Recently I have been applying the methods of experimental philosophy to, I believe, an untapped area of philosophy: debates concerning the cognitive/non-cognitive nature of metaphor (though work in psycholinguistics has adressed similar issues with similar methods). Non-cognitivists--who hold that metaphors lack propositional contents other than the contents they possess on a purely literal reading (Cooper, Davidson, Reimer)--have traditionally appealed to a standard argument for their position: 1) if metaphors had contents distinct from their literal contents, we would be able to satisfactorily paraphrase these contents in other words; 2) we're not able to satisfactorily paraphrase these purported contents; 3) therefore, metaphors lack secondary contents. Most everyone--non-cognitivist or cognitivist--has conceded p2, so what debate there has been has focused on the p1. In this paper, however, I argue that the philosophical analysis which gets us p2, suffers from several specific problems. Experimental analysis, I argue, avoids these problems. And, when I conduct such experimental analysis, we see the purported inadequacy of paraphrases of metaphors evaporate. In particular, paraphrases of the literal contents of literal sentences were judged no more or less adequate than paraphrases of the purported secondary propositional contents of metaphorical sentences. In a study I ran involving 828 individual comparisons of 8 metaphor paraphrases and 8 literal sentence paraphrases, though subjects rated particular paraphrases much differently, the difference in adequacy between the average metaphor paraphrase score and the average literal paraphrase score was only .09 on a 7 point Likert scale (which was no where near significant.)
I'm posting a paper on this research, and, of course, I would love feedback from you guys. The experimental results are discussed in section 4, though important setup occurs throughout the paper, before that section.
Additionally, I'm posting a PowerPoint presentation on the paper, which I presented at the most recent SPP. The PowerPoint also includes audio of me presenting--so it will be just like you are there! However, the PowerPoint was designed on Office '07, so it may present problems for earlier editions (though I attempted to save it in a compatible format.)
Best and Thanks,