Conceptions of the Self in the Zhuangzi : Conceptual Metaphor Analysis and Comparative Thought

Edward G. (Edward Gilman) Slingerland
2004 Philosophy East & West  
Language belongs in its origin to the age of the most rudimentary form of psychology: we find ourselves in the midst of a rude fetishism when we call to mind the basic presuppositions of the metaphysics of languagewhich is to say, of reason. It is this which sees everywhere deed and doer; this which believes in will as cause in general; this which believes in the 'ego,' in the ego as being, in the ego as substance, and which projects its belief in the ego-substance to all things-only thus does
more » ... t create the concept 'thing'. . . . 'Reason' in language: oh what a deceitful old woman! I fear that we are not getting rid of God because we still believe in grammar. . . . Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols ([1889] 1968, p. 38) The purpose of this article is to explore Nietzsche's "metaphysics of language" as understood by a fairly new field of inquiry, cognitive linguistics and the contemporary theory of metaphor, with metaphorical conceptions of the self in a fourthcentury B.C.E. Chinese text, the Zhuangzi, serving as our case example. It will be argued that the contemporary theory of metaphor provides scholars with an exciting new theoretical grounding for the study of comparative thought, as well as a concrete methodology for undertaking the comparative project. What we shall see when we examine the Zhuangzi from the perspective of metaphor theory is that conceptions of the self portrayed in this text are based on a relatively small set of interrelated conceptual metaphors, and that the metaphysics built into the Zhuangzi's classical Chinese metaphors resonates strongly with the (mostly unconscious) metaphysical assumptions built into the metaphors of modern American English. This should not surprise us, considering the claims of contemporary cognitive linguists that the metaphoric schemas making up the foundation of our abstract conceptual life are not arbitrarily created ex nihilo, but rather emerge from common human embodied experience and are conceptual, rather than merely linguistic, in nature.
doi:10.1353/pew.2004.0023 fatcat:de7e765siraijhjeisrr43lway