Geophilosophy and Creative Milieus

  • Stephan Günzel
Part of the Knowledge and Space book series (KNAS, volume 2)

Milieu is a concept that stems from the natural sciences. It is regularly used to describe the state of being of a given setting, predominantly one involving fluids. Insofar as an autonomous subject is not imaginable within a milieu, this use gives a nonhumanistic, even antihumanistic, spin on the idea of milieu when it refers to the social sphere. The concept of milieu thus includes a world model similar to that encompassed by the concept of environment–but even more rigorous. Within an environment a person is still someone in it, with nature or the social world around it. By contrast, “in” a milieu (which literally means “middle” or “medium”) implies that there is no outside and, hence, no inside: A milieu by definition is absolute, extensive, and embracing. It is therefore metasubjective and metaobjective at the same time. Nevertheless, it is not to be thought of as deterministic, for it is no more and no less than a medium, a possibility for events. Speaking of a “creative milieu” is rather tautological, for a milieu per se allows for things to be created and for changes to take place. When introduced into social analysis, however, the idea of creative milieu implies the existence of milieus that are not creative or that were not creative at a certain point in history and geography. In this regard a certain fallacy can be avoided. Even though a milieu is something that can be addressed in time and space, its impact (except in biology) cannot be traced back to the milieu's natural properties—only to other social and political properties operating at a given time and place. This characteristic is the main insight of geophilosophy as defined by the French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari (1991/1994), who ultimately follow the concept back to the German writer Friedrich Nietzsche. According to all three thinkers, geophilosophy can be summarized as the idea that philosophy or science in general needs a creative milieu to develop and that this milieu event, though it can be localized in time and space, is not explicable as being caused by the natural features of that specific environment. Identifying creative milieus within the history of science or a geography of ideas is thus not one topic among others but rather the central issue.


Original Work Human Science Divine Intervention Critical Social Theory Historical Thinking 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephan Günzel
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophische Fakultät/MedienwissenschaftJenaGermany

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