Keith Hamon’s wonderful post on metaphors vs. models, reminded me of similar tropes mistaken for models.
He sees the rhizome as a metaphor and explains how viewing it as a model, is a misunderstanding. This quote suggests who is most at risk of such misunderstanding:
“They [two metaphors of love] both say something more or less useful about love, but only the most left-brained, fundamentalist, reductionist critic would say, ‘Okay, which is it? Is love a rose or a fish-hook, because it can’t be both.'”
Literalistic thinking that dismisses each hunch of similarity until it is scientifically evidenced, takes many ideas as a futile attempt of reductionist explanation of things that only exist in folk psychology or even only in pop science.
A prominent example is the “Left Brain/Right Brain” myth, which is being attacked twice at the same time in this year’s Edge responses of “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”. What they are really attacking, is a literalist idea that the different kinds of information processing were physically exactly represented by the hemispheres.
They do not contest that there are different modes. (In fact, both Kosslyn, who I very much respect, and Blakemore say a lot of interesting facts about the differences, and furthermore, Kosslyn does so in his exchange with McGilchrist).
So the problem seems to be that we say “the left brain does such and such” instead of “this one mode of operation does …”, because this sounds like false science rather than like an approximation, or comparison, like some kind of rhetorical “improper expression” or trope, perhaps like a kind of synecdoche that uses the whole for the part. Perhaps we should only speak of the Master and the Emissary to clearly express that it is just a metaphor (or more precisely, an allegory).
Another example are the notoriously negated learning styles. Again, the simplistic reduction on a basis of modalities (VAK) sounds like a fake concretion of something that does not exist.
Similarly, in the early years of hypertext there was a “Cognitive Plausibility ‘Misconception'”: the idea that both the brain and a hypertext were a network, was foreshortened to model the neuroconnections by hyperlinks, and subsequently ridiculed.
This is where the central metaphor of connectivism comes in: the similarity of neuroconnections which is applied to three levels, from neural, to conceptual, to social/ external: The neural connections show similarities with connections between people and between concepts.
But, strictly speaking, it is not a metaphor on the neural level because a rhetorical construct is called a metaphor only if a leap is made to a different domain, e.g. from neural to social, but not if it relates to something within the same domain (then it is a metonymy). And unfortunately, also the conceptual level is very close to the neuroscience/ cognitive science domain. Within the same or similar domain, however, such an analogy is easily mistaken for faked reality, or at least for a misconception.
So I have not yet succeeded in finding an appropriate metonymy for my pet idea that notions are somehow similar like the collection of connections between words, including their end-point “ports” within these words (word senses), which I tried to depict by colored sets of lines here: once the lines are mistaken for actual dendrites between granny neurons, the whole thing of course appears ridiculous.