Some disciplinary critical reasons to environmentalise our humanities

Paper for the Interdisciplinary Symposium
'Responsible Environmental Behavior'

By Nold Egenter


Space is - like time - one of the most important categories of the human condition. However, in contrast to time, which forms the basic classifier of our past and has been studied extensively e.g. in philosophy, space has widely remained a "hidden dimension" (Hall) in the humanities.

Since Petrarca's famous report on what he felt and saw on Mount Ventoux in the 14th century (1336) and continuously into the age of the discoveries, the concept of space saw a tremendous expansion, globally in the geographical sense, cosmologically in terms of astrophysics and, on the other end - probably as an 'atomistic' reaction - also in chemistry and physics.

All these new discoveries were of tremendous impacts on our view of the world, in the micro-, meso- as well as in the macrocosmic dimension. In general this 'scientific revolution' is well known today and forms part of our progressive ideas.

But, what was before? In terms of space, how were the minds structured of those who designed the cosmos chart of ancient Babylonia? What were the world-views of Pharaos, from early until late dynastic times? What was space for Moise, or for those who conceived the Ptolemaic map of the cosmos? What does it mean, if the Greeks used 'cosmos' spatially close to what today we call 'cosmetics' (Kerschensteiner)? How did the Romans conceive their empire in terms of space, the world as a whole? What - basically - structured our modern scientific worldview? Note, that Kepler, before he met Tycho Brahe and got to know his precise empirical methods of observation, relied widely on an encapsuled model of Platonic geometrical bodies, which he idealised as absolute harmony in the sense of scholastic theology.

And, finally, the most important question: how are these transitional stages of space perception described today? Is it of any importance for our modern worldview how we deal with them?

The author of this paper maintains that we cannot reach any 'responsible environmental behavior' without critically reviewing the 'theories' of the past in regard to space: the retroprojection of modern space concepts on early civilisations tends to glorify them, which, on the other side, also attributes fictive values of the universe to our own world-views. 'First man on the moon', 'star wars', 'life on Mars?', 'global medialisation', 'First World/Third World', 'Megacities of thirty millions', 'man the ruler of the world', 'absolute progress': do we measure our cultural globe with the scale of the universe? The paper is essentially based on O. F. Bollnow's (1963) 'anthropology of space'.

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