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Humanism, Naturalism, and Geographical Thought b y J. Nicholas Entrikin
Geographerswho have sought to characterize the distinctive qualities of a humanistic geography have relied heavily upon contrasts with the arguments of positivistic spatial scientists. This latter approach is described as being naturalistic (based upon the ideal of methodological unity in the natural and human sciences), and thus as seeking causal explanations to geographical questions. Humanistic geography is described in opposition to positivistic spatial science as being antinaturalisticand as seeking understanding rather than causal explanation (e.g., Buttimer 1976; Gregory 1979; Hay 1979; Ley 1977, 1981; Ley and Samuels 1978). This contemporary contrast has been applied to past traditions to create a picture of twentiethcentury geographic thought as being divided between naturalist and antinaturalist perspectives. The difficulty associated with applying this logical distinction to the history of geographical thought is best illustrated in recent interpretations of the idiographic study of landscape and region. For example, the Hettner-Hartshorne tradition has been interpreted as a forerunner of positivistic spatial science, while the Vidalian and Sauerian traditions have been judged as being part of the heritage of a contemporary humanism (Buttimer 1978; Cape1 1981, pp. 446-47; Guelke 197710, 1978; Ley 1977, 1981; Ley and Samuels 1978; Rose 1981). Associated with this alignment of the various schools of geographical thought has been a concomitant reinterpretation of the philosophical bases of their substantive concerns. For example, region and landscape have been described as concepts best studied phenomenologically or through other intuitional modes (Guelke 1977a; Ley 1981; Mugerauer 1981; Relph 1976). One of the consequences of this reinterpretation of the past in terms compatible with humanistic geography is the neglect of the influential role of natural science in these earlier conceptions of human geography. For geographers of the early twentieth century did not tend to identify positivism with naturalism as readily as do humanistic geographers. Two individuals who have been described most often as the primary ancestors of geographical humanism, Carl Sauer and Paul Vidal de la Blache, were both concerned with the study of the interrelationship of people and their natural environment, and this interest in both physical and human phenomena precluded any rigidly antinaturalist position. Both appear to have been strongly antipositivist, but not antinaturalist in their conceptions of human geography. For example, although Sauer noted often that the human sciences could not discover laws similar
This paper w s originally presented at the “Colloquium on the Philosophy of Geography,” Queen a
Mary College, University of London, on January 26, 1983.
J. Nicholas Entrikin is associate professor of geography, University of Califmia, Los Angeles.
Geographical Analysis, Vol. 17, No. 3 (July 1985) @ 1985 Ohio State University Press
more recently. 1967. 332. but at the same time suggested that geography was a science. p. 137. a student of Sauer’s and a part of the ancestry of humanistic geography as cited by Ley and Samuels (1978. pp. but rather views the present or any particular time.” Fred Lukermann (1965) and. 8). The Zeitgeist was distinctly unfavorable to those geographers who thought that the subject was in no wise committed to a rigidy deterministic formula” (1967. Clark. but quite distinct. for whatever interests us in the contemporary scene is to be understood only in terms of the processes at work to produce it. to biology. The discussion of causal chains leads to the second distinction that is used in the construction of the epistemological history of humanistic geography-the distinction between the goal of understanding and the goal of causal explanation. and they have an awareness of the ‘fourth dimension’ [time] that makes them realize the limits of experimental verification” (Sauer 1947. . Sauer maintained that the search for causal laws was not the goal of geographic research. Humanistic geographers who have cited the idiographic traditions of landscape and regional studies have neglected the causal aspects of such studies. He attempted to overcome this seeming incongruity by developing a somewhat awkward vocabulary to describe geography and its goals. For support of his thesis he would turn to the examples of geology and. p. in which he stated that if “social scientists are naively positivistic. but this lack of explicitness can be seen as in part a terminological issue. he also argued that not all of the natural sciences relied upon what he termed the “experimental method” that tested generalizations through predictions. 393). This tendency can be seen in Sauer’s comment concerning geography in the nineteenth century in which he stated that “cause was a confident and alluring word. The terminological confusion surrounding the issue of causal explanation in traditional conceptions of human geography is clearly illustrated in Andrew Clark’s (1954) discussion of historical geography. It is not. Sauer’s (1947) view is most succinctly stated in a letter to Joseph Willits. 71). director of the Social Science Division of the Rockefeller Foundation. a search for origins in any ultimate sense. Vincent Berdoulay (1978) have argued that Vidal was similarly antipositivist in orientation. Individual events could be explained through the discovery of chance intersections of independent causal sequences or series of events (Lukermann 1965. Both sciences sought causal explanations of events. For Sauer. 