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

Philosophy East and West 54 (3):322 - 342 (2004)
Abstract
The purpose here is to explore metaphorical conceptions of the self in a fourth century B.C.E. Chinese text, the Zhuangzi, from the perspective of cognitive linguistics and the contemporary theory of metaphor. It is 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 is seen when the Zhuangzi is examined 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 be surprising, considering the claims of contemporary cognitive linguists that the metaphoric schemas making up the foundation of human abstract conceptual life are not arbitrarily created ex nihilo, but rather emerge from common embodied experience and are conceptual, rather than merely linguistic, in nature
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