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Article
March 21, 1977

Enmeshed in Metaphor

JAMA. 1977;237(12):1236. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270390052028
Abstract

"The United States," writes Lewis H. Lapham in a recent editorial ("A Nation of Dreamers," Harper's, September 1976, p. 4), "is a nation of dreamers, captivated by the power of metaphor. Whenever possible the American substitutes the symbol for whatever it is that the symbol represents." Contrary to the popular view of himself as a practical, skeptical materialist eager to possess material goods, the American, so maintains Lapham, is a dreamer to whom material acquisitions serve as symbols of some desired immateriality. The latter is manifest in the surrealist atmosphere of the modern novel, in the abstract theories of modern art, in the symbolism of political and business rhetoric, and even in the approaches to sex, where acquisition of the sexual object serves as proof of something else. "The transcendental bias of the American mind," says Lapham, "can turn the whole world into metaphor."

Does this "world" include medicine? Does

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