84-85). human geography was a genetic science that sought to provide “explanatory descriptions” of phenomena (Sauer 1931. Geographers have been wary of using a causal vocabulary because of the confusion of causality with the related. pp. pp. This neglect and subsequent redefinition of these traditional fields was made easy by the fact that a concern for causes was often a more implicit rather than explicit component of these traditional studies. therefore. less frequently. Berdoulay 1978. suggested that historical geographers were not concerned with simple cause and effect but rather emphasized the processes that produce change. see also Williams 1983. but such explanations did not entail the existence of causal laws. He stated that “good natural scientists have no exaggerated confidence in the quantitative or in the inductive. 623-24. Is not this interest in the “processes that produce change” simply another way of stating that historical geographers search for causes of events? Clark uses the term cause in the archaic sense of ultimate cause or origin. as a point in a long continuum” (Clark 1954. They further suggest that he saw no clear distinction between the natural sciences and the human sciences. p.244 / Geographical Analysis to those found in the natural sciences. p. 13). 320). and causal geography had its day. that means only that they have learned badly from natural science. He stated that “the genetic approach focuses attention on processes. issue of determinism. p.
one between individual phenomena and one between classes of phenomena. may exist between individual phenomena. these correct views led him to turn repeatedly against the view that causality is bound up with universal laws” (1950. one emphasizing the particular aspects of phenomena and the other emphasizing common elements and relationships between and among phenomena (Zaret 1980). This same reasoning that Popper finds so puzzling in Weber’s arguments is also to be found in the writings of Hettner. because within their epistemological framework. and Vidal de la Blache concerning regional geography. His statement illustrates a theme found in discussions of the philosophies of history and of law in which it is argued that many expressions denoting causal relations do not use the term cause (Hart and Honore 1959). Such myths include the views that (1) idiographic studies were based upon the existence of unique objects and events. Windelband postulated two types of causal relations. such as spatial relations. as well as by geographers who were influenced by this tradition. Such a recognition also helps one understand the interpretation of Vidal’s work provided by both Lukermann and Berdoulay. not in universal laws. (2) idiographic concepts did not use general concepts. The last myth is true if one restricts the meaning of cause such that it refers only to relationships between classes of objects or events. 722). and (3) idiographic studies did not seek causal explanations. pp. 6-7). p. Thus geographers who refrain from using a causal vocabulary do not necessarily avoid making causal claims. may be said to exist only between individual phenomena as members of specifiable classes (Beauchamp 1981. however. 106). 240. it is clear that both types of study involve causal explanations. however. that is summarized in Berdoulay’s statement that “in Vidal’s writings the words cause and effect are found but the expressions that appear most frequently are series of phenomena and . for they realized that such a restriction would have made such studies a logical impossibility. The second view was not stated by the original proponents of the distinction. and that. p. Popper stated that Weber “always rightly emphasized that history is interested in singular events. a causal relation between individual events could not exist except as an instance of a more general relationship between classes of events. p. it is interested in causal explanation. The first view ignores the fact that the idiographic and nomothetic distinction was originally formulated as a means of classifying sciences in terms of their mode of reasoning rather than in terms of their content. one considers the original statement of the idiographic-nomothetic distinction by Wilhelm Windelband (1980). at the same time. Entrikin 1981. Recognition of the role of causal series and causal relations between individual phenomena provides some of the necessary background for interpreting claims such as those found in Hartshorne’s translation and use of Hettner’s view that phenomena selected for inclusion in a regional study must be both spatially proximate and causally linked (Hartshorne 1939. The reaction of a broadly defined positivist tradition to the neeKantian conception of causal relations between individual events is best illustrated by Karl Popper’s comment on Max Weber’s view of historical explanation. Unfortunately. such as causal relations. Hartshorne. The Humean foundation upon which the positivist arguments concerning cause rest holds that while certain relations. The same reality could be studied through either mode.Research Notes and Camments / 245 while his “processes that produce change” seem more in accord with our contemporary meaning of cause. others. The legacy of those authors who have described geography as a science of the particular has been clouded by a number of enduring myths concerning studies of the particular. If. Those geographers who sought to remake geography in the image of positivist science ignored the causal aspect of idiographic studies. and this view was maintained by his student Heinrich Rickert and Rickert’s student Max Weber.
