Martial Metaphors and Argumentative Virtues and Vices

In Alessandra Tanesini & Michael Lynch (eds.), Polarisation, Arrogance, and Dogmatism: Philosophical Perspectives. London: Routledge (forthcoming)
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This Chapter challenges the common claim that vicious forms of argumentative practice, like interpersonal arrogance and discursive polarisation, are caused by martial metaphors, such as ARGUMENT AS WAR. I argue that the problem isn’t the metaphor, but our wider practices of metaphorising and the ways they are deformed by invidious cultural biases and prejudices. Drawing on feminist argumentation theory, I argue that misogynistic cultures distort practices of metaphorising in two ways. First, they spotlight some associations between the martial and argumentative domains while occluding others, resulting in a sort of myopia. Second, those cultures interfere with a phenomenon I label normative isomorphism – the capacity of some structural metaphors to enable (and often encourage) a transfer of normative chracater traits from the source domain to the target domain. Crucially, the normative status of character trait often changes across domains—traits that are virtuous in the martial domain are often vicious in the argumentative domain, and vice versa. Sexist myopia tends to deform practices of metaphorising by interfering with normative isomorphism by privileging the transfer across domains of traits that recapitulate invidious cultural constructions of masculinity in terms of aggression, domination, and violence. Basically, the problem isn’t the metaphors, but the cultures.
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