Translated by Dominic Gerlach (Saint Joseph's  College,  Rensselaer, Indiana) and published in: Philosophy
Today 5 (1961) Nr. 1/4, pp. 31-39. The break-pages of this issue are added in […] into the continuing text. The
german paper was published in: UNIVERSITAS. Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft, Kunst und Literatur, I5. Jahrgang,
Heft 4, April 1960, pp. 397-412.  Reprinted also in: Philosophy Today, Vol. 5, No. ¼, Spring 1961, pp. 31-39.
1 The  term   "lived-space"   (erlebter   Raum)   is taken  from  E.  Minkowski,  Le  Temps   Vécu, (Paris, 1933). His book, Vers une Cosmologie, treats the problem of space somewhat in the manner of the present article. As well as I know, the first to develop the question was Graf Karlfried of Durckheim in his Neue Psychologische Forschungen, (Munich, 1932) but his beginnings were not carried further. While Heidegger gave prominence to time, H. Lassen, in his Beiträgen zur Phänomenologie und Psychologie der Anschauung, (Würzburg, 1939) gives precedence to space in the discussion of man. Recently the Buytendijk school published a successful series of studies on the subject in the yearbook Situation,   (Utrecht  and Antwerpen   1954). 

PHILOSOPHY IN RECENT decades has been concerned to such a degree with the problem
of the temporal structure of human existence that it may be considered the fundamental
problem of present-day philosophy. The problem of the spatial constitution of human life, or
of concretely lived-space has been dealt with surprisingly little.1 It appears that since space
belongs only to the exterior surroundings of the life of man it might be less fruitful than the
problem of time which holds man at its center. This idea is false and will not stand up on
investigation. Of course the problem of lived-space cannot be developed simply by superficial
analogy to that of lived-time, but gives rise to entirely new questions which would never be
suspected if one started from the analogy of time. It seems idle to speculate on the superiority
of one question over the other. It is better to approach the problem of lived-space with the
least possible prejudice and see what we find. In this vein we inquire into the inner structure
of space, as it appears concretely to man in his experience.


We can take the first step in analogy with the more common approach used in investigating
lived-time. Just as the concrete time lived by man has been separated from abstract
mathematical time, so here we seek what distinguishes the concrete living space of man from
the space of mathematicians. We know about mathematical space from the efforts of the
scientists. This is what we think of first when we speak of space. But we are less acquainted
with live space. We live our everyday life in it, but do not reflect upon it. Therefore we can
visualize it in its own peculiarity only if we borrow from the more commonly known
mathematical space. For [31/32] simplicity we hold to the well-known perspectives of
Euclidian space and base in it an orthogonal axis system.
The outstanding property of mathematical space is its homogeneity. No point and no direction and temple are essentially one," says the Dutch philosopher of religion, van der Leeuw. This
is also true of the structured human settlement, the city as a whole. The plan and
establishment always follow principles of mythical origin.
In every case the first step is to carve out of chaotic space a definite area set apart from the
rest of the world as a holy precinct. The Latin word tem-plum, meaning something cut out, is
an apt expression of this. Cassirer stressed it a generation ago in his Philosophy of Symbolic
Forms, unfortunately almost forgotten: "The consecration begins when a certain area is taken
out of the rest of space, distinguished from other places and in a certain degree religiously
fenced off." The inhomogeneity which we spoke of in the introduction as the distinguishing
mark of lived-space as opposed to profane space, is essentially this separation of the holy
from the profane which is embodied in the walls of the house.

 On the subject of the house cf. O. F. Bollnow, New Security,  (Stuttgart, 1955).

