On Place and Space: The Ontology of the Eruv

Barry Smith


In 1992 the Orthodox Jewish community of Barnet submitted a request for planning permission to erect forty pairs of metal poles. Ten years later, after many protests, permission was granted, allowing the creation of the Barnet eruv, a six-anda- half square mile area of North London, in which strands of nylon fishing line stretched between the poles at a height of 10 meters from the ground close off gaps in a boundary otherwise composed of telephone lines, portions of railway fencing and walls of terraced housing. Through the creation of the eruv, public land comes to count as a private space within which Orthodox Jews can carry out certain tasks (carrying, pushing prams and wheelchairs) otherwise forbidden on the Sabbath. Protesters argued that the creation of the eruv impinges on their “human rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. “Eruvbelievers would happily pass through their symbolic gateways in the streets, but everyone else would be compelled to do so without such a benefit, even if the compulsory passage through the Eruv structures is offensive to a person’s beliefs.” We will investigate the Huge Invisible Ontology that is traced out by the above, an ontology which stretches from Barnet in North London to the European Court of Human Rights (inside the Strasbourg eruv), to Berkeley (which also has its own eruv), and from there to the White House (inside the eruv of Washington DC).


20th century philosophy; 20th century philosophy; metaphysics; philosophy; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; Wittgenstein Ludwig; antisemitism; boundary; eruv; Jewish law; mereotopology; ontology; place; social reality; space

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