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Environment, Space, Place

Volume 1, Issue 2, Fall 2009

David Macauley
Pages 51-76
DOI: 10.7761/ESP.1.2.51

Night and Shadows

I examine the kindred phenomena of shadows and night in order to reveal their significance for better understanding our lifeworld and the elemental environment. I first describe how light is primary to ecological perception and how it conditions our conceptions of space, truth, and beauty. Light and darkness are involved in a dialectical relationship rather than conceived as polar opposites. Borne of the interplay of both realms, shadows have been disparaged historically and deserve to be reconsidered for their aesthetic appearance and their relevance to an ecology and anthropology of perception. Night, in turn, is often marked by a negative ontology that points toward the possibility of a kind of elemental a priori, but it is important to characterize darkness in terms of its subtle shades and filtering by way of the creative matrix of the human imagination. Seeing the night in novel and unexpected ways, especially via the insights and descriptions of phenomenologists, poets, and artists, enables us to grasp the depth and atmosphere of the surrounding world and to light up our geographical perspectives, our philosophical visions, and our environmental awareness.