“So far, philosophy has paid little attention to the home,” says Emanuele Coccia – much to his regret. As a professor of the history of philosophy in Paris, he wants to change that with his handy and eye-opening book “The Home – Philosophy of a Seemingly Familiar Place”. We present some of the key findings from this.
1. Only at home is everything that is important to us
“We build houses,” writes Coccia, “to comfortably accommodate that part of the world that is essential to our personal happiness.” By that he means your favorite bed linen just as much as the apron you inherited from grandma or grandpa, or the children’s first toys, which are still in the room they have long since moved out of.
But Coccia draws our attention far beyond the items and furniture we accumulate. The people we need are also often in our home: partners, children, sometimes also parents, grandparents, neighbors or friends. And, of course, the laboriously raised and carefully tended oleander on the balcony or the cat that has been waiting more or less longingly for our return. Memories and dreams are also part of our homes. It is the “museum of our self”, located in Coccia.
2. We keep coming back there
As nice as the vacation trip may have been: “Sooner or later we have to return home,” writes Coccia. “Because we can inhabit this planet always and only thanks to and by means of a home.” We only live in a certain city or a special region because our apartment, house, tent or mobile home is there.
We usually stick to this in everyday life as well Not all day long in our home. It’s “the place of return,” according to Coccia. After a long day at work, after a weekend trip, after a summer holiday, a business trip or a stay abroad – this is where we come back. It is a reliable shelter from which to go out into the world. The familiar remains at home, even when we wander far away.
3. Here we have our own bathroom
A short historical excursion shows that the bathroom was not integrated into apartments and houses until late. For many years of human history it was outside of the living room, in the garden or in the hallway. Coccia writes that following the example of US hotels, the bathroom became part of modern living in the 20th century. “Bathroom brought into the daily privacy of the individual something that until then had been more of a communal nature, namely cleaning and caring for the body,” he explains.
However, Coccia also sees this critically, especially for men. The lockable bathroom – just like gender-separated toilets in public spaces – led men to “deal with the organs of Eros in absolute isolation”. Boys and men in particular have to learn that their bodies are there to “give joy to ourselves and to others”. That you don’t have to be ashamed of them or hide them, that no secrets have to be kept about eroticism and love.
Nevertheless, one or the other who returns from a holiday at the campsite in the summer months will probably be relieved to finally be able to shower in his own bathroom again – and to lock the door.
4. Our wardrobe is at home
We keep our clothes in our homes. We can take some of them with us in our suitcases and wear them on our bodies on vacation. “Clothing is a concept of happiness that is inextricably linked to our body,” explains Coccia, “and can therefore accompany it everywhere.”
Coccia calls our wardrobe the “mobile body” of our home. Through how we dress, we can take our home, our identity, our attitude towards life out into the public eye.
That even has revolutionary potential, writes the philosophy professor: “When Coco Chanel was her silhouette neuve “By borrowing lines and fabrics from menswear, she created not only another opportunity for ostentatious consumption, but also a new female identity,” says Coccia. “Because women who dressed that way indicated that they were no longer willing to be reduced to their supposed duties of representation, but were quite able to work and play sports.” That’s fine to show off – whether at home or abroad.
5. Love is lived at home
It is the most beautiful of all feelings – and it is precisely this that has its place in the home, writes Emanuele Coccia: “Love is lived, cherished and celebrated in the home. It is the domestic secret par excellence.”
It’s a secret because nobody else sees it in our home. Only we who participate in it know what it really looks like. The partner’s quirky habits, the annoying tics, the sweatpants that he or she would never wear around town but spends hours in them on the sofa: everything is visible at home.
Here, too, Coccia allows himself the philosopher’s critical eye: Because the home was defined as a private space in which nobody has any business, not even philosophy, it has become “a space of injustice, in which oppression, injustice and inequality became an unconscious, self-replicating habit.”
According to Coccia, this is particularly treacherous for the relationship between women and men: “The inequality between the sexes, for example, has its roots in the home.” Think of the millennia-old belief in patriarchal societies that women “belong in the stove” or the increase in cases of domestic violence during the corona pandemic.
This is precisely why, argues Coccia, a “philosophy of the home” is needed – so that the home becomes the place where “we can be happy together with others in the here and now.”
“Home – Philosophy of a seemingly familiar place” by Emanuele Coccia will be published by Hanser-Verlag on August 22, 2022, translated from Italian by Andreas Thomsen.