Colin Turbayne and the Myth of Metaphor
This article is hosted by The Culturium, Paula Marvelly’s wonderful website on spirituality and culture.
The Myth of Metaphor (1962) is a subtle work, even subversive. It reads like a bland book on language but it poses a devastating challenge to the idea of literal, objective truth. In this way Turbayne’s challenge is similar to Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction, which first appeared in France a few years later. But whereas Derrida often wrote with fanfare and messianism, Turbayne’s style is avuncular, genial and low-key. Reading his book is like having afternoon tea with a tweedy, soft-spoken college professor.
Turbayne’s low-key assault on objectivity opens up a nonconceptual space reminiscent of the Buddhist “emptiness of emptiness”. This is the insight that the teachings are able to help free us from all conceptualization, including their own. In short, the emptiness teachings are also empty. Turbayne’s enquiry into metaphor does the same thing. It frees us from being deceived by metaphor and at the same time refuses to see itself as an objective account of reality. More …