Significant also are the forms of construction of the house, as well as of the temple and city in
those ancient times. To build a house is to found a cosmos in a chaos. Every house, as Eliade
maintains on ethnological grounds, is a picture of the world as a whole, and therefore every
house construction is the repetition of the creation of the world, the complement of the work
once performed by the gods. Furthermore this work created by the gods, this world, stands
only in as far as its creation is repeated symbolically by man. Eliade tells us that "in order to
live in the world, man must found it," and such a founding takes place in the building of a
house. Therefore ultimately house building signifies a world creating, world sustaining
activity which calls for sacred rites.
I need not pursue this interesting perspective further, for its only purpose was to clarify in a
pure and original case something that is maintained in house construction today in a paler but
still essential form. It is not an accident that handmaking customs in cornerstone laying,
house-raising and dedication festivals are more enduring here than elsewhere. They help us
understand the inviolability of the home which has perdured in modern jurisprudence as an
important fundamental right of man, the disproportionate gravity of the crime of burglary, and
the inviolable right of the guest, which still exists, though weaker than in times gone by. The
guest always enjoys the protection of the house. So even today the house is in a deep sense an
inviolable area of peace, and thus sharply differentiated from the outside world without peace.
And if there are no longer demons to threaten man outside the walls of his house, the threat of
the outer world has not changed.
Though the house is an area of security and peace for man, he would pine away if he locked
himself in his house to escape the dangers of the world outside; his house would soon become
a prison. He must go out into the world to transact his business and to fulfill his role' in life.
Both security and danger belong to man, and consequently both areas of lived-space, as life
develops in the tension between  outer and  inner space. [34/35]
Therefore he needs a link between the spaces within and without, an opening in the wall of
the house which surrounds him. He needs a door by which he can leave and a window
through which he can at least see the world outside. I have written about doors and windows
elsewhere, and so I turn now to the other world that stretches beyond the threshold.


I shall not dwell on the fact that the boundary between the security of the inner space and the
insecurity of the outer is not so abrupt as it has seemed heretofore. When I leave the
protection of my house, I do not immediately step into a hostile world. I remain at first in a
protective neighborhood, an area of trusted relationships, of vocation, friendships, etc. Around
the individual house is the broader area of that which we call home (Heimat). It thins out
slowly from the relatively known through the comparatively unknown, into the completely
Three concepts characterize this world outside the protective boundaries of the house:
breadth, strangeness and distance.

1.  Breadth stands in contrast to narrowness. As clothing may or may not allow the body
freedom of movement, so breadth in the space around us denotes the absence of restriction,
room to move. Man will step out into wide-open spaces if he is not held back. The endless
dimension  of  ocean  or  plain opens up before him when he steps out of the narrow valley.
Wide spaces uplift man and gladden him, but their sublimity may also overpower him.
2.  Strangeness stands in contrast with what is his own. Strangeness is the area where man no
longer knows his way around  and where he therefore
feels helpless. He can of course go into strange places to learn new things or on business, but he is outside the trusted area, in a hostile world, and the feeling of strangeness can overpower
him. We all recognize the feeling of inexpressible homesickness.
3. Altogether different is distance, which speaks to man from the blue mountains on the
horizon. It is not threatening and hostile as strangeness, but enticing and alluring, endowed
with indescribable charm. When man wearies of the ordinary existence, when the sameness of
every day threatens to constrict his life, then distance beckons him. The longing for distant
places is the basic urge of all romanticism which by a strange twist makes the road to far
places the way back to a forgotten origin.


The foreignness of the outer world shows itself as soon as a man leaves his house. The space
of the outer world is not conveniently accessible. The land itself opposes encroachment, and
man conquers it only by opening roads. Roads open up space and organize it.3
It is surprising how quickly such roads are built and how long they are maintained. No sooner
do job opportunities arise on a construction project than paths appear for the workmen. They
are laid out not by plan, but by the needs of life. But once they are there, often after only a
few days, no one strays from them without cause. All movements are executed in their
network as in an artery system. It is noteworthy that even the animals in the woods keep to
their haunts, and zoologists tell us that in lands untouched by humans these haunts remain the
same for hundreds and even thousands of years. The roads laid by man also, the great trade
routes which   connect   settlements,   are   not [35/36] slightly changed once they appear. It
entails a large-scale operation by a strong civil power to lay entirely new planned routes. Thus
Roman military power built the road system of the empire which has by and large prevailed
until the present day. Under the two Napoleans were built the great country highways of
France as well as the magnificent thoroughfares of Paris. Finally modern business is slowly
creating its own network of expressways.
Such routes may take many forms, and they open space in very different ways. Consider two
examples: the auto route and the hiking path. The auto route is a highway in the most
emphatic sense, a means of moving from one place to another. It is therefore no place for
loitering. As Schiller says: "There is no home here. Everyone passes hurried and aloof and no
one inquires about the other's aches and pains." How much more true of the modern auto
route! The pedestrian who wants to walk about leisurely has no place here; he blocks traffic
and can be glad if he returns home unharmed.
The very pavement already cuts a piece of ground out of the natural world around it. For the
user of the road, especially for the modern motorist, space is changing. The world is becom-
ing one-dimensional, distances covered and distances to be covered. The motorist does not
move in the surrounding country, but just on the road, and remains separated from the country
by a sharp boundary. The countryside becomes a panorama which passes by. That does not
necessarily mean that he is indifferent to it. He can enjoy its beauty, but it is remote as a
picture. His real feeling of space is that of breadth and of the speed which opens up broad
spaces. This is the space he lives, his real space, not the picturesque view. Only when he
leaves his car and begins to walk again does space change and he returns to his previous
The hiking path is altogether different. It is not cut hard into the countryside like a rationally
laid road but clings to the natural landscape. It curves and winds where the auto road goes                                                   

