The Communicative Functions of Metaphors Between Explanation and Persuasion

In Fabrizio Macagno & Alessandro Capone (eds.), Inquiries in philosophical pragmatics. Theoretical developments. Cham: Springer. pp. 171-191 (2021)
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In the literature, the pragmatic dimension of metaphors has been clearly acknowledged. Metaphors are regarded as having different possible uses, especially pursuing persuasion. However, an analysis of the specific conversational purposes that they can be aimed at achieving in a dialogue and their adequacy thereto is still missing. In this chapter, we will address this issue focusing on the classical distinction between the explanatory and persuasive uses of metaphors, which is, however, complex to draw at an analytical level and often blurred and controversial also from a theoretical point of view. Building on the analysis of explanation in different theories and fields of study, we show how it can be conceived as characterized by a cognitive and a pragmatic dimension, where the transference of understanding is used pragmatically for different dialogical goals - such as informing, making a joint decision, and most importantly persuading. In this sense, the cognitive effects of understanding are not incompatible with a persuasive dialogical purpose. This theoretical proposal will be applied to examples drawn from the medical context, to show how a pragmatic approach to explanation can account for the complexity of the cases that can be found in actual dialogical contexts.

Author Profiles

Maria Rossi
Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Fabrizio Macagno
Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa


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