Philosophy of Place

Finding Place and Self in the World

by Matthew Gildersleeve (Volume editor) Andrew Crowden (Volume editor)
©2022 Edited Collection VIII, 228 Pages


This book discusses the philosophy of place and the implications for understanding ourselves authentically. It sets out to investigate this by providing a review of the phenomenological and humanistic views of place as background reading for the chapters that follow. This contributed book offers unique chapters from international scholars on place in relation to individual philosophers such as Nietzsche, Sloterdijk, Foucault, as well as more broad areas of research including Ecology, Ontogenesis, Bioethics and Metaphysics. The book then presents an integration of the arguments of the contributing authors to give a better and fresh insight to the relationship between place and self. This fusion of chapters amplifies each to show how they all have an important contribution to an expanded understanding of place and self. This combination of topics as well as each author’s view of place makes this book an important contribution to the literature. The book is intended for philosophers but would also be of interest to a general audience.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction to the Philosophy of Place (Matthew Gildersleeve and Andrew Crowden)
  • 2. From the Ecological Crisis to the Oikos: Looking at What Makes Us Psychologically Different (Luca Valera)
  • 3. Place and Subjectivity: Nietzsche’s Topological Philosophy (Riccardo Carli)
  • 4. Primordial Place in Peter Sloterdijk’s Anthropology of Roundness (Stefan Gullatz)
  • 5. Power, Foucault and Place (Matthew Gildersleeve)
  • 6. On “Cosmicism” as a Defining Dimension of Human Beingness-in-Becoming within the Romanian Metaphysics (Carmen Cozma)
  • 7. Philosophy of Place and Bioethics (Andrew Crowden)
  • 8. Learning One’s Place: Context and Content in the Conceptual Co-Construction of Self and Place (Jennifer Greenwood)
  • 9. Book Summary and New Insights (Matthew Gildersleeve and Andrew Crowden)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

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This book developed from research starting in 2017 at the University of Queensland between Matthew Gildersleeve and Andrew Crowden. We are very grateful for the financial and equipment assistance we have had from the University of Queensland and the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry. We are also thankful for the funding our research received from the Queensland Genomic Health Alliance, and the John Templeton Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Virginia and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. This book developed through reading the vast literature on place and various discussions with colleagues, students, conferences, and peer reviews. We have met many new friends through our work investigating place both in Australia and overseas and we thank each for the informative discussions we have had. Thank you to all of our contributors to this book which has strengthened our existing relationships we had prior to the book. This edited volume has provided us greater insight into each one of their thinking of place and has allowed us to better understand ourselves too. We hope each author feels the same when they read this book. We believe this is eloquently articulated by Arne Naess when he says “We see ourselves in others. Our self-realization is hindered if the self-realization of others, with whom we identify, is hindered. Our self-love will fight this hindrance by assisting in the self-realization of others according to the formula Live and let live! Thus, everything that can be achieved by altruism—the dutiful, moral consideration for others—can be achieved, and much more, by the process of widening and deepening ourselves” (Naess, 2008).

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1. Introduction to the Philosophy of Place

Matthew Gildersleeve and Andrew Crowden


This book presents a number of different philosophical views about the meaning of place and integrates them together to better understand the relationship to self and to achieve “being at home in the world”. This introduction provides a literature review on place research with a specific focus on humanistic and phenomenological versions. A number of sections have been developed into themes which all form important categories for the chapters presented in this book. The conclusion of this book will return to these themes and integrate them with other aspects of place research and the arguments presented in the chapters that form this book. The sections of this introduction appear as follows: place, phenomenology, humanistic geography, home, not at home, journey and reach, power and place, place and the body, and place, self and identity. This introduction is important for thinking through the chapters that follow on individual philosophers such as Nietzsche, Sloterdijk, Foucault, as well as more broad areas of research including ecology, ontogenesis, bioethics and metaphysics. The conclusion will discuss how the chapters in this book provide us new insight into the question of place by focusing on the themes presented in the introduction as well as other relevant research on place. Our book achieves this by presenting a fusion of chapters which amplifies each to show how they all have an important contribution to an expanded understanding of self and our place in the world.

Outline of Book

“When Dasein directs itself towards something and grasps it, it does not somehow first get out of an inner sphere in which it has been proximally encapsulated, but its primary kind of Being is such that it is always 'outside' alongside entities which it encounters and which belong to a world already discovered” (Heidegger, 1927, p.89).

“At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the plashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons. There is ←1 | 2→nothing in the Tower that has not grown into its own form over the decades, nothing with which I am not linked” (Jung 1961, p.225).

The philosophy of place is a complex topic. The way we understand place in this book cannot be easily reduced to a simple definition. Our aim in this book is to investigate the complexity of place and highlight the vastness of this concept. We take a phenomenological and humanistic approach to understanding place. This follows in a tradition of philosophers such as Relph, Seamon and Malpas among others. Relph (1976, p. 4) notes that place “is not just a formal concept awaiting a precise definition … clarification cannot be achieved by imposing precise but arbitrary definitions”. Furthermore, Seamon (1987, p. 20) says applying reductive and superficial definitions loses the “phenomenological essence of place as a psycho-social-environmental whole larger than the sum of its parts”.

Moore (2000, p. 208) provides an excellent way to express the difficulty of providing a simple definition for place. She says the “difficulty in defining the concept is in part due to its many layers of meaning”. Moore argues understanding place,

“is like trying to describe an onion. It appears simple on the outside, but it is deceptive, for it has many layers. If it is cut apart, there are just onion skins left and the original form has disappeared. If each layer is described separately, we lose sight of the whole. The layers are transparent so that when we look at the whole onion we see not just the surface but also something of the interior”.

As a result, place “has to be examined in terms of its parts as well as a whole, mindful that to focus strongly on one part, it is possible to lose sight of the whole concept itself” (ibid).

This book follows Seamon (2018) who says it is important to use a wide range of resources to investigate and explore place to “offer mutual illumination, amplification, and validation of place as a phenomenon”. Our book follows this method and brings together the varying chapters in the conclusion to give new insights to place. Seamon called this “method triangulation, whereby one source of evidence provides insights into other sources of evidence, and one’s understanding of the phenomenon is therefore deepened and strengthened” (ibid). This method can also give insight to a phenomenological and humanistic understanding of place. Gildersleeve and Crowden (2018, p. 96–97) have previously argued that finding an authentic place (or home) in the world involves triangulation.

This book triangulates and brings together authors who give us insight into a number of dimensions of place. This book begins by highlighting the phenomenological method of analysis which provides us an interpretive ←2 | 3→framework to understand place and draw together the various chapters. Next, we show how humanistic geographers have come to understand place which leads into a discussion of the fundamental concept of home which is essential to understand self and its relation to place. In this book we argue that to know the self is to feel “at home in the world” whereas to not know the self is to feel dislodged and “not at home in the world”. However, as this book shows it is not so simple as this because sometimes, we are required to go through “not being at world” to come to better know the self and feel “at home in the world”. This dialectic is discussed in this introduction in the section on “Journey and Reach” and is further detailed in the conclusion. Following this is an introduction to the relationship between power and place. This section is particularly important to the chapter by Matthew Gildersleeve on Foucault. As will become clear in his chapter and in the conclusion, there are powers that can dislodge us from feeling “at home in the world” and it is important to identify these, so we have resistance to establish ourselves authentically instead of being under the power of unconscious and ideological domination. After this there are two sections before the individual chapters begin. There is a section on place and the body to highlight how the body is one way of showing the constitution of place and to show that it separates and structures place for each individual. Finally, there is a focused discussion of the relationship between self and place and how they both mutually refer to each other. There is no place without self and there is no self without place. In the conclusion (Chapter 9) we revisit most of these topics and sections from the introduction to better understand how the individual chapters and authors of this book contribute to each theme. As a result, we see a discussion of phenomenology, humanistic geography, home and not at home, journey and reach, and Tim Cresswell’s writings on power as well as an analysis of the findings from this book presented in relation to Martin Heidegger’s philosophy, who many consider the “father” of a phenomenological understanding of place.

Ultimately, we aim to build on the existing understanding of place presented in phenomenology and humanistic geography and apply this to a new understanding of various topics that have not been immersed in this place literature. Reciprocally these various topics on ecology, Nietzsche, Sloterdijk, power, Romanian culture, ethics and ontogenesis will provide a new understanding and appreciation of place. The authors of this volume have worked together before and are familiar with each other’s background and understanding of place. The authors of this book have been selected to write about and apply place in different directions but then the editors aim to bring this ←3 | 4→diverse work together to give a more holistic and wide-reaching understanding of place and self.


VIII, 228
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (May)
Place Philosophy Geography Self Phenomenology Home Ethics Psychology Philosophy of Place Finding Place and Self in the World Matthew Gildersleeve Andrew Crowden
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. VIII, 228 pp., 1 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Matthew Gildersleeve (Volume editor) Andrew Crowden (Volume editor)

Matthew Gildersleeve completed his PhD at the University of Queensland where he teaches and conducts research in Brisbane, Australia. He has published articles in the Journal of Analytical Psychology, the Humanistic Psychologist and Philosophy Now. His research interests are in philosophy, psychology, psychotherapy and sport science and has recently been funded to research and write about the philosophy of place. Andrew Crowden is a philosopher and bioethicist with expertise in practical ethics. He is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Queensland’s School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, Honorary Principle Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Adjunct Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast where he is Chairperson of the Human Research Ethics Committee and until recently was Chairperson of the Animal Ethics Committee. He is Chair of the University of Queensland Ethics Advisory Group and an executive member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Research Ethics Committee.


Title: Philosophy of Place