On 7 June 2011 the Group of Logic, Language and Information of Opole University had a great pleasure to host Prof. dr hab. Aleksander Szwedek of Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznań. The co-host of the meeting was the Institute of English and American Studies of Opole University. At 12.30 the meeting began in the meeting room of Opole University Senate located in Collegium Maius, during which the Guest of the Day delivered his lecture under the title Why do we speak metaphorically?
After a short welcoming speech made by Prof. Urszula Wybraniec-Skardowska and an introduction into the subject matter dealt with in the lecture, which was made by Prof. Janusz Czelakowski, the floor was taken by Prof. Andrzej Ciuk, the Head of the Institute of English and American Studies, who presented the lifeline and scientific silhouette of Prof. Aleksander Szwedek.
To follow a dictionary explanation, a metaphor is a stylistic means in which words possessing different meanings are set together syntactically and form a phrase that has a meaning other than it should result from the dictionary-based meanings of the words used. The metaphor is a powerful tool which serves to extend the areas of meanings of a natural language. While trying to express a thought, someone who cannot match appropriate meanings of available words, expresses the thought in a way which appears – seemingly – nonsensical, yet despite this s/he manages to drive the crux of the matter home: s/he uses a metaphor that is the source of comprehension. Here, one cannot resist quoting Wittgenstein: … wovon man nicht sprechen kann, dafür kann man vielleicht immerhin eine Metapher finden (… for that of which one cannot speak, perhaps one can yet find a metaphor).
Calling on arguments of the neuro-embriological nature and making a critical review of the frameworks which have been proposed in this field to date, Prof. A. Szwedek sketched his own concept of experiential grounding of metaphors. Physical objects are the ulimate source domain of metaphors. The key here is the feature of density of objects, which we – through the sense of touch – experience in our individual development. ("Experience of density (object) through touch is programmed earlier and at the deepest level.") The concept leads to a new typology of metaphors: A. a concrete object to a concrete object, B. a concrete object to an abstract object (objectification), C. an abstract object to a concrete object, D. an abstract object to an abstract object. The above-presented typology explains the philogenesis of metaphorization and – in consequence – casts some light on the development of abstract thinking. In his lecture, Prof. A. Szwedek discussed the proposed typology and also presented a series of arguments to support it. Type 2 is of key importance to the process of thinking, since it leads to creating abstract notions.
After the lecture and a short break, in line with the tradition, an open seminar of the Opole GLLI was held in the Plafond Room of Collegium Maius. It was attended by both the Speaker of the Day and invited guests. In the direct and many-theme discussion with Prof. A. Szwedek that followed some questions raised in the lecture were made reference to, among others the strong embedding of the Professor’s concept in Kotarbiński’s reism and referring to other senses as the experiential basis.
P.S. Professor A. Szwedek transferred the whole of his fee for the lecture to the account of the Group of Logic, Language and Information of Opole University. We would like to kindly thank him for this generous gesture.