 "The road opens space"  is a quotation from the  Dutch psychologist,  Linschoten,  in Situation, a yearbook
published by the Buytendijk circle,  which  contains   several  articles  dealing with  the  problem  of  lived-space
in the perspective of  Phenomenology. 

straight, it leads thoughtfully around a tree which the road builder would consider an
obstruction and tear away. Movement on such a path is different, and the feeling of space is
different. The path does not shoot for a destination but rests in itself. It invites loitering. Here
a man is in the landscape, taken up and dissolved into it, a part of it. He must have time when
he abandons himself to such a path. He must stop to enjoy the view. But this jettison of
rushing to goals, this inner aimlessness, is really the life function of rambling. Man steps back
from the rational goal-striving to which the civilization presses him, back into an earlier, I
might almost say prehistoric, state in which he can freely enjoy the pure present. As
Linschoten put it: "True roaming is somewhat like a return to primeval happiness/' the wan-
derer "has returned to the basis of all things." (Note: In this vein we have also here in
Tuebingen a dissertation [by Stenzel] treating the anthropological function of wandering as a
return to origins, and the inner rejuvenation that it brings).


Again I must break off where an interesting question begins, because there are further aspects
which will help to show the fruitfulness of the idea of lived-space. One is the question of the
shaping of living space to their purposes (Lebensraum) by the people living in it. We touched
upon one aspect of it in speaking of the construction of houses and roads. It is Heidegger who
speaks of an "arranging" (Einräumen) [36/37]
of space, transferring the concept of straightening out a room or chest of drawers to the space
organized by human beings, where man puts everything in a certain place to be ready for later
use. Heidegger's concept of being-at-hand also implies such a being-ready at the proper place.
Human living-space is just such a purposeful arrangement of places and positions to which
the things around them belong. This book belongs on the bookshelf and that in the workroom,
the pliers to the' tool box, and everything has its proper place.
Dilthey already pointed out that this thoroughly organized space is a component of the
objective spirit and is intelligible to us because of this. The order of seats in a living room, the
order of houses along the street, all this is intelligible to us because in it human goal-seeking
finds an object.
Sometimes, however, this order is disturbed by life itself; for it may happen that a man will
carelessly let something lie or hurriedly misplace it. This is the disorder which constricts his
living space, and he must restore it by arranging things once more. This is a strange state of
affairs but important for the understanding of space. In an objective sense man does not
always have space to the same degree. It is lost through disorder and can be restored through
order. Therefore human activity can create space, and we might paraphrase Mephistopheles:
"Order teaches you to gain space."


