Philosophy is the excellent travel companion to curious minds

Philosophy is the excellent travel companion to curious minds

Philosophy is also about looking into the unexplored. Within one of his innovative books on idealism, the 18th-century Irish philosopher George Berkeley likened his investigations to a “long Voyage” involving the difficult journey across “wild Mazes of Philosophy”. Scottish philosopher of the Enlightenment, David Hume, offers similar reflections in the middle of his most controversial sceptical work, A Treatise on Human Nature.

Travels across a ‘boundless ocean”: Scottish philosopher David Hume. PrakichTreetasayuth via Shutterstock

The man imagines he is a sailor that is in shallow water and just a few feet away from escaping a the wreck of a ship. The safety of his surroundings tempts him to stay at the cliffs instead of going out into “that boundless ocean, which runs out into immensity”. But Hume decides to take his boat out on another voyage with exactly the exact “leaky weather-beaten vessel”.

Unforgettable mazes of thought

“The “philosophy of travel” isn’t an actual thing. It’s not a topic for lectures or conferences. There aren’t lists of the greatest philosophers. As I’ve argued in my forthcoming book, The Value of Travel: Philosophers Abroad, Philosophy and travel have been a love affair for long periods of time.

Philosophers and travellers can strive to push the boundaries of their knowledge and understanding the world as it is. Travelers who are adventurous seek out new destinations and even the unexplored oceans of Earth and the planets orbiting distant stars. The most innovative philosophers pose new questions and challenge the old beliefs. How do we define time? Or the matter? Or good?

You may think that dreaming of the undiscovered is the only thing travel and philosophy are in the same category. Travel involves trains, passports, luggage. Ethics is a subject that involves the study of ethics and books as well as and bearded Greeks. Yet, despite their divergences, traveling and philosophy are inextricably linked. The influence of travel has affected philosophy, and philosophy has influenced travel.

Travel can help philosophers develop new questions. For instance, in the 17th century, European travelers began to send home, en masse, stories of practices and practices. John Locke, the “father of liberalism” – and an avid fan of travel literature – had a discussion about practices that Europeans considered shocking. His Essay on Human Understanding describes cannibalism within the populations of Georgia and in the Caribbean and Peru the, sexually immodest life of Turkish saints, and the atheism that is prevalent throughout China as well as Thailand.

A few of these claims were false: claims that cannibalism was a problem are exaggerated as if the fact that China and Thailand were both religiously influenced for centuries. It was becoming apparent that people all over the world are not in agreement on religion and ethics. Locke utilized these differences to ask a philosophical question. Are there any fundamental ideas that humans are born with? (For Locke, the answer was “no”.)

New questions

Traveling continues to pose new questions to be answered today. What are the ethical implications of tourism that is a threat to areas that are affected by climate change? Are we able to imagine what other other minds than our own? How will space travel affect us?

Mary Kingsley: English explorer who helped to map West Africa and discovered new species of fish. rook76 via Shutterstock

As travel has pushed the field of philosophy, it has also led to the push of philosophy to move travel practices in different directions. Each now and then, new ideas in philosophy encourage travelers to go to certain areas or in certain ways. For instance, American literary scholar Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s Mountain Gloom, Mountain Glory claims that in the 17th century, the brand new concept of space encouraged people to travel to the mountains. According to the ” Absolute” theorem, space is God’s vastness or the infinite presence.

Nicolson claims that this resulted in people imagining vast, infinite landscapes like mountains as heavenly. “Great cathedrals of the earth” – according to Victorian philosopher John Ruskin wrote of the Alps”altars of snow “altars of snow”. When mountains were cathedrals, people were eager to go there.

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