The Meaning of Travel Philosophers Abroad

Emily Thomas

The Meaning of Travel Philosophers Abroad

Emily Thomas






19 Oct 2022




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How can we think more deeply about travel?

This was the thought that inspired Emily Thomas to journey into the philosophy of travel, to explore the places where philosophy and travel intersect. Part philosophical ramble, part memoir, The Meaning of Travel begins in the Age of Discovery in the sixteenth century, when philosophers first began thinking and writing seriously about travel It then meanders forward to encounter the thoughts of Montaigne on otherness, John Locke on cannibals, and Henry Thoreau on wilderness.

On our travels with Emily 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 questions, such as the debate on the ethics of 'doom tourism' (travel to doomed places such as glaciers or coral reefs), and how space travel might come to affect our understanding of 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.


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


Emily Thomas , Assistant Professor, Durham University

Emily Thomas is Assistant 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.