Philosophy of geography

Last updated

Philosophy of geography is the subfield of philosophy which deals with epistemological, metaphysical, and axiological issues in geography, with geographic methodology in general, and with more broadly related issues such as the perception and representation of space and place.

Philosophy The rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Metaphysics Branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics.



Though methodological issues concerning geographical knowledge have been debated for centuries, Richard Hartshorne (1899–1992) is often credited with its first major systematic treatment in English, The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Thought in the Light of the Past, which appeared in 1939, and which prompted several volumes of critical essays in subsequent decades. John Kirtland Wright (1891–1969), an American geographer notable for his cartography and study of the history of geographical thought, coined the related term geosophy in 1947, for this kind of broad study of geographical knowledge. Other books oft-cited as key works in the field include David Harvey's 1969 Explanation in Geography and Henri Lefebvre's 1974 The Production of Space. It was a discussion of issues raised by the latter which in part inspired the founding of a Society for Philosophy and Geography in the 1990s.

Richard Hartshorne was a prominent American geographer, and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who specialized in economic and political geography and the philosophy of geography. He is known in particular for his methodological work The Nature of Geography, published in 1939.

John Kirtland Wright (1891–1969) was an American geographer, notable for his cartography, geosophy, and study of the history of geographical thought. He was the son of classical scholar John Henry Wright and novelist Mary Tappan Wright, and the brother of legal scholar and utopian novelist Austin Tappan Wright. He married Katharine McGiffert Jan. 21, 1921 in New York, N.Y. They had three children: Austin McGiffert Wright, Gertrude Huntington McPherson, and Mary Wolcott Toynbee.

Cartography The study and practice of making maps

Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.

The Society for Philosophy and Geography was founded in 1997 by Andrew Light, a philosopher currently at George Mason University, and Jonathan Smith a geographer at Texas A&M University. Three volumes of an annual peer-reviewed journal, Philosophy and Geography, were published by Rowman & Littlefield Press which later became a bi-annual journal published by Carfax publishers. This journal merged with another journal started by geographers, Ethics, Place, and Environment, in 2005 to become Ethics, Place, and Environment: A journal of philosophy and geography published by Routledge. The journal was edited by Light and Smith up to 2009, and has published work by philosophers, geographers, and others in allied fields, on questions of space, place, and the environment broadly construed. It has come to be recognized as instrumental in expanding the scope of the field of environmental ethics to include work on urban environments.

In 2009 Smith retired from the journal and Benjamin Hale from the University of Colorado came on as the new co-editor. Hale and Light relaunched the journal in January 2011 as Ethics, Policy, and Environment. [1] While the journal has since focused more on the relationship between environmental ethics and policy, it still welcomes submissions on relevant work from geographers.

A book series, also initially published by Rowman & Littlefield, and later by Cambridge Scholars Press, began in 2002 to publish the transactions of the Society for Philosophy and Geography's annual meetings, organized by Gary Backhaus and John Murungi of Towson University. [2] In 2005 the society sponsoring these annual meetings became the International Association for the Study of Environment, Space, and Place, and in 2009 the book series gave way to a peer-reviewed journal, Environment, Space, Place, published semiannually and currently edited by C. Patrick Heidkamp, Troy Paddock, and Christine Petto of Southern Connecticut State University. [3]

See also

Philosophy of science is a sub-field of philosophy concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science. The central questions of this study concern what qualifies as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the ultimate purpose of science. This discipline overlaps with metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, for example, when it explores the relationship between science and truth. Philosophy of science focuses on metaphysical, epistemic and semantic aspects of science. Ethical issues such as bioethics and scientific misconduct are often considered ethics or science studies rather than philosophy of science.

Science systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge

Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

History of geography aspect of history

The history of geography includes many histories of geography which have differed over time and between different cultural and political groups. In more recent developments, geography has become a distinct academic discipline. 'Geography' derives from the Greek γεωγραφία – geographia, a literal translation of which would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes. However, there is evidence for recognizable practices of geography, such as cartography prior to the use of the term geography.

Related Research Articles

Human geography The study of cultures, communities and activities of peoples of the world

Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that deals with the study of people and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across space and place. Human geography attends to human patterns of social interaction, as well as spatial level interdependencies, and how they influence or affect the earth's environment. As an intellectual discipline, geography is divided into the sub-fields of physical geography and human geography, the latter concentrating upon the study of human activities, by the application of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

The philosophy of technology is a sub-field of philosophy that studies the nature of technology and its social effects.