It would be interesting to investigate the lines of force which life follows within this
thoroughly organized space. I select only one very simple question: the concrete, live distance
between two such points in space. This distance is not to be identified with the abstract,
geometrical distance in centimeters, but is conditioned by many circumstances, favorable and
unfavorable. I have tried to clarify this problem with the following question: How great is the
concrete live distance between a point on a wall of my home, to the point straight through on
the other side of the wall in my neighbor's home? Mathematically, depending upon the
thickness of the wall, it may be a half meter. Concretely it will be much farther, for to reach it
I have to leave my room, my house, and go out on the street to my neighbor's house. Then if I
am not well acquainted with this neighbor he may make such a wry face at my question that I
may prefer not to ask it at all. In other words, a point which is mathematically near may be
practically very far away, perhaps inaccessible. More generally, the structure of the space I
experience and live through follows the "lines of force" of my concrete life situation.
The same situation may exist in an Alpine valley. The connecting roads all lie on the valley
floor where places are easily accessible, while a place in the neighboring valley, fairly near in
terms of kilometers, may in practice be attainable only by going a long way around. Excellent
illustrations of this are found in the space views of so-called primitive peoples. It is told of an
Indian tribe of the South American jungle where a river is the only practicable connection that
they think of directions not as north and south but as up and down stream, right and left of the
current, and that their scheme "straightens" the meanderings of the river bed. We do the same
when we travel on a riverboat. We do not altogether overlook the turns, but we do not realize
their depth. We straighten the course of the river in our imagination and are often astounded
when we see the "real" course on a map. [37/38] Still more interesting is an example reported
by the ethnologist, Jensen: A rather long Polynesian island is cut by a high and impenetrable
mountain chain. The direction scheme of the inhabitants consists in the directions mountain-
ward and oceanward, left or right around the shore. It never occurs to them that a place on the
other side of the mountain might be reached or even thought of as directly over the mountain;
the way leads necessarily along the shore. The interior of the island is simply not there for
their lived-space, so that they illustrate a topologically interesting ring shaped image of space.


To round out the picture I would like to include one more viewpoint. Distances within lived-
space depend strongly on how a man feels at the moment. Binswanger to my knowledge was
the first to introduce the notion of the inclined space (gestimmten Raums), whereby he means
by inclination (Stimmung) the total state of feeling which goes through a man and at the same
time binds him to the surrounding world, and which underlies and influences in some way all
the movements of the soul. In this sense we may say that lived-space depends on a man's
present disposition.
We all know how the distances of remote objects changes with atmospheric conditions. In
sunshine they recede into the blue mist and in the clarity preceding a rain again approach
within reach. So also they change with the moods of man. Binswanger quotes Goethe here:
"O God, how the world and heaven shrink together when our heart cowers in its barriers."
Fear means literally constriction of heart, and the outer world draws in oppressive and heavy
on the man in fear. When fear departs the world spreads out and opens a larger space for
action, in which a man can move freely and easily.
Binswanger was concerned principally with pathological conditions. The words of Schiller
that "things jostle each other hard in space" taken strictly are true only in a depressive state,
just as in a euphoric state space opens wide. "A person does not collide," he says, "with things
as with something hard; rather they recede and 'make room' so that one passes through
without injury." Similarly Nietzsche points out that in ecstatic exaltations "Space and time
perceptions change; immense distances are scanned and first become perceptible; the span of
sight over great masses and distances."
In this vein the psychiatrist Straus has analyzed the space experience of the dancing man: It is
an undirected space in which the movement of the dance back and forth and around a point of
origin on a restricted surface can still be executed without a feeling of being hemmed in.
Straus speaks of a "present" space resposing in the present without a future commitment. In it
movement takes place which rests in itself and is joy-giving through itself. He contrasts it
sharply with the "historical space" of our purposive activity, a distinction which leads beyond the understanding of space deep into the problems of philosophical anthropology.
A final closing remark: What is said here of outside space is true in due measure of the space
of activity (Spielraum) of human associations. Where the spirit of envy and rivalry take hold
of man every one stands in the other's way, and there is painful narrowness and friction. But
when men come together in the true spirit of colleagues friction disappears. One does not
deprive the other of space; he rather increases the acting space of
the other by working with him. "The more angels there are, the more free space" Swedenborg
once said, for he considered the essence of the angelic not the use of space, but the creation of
space by selfless devotion. Rilke repeatedly emphasized this as the work of the lover.
"Lovers," he once said, "continually generate space, breadth and freedom for each other."
With these meditative and beautiful words I should like to close my discussion.