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New Ideas in Psychology 25 (2007) 16–36

Rationality and reasoning with metaphors
Bipin Indurkhya
International Institute of Information Technology, Gachibowli, Hyderabad 500 032, India
Available online 11 December 2006

Traditional accounts of rationality typically preclude metaphorical reasoning. We review research
that has highlighted the pervasiveness of metaphors in creative problem solving, jurisprudence and
history of science, and argue that any account of rationality must explicitly acknowledge the
ontology of representation and include an ontology-changing mechanism. From these considerations, we present an interaction-based view of cognition and examine the problem of rationality in its
terms. We argue that rationality is closely related to the attitude of a cognitive agent towards
incoherency—by which we do not mean internal inconsistency but operational incongruity in the
external world. We conclude that though rationality permits a change of ontology, it requires a
healthy respect towards the autonomous structure of the environment.
r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Cognition; Creativity; Interaction; Metaphor; Ontology; Rationality; Reasoning

1. Introduction
Metaphors and analogies are often used as tools of reasoning. Sometimes they are so
subtle that we are not even aware that a metaphor or analogy is at work in providing the
justification for reaching a certain conclusion. At other times, they are quite explicitly
evoked and stand out larger than life. Examples of both can be found in everyday
reasoning as well as in academic discourse in science, philosophy, religion, etc. Lakoff and
Johnson (1980) have done an excellent job at demonstrating how pervasive subtle
metaphors are in everyday reasoning. For instance, the conclusion that you can ‘‘save’’
time by taking the subway to work instead of walking derives from the ‘‘time is money’’...

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