ontological metaphor

An ontological metaphor, according to George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, is the most abstract and powerful type of conceptual metaphor: those that "relate experience with physical objects (especially our own bodies)" to "events, activities, emotions, ideas" so that we make analogies to them being "entities bounded by a surface."

All humans use such metaphors to create an "object" or "it" so they may "refer to it, quantify it, identify a particular aspect of it, see it as a cause, act with respect to it, and perhaps even believe that we understand it." These are necessary to daily life but impose certain severe limits on challenges to the mindsets that set up the analogy in the first place.

For instance, concepts like ownership and leadership and decision can all be very easily confused with reality as expressed physically. All three ideas are conventions, that have no analogy to our daily "animal" life.

While it is relatively easy to discern the implications of simple orientational metaphors, it is quite hard to decide where an ontology has actually created a notation bias so powerful that it has effectively made a decision "for us".

Lakoff later developed the cognitive science of mathematics in order to debate this issue and more exactly state the implications of the mapping of symbol onto body. This is a cornerstone of theory of The Embodiment.