A Philosophy of Dirt

Author(s): Olli Lagerspetz

Reaktion Books | No Category

What is dirt? What does it really mean to be dirty? Or clean? Dirt and cleaning are often associated with ideas of guilt, otherness, and social control, but also with living responsibly and in harmony with the environment. In this witty and groundbreaking study, Olli Lagerspetz offers a persuasive discussion of dirt and its ramifications in philosophy and culture. He argues that questions of dirt and soiling can neither be reduced to hygiene nor to ritual pollution. Instead, they are part and parcel of almost every human activity. As participants in material culture, we produce things and dispose of them but we also engage with them practically, aesthetically, and morally.Ranging through subjects and times, from Heraclitus of Ephesus, through the Renaissance, via Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger, to the hygienic products of modernity and abject art, Lagerspetz constantly questions current thinking on the subject, and proposes a new view of dirt based on our physical engagement with the world. A Philosophy of Dirt is essential reading for scholars and students of philosophy, as well as all who feel soiled and want to know why.


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“Lagerspetz’s book is an investigation into what we mean by ‘dirt’ and whether it is an actual quality of the world or, as most current theoretical work would have us believe, a subjective idea projected on to reality. Lagerspetz deconstructs the easy reductionism of theorists for whom ‘dirt is not really dirt but something else.’”

PD Smith – The Guardian   (JC BookGrocer)

Olli Lagerspetz is Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at Abo Akademi University, Finland. His most recent books include Trust, Ethics and Human Reason (2015) and, with Kirsti Suolinna, Edward Westermarck: Intellectual Networks, Philosophy and Social Anthropology (2014).

General Fields

  • : 9781780239187
  • : Reaktion Books
  • : Reaktion Books
  • : February 2018
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Olli Lagerspetz
  • : Hardback
  • : 256