of course this was the strategy pursued by Derrida and the deconstructionists, although often with a certain sacrifice of clarity.  Following Collingwood's emphasis on the question Verene says that "To teach a philosophical text the instructor can direct the student first to look for the images that are there and then to look for the questions that are implicit in them, for in thinking philosophically the image is never left to speak for itself as it is in poetry." He argues that if we follow this policy,  "A great philosophical work can in this way become a treasure-house of ideas to give life to the mind rather than an arid desert of arguments to cross by aligning each one to the next." 

In closing, I would just like to say that my affinity to this line of thought was strongly influenced years ago by my adviser in Humanities, Sandra Luft, at San Francisco State University:  Luft used this very method in her classrooms, as she still does.  She is also a major Vico scholar.