We may not always know it, but we think in metaphor. A large proportion of our most commonplace thoughts make use of an extensive, but unconscious, system of metaphorical concepts, that is, short essay on morality from a typically concrete realm of thought that are used to comprehend another, completely different domain.
Such concepts are often reflected in everyday language, but their most dramatic effect comes in ordinary reasoning. Because so much of our social and political reasoning makes use of this system of metaphorical concepts, any adequate appreciation of even the most mundane social and political thought requires an understanding of this system. But unless one knows that the system exists, one may miss it altogether and be mystified by its effects. For me, one of the most poignant effects of the ignorance of metaphorical thought is the mystification of liberals concerning the recent electoral successes of conservatives.
Conservatives regularly chide liberals for not understanding them, and they are right. Liberals don’t understand how anti-abortion “right-to-life” activists can favor the death penalty and oppose reducing infant morality through prenatal care programs. They don’t understand why conservatives attack violence in the media while promoting the right to own machine guns. The reason at bottom is that liberals do not understand the form of metaphorical thought that unifies and makes sense of the full range of conservative values. To understand what metaphor has to do with conservative politics, we must begin with that part of our metaphor system that is used to conceptualize morality — a system of roughly two dozen metaphors.