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It’s about time!


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It’s about time!


How does cognitive science, as constructed by the embodied realists, look at ‘time’?


Cognitive science examines concepts as they come ready-made from the unconscious. Language expresses our ready-made concept of time and with this the cognitive scientists constructs the mechanisms and the human experiences that have gone into the development of this living concept. I call it a living concept because some experience I have later today might very well modify it somewhat without my conscious awareness.


As Rumsfeld might say ‘we take the concept we have and not the concept we might wish to have’.


Events and time: oscillating pendulums mark time—drummers mark time—subatomic particles mark time—time marches forward—time does not march backward—time is continuous and also segmented—time is never alone but is often marked by an event.


Spatial time: is that central time or GM time?—time is located with reference to the observer, it is behind, in front of, in the present, past or future—there is moving time that comes toward me or away from me—time is never alone but is often marked in spatial terms.


Time flows like a river. Time stands still and the observer moves. The observer stands still while time moves. There is trouble down the road. What length of time will you be staying? We are coming up to Christmas. We passed the deadline. The days dwindle down to a precious few. The deadline sneaked by me. The future is ahead of us. Put the past behind you. Time is never alone but is often marked by my presence.


All this time orientation occurs in many languages and occurs widely around the world; these conceptions of time are not arbitrary, but are motivated by “by the most basic of everyday experiences”. Time is conceived with metaphors. We do not speak of time-in-it-self we think of time in metaphor. In many metaphors, time is conceived as a container. “He ran a mile in five minutes”, in locates the event within a metaphorical temporal container, i.e. a bounded region. “The race occurred at 10 am”, locates time at a temporal location.


Our subjective life is enormous. We have subjective experiences of desire, affection, and achievement. We make subjective judgments about abstract ideas such as importance, difficulty, and morality. Much of what makes up our conceptualization, reasoning, and visualization of these subjective matters “comes from other domains of experience”. These other domains are mostly sensorimotor experiences.


Within the human unconscious there is a constant copying of the neurological structure of actual experiences onto subjective concepts. In other words, below the conscious radar our unconscious is selecting copies of the neurological structures from real life experiences and placing those copies onto subjective concepts. Our concept of time is an accumulation of the neurological structures of real experiences; thus we have such a varied and sometimes contradictory comprehension of many subjective abstract concepts such as we see with ‘time’.


Can we conceptualize ‘time’ without using metaphors? I cannot, it appears that no one can.


Time is a human conceptualization. Is there a literal aspect of time? Yes, time is directional, it is irreversible, time-defining events are regular and iterative. But we can hardly think or speak of time without metaphor. This is the case because we invent the concept of time unconsciously by our experiences as we move through space and time in our daily activities.


Many of our concepts are just like this concept of time. Our subjective concepts, our abstract concepts, such as value, causality, change, love, nation, patriotism, God or gods, etc. are all human constructions that happen below the conscious radar and exist because our unconscious activity creates them.


Ideas and some quotes from “Philosophy in the Flesh”—Lakoff and Johnson

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