(1954).” In Geography. Johnston. edited by P. This stress on causal series and causal successions or sequences was a basic tenet of Vidal’s methodology” (1978. Geography.” In Humanistic Geography. Stoddart. Science.” Geographische Zeitschrift. verstehen.Y. Johnston. James and C. (1931). L. .246 / Geographical Analysis m h a i n m t . Hartshorne. 1-27. 277-92. pp. edited by D. “The Role of Laws in Human Geography. Vol. The Open Society and Its Enemies.: Syracuse University Press. “The Vidal-Durkheim Debates.” The Professional Geographer. E. Filosofia y Ciencia en la Geografia Contempuranea. Herbert and R. N. 58-76. This search has contributed to the relative neglect of the importance of the naturalistic attitude that was inherent in traditional conceptions of the idiographic study of landscape and region. Hay. edited by D. 1-26. “Regional Geography. (1977). Oxford: Clarendon Press. their similarities stemming from a rootedness in neo-Kantianism suggest that attempts to use them as part of the ancestry of two distinct epistemological positions in contemporary geography may be misleading. intuition. 9. Association of American Geographers. Samuels. and Human Geography. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. “ CuItural/Humanistic Geography.” Canadian Geographer. L. L. Popper. 57-67. they have examined the texts of traditional schools of geographic thought in search of references to phenomenology. New York: St. Chicester: Wiley. Barcelona: Barcanova. C. D. Honore (1959). 1944. pp. and A. M. Mugerauer. Geographers who have attempted to construct a lineage for humanistic geography have been too willing to accept uncritically descriptions of idiographic traditions in human geography that were written by members of the spatial analytic tradition. L “ “ . pp. studies could be both idiographic and causal. Causation and the Law. Stoddart. . pp.(1978).J. K. Hart. 1. 70-105.” In Geography and the Urban Enoironment. “Geography and Logical Positivism. D. (1978). Chicago: Maaroufa Press. Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 6. Ley and M. 498-512. Chicago: Maaroufa Press. 376-86. pp. Princeton. Guelke. V. 621-24. “Grasping the Dynamism of the Lifeworld.” In Geography. pp. 2 (New Series). and other concepts important to current humanistic concerns. A. Chicester: Wiley. 77-90. . “The ‘Calcul des Probabilites’ and the Ecole Francaise de Geographie. D. Jones. Ley and M. Syracuse. “Charism and Context: The Challenge of La Geographie Humaine. Although important differences existed between these two schools of thought. R. and M. Institute ofBritish Geographers. Buttimer. “Historical Geography. Samuels. Gregory. 5. (1950).” In the Sauer Collection.(1978). Capel. London: Pion. Ley. California. Claval. Sauer. The Nature of Geography. (1981). (1976). (1981). edited by D. 128-37. LITERATURE CITED Beauchamp. Johnston. 66. . edited by D. Cultural. Clark. Rosenberg (1981).(1981). . Samuels. “Introduction: Contexts of Modern Humanism in Geography.(1977b). 227-39. Herbert and R. Entnkin. New York: Oxford University Press. 1-7. “Epistemology and Geographical Thought. 249-54. (1981). (1981). Chicester: Wiley. “Philosophical Issues in the Scientific Study of Regions. (1979). (1977a). pp. 29. Vol. Herbert and R. Ley and M. “Social Geography and the Taken-for-GrantedWorld. Lukermann. pp. A. May 11. Vol. 69. (1979).” In Geography and the Urban Environment. Pa: Association of American Geographers.’’Progress in Human Geography. N.” Progress in Geography. Berkeley. and Social Concern. Lancaster. edited by D. In accepting the intuitive nature of such studies as described by the spatial analysts. Ideology. 1-17. pp. 1. T. pp.” In Geography and the Urban noironment. .” In Humanistic Ceogruphy.. edited by D. “Concerning Regional Geography as a Hermeneutical Discipline. Positivism in Human Geography: Response to Critics. (1939). (1981). edited by D.” In Humanistic Geography.(1944). and A. Ideology. 2. (1976). Within both the French and the German traditions of regional geography.” In A m ‘ c a n Geography: Inventory and Prospect. Martins Press. F. R. Rose. and Social Concern. Samuels (1978). Hume and the Problem of Causation. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Ideology. “Letter to Joseph Willits. Ley. A. H. 4.” Transactions. A. H. Place and Plucelessness. Relph.” Annuls. (1965). R. 99-133. Wilhelm Dilthey’s Philosophy of Historical Understanding: A Neglected Heritage of Contemporary Humanistic Geography. edited by D. Bancroft Library. R.: Princeton University Press.. N. 35-61. 84-85). C. Berdoulay. Chicago: Maaroufa Press. P.
