A rose is a metaphor is a remedy
27 December 2017 (online)
The concepts of yin and yang are basic to Chinese medicine, but they are relative: water at 40oC feels warm (yang) compared to ice-cold water (yin) but cold (yin) compared to hot (yang) milk. While I usually try to balance French ‘esprit de clarté’ with Anglo-Saxon pragmatism, such polarity turns me into a dissecting Cartesian, especially when confronted with grand theories without much empirical support. Like Lorelei sitting on a rock by the Rhine, metaphors have seduced many scientists into conceptual shipwrecks. Their seduction lies in their fascinating capacity to ‘explain one thing in terms of another’.[ 1 ] So anything can become anything…giving rise to manifold speculations.
In their paper ‘Homeopathic remedies as metaphors in family therapy’, in this issue of Homeopathy, Konitzer et al. [ 2 ] ‘reify’ a metaphor; that is they give a symbol the quality of a real object. Something, in this case a homeopathic remedy, becomes a metaphor. But metaphors are not about things, they are about meaning. For example, if we say ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’ the word (rose) is used to indicate a plant (which we call rose), and we can confirm this at another time when we interpret that word as referring to a similar object. Our ‘concept of rose’ ensures a correct interpretation of the ‘word’ as referring to the ‘plant’. This is what Charles Peirce, the founder of modern semiotics called ‘the semiotic triangle’. But remember: the ‘word’ rose has not become a ‘plant’ rose.[ 3 ] Similarly, metaphor can transfer meaning from one area to another. It is a vehicle. But the vehicle does not become the area.
But this is just what Konitzer et al. would have us believe: in their analysis of a single case (and one in which communication between the doctor and the young patient's mother broke down), interactions between persons are considered as analogous to the collection of pieces of information. And those pieces of information together form a pattern, the remedy picture.
- 1 Ortony A. Metaphor and thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
- 2 Konitzer M, Renée A, Doering T. Homoeopathic remedies as metaphors in family therapy. A narrative-based approach to homoeopathy. Homeopathy 2003;92:73–79.
- 3 C Peirce. Collected Papers 1931–1958. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- 4 AL Strauss, Social Analysis for Social Scientists. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1987.