cover image Philosophy for Passengers

Philosophy for Passengers

Michael Marder, illus. by Tomás Saraceno. MIT, $15.95 trade paper (232p) ISBN 978-0-262-54371-2

Marder (Green Mass), a philosophy professor at University of the Basque Country, Spain, whisks readers away in this heady meditation on what it means to be a passenger. The author remarks that “in the twenty-first century, the experience of passengers is experience itself, well beyond the sphere of public and semipublic means of transport.” Marder elaborates elliptically on this idea (“The train of existence does not run on time, because time does not run on time”), reaching peak obliqueness with musings on metaphor as a, well, metaphor for transportation. He posits: “We draw the entire world into the vortex of passengerhood” through travel, as human movement through a landscape physically changes it, setting it on its own trajectory. This process has social, mental, moral, and ecological implications, Marder claims: treating travel as a nonentity, one objectifies oneself and instrumentalizes nature. Saraceno’s images of fractal-like spiderwebs accentuate Marder’s attention to how living things create networks and relate to their environment. Marder’s loopy but perceptive prose and mind-bending observations test the limits of language and abstraction, making for an intellectually rich reconsideration of being in transit (“Passages are peculiar transfer stations between architectural structures and reading activities”). This is an excellent metaphysical guide, as applicable to traveling through the Great Plains as the astral plane. (May)