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Touch: Recovering Our Most Vital Sense | Series: No Limits
Richard Kearney
Columbia University Press / Softcover / Feb 2021
9780231199537 (ISBN-10: 0231199538)
Philosophy / History
price: $26.95
216 pages
In Stock (Ships within one business day)

Our existence is increasingly lived at a distance. As we move from flesh to image, we are in danger of losing touch with each other and ourselves. How can we combine the physical with the virtual, our embodied experience with our global connectivity? How can we come back to our senses?

Richard Kearney offers a timely call for the cultivation of the basic human need to touch and be touched. He argues that touch is our most primordial sense, foundational to our individual and common selves. Kearney explores the role of touch, from ancient wisdom traditions to modern therapies. He demonstrates that a fundamental aspect of touch is interdependence, its inherently reciprocal nature, which offers a crucial corrective to our fixation with control. Making the case for the complementarity of touch and technology, this book is a passionate plea to recover a tangible sense of community and the joys of life with others.


Touch is a sophisticated book that comes at a time when, as a result of a biological catastrophe that has spread across the globe, we share our sense of isolation with other humans in the global sense. So this might be the right moment to relearn how intertwined touch is with every aspect of our life, both as individuals and as one species among many.
— Maria Pia Lara, International Journal of Philosophical Studies

Kearney presents compelling evidence for the therapeutic power of touch, from the treatment of torture victims to the physiology of childhood trauma and more quotidian effects on stress, immunity, and sleep.
— Kieran Setiya, Los Angeles Review of Books

A fascinating piece of work by one of the most interesting thinkers of our age.
— Simon Critchley, author of Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us

Which came first? The spirit seeking a touch? Or the touch seeking a further touch? A confirmation of life out of touch, a phone that a hand cannot reach or touch? Sometimes it seems that the senses were created out of a lonely and desiring spirit. Especially touch. In this openhearted study of that sense, Richard Kearney leads the reader masterfully through thinkers of the past and the present who have wondered deeply, had ideas, and made gestures in response to the mystery of 'feeling things.'
— Fanny Howe, author of Second Childhood and winner of the 2009 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

Kearney is acutely aware of how our digital technologies exacerbate the drift to excarnation in modern culture. This book casts much light on how we lost sight of touch—and might regain it.
— Charles Taylor, author of A Secular Age

Richard Kearney writes with urgency, fluency and commitment. He connects serious and complex thought to ideas on how we might live better in the world. His work arises not only from deep reading but also from a belief that just as philosophy comes from the world it has a duty to touch and transform its own source.
— Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn: A Novel

About the Author:

Richard Kearney holds the Charles Seelig Chair of Philosophy at Boston College. He is director of the Guestbook Project for creative peace pedagogy and he has written many books on the philosophy of imagination and embodiment, translated into over a dozen languages. His previous Columbia University Press books include Anatheism: Returning to God After God (2009) and Reimagining the Sacred (2016).

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