Humanity takes up space. Human beings, like many other species, also transform spaces. What is perhaps uniquely human is the disposition to qualitatively transform spaces into places that are charged with distinctive kinds of intergenerational significance. There is a profound, felt difference between a house as domestic space and a home as familial place or between the summit of a mountain one has climbed for the first time and the “same” rock pinnacle celebrated in ancestral narratives.
Contemporary philosophical uses of the word “place” often pivot on the distinction between “space” and “place” formalized by geographer-philosopher Yi-fu Tuan, who suggested that places incorporate the experiences and aspirations of a people over the course of their moral and aesthetic engagement with sites and locations. While spaces afford possibilities for different kinds of presence—physical, emotional, cognitive, dramatic, spiritual—places emerge as different ways of being present, fuse over time, and saturate a locale with distinctively collaborative patterns of significance.
This approach to issues of place, however, is emblematic of what Edward S. Casey has argued are convictions about the primacy of absolute space and time that evolved along with the progressive dominance of the scientific imagination and modern imaginations of the universal. The recent reappearance of place in Western philosophy represents a turn away from abstract and a priori reasoning and back toward phenomenal experience and the primacy of embodied and emplaced intelligence. Places are enacted through the sustainably shared practices of mutually-responsive and mutually-vulnerable agents and are as numerous in kind as we are divergent in the patterns of values and intentions.
The contributors to this volume draw on resources from Asian, European, and North American traditions of thought to engage in intercultural reflection on the significance of place in philosophy and of the place of philosophy itself in the cultural, social, economic, and political domains of contemporary life. The conversation of place that results explores the meaning of intercultural philosophy, the critical interplay of place and personal identity, the meaning of appropriate emplacement, the shared place of politics and religion, and the nature of the emotionally emplaced body.
Peter D. Hershock is director of the Asian Studies Development Program and education specialist at the East-West Center in Honolulu and fellow at the Berggruen Institute’s China Center.
Roger T. Ames (Editor)
Roger T. Ames is Humanities Chair Professor at Peking University, a Berggruen Fellow, and professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Hawai‘i.
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