But it is something along these lines that people seem to be doing when they use 'yellow' in songs like "Yellow" by Coldplay or "Bright As Yellow" by the Innocence Mission. They want the listener to picture the color yellow in her mind as she hears, and to understand what is said in light of this (which means something like side-by-side with this image). Maybe that's not quite right. But some association is being used or counted on, and the association with 'yellow' (not a very complicated metaphor) is surely likely to be something like an after-image or vague thoughts of lemons and sunshine. It's almost as if the kind of philosophy of language that Wittgenstein rejects is true of metaphorical language. (Or: when I try to philosophize about language on my own I repeat the mistakes of philosophers who have not learned from Wittgenstein. I'm not sure. The way to work this out is to go in deeper.)
Because of this interest in pictures I'm reading Gombrich's The Story of Art. He writes:
Everyone knows that Egypt is the land of the pyramids, those mountains of stone which stand like weathered landmarks on the distant horizon of history. However remote and mysterious they seem, they tell us much of their own story. They tell us of a land which was so thoroughly organized that it was possible to pile up these gigantic mounds in the lifetime of a single king, and they tell us of kings who were so rich and powerful that they could force thousands and thousands of workers or slaves to toil for them year in, year out, to quarry the stones, to drag them to the building site, and to shift them with the most primitive means until the tomb was ready to receive the king. No king, and no people would have gone to such expense, and taken so much trouble, for the creation of a mere monument. In fact, we know that the pyramids had their practical importance in the eyes of the kings and their subjects. The king was considered a divine being who held sway over them, and on his departure from this earth he would again ascend to the gods whence he had come. The pyramids soaring up to the sky would probably help him to make his ascent.This strikes me as both true and false. It is true that "No king, and no people would have gone to such expense, and taken so much trouble, for the creation of a mere monument." But medieval cathedrals, Stonehenge, and the pyramids all suggest that it is perhaps only for monuments that people will go to such trouble. If asked why, they might be likely to offer the kind of practical purpose that Gombrich describes. For the sake of eternal life it makes sense to work hard before we die. And yet people don't readily give up smoking or eat more healthily or exercise more for the sake of longer life. And this is despite evidence that doing so will help, which is quite lacking in the case of the belief that "pyramids soaring up to the sky would probably help him to make his ascent" (even if 'probably' is not part of their belief but is rather Gombrich's judgment on the plausibility of his hypothesis).
People will make incredible sacrifices and efforts for religious purposes that they will not make for secular purposes, even if they think of the two as being the same. It isn't what they think, in other words, that really matters. The difference shows up in what they do. This might be guided by pictures. Perhaps it has to be, perhaps it would never work without some pictures, and these might have to be of a particular kind. But it is the effect of these pictures, or the use to which they are put, that really matters, not the pictures themselves (e.g. pictures of living on after death). It seems to be important that the pictures are not thought about too much, are not investigated. They might need to be thought about in the sense of being kept in mind, but wondering about cause and effect (as in Fyodor Karamazov's wondering about the hooks in hell) will tend to undermine their efficacy.
Monuments are objects that we literally live by (i.e. near to), and they are, presumably, meant to influence how we live as well. So they function like pictures or metaphors. We live, if not in their light, then in their shadow. They also express beliefs or attitudes. (At least monuments like ancient pyramids do. Others might express nothing but a desire to build something large or monumental.) But this expression is not statement. There's a difference between crying and saying "I am sad." I think it's easy to misinterpret expressions if we take them as instruments (even though they might be instrumental in some ways). But they aren't (always) just expressions either. They can be intelligible, articulate.
I don't know whether I've got this right or said anything new, but this is probably long enough for a blog post in which I'm really just thinking out loud. Please feel free, as ever, to correct any errors.