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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


BOTHA, M. Elaine. Fiduciary language between Pan-metaphorism, Pan-literalism and the double language thesis. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.4, pp.631-644. ISSN 2224-7912.

In this paper attention is given to the tension between two radical views concerning the nature of language: pan-metaphorism and pan-literalism. These positions form the extreme responses to the so called double language thesis (literal versus metaphorical). It is argued that in order to understand the role of metaphor in religious discourse the dualism of sacred and profane needs to be transcended and a new element added to the understanding of the role of faith in human discourse and experience. This element is the fiduciary moment. Polanyi speaks of the "fiduciary rootedness of all rationality" (1974:297). The "fiduciary moment" which expresses the human ability to believe (fides), to trust, to be certain, is an integral element of both a multi-faceted world and its potential to form the basis of a multiplicity of ways of knowing this world. In all human activity such a fiduciary element is present. This assumes that all domains of experience, domains of reality, interrelationships and cognition exhibit and share in the same stratification, of which the fiduciary (the ability to trust, to believe, to be certain) is one. This state of affairs points to the fact that the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional world exhibits both irreducible aspects and an integral internal coherence of these aspects. These aspects, facets or dimensions of reality are irreducible to one another and yet contain implicit references to other domains of experience (they are multifocal, exhibit multivocity). Distinguishing this notion of "religion" from the fiduciary moment characteristic of all human experience, knowledge and reality facilitates a clearer understanding of the presence and influence of "religious" convictions as ultimate convictions in discourse and texts. I argue that the universal human ability to believe, trust or seek certitude constitutes such an image-schematic structure and that, in turn, it is the root of a fiduciary conceptual metaphor. Moreover, this often tacit dimension, is present in all cognitive acts and characterises the commitment an intellectual community shares to viewing the similarities and dissimilarities (categorisations) of the world in a certain way. Significant recent developments in cognitive linguistics and metaphor theory have also contributed to a different understanding of religious discourse and the language of faith. On the one hand N.T. Wright argues against the notion that literal necessarily means real or concrete-historical. Mary B. Hesse's thesis that "all language is metaphorical" on the other hand shows that both literal and metaphorical language are classified and categorised and that the meaning of literal and metaphorical is always conditioned by context and remains a relative distinction. Two representatives of the Cognitive linguistic approach of Lakoff and Johnson, Zoltán Kövecses and Olof Jäkel, implement analyses of conceptual structures to show that religious discourse does not require a separate methodology to understand it. Jäkel tries to exemplify both prospects and limitations of the Cognitive Theory of metaphor in dealing with religious metaphor. The conceptual structure of JOURNEY and PATH are analysed in this process. My own contribution is an attempt to show that religious discourse should not be seen as sacred whereas other forms of language are regarded as profane. I suggest that the structure of language is basically the same in both instances, but that religious language is certitudinally qualified. This assumes a notion of religion understood as Clouser's (2005:23,24) definition of a religious conviction as "... a belief in something or other as 'divine' or ... a belief concerning how humans come to stand in proper relation to the 'divine'". The term "divine" is characterized " that which can exist independent of anything else (unconditional non-dependant reality)".

Keywords : Pan-metaphorism; literalism; metaphor; conceptual metaphor; religious language; religious discourse; faith.

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