The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History

The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History

The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History

The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History


In this imaginative and comprehensive study, Edward Casey, one of the most incisive interpreters of the Continental philosophical tradition, offers a philosophical history of the evolving conceptualizations of place and space in Western thought. Not merely a presentation of the ideas of other philosophers, The Fate of Place is acutely sensitive to silences, absences, and missed opportunities in the complex history of philosophical approaches to space and place. A central theme is the increasing neglect of place in favor of space from the seventh century A.D. onward, amounting to the virtual exclusion of place by the end of the eighteenth century.

Casey begins with mythological and religious creation stories and the theories of Plato and Aristotle and then explores the heritage of Neoplatonic, medieval, and Renaissance speculations about space. He presents an impressive history of the birth of modern spatial conceptions in the writings of Newton, Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant and delineates the evolution of twentieth-century phenomenological approaches in the work of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard, and Heidegger. In the book's final section, Casey explores the postmodern theories of Foucault, Derrida, Tschumi, Deleuze and Guattari, and Irigaray.


The power of place will be remarkable.

—Aristotle, Physics

No man therefore can conceive anything, but he
must conceive it in some place.

—Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

The present epoch will perhaps be above all the
epoch of space…. The anxiety of our era has to do
fundamentally with space, no doubt a great deal
more than with time.

—Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”

Whatever is true for space and time, this much is true for place: we are immersed in it and could not do without it. To be at all—to exist in any way— is to be somewhere, and to be somewhere is to be in some kind of place. Place is as requisite as the air we breathe, the ground on which we stand, the bodies we have. We are surrounded by places. We walk over and through them. We live in places, relate to others in them, die in them. Nothing we do is unplaced. How could it be otherwise? How could we fail to recognize this primal fact?

Aristotle recognized it. He made “where” one of the ten indispensable categories of every substance, and he gave a sustained and perspicacious account of place in his Physics. His discussion set off a debate that has lasted until the present day. Heidegger, for example, contends with Aristotle as to what being in a place signifies for “being-in-the-world.” More recently still, Irigaray has returned to Aristotle’s idea of place as essential to an ethics of sexual . . .

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