Philosophy for Passengers

Philosophy for Passengers

By Michael Marder

A philosophical guide to passengerhood, with reflections on time, space, existence, boredom, our sense of self, and our sense of the senses.





A philosophical guide to passengerhood, with reflections on time, space, existence, boredom, our sense of self, and our sense of the senses.

While there are entire bookstore sections—and even entire bookstores—devoted to travel, there have been few books on the universal experience of being a passenger. With this book, philosopher Michael Marder fills the gap, offering a philosophical guide to passengerhood. He takes readers from ticketing and preboarding (preface and introduction) through a series of stops and detours (reflections on topics including time, space, existence, boredom, our sense of self, and our sense of the senses), to destination and disembarking (conclusion).

Marder finds that the experience of passengers in the twenty-first century is experience itself, stretching well beyond railroad tracks and airplane flight patterns. On his journey through passengerhood, he considers, among many other things, passenger togetherness, which goes hand in hand with passenger loneliness; flyover country and the idea of placeness; and Descartes in an airplane seat. He tells us that the word metaphor means transport in Greek and discusses the gray area between literalness and metaphoricity; explains the connection between reading and riding; and ponders the difference between destination and destiny. Finally, a Beckettian disembarking: you might not be able to disembark, yet you must disembark. After the voyage in the world ends, the journey of understanding begins.


$15.95 T ISBN: 9780262543712 240 pp. | 5 in x 7 in 19 b&w illus.


  • “We are all passengers in one sense or another: refugees, tourists, precarious nomad workers, making business trips or simply taking a daily ride to our workplace. Philosophy for Passengers is more than a witty and penetrating description of all modes and stages of traveling. What Marder does only a true philosopher can do: he gradually elaborates the idea of passenger as something that defines our human essence today. His book is not a guide for the perplexed, but a guide for the non-perplexed: it makes even those who are used to their role as passengers wonder at what strange beings they are.”

    Slavoj Žižek

    author of Hegel in a Wired Brain and Sex and the Failed Absolute

  • “In this inspiring book, Michael Marder invites us to make the most challenging trip, the one of thinking and sensing our passing existence, anchoring ourselves in the experience of passing and passages. While collating philosophical views on life's transitory character and the writer's accounts of personal travels, the book departs from our daily being-in-passing, transported by different kinds of means—technical and physic, concrete and imaginary—and reveals a still unthought and unsensed web of relations and emotions. Philosophy for Passengers is like a thinking graffiti, seizing passing visions and thoughts scribbled on the walls of the world that is itself in motion toward an unknown destination.”

    Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback

    Södertörn University, Sweden

  • “Logging in hotspots and toponymies of travel, the work reflects on modalities of experience where passivity meets technology, strapping in the existential passenger on the run, coerced or exulted by the constraints of being, in one way or another, infantilized and controlled, without appeal to any travel 'agency.' Reminiscent of Roland Barthes's Mythologies in scope, yet haunted by transports and proto-totalitarian aspects of passenger assignment, Michael Marder's text reviews a pervasive lexicon of ride-along mobility. Stuck in the back seat of life, exposed to the rush of the death drive—or ecstatically transported, carried over by a metaphorics of reading and mapping—the Subject has yielded to the passenger, backseat, or death row. Marder is tuned to the lay of lands riddled with rites of passage, passports, bureaucratic impasses, and identity switchovers as he clocks the passing of time ticking down. His writing interrogates with relentless application our relation to 'passengerhood,' locating disguised traps of a trip booked in an era of pandemic overdrive.”

    Avital Ronell

    University Professor of German and Comparative Literature, New York University