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Metaphorical sensation and perception


Discover the unique connections between literary metaphors and psychology that come from the use of different senses.

Metaphorical systems help describe the world around people as they attempt to have a better understanding of major questions that have puzzled mankind for generations. Part of the reason why people know about the world around them is through a combination between sensing the world and the interpretations of such sensations with the perception of what it means to be alive. Interestingly, sometimes sensations can have misinterpretations because of medical conditions that can hinder the ability to sense and perceive the world correctly and accurately. There are also metaphorical systems that incorporate such distorted forms of knowledge acquisition. A synaesthetic metaphorical system incorporates sensation and perception when describing one entity with another one. In particular, this metaphorical system includes terms related to words that describe the physical world. Sometimes there could be a misunderstanding of a synaesthetic metaphorical system because there tends to be a blending between the senses upon the formation of such a system. That is because this type of system relates to synesthesia, which confuses the senses that typically normal people use to understand the world around them.

In fact, synesthesia is a unique condition in which people can utilize a different sense upon the usage of one of the five senses. The basic five senses that people have are sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. People with synesthesia have the ability to hear a color or taste a sound, for example. Understanding such a concept is crucial to the understanding of a synaesthetic metaphorical system because the metaphors within this system involve a blending of the senses that typically normal people might not be able to understand nor perceive.


Within synaesthetic metaphors, there is a source domain that deals only with perception. For example, a synaesthetic metaphor could be “Ebenezer Scrooge has a cold heart.” This is simply an example drawn from the well-known character that Charles Dickens created in the nineteenth century. Upon analysis of this metaphorical system, it is clear that the adjective “cold” relates to the sense of touch. That is because people can literally feel coldness on a freezing day. This example also reveals how the metaphor incorporates words that relate to one of the five senses that people use to perceive the world in order to understand the nature of the target domain. In this case, the source domain would be the “cold heart,” which includes a word related to perception, and the target domain would be Charles Dickens’ famous character. The description of this character reveals how a comparison between the personality of a literary figure and a sensation that people could feel with the sense of touch reveals how some metaphors are more figurative than others because of rhetorical devices that embellish the English language.

The limits of this system include the fact that perception can only do so much for the interpretation of the world around people. It is true that typically people can see images, hear sounds, taste flavors, touch objects, and smell odors, but there is a sense of emptiness that comes to understanding abstract concepts. For example, people who are religious might believe in a divine being even though they cannot literally see or hear such a being. That is why some people are hardly religious at all because they do not believe what they cannot perceive. Additionally, the challenge with understanding the deep issues that have philosophical qualities also really depends if such ideas even exist in a literal sense. In fact, people might know about an abstract idea, like the idea of life itself, but some skeptics might argue that life might just be a dream. Since the idea of life is not necessarily palpable nor could people sense it using any of the five senses, there are indeed limits to the synaesthetic metaphorical system. That is because the five senses cannot allow people to understand everything, and that some ideas are incomprehensible.

The limits of this system also connect to the “embodied mind” because the nature of perception allows people to understand only a limited amount of the world around them. The entire concept of the “embodied mind” suggests that the body and the mind might be connected, but actually each hold significant differences. The synaesthetic metaphorical system allows people to acquire knowledge by comparing abstract ideas to information that people can gather through sensation and perception. The reason why there is a limit to this particular system is because sensation and perception themselves hold limitations. Because of the deep questions that have plagued mankind since the dawn of existence, it is hard to understand enigmatic concepts, such as the nature of time. In the end, synaesthetic metaphorical systems only use the five basic senses and cannot explain concepts that are too mysterious for human cognition.

Alex Phuong