3 (July 1985) 0 1985 Ohio State University Press . 1947. 1-28. (1980). and whether there is a more distant zone of backwash from metropolitan competition or usurpation of activities.50 (approximately 0. y location) from Philadelphia estimated. R2 was 0.” History and Theory. Vol.Research Notes and Comments / 247 . Berkeley: University of California Press. First it will help to graph the actual data. and since annual data were smoothed into threeyear averages. especially over space. Krakover uses the Philadelphia Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) region (23 counties) as a case study. Windelband. Bancroft Library.” In the Sauer Collection.” Journal of Historical Geography.” Ammican Journal of Sociology. Because the expected pattern is complex. No. D. with similar distances and relative situations. Beyond these outer suburbs is a ring (mean 36 ‘Strictly. Seattle. In particular. and a yet more distant shift of peripheral growth (PP). Employment data are expressed as relative ratios or index numbers on a 1963 base year. 169-85.41 of which is due to time. Since this finding is exciting. 19. and data on county employment in retail trade for the years from 1962 through 1978 as an indicator of relative economic development.(1947). Shaul Krakover presents an intriguing example of the use of spatiotemporal trend surface analysis in order to test the hypothesis of spread and backwash in the course of metropolitan development (“ Identification of SpatiotemporalPaths of Spread and Backwash. “The Apple of My Eye: Carl Sauer and Historical Geography. December 18. 9. The 23 counties are usefuUy grouped into 6 sets.(1967). Williams. California. “From Weber to Parsons and Schutz: The Eclipse of History in Modern Social Theory. but with the starting time spreading in a predictable manner. a retreat of a trough of slower growth (T). 85.09 to distance).” [October 19831. and a polynomial expression in both time and distance (not x. W. Richard Morrill is professor of geography. . 1180-1201. M. and tests of significance are misleading. (1980).and thus both spatial and temporal autocorrelation are high and expected. the appropriate expression was second order in time. as metropolitan suburbanization expanded. I wished to discover whether the data would support the concept of spatial diffusion as a process exhibiting a common logistical pattern of adoption over time. (1983). Land and Life. moderate then slow growth in outer suburban counties (20 miles). The intent was to test whether there is an outward spread of both faster growth. since the data are not a sample. 318-29). 0. “Letter to Joseph Willits. University of Washington. Berkeley. fourth order in distance. I decided to examine the data further. surpassing inner suburban growth already in 1964. This is done by plotting 84 mean growth indexes (14 time periods by 6 distance zones). and not diminishing even by 1977. Identification of Spatiotemporal Paths of Spread and Backwash: A Comment by Richard Morrill In a recent issue of Geographical Analysis. The resultant surface generalization (Krakover’s Appendix A) reveals a spread of faster growth (CP). Zaret. the analysis can only be descriptive. The dominant pattern in Figure 1 is simply metropolitan decentralizationstagnation and decline in Philadelphia. Most coefficients were reported as significant’ (2). 17. “Rectoral Address (Strasbourg 1894). Geographical Analysis.