Science, Philosophy, and Physical Geography

Science, Philosophy, and Physical Geography

Science, Philosophy, and Physical Geography

Science, Philosophy, and Physical Geography

Synopsis

Robert Inkpen explores the relationship between philosophy, science & physical geography to address an imbalance that exists in opinion, teaching & to a lesser extent research, between a philosophically enriched human geography & a philosophically ignorant physical geography.

Excerpt

A book about philosophy in physical geography has a hard audience to impress. Experts will have their own views on the key figures in the development of ideas, whilst novices will not be clear why this sort of topic is of any importance for studying the physical environment. It may all be very interesting, but how does it help me study seismically triggered landslides? I would answer that identification, classification and analysis of such phenomena is an intensely philosophical practice; it is just that much of the philosophy is invisible to the practitioner. This book will, I hope, make some of this underlying philosophical basis visible.

Although the book is aimed at second- and third-year undergraduates, I have tried to ensure that there is sufficient depth of material to make the book of use to postgraduates and interested researchers. This book is not intended to be a complete review of the existing literature of philosophy, or indeed of philosophy in physical geography. Such an undertaking would be huge and require a great deal more time and space than I have available. Inevitably, this means that some texts are not included and some readers may find offence in this. I am sure that 'How can you talk about philosophy without mentioning such and such?' will be a common lament. Although it would have been nice to include detailed accounts of the thoughts of the 'great' men of physical geography, this was not the aim of the book. This is not to denigrate the debates that have developed in physical geography nor the influence of the main characters in these debates. Focusing on individuals and their 'pet' projects can drive any synthesis into the particular 'camps' of interested parties. I am not immune to pushing a particular view of science and practice in physical geography, but I hope that the reader can use the information provided to develop their own judgement of both my opinions and those of the individuals involved in recent debates.

I am not trying to state which of the competing philosophies is 'best' nor the 'correct' approach every researcher should undertake. You may be surprised in reading the Contents page that I have only a single chapter covering all the philosophies (i.e. logical positivism, critical rationalism, critical realism and critical pragmatism). This is a deliberate ploy. Comparing the different philosophies may be useful in identifying the limitations and potentials of each, but it can also imply that one philosophy is 'better' in all circumstances than any other philosophy. Although I have a personal view on what philosophy seems the best, it would be inappropriate of me to suggest that this is the only approach to take and that an easy translation of this philosophy is possible in

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