The Meaning of Travel

The Meaning of Travel : Philosophers Abroad

3.48 (137 ratings by Goodreads)
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"This is the finest kind of travel: not just across continents, but through time, space and our infinite minds. The journey is the joy, and Emily Thomas a terrific guide." - Mike Parker

How can we think more deeply about travel?

This was the question that inspired Emily Thomas journey into the philosophy of travel. Part philosophical ramble, part travelogue, The Meaning of Travel begins in the Age of Discovery, when philosophers first started taking travel seriously. It meanders forward to consider Montaigne on otherness, John Locke on cannibals, and Henry Thoreau on wilderness.

On our travels with Thomas, we discover the dark side of maps, how the philosophy of space fuelled mountain tourism, and why you should wash underwear in woodland cabins... We also confront profound issues, such as the ethics of 'doom tourism (travel to 'doomed' glaciers and coral reefs), and the effect of space travel on human significance in a leviathan universe.

The first ever history of the places where history and philosophy meet, this book will reshape your understanding of travel.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 132 x 197 x 26mm | 328g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 25 illustrations
  • 019883540X
  • 9780198835400
  • 226,312

Table of contents

Travelling well: top 10 vintage trips
1: What is travel? Montaigne and otherness
2: What are maps? Brian Harley on cartographic deception
3: Francis Bacon on exploration and apocalyptic philosophy of science
4: Innate ideas on Descartes, Locke, and Cannibals
5: Why did tourism start? A grand tale of education and sex
6: Travel writing, thought experiments, and Margaret Cavendish's 'Blazing World'
7: Mountain travel and Henry More's philosophy of space
8: Edmund Burke and sublime tourism
9: Wilderness philosophy, Henry Thoreau, and cabin porn
10: Is 'travel' a male concept?
11: The ethics of doom tourism
12: Will space travel show the Earth is insignificant?
Returning home: top 10 vintage trips
Select Bibliography
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Review Text

"This is the finest kind of travel: not just across continents, but through time, space and our...
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Review quote

Emily Thomas combines a personal voice with highly informative, well-researched glimpses of particular philosophical travellers... It's accessible and it's entertaining, but also opens up interesting philosophical ideas. It's very original. * Nigel Warburton, Five Books, Best Philosophy Books 2020 * Emily Thomas has used her command of the philosophical canon to extend our understanding of an impulse that many of us share but few examine in such depth. The Meaning of Travel is a manifesto for the virtues that travel can bestow on the traveller not just an increase in knowledge, but a deep humility at the scale and diversity of the world, and an enduring wonder that we live on such a planet. * Philip Marsden, The Spectator * No one could ask for a more congenial companion than Emily Thomas on her 2,000-plus year journey through The Meaning of Travel ... an engaging primer on how travel has transformed both what we know and how we think. * Richard Larschan, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Book of the Week 02/04/2020 * Exceptionally thoughtful. * Sara Wheeler, Literary Review * Given our Covid confinement, "The Meaning of Travel" could not have come at a more poignant and appropriate time this profound little book explores why humans choose to wander from their homes with no ostensible purpose other than to make the excursion in question... Thomas is particularly engaging on the subject of the wilderness, and an account of a trip she made by herself to Alaska runs parallel with her broader inquiry. * Tunka Varadarajan, The Wall Street Journal * Novelty, knowledge and insight can be found in travel. It can make us wiser as well as better-informed ... having read this book, I am now both. * Graham Elliott, Standpoint * Emily Thomas's original and fun book The Meaning of Travel is my top pick in a year when travel is going to be difficult. One of the joys of the book is she's found so many great quotations from philosophers on the topic. * Nigel Warburton, Five Books, Summer Reading 2020: Philosophy Books * The author moves deftly from one aspect of travel and philosophy to the next and her delight in the subject is well conveyed... [The book] is more like an old map, an invitation to adventure which might take the form of travel or philosophy or, preferably, both. I recommend it especially to those with a strong faith in universal common sense, for travel and philosophy can sometimes disturb any such notion. * Stephen Leach, Philosophy Now * A real delight... Treat yourself! * Peter Smith, Logic Matters * Brilliantly researched and detailed, while staying humorous throughout, 'The Meaning of Travel' is a fantastic exploration of how travel can broaden the mind. * Stuart Kenny, Much Better Adventures (13 of the best travel books to read while you self-isolate) * A unique and extraordinary read that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. * The Midwest Book Review * A highly enjoyable and stimulating read - definitely a good book to take with you on your travels. * Paradigm Explorer * An original, engaging book... Emily Thomas has a lightness of touch that never undercuts the seriousness and complexities of the issues discussed. * Julian Baggini, author of How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy * This is the finest kind of travel: not just across continents, but through time, space and our infinite minds. The journey is the joy, and Emily Thomas a terrific guide. * Mike Parker * At last - a book not about where we travel, but why. The Meaning of Travel illuminates the reasons weve been tempted to set out on untrodden paths for centuries. * Dea Birkett, author of Serpent in Paradise * A highly enjoyable and stimulating read - definitely a good book to take with you on your travels. * David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer *
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About Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is Associate Professor in Philosophy at Durham University. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge and worked in the Netherlands for three years before arriving at Durham. She has published extensively on the philosophy of space and time, as well as philosophical issues in travel. She has also spent a lot of time by herself getting lost around the world.
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Rating details

137 ratings
3.48 out of 5 stars
5 15% (21)
4 34% (46)
3 36% (50)
2 13% (18)
1 1% (2)
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