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Metaphor and the Embodied Mind: An Engine of Organizational Inquiry

Richard J. Boland
Case Western Reserve University, USA
Ramkrishnan V. Tenkasi
Benedictine University, USA

In its most general form, the question our paper asks is: "why, after a question has been asked and answered, does a conversation of inquiry continue, and not just stop?" Why, in our conversations within and about organizations, do certain topics like control and structure get visited and revisited with images that alternate between opposite poles? We propose that the answer has to do with the reciprocal and metaphorical quality of language, especially the dialectic interplay between a few bodily based, orientational metaphors that structure and guide our conversations of inquiry. These bodily based, orientational metaphors reflect ontological dilemmas that undergird organizational life and fuel the semantics of everyday speech. We argue that this system of reciprocally related metaphorical referents and their dialectic interplay provides a kind of engine for organizational inquiry. The pursuit of inquiry through one metaphor brings with it a subsidiary reference to another that progressively grows in interpretive power and reframes the inquiry with an opposite valency. We explore how a few metaphorical oppositions such as light/dark, surface/deep, inside/outside, and separate/together provide an engine of inquiry for some recurring topics in organizational studies.

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Reference:Boland, R.J., Tenkasi, R.V. (2001). "Metaphor and the Embodied Mind: An Engine of Organizational Inquiry," Case Western Reserve University, USA . Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems, 1(11). http://sprouts.aisnet.org/1-11
Keywords:Organizational Inquiry, Metaphor
Item Type:Article - Volume 1 Article 11 (2001)
Email: Richard J. Boland (boland@case.edu)

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