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Jeff Malpas is an Australian philosopher, currently Distinguished Professor at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Tasmania. Known for his work across the analytic and continental traditions, Malpas has also been at the forefront of contemporary philosophical research on the concept of place. Malpas is also active in commenting on issues of contemporary ethics and politics in the Tasmanian and Australian media.
Work and ideas
Malpas is one of a handful of contemporary philosophers who have addressed the nature and philosophical significance of the concept of place. While Malpas draws on phenomenological and hermeneutic resources, his work in what he has termed ‘philosophical topography’ is also heavily indebted to analytic approaches in philosophy of mind and language. Malpas’ work is distinctive in its detailed conceptual analysis of topographical and spatial notions, for the methodological implications that it associates with the focus on place, and for its topographical analysis of self and identity (Malpas argues for an ‘externalist’ conception of self and mind, according to which human lives are indissolubly linked to the places in which those lives are lived). Malpas’s topographical approach has been developed in two volumes, Place and Experience (1999)1 and Heidegger’s Topology (2006)2 – the latter providing an analysis of the thought of German philosopher Martin Heidegger that is centred on the ideas of place and ‘topology’ (Heidegger himself talks of his thinking as a ‘topology of being’).
Malpas has devoted considerable attention to the idea of the transcendental, particularly as it connects with hermeneutic themes, with special emphasis on notions of ground and limit. He sees the transcendental as providing an important point of connection between philosophers such as Donald Davidson, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Martin Heidegger, while the focus on the transcendental also connects with Malpas’s methodological development of the idea of philosophical topography.
Inasmuch as it draws heavily on both the analytic and continental traditions, so Malpas’s work can also be seen as providing something of a bridge between them. His readings of Heidegger and Gadamer are characterised by an emphasis on argumentative reconstruction and clarity of exposition, while his interpretation and development of Davidson’s thought emphasises the broader philosophical and meta-philosophical elements of the Davidsonian position (and so places greater emphasis on Davidson’s later writings as providing the framework for reading Davidson’s work as a whole).
Malpas has also been active in the promotion of place orientated research by creating and facilitating the Place Research Network otherwise known as Placenet which has proven to be among the world's most sizable and cohesive online communities of place scholars and artists. Created initially as an outcome from an Australian Research Council grant in 2003 at the University of Tasmania the concept has now attracted more than 300 members. In 2011 the Placenet site has recently undergone a considerable transformation to encompass aspects and functions social media which is in itself a place-based area of academic interrogation.
Gadamer, Hans Georg; Malpas, Jeff E; Arnswald, Ulrich Von; Kertscher, Jens (January 2002). Gadamer's Century: Essays in Honor of Hans-Georg Gadamer. ISBN 9780262632478.
Transcendental Heidegger, co-edited with Steven Galt Crowell (Stanford University Press, 2007).
Perspectives on Human Dignity: A Conversation, co-edited with Norelle Lickiss (Springer, 2007).
Consequences of Hermeneutics: Fifty Years after Truth and Method, co-edited with Santiago Zabala (Northwestern University Press, 2010).
1. Place and Experience: A Philosophical Topography (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
2. Heidegger's Topology: Being, Place, World (MIT Press, 2007)