Forms of space: physical, mental representations, and what we are

I can find three types of space, and the difference between them are interesting. (At least, to me!) And the last one both is and isn’t space.


We are all familiar with physical space. This is the one we can measure, move within, and so on.


The next is one we are equally familiar with, perhaps without noticing. And, in reality, we are more familiar with it.

This is our mental representation of space.

Our mind places our mental images of space on top of the physical space we are currently within, in order to orient and navigate and so there is a mental space to put objects within.

Our mind also creates an image of space beyond the physical space we are currently in, and puts whatever objects we imagine in the wider world within this space.

These mental images of space are essential for us to orient and function in the world.

We can explore these and get a better sense of our mental images of the world by closing our eyes, and noticing how we imagine what’s around us. When we open our eyes, these images are still there as an overlay on our other sense impressions. We can close our eyes and notice our images of the wider world, beyond where we physically are, and that these are images. And we can even notice our image of space itself, stretching out without end, allowing us places to put all these other mental images of objects.


There is a final form of space, which both is and isn’t really space. To talk about this, I first have to mention something about what we most fundamentally are in our own experience.

In one sense, we are this human self in the world.

That’s how we appear to others, and it’s not wrong. In another sense, what we more fundamentally are – in our own direct experience – is something else. We are capacity for our experience of our human self, the wider world, and anything else. We are what our experiences happen within and as.

Some call this space, and I understand why. I can’t find any beginning or end in space. It seems to stretch out infinitely.

At the same time, calling it space doesn’t seem quite accurate.

Our nature seems to be capacity for space, what allows our experience of space. This capacity takes the form of space and allows us to experience space and everything within space.

It seems that what I am, most fundamentally, is capacity for space. Not space itself, although this capacity can certainly take the form of space, and always does. (And when I say “I”, it’s convention. This capacity is also capacity for any sense of I.)


This is from our mental field and is an overlay over the physical space we are within, and also creates our imagined space for the wider world. We imagine space, and put everything we imagine in the world within this imagined space. (Similar to what Kant talked about.)

This imagined space is essential for us to orient and function in the world. And when I say “imagined”, I just mean it literally. It’s literally created by mental images. It’s not meant to belittle it in any way.

And yet another is the space we are, the space allowing these other forms of space. This space seems to appear when mental and/or physical space comes into our experience.

It’s perhaps more accurate to say it’s capacity for space, and this capacity appears as space when we experience space.

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