Dichotomy and Dualism in Geography
There are five dichotomies and dualisms in geography:
- Contemporary vs Historical geography
- Physical vs Human geography
- Deterministic approach vs possibilistic approach
- Regional vs System approach
- Functional vs formal approach
Physical v/s Human Geography, Dichotomy and Dualism.
Some philosophers and geographers were focused on physical geography and natural environment while others believed that human aspects in man environment relationship are a more important and primary focus on geography.
- Physical environment
- Around Greece and the Mediterranean sea.
- Reference to winds 💨, islands 🏝️, continuous Day🌄, and night 🌃 time.
Thales and Anaximander
- Map 🗺️ making cartographer
- Focused on physical aspects to detail the Map
- Calculation of earth's circumference.
- Dividing the earth into 3 climatic belts on the basis of distance from the equator.
- objective was to detail a region with its terrain and physical aspects to aid Imperial rulers in administration and in conquests.
- Map making
- Physical elements
- primarily interested in physical geography
- Al Masudi - the discovery of monsoons
- Al Balakhi - the first climatic atlas
- Avi Sina - denudational process in Nile river
Varenius talked about special vs general geography, he stressed on General geography.
General geography is about physical aspects and general descriptions and generalizations about Earth. Special geography was about both physical and human aspects in the particular description of the region.
But, Varenius was not encouraging of human aspects because he believed that human aspects are not exact and therefore, cannot be put to mathematical analysis.
Humboldt and Ritter
In the classical phase, Humboldt and Ritter believed in the organic unity of nature and discouraged any dualism including physical versus Human debate.
However, most of Humboldt's research and studies centered around the physical aspects. His travels across the Andes, his studies in Orinoco Basin, the discovery of Peruvian current, his map of isotherms of the world, and his compilation Encyclopaedia entitled "Flora Fribergensis" & "Geognosia", etc show his preference to the physical aspects although he studied races, social conditions, and poverty under the Spanish rule of Mexico and talked about the unity of mankind.
In contrast, Ritter in his organic Unity as the basis of study sought to explain the unity and purpose of geography from the perspective of a man. So, Ritter's geography is anthropocentric-man focussed.
After Humboldt and Ritter, almost all geographers focused on man environment relationship in geography. The dichotomy of of physical versus Human was no longer relevant.
But Oscar Peschel was the last geographer and the last in the German School who was critical of the approaches of Humboldt and Ritter and believed physical and human geography are entirely 2 separate domains and cannot be part of one science.
Oscar Peschel also inspired George Gerland who too believe in Peschel's Idea and promoted the idea that Geography should be the study of physical phenomenon alone.
Hacaeteus and Herodotus
The first Reference to human aspects, the Study of tribes and culture was by Hacaeteus in his book "Jes Peridos" and the works of Herodotus.
Plato and Aristotle
Plato believed that man is an agent of change and is responsible for the gradual degeneration of the nature. Aristotle referred to the effect of climate on human personality.
Ibn Khaldun of the Arab geographers was among the first to talk about societies, the evolution of Civilizations, and reference to man's ability to adapt and live with nature.
In the classical phase, it was Ritter who was more assertive about the human aspects and hence his geography was called anthropocentric. His book Erkunde - The Earth was to serve as a text on the science of earth in relation to nature and the history of mankind.
Post Humboldt and Ritter, all geographers except Peschel and Gerland talked about man and the environment.
Richtofen and Hettner rejected the dichotomy of human versus physical and believed it was not possible to separate man from the environment. Richtofen and Hettners concept of regional synthesis included man environment interaction as a basis of the region's integrity.
Ratzel's cultural landscape and his 2 books anthropogeography 1 and 2 explicitly state his focus as human geography.
The same is the case of Vidal who believed natural and cultural aspects of Earth cannot be separated for the simple reason that every inhabited part of the Earth surface is transformed as a result of human habitation in accordance to the culture are the ways of life (Genre-De-Vie) which are inherited attributes in a culture.
Ratzels and Vidals concept of cultural landscape was also reflected in the works of
- Carl Sauer - the concept of the cultural landscape
- H Barrows - human ecology
- Whittlesey - a sequent occupation of total Region
Determinism vs Possibilism dichotomy
After the physical vs Human-geography dichotomy was resolved, and geography was unanimously acknowledged as man and environment relation and study of Earth as a Home of man/Women, Geography essentially became human geography primarily.
In human geography, the debates were now about what influences man's activity. Is man subject to the control of external factors? Namely external determinants of his behavior and activities (determinism) or does man have a choice to choose from various possibilities? (possibilism).
Types of determinism
- Environmental determinism
- Teliological determinism
- Historical determinism
This school of thought that asserts all human aspects and activity are controlled by external determinants. The external control can be the environment. Hence Environmental determinism.
- Aristotle talks about climate as control of the human personality.
- Ibn Khaldun talks about the environment as a factor in a civilization and a tribe's evolution through its rise and fall across history.
During the age of voyages and discoveries, most of the variations and diversity in society was explained on the basis of environmental factors. Some of the earliest French Scholars like Jean Bodin and Montesquieu believed that personality and predisposition to crime depends on climate.
They believe that every activity and every aspect of our Earth is controlled by divine destiny and divine purpose.
