Bindings against boundaries: entanglements of life in an open world

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In this paper I argue that to inhabit the world is to live life in the open. Yet philosophical attempts to characterise the open lead to paradox. Do we follow Heidegger in treating the open as an enclosed space cleared from within, or Kant (and, following his lead, mainstream science) in placing the open all around on the outside? One possible solution is offered by Gibson in his ecological approach to perception. The Gibsonian perceiver is supported on the ground, with the sky above and the earth below. Yet in this view, only by being furnished with objects does the earth-sky world become habitable. To progress beyond the idea that life is played out upon the surface of a furnished world, we need to attend to those fluxes of the medium we call weather. To inhabit the open is to be immersed in these fluxes. Life is lived in a zone in which earthly substances and aerial media are brought together in the constitution of beings which, in their activity, participate in weaving the textures of the land. Here, organisms figure not as externally bounded entities but as bundles of interwoven lines of growth and movement, together constituting a meshwork in fluid space. The environment, then, comprises not the surroundings of the organism but a zone of entanglement. Life in the open, far from being contained within bounded places, threads its way along paths through the weather world. Despite human attempts to hard surface this world, and to block the intermingling of substance and medium that is essential to growth and habitation, the creeping entanglements of life will always and eventually gain the upper hand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1796-1810
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


  • networks
  • earth


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