There are a lot of boundaries in the world. There are boundaries between the countries on a map of the world, there are cultural boundaries, there is a boundary between people (or not), aspace may have a boundary, and there are boundary conditions in physics.

What determins them? What do they mean? Is there always difference involved? Are boundaries natural or cultural? Can they overtake one another? And so on...

Is there a general feuture they all have in common? I can imagine that always at least two different things are involved. And even a single point can be a boundary.

So what determines them?

  • This is a linguistic question.
    – CriglCragl
    Jul 4, 2021 at 13:08
  • This is very broad. Generally, people tend to differ between physical and phenomenological boundaries when speaking of the world. You throw in political and other arbitrary kinds of boundaries. There is no possible way to conclusively discuss all of this in less than a book.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 5, 2021 at 10:34
  • @PhilipKlöcking what is the boundary between Natural and cultural boundaries, for example? Why is one boundary important for some while not for others? Are boundaries truly existing or merely in the mind? Why do we impose boundaries? Is life possible without them? Etcetera... are there maybe universal boundaries? Or only local, particular, or singular ones? Does a boundary in empty space exist? Are atoms in a gas divided by boundaries or is the gas a whole? Is the atom a whole or are there boundaries between the nucleus and elektron? Are these boundaries physical if they exist. Jul 5, 2021 at 10:50
  • For example, chapter 3 of Plessner's Levels of Organic Life and the Human discusses physical topography vs. physical structure vs. gestalt as constitutional for a transition from one medium to another vs. boundaries proper. For him, having a boundary is the fundamental criterium for life. This is just to much too be answered in a single post.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 5, 2021 at 10:51
  • Language is inherently categorical, or discrete, in nature. To communicate and hence to discuss without categories would presumably require a medium more fluid and continuous, like sound waves or voltages, without words or segments. Boundaries allow abstraction, which enables vastly more efficient processing, as opposed to simulating fluidly the whole density of known existence. Boundaries are determined practically, based on human needs and thought efficiency. Much, if not most, of human thought relies on image schemas.
    – Michael
    Jan 21, 2022 at 11:00

2 Answers 2


In some of my postings, I mentioned that I was a former History Instructor; I should also add that I taught Geography for many years and focused on areas, such as Historical Geography....and Political Geography or Geopolitics.

Your question, at least the way I interpret it, could be answered from a geopolitical perspective-(albeit within the parameters of Philosophy...assuming such parameters even exist).

There are approximately 195 diplomatically recognized countries throughout the world...though there are many more countries...within countries; that is to say, the centuries old and age old conflict regarding borders and "boundaries" exists-(rather frustratingly), into the present-day. What defines a country, in terms of its borders. Where exactly does a country's borders/boundaries begin and where exactly does a country's borders/boundaries end?

There are many types of borders and boundaries that define a country's diplomatically recognized existence.

  1. The First type of border/boundary, is the natural border/boundary-(i.e. Lakes, seas and especially rivers, as well as mountain ranges). Historically, natural boundaries/borders were the most common borders between Early/Proto-Nation-States. In Ancient Greece, the island of Rhodes, was considered a quasi border with its famed Colossus. If entering Greece from the East or leaving Greece from the West, the island of Rhodes was seen as the first or last stop when entering or leaving Greece. Though Rhodes was not an official border/boundary, it was widely viewed by the Non-Greek world as the starting or ending point of Greece proper.

  2. Modern borders/boundaries. With the rise of the Nation-State beginning in the 1700's and particularly during 20th century Decolonization, the issue of borders and boundaries was paramount. Actual lines of demarcation were drawn and an adherence to something called, "International Law", would help to enforce the recognition of such borders/boundaries.

When the British Empire left the Indian subcontinent in 1947, the new nation-states of India and Pakistan were established-(or "partitioned"; a common and perhaps rather sinister decolonizing policy practiced by the British imperial Government). While India and Pakistan were newly recognized nation-states beginning in 1947, both were very Ancient lands with serious border/boundary disputes that have remained irresolvable into the present-day. The regions of Kashmir and Punjab are still disputed territories that are rooted in border/boundary claims. Where exactly does India end and Pakistan begin and similarly, where exactly does Pakistan end and India begin? When the British redrew the map of the Indian subcontinent through its sinister partitioning process, they, in a way, deliberately divided the two neighboring countries along disputed lines of demarcation-(borders/boundaries).

The Indian-Pakistan example, is just one of many international conflict zones that dispute borders/boundaries into the present-day.

But, my guess is that you would also like to know as to what makes a border/ boundary...a border/boundary? There are many answers, which include, natural separations, as well cultural, ethno-demographic, genealogical/ancestral, religious, archeological/historical, commercial and particularly, geopolitical reasons. There is really no single or all encapsulating answer; it largely depends on the country or region's borders/ boundaries.

  • When I started to read your answer I knew your name wiuld be under it! The first thing I thought about in relation to boundaries were indeed borders and this answer thus answers the question (partially). Jul 4, 2021 at 20:25
  • Thanks for the comment. It's an interesting question and a topic that I have had some interest for many years.
    – Alex
    Jul 4, 2021 at 20:43

I would say that boundaries are a condition for the possibility of any experience whatsoever. Without boundaries, there would be no differentiation, there could only be a single undifferentiated whole, in which there could be no one to ask the question, what are boundaries?

We can not talk intelligibly about what lies beyond the concept of boundaries, but we can say that they are necessary to be able to experience anything whatsoever in the first place.

  • But if you consider the universe as one indivisible whole in spacetime sparkled with point particles, cant you consider it without boundaries? Jul 4, 2021 at 11:47
  • I used the term 'undifferentiated' which is different from 'indivisible'. An undifferentiated whole does not permit being 'within' anything else, otherwise there would be something from which to differentiate the outside from the inside, i.e. a boundary.
    – ouroboros
    Jul 4, 2021 at 11:56
  • This would be a good answer to another question but not to mine. Jul 4, 2021 at 11:57
  • I meant the universe as a whole without differentiation and without being in something. I am parttt of this universe without boundaries. Why cant that exist? Jul 4, 2021 at 12:03
  • If you say, "without boundaries" you cannot also coherently say "part" without invoking the concept of boundaries between the whole and the part. How do you invoke the part without using some boundary to differentiate it from the whole?
    – ouroboros
    Jul 4, 2021 at 12:08

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