Metaphor, Idiom, and Pretense


  •  Particular thanks to Elisabeth Camp and Kendall Walton for very helpful discussions. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Workshop on Metarepresentation and Non-literal Language held at the CSMN (Oslo) in June 2009 – many thanks to Robyn Carston and Deirdre Wilson for inviting me to participate.


Imaginative and creative capacities seem to be at the heart of both games of make-believe and figurative uses of language. But how exactly might cases of metaphor or idiom involve make-believe? In this paper, I argue against the pretense-based accounts of Walton (1990, 1993), Hills (1997), and Egan (this journal, 2008) that pretense plays no role in the interpretation of metaphor or idiom; instead, more general capacities for manipulating concepts (which are also called on within the use of pretense) do the real explanatory work. This result has consequences for both our understanding of metaphor and idiom as well as for the use of figurative language by fictionalists in ontology.