Crossing the boundaries of time: Merleau-ponty's phenomenology and cognitive linguistic theories

According to current cognitive linguistic theory, the abstract notion of TIME in many languages of the world is expressed through a metonymic relation involving direc-tion, irreversibility, continuity, segmentation, and measurability and one of two possible versions of the TIME AS ORIENTATION IN SPACE metaphor: either the observer moves or time does. In Phenomenology of Perception (1945), Merleau-Ponty argues for the possibility of understanding what he calls 'our primordial experience'of time through an exploration, analysis, comparison, and evaluation of the different metaphors for time, not as they exist in themselves but as they are grounded in what other cognitive linguists have explored with respect to subjectivity, concept formation, and conceptual integration. This 'primordial experience' of time is possible because of the embodiment of ourselves in the world and gives rise to Merleau-Ponty’s theory of an ontology of the flesh; the fact that we are 'of' rather than 'in' the world gives rise to his theory of time as depth. In this paper, I show how Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of time might 1) clarify the picture Lakoff and Johnson give of the existence of time and 2) provide a philosophical foundation that integrates various contemporary cognitive linguistic theories.
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