The Power to Make Metaphor Into Law

Back in 1978, linguists Michael Reddy and me (George Lakoff), working independently, demonstrated that metaphor is fundamentally a matter of thought, and that metaphorical language is secondary. Conceptual metaphors shape our understanding and can determine how we reason. Consequently, metaphor is central to law, as Citizens United showed by making the metaphor Corporations Are Persons into a law, with vast political consequences…

…The Supreme Court is a remarkable institution. By a 5-4 vote, it can decide what metaphors we will live – or die – by. It is time recognize, and speak regularly of, the Metaphor Power of the Court, the power to make metaphors legally binding. It is an awesome power. This is a something the press should be reporting on, legal theorists should be writing about, and all of us should be discussing. Should the Court have such a power? And if so, should there be any limits on it?

To read this fascinating interpretation of politics and alternative ways that Obama could have framed health care reform, please read this article by George Lakoff by clicking here