Godel’s Metaphor

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Drawing from the work of Kurt Godel, this article introduces a set of tools from symbolic logic that can be used to explore the structure of certain kinds of complex meaning, including metaphor, connotation, poetic allusion, and some rudimentary properties of consciousness such as self-reflection. It begins with a brief overview of Godel’s Theorem, and how this theorem revolutionized mathematics, first by developing a simple apparatus to represent previously uninvestigated complexities of number theory, and then by using this same apparatus to show the limits of standard logic. The current article takes this as a starting point, and goes on to illustrates how Godel’s apparatus can be extended to represent the common but complex types of meaning referred to above. Following Godel’s example, the article concludes by commenting on the inadequacy of any exact apparatus in attempting to complete the journey described in the quote on the home page of this website.


This article originally appeared in Semiotica, 98(1/2) (1994), pp. 5-48, ©Walter de Gruyter. The published article is available at https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.1994.98.1-2.5. Copies of the article can also be obtained from the author via the portal at the bottom of this page.