Monday, December 18, 2006

Physics, Culture, Metaphor

We carry over basic notions from physics, such as force, momentum, energy, entropy, etc., to other fields of study. We do this because the concepts, when transferred, share the same metaphorical structure.

I base my common understanding of force upon my experience of pushing and pulling objects about the world. It is easy to think of abstract objects such as culture and society as if they were physical objects or beings like me. Culture and society seem to push and pull me as if they possessed the force of a large sun, or were big grooves in spacetime, or were a powerful person.

It is not that way though. A society or culture is not a person or a large physical object. Metaphors adopted from physics might be apt when thinking about society and culture, but we must prove that.

First, we have the metaphor; after comes the word.


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