With Open Senses: Nature, landscape, earth

The primary concern of philosopher and cultural anthropologist Ton Lemaire is the rehabilitation of the senses. 'With Open Senses', which forms the synthesis of Lemaire’s extensive philosophic oeuvre, places not only the ecological debate but also the question of our culture’s future in a new and broader perspective.

Ton Lemaire
Original title
Met open zinnen natuur, landschap, aarde

In the twentieth century the landscape disappeared from both painting and poetry, and this was no accident, according to Lemaire. The world has become an ever more artificial place, from which nature has gradually been eliminated. The natural landscape became the victim: from that point on man found himself in an environment that he himself had created. He became a narcissist in a world in which everything referred only to himself.

With great erudition Lemaire shows how this gradual loss of reality occurred in many areas at once. Modern philosophy made man into an all-powerful being who subjects the world to his will. Literature dissolved into a postmodern game of meanings that referred only to one another. Globalization made every place in the world interchangeable and abstract, uprooting man from the Earth.

But Lemaire does not want to return to a past that cannot be recovered. The road that the modern world has chosen goes in only one direction. If we do not want this to lead to complete alienation and catastrophe, this untamable modernity must be supplemented with a renewed awareness of the limits that reality places on mankind. Ecology teaches that endless growth is not possible, anthropology that we need a place where we can feel at home and philosophy that a meaningful existence is not something we can make ourselves but something that must be granted to us by the world.

Sensuosity is the link that connects all these insights to one another. According to Lemarie, it is only in feeling and observing the world that we notice we are imbedded in a reality upon which we are dependent. With Open Senses is written with great passion, personal and poetic, but it is always clearly argued and grounded in facts. As compelling as it is original, it forces us to consider the question of how mankind will be able to survive modernity.

Lemaire has lost none of his insightfulness in his analysis of our culture. And his feel for paradoxes has remained as sharp as ever.


'With Open Senses' is a fascinating and at times even impressive book.

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Ton Lemaire
Ton Lemaire is an anthropologist and philosopher.
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