Tara Smith (philosopher) American philosopher

Tara A. Smith is an American philosopher. She is a Professor of Philosophy, the BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism, and the Anthem Foundation Fellow for the Study of Objectivism at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Environment and Planning journals are five academic journals. They are described as "interdisciplinary", though they have a highly spatial focus, meaning that they are of most interest to human geographers and city planners. The journals are also of interest to the scholars of economics, sociology, political science, urban planning, architecture, ecology and cultural studies.

Neil Robert Smith was a Scottish geographer and academic. He was Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and winner of numerous awards, including the Globe Book Award of the Association of American Geographers.

John A. Agnew American British-born geographer

John A. Agnew, FBA is a prominent British-American political geographer. Agnew was educated at the Universities of Exeter and Liverpool in England and Ohio State in the United States.

Karen J. Warren is an author, scholar, and former Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Macalester College.

The Journal of Applied Philosophy is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Society for Applied Philosophy and edited by Elizabeth Brake. It covers a broad spectrum of issues in all areas of applied philosophy, including work on the environment, medicine, science, engineering, policy, law, politics, economics, and education.

David E. Cooper is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Durham University.

Alan Soble American philosopher

Alan Gerald Soble is an American philosopher and author of several books on the philosophy of sex. He taught at the University of New Orleans from 1986 to 2006. He is currently Adjunct Professor of philosophy at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Robert F. Almeder is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Georgia State University. He is known in particular for his work on the philosophy of science, and has also written on the philosophy of mind, epistemology and ethics. He is the author of 24 books, including The Philosophy of Charles S. Peirce (1980), Death and Personal Survival (1992), Harmless Naturalism: The Limits of Science and the Nature of Philosophy (1998), Human Happiness and Morality (2000), and Truth and Skepticism (2010).

Bucknell University Press (BUP) was founded in 1968 as part of a consortium operated by Associated University Presses and is currently partnered with Rowman & Littlefield. Since then it has published more than 1,000 titles in the humanities and social and biological sciences. The first title was published in 1969.

Jamie Lindemann Nelson is a philosophy professor and bioethicist currently teaching at Michigan State University. Nelson earned her doctorate in philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1980 and taught at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and St. John's University before moving to Michigan State University. In addition, Nelson was an Associate for Ethical Studies at The Hastings Center from 1990–95 and is both a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and a Fellow of the Hastings Center. Nelson currently teaches courses on biomedical ethics, ethical theory, moral psychology, feminist theory, and philosophy of language.

Lisa H. Schwartzman is a philosophy professor and well known feminist and social/political philosopher currently teaching at Michigan State University. Schwartzman earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2000 before going on to teach courses on feminist theory, social and political philosophy, philosophy of law, and ethics at Michigan State.

Elisa Aaltola Finnish philosopher and animal rights activist

Elisa Aaltola is a Finnish philosopher, specialised in animal philosophy, moral psychology and environmental philosophy.

Alison Mary Jaggar is an American feminist philosopher born in England. She is currently College Professor of Distinction in the Philosophy and Women and Gender Studies departments at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. She was one of the first people to introduce feminist concerns in to philosophy.

Philosophy of sport is an area of philosophy that seeks to conceptually analyze issues of sport as human activity. These issues cover many areas, but fall primarily into five philosophical categories: metaphysics, ethics and moral philosophy, philosophy of law, political philosophy, and aesthetics. The philosophical perspective on sport originated in Ancient Greece, having experienced a revival in the latter part of the 20th century with the work of Paul Weiss and Howard Slusher.

Diana Meyers is a philosopher working in the philosophy of action and in the philosophy of feminism. Meyers is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut.

Sigurd Bergmann German-Swedish theologian

Sigurd Bergmann is a German-Swedish theologian and scholar of religion. He is a professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, and an alumni fellow of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Michael Andrew Lewis is a British philosopher and Head of Philosophy at Newcastle University. He is the co-founder and general editor of the Journal of Italian Philosophy. Lewis is known for his expertise on continental philosophy.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-02-17. Retrieved 2008-01-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. "IASESP Conference History". 2 October 2007. Archived from the original on 2 October 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2018.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. "Environment, Space, Place -". 9 July 2009. Archived from the original on 9 July 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2018.