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Borrowed KnowledgeChaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines$
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Stephen H. Kellert

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226429786

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226429809.001.0001

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Metaphorical Chaos

Metaphorical Chaos

(p.103) 5 Metaphorical Chaos
Borrowed Knowledge
University of Chicago Press

This chapter investigates the creative transformations made possible by the metaphorical use of scientific knowledge. First, it briefly examines how metaphor works, in order to outline the ways it can function in the transfer of knowledge across disciplines. Then, it argues that such metaphorical borrowing can serve a useful purpose. It concludes with general remarks on the curious relationship between chaos and metaphor. Here, the main target is the belief that metaphorical borrowing cannot or should not be subjected to detailed investigation. Among those who hold this belief are some self-styled defenders of science who claim that any metaphorical use of science is always an inappropriate misuse. In contrast to all these views, the chapter considers metaphorical uses neither so freewheeling as to be immune from criticism nor so wrongheaded as to be unworthy of criticism. Both sweeping condemnations of metaphors and blanket licensing of them fail to pay adequate attention to the way metaphor actually works in the transfer of knowledge across fields.

Keywords:   scientific knowledge, metaphor, knowledge transfer, metaphorical borrowing

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