Plato and Aristotle believe that Earth off created for some defined purpose. Science should describe its composition the process by which it is made the purpose for which it is made it should describe its appearance. He says nature is divine.
He was a determinist. While Humboldt was an Atheist, RItter was influenced by his deep faith in Christianity. Ritter saw a divine purpose in the creation of the earth and in the way the continents were arranged and civilizations evolved.
Ritter believed Asia representing sunrise and hence the beginnings of civilizations. Africa representing noon and hence afternoon Ciesta and Slumber whereas Europe and America represent sunset and culmination of human accomplishment and modernity of the new world.
Historical Determinism (Indeterminism)
Russian school of geography rejected environmental determinism because climatic factors are not favorable and belief in environmental determinism would imply limited prospects of growth in Russia. Russian geography was heavily influenced by Marx who believed in Historical Dialectical materialism in the change of means of production and in the ownership of the modes of production. So, for Russians, all changes are a part of inevitable history and time-based changes.
Environmental determinism of Ratzel and his influences.
Paradigm phase - Environmental Determinism
Ratzel's geography is considered to be a Paradigm phase in geography. He was influenced by Darwin and Earnest Haeckel. Through his two books 'Anthropogeographie' volumes 1 and 2, talked about man and environment relation in human geography.
Anthropogeograpie volume 1 was extensively written on how physical features of earth influence human culture. Hence environmental determinism.
Political geography - Lebensraum
Ratzel's idea of determinism also includes political geography where he believed every Kingdom and state are like organisms destined to grow and expand because of the need to increase the living space - Lebensraum. It is therefore the destiny of the state to grow are else it will die. Ratzel is known to have influenced Karl Haushofer who was the political advisor of Hitler.
Influence on American ED
Ratzel heavily influenced the environmental determinism of America under Ellen Semple and Elsworth Huntington. Both are considered radical environmental determinists.
Ellen Semple was influenced by Ratzels 'Anthropogeographie' volume 1 because in volume 2 Ratzel discusses how man and his culture influencers nature.
There are many geographers who disapproved of categorizing Ratzel as an extreme radical determinist. Because the fact is even Vidal in his possibilism acknowledges having been influenced by Ratzel s volume 2 book 📚.
Ellen Semple wrote 2 books 📚
- American history and its geographical condition - 1903
- Influences of geographical climate - 1911
- The pulse of Asia - 1907
- Civilization and Climate - 1915
The pulse of Asia - 1907
In this book, Huntington discusses the violent military history of Mongols and their reputation as invaders was because of the drying up of central Asian grasslands that forced the Mongol tribesmen to venture out.
Civilization and Climate - 1915
In this book, Huntington discusses how stimulating climate of temperate latitude was responsible for better civilizational growth and development.
Freidrich Ratzel - Cultural landscape
Possibilism is a School of geography that believes that man is not mechanically controlled by the environment. The more deciding aspects in man environment relationship are the culture or the ways of life or 'Genre de Vie' which means ways of life/culture. This idea was first given by Ratzel in his book 'Anthropogeographie' - volume 2 where Ratzel discusses Cultural landscape which is the product of man having imprints on nature.
Vidal de la Blanche
But as a school of thought, possibilism was developed by Vidal de la Blanche in his book principles of human geography in 1921. Vidal is known to have acknowledged Ratzel and defined geography as the study of man-environment relationship where nature sets limits and offers possibilities that man chooses on the basis of the culture that he inherits.
Vidal's possibilism is not considered radical possibilism because for Vidal, the larger limits are set by nature and options exercized by man are only within those limits.
Vidal's ideas influenced the possibilism of America where scholars like Barrows, Carl Sauer, and Whittlesey were influenced by possibilism.
Barrow's human ecology is about how Mans culture and society and social ecology is the deciding factor in the adaptation of man with nature.
Whittlesey - sequent occupation
Whittlesey's sequent occupation is about how the environment gets reevaluated every time a new culture occupies and operates on it and the environment acquires imprints on such culture much like how Ratzel referred to the cultural landscaping as 'Palimpsest' of the historical-cultural changes.
The compromise between extreme determinism and possibilism - Stop and go determinism of Griffith Taylor
New determinism - Ratzel
New-Determinism is the environmental determinism of Ratzel. It was new because he brought in the concept of Darwinian evolution into environmental determinism. It is not the same as Neo-Determinism.
Griffith Tailor - A Compromise.
Griffith Tailor's ideas were based on a pragmatic wise compromise between extreme radical determinism and extreme Possiblism. Possiblism however was never radical because even Vidal acknowledged that the limits are set by nature and man ultimately chooses from possibilities offered by nature.
Stop and go determinism
According to Taylor man is not at the mercy of nature but at the same time man cannot wish away nature or ignore the limits of nature. Man is like a traffic light policeman who can momentarily pause the traffic and redirect traffic but cannot stop the traffic for eternity nor can make it disappear. Because of the analogy of traffic light, Taylor's idea is called the stop and go determinism.
He also said the man doesn't take fertilizers to a barren land. ie even in the choices that man exercises, nature continues to be an important determinant. His ideas are also called pragmatic determinism. Because according to Tyler there