Conceptions, Categories, and Embodiment: Why Metaphors are of Fundamental Importance for Understanding Norms

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Abstract

The propositions in this chapter are to a large extent drawn from the thesis Metaphors and norms – understanding copyright law in a digital society (Larsson 2011b), however with some important complements, not least concerning the implications of categorisation. The chapter is explorative in bringing findings from cognitive linguistics into the quite common socio-legal task of studying norms. Its aim is not to debunk, but to assemble. The promise of cognitive theory is here found in its ability to make explicit the unconscious and cognitive operations that structure our conceptions of reality.
Emphasis is put on the importance of understanding how language, meaning and thought are connected. A main advantage of the metaphor-theoretical connection to general norm analysis lies in how language-based expressions and metaphors relate to the mind, how our thoughts are framed and thereby both controlled and enabled by how different conceptions are constructing metaphors. This goes for the most mundane and everyday events as well as law. This perspective indicates the significance of detailed studies of the surface structures, which have the potential to reveal underlying conceptions that may control a legal or social norm (Larsson, 2011b; Larsson and Hydén 2010).
Cognitive linguistics is here argued to be of significance to norm studies. The important findings not only take into account the fact that metaphors play a much more fundamental role in thought and language than is traditionally acknowledged in theory of law. The findings of importance concern how categorisation is (really) done, the case of prototype effects (some members of a category are regarded as more “true” representatives of that category than other members of the same category), and the framing aspects of conceptions and metaphors. This is further emphasised by the process of embodiment of metaphors, and, hence, law. In simple terms, law is in need of a reification in order to be talked and thought about. This process is therefore of great interest for anyone concerned with understanding law’s place in society as a cognitive, lingual and cultural artefact. This chapter considers all of these contributions from cognitive linguistics to see what may benefit the study of norms in Sociology of Law.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law and Society

Keywords

  • Embodiment, Conceptions, Categorization, Norms, Conceptual metaphors, Law, cognitive theory
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial and Legal Norms: towards a socio-legal understanding of normativity
EditorsMatthias Baier
PublisherAshgate
Pages121-139
ISBN (Print)9781409453437
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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Stefan Larsson

2013/07/012016/12/31

Project: Research

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