Friday, October 26, 2007

Place & Space in History

Most commentators on place and space would agree that in our philosophical history, time has recently played a more prominent role than place or space. And over that same time, space has enjoyed favored position over place. Place and space find prominent roles in both Plato and Aristotle’s thought even through the Medieval period where ancient issues of place dealt primarily with “genesis and purpose on one side and with form and embodiment on the other.”[1]

Theological questions have often had interesting effects upon the discussion. A subtle slide toward space began with a theological emphasis of God’s infinity. If God is infinite, so must the universe be. An infinite space is required for an infinite God. Casey suggests that this is the fateful turn from ancient to modern thought.[2] For many who followed in this line of thought, infinite space was often paired with the ubiquity of God creating a divinization of space or panentheistic view of the universe.[3]

We also can see the diminishment of place to space in modernity’s love of the universal rather than the particular. Place represented the particular and often the radically particular. On one hand we have Newtonian physics expanding space to infinity and on the other Descartes internalizing place.[4] It is the creation of two extremes: the expanse of one, creating a vacuum of place, leaving the only certain place for place within the self.[5]

[1] Casey, 76. Casey has some very interesting interpretations of Genesis by reinterpreting it through place rather than time. Cosmosgenesis tells of events in places (p. 7).
[2] Casey, 78.
[3] Ibid., 111-113.
[4] Ibid., 159.
[5] I suppose we see Decartes emergence here rooting the foundation of knowledge within the self.