Metaphors as Incompleteness

Writer Jorge Luis Borges described ... incompleteness in a lecture at Harvard titled simply, “The Metaphor.” In it, Borges shows how metaphors arise before language, before we find words to describe something. Then, as we share these concepts with one another, metaphors evolve into words. Borges jokes that “a word is a dead metaphor, which is a metaphor,” but then he returns to what metaphors can do and introduces the concept of openness, which is related to incompleteness — metaphors are open because they are incomplete. They make a suggestion we must complete in our own minds. Here’s Borges:

Remember what Emerson said:arguments convince nobody. They convince nobody because they are presented as arguments. Then we look at them, we weigh them, we turn them over, and we decide against them. But when something is merely said — or, better still, hinted at — there is a kind of hospitality in our imagination. We are ready to accept it.


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