- Landscape and Travelling East and West: A Philosophical Journey ed. by Hans-Georg Moeller, Andrew K. Whitehead
Landscape and Travelling East and West: A Philosophical Journey, is a delightful edited collection of seventeen essays thematically clustered around ideas of travel and landscape, primarily involving Continental and East Asian philosophical traditions. [End Page 988] As editors Hans-Georg Moeller and Andrew K. Whitehead point out, travel and landscape are rarely thematized in contemporary philosophical discourse, despite the fact that more and more academics are able (and often required) to travel greater and greater distances. In the Introduction, the editors note that contributors discuss thinkers such as Confucius, Socrates, Descartes, the Buddha, and Heidegger, and explain that “[t]he essays in this volume look at these philosophical protagonists and others, trying to explore what travelling, landscape and related notions meant for them as thinkers and writers—as an aspect of their lived experience, as well as one of the central metaphors shaping their thoughts and texts” (pp. 1–2). This collection is unusual in several ways: the contributions range across disciplines including philosophy, religious studies, sociology, poetry, and art history; traditions discussed include German Romanticism, Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Modern Philosophy, and Greek Philosophy; and the central organizing ideas of travel and landscape are theorized both literally and metaphorically. While a review such as this does not have room for a sustained engagement with each essay, in what follows I give a brief overview of the collection’s four main parts, highlight some especially intriguing essays and ideas, and conclude with a few remarks about the volume as a whole.
Part 1 treats landscape and traveling as philosophical issues relevant to the contemporary world. It contains essays by Mario Wenning (“Crossing Boundaries: Zhuangzi and Bashō on the Art of Travel”), Franklin Perkins (“Wandering and/or Being at Home”), Andrea Martinez (“Locality and Journeying in a Migration”), and Günter Wohlfart (“On the Way: Foolish Notes of an Old Nomadic Poet-Philosopher”). Wenning’s essay opens the volume with two of the most iconic East Asian wanderers, Zhuangzi and Bashō. Wenning provides an interesting contrast between “Western” journeys that involve a promise of progress and ultimate arrival, and Daoist journeys of freedom or wandering without a destination. In reflecting on these thinkers, he asks the perhaps paradoxical question: what might it mean to cross boundaries by not using boundaries? Perkins’ essay highlights the tensions between travel and community, between the familiarity of home and the exoticism of elsewhere, and between the radical difference and yet shared humanity across cultures. In doing so, he problematizes the liberatory function of travel. The essay also contains an excellent section on René Descartes and the connections he makes between travel and philosophy.
Part 2 takes a more historical focus, examining landscape and traveling as classical subjects in philosophy, and also examining artistic and aesthetic discourses pertaining to travel and landscape. It contains essays by May Sim (“Travelling with Laozi and Plato”), Robin R. Wang (“Yinyang Landscape: Fengshui Design and Shanshui Painting”), Ouyang Xiao (“Detachment and Reunion: Travel and Human Presence in Landscape”), and Rolf Trauzettel (“Landscape as an Aesthetic Person: On the Conceptual World of German Romanticism”). Sim’s essay explores the ways in which although neither Laozi nor Plato advises or seems particularly interested in actual travel, both employ metaphors of travel to illustrate epistemological journeys, albeit with relevant differences. Wang’s essay treats landscape as a cultural image, a human construction, and delves into connections between internal and external landscapes. [End Page 989] She uses fengshui (specifically going back to fengshui in burial practices) and shanshui paintings to talk about macrocosms and microcosms of internal and external landscapes, and draws on an exciting variety of Chinese sources. Ouyang Xiao’s essay is methodologically one of the most interesting in the collection, as he attempts to respond to the problem of unidirectionality in comparative study (Western ideas/issues make sense of Eastern ones, but not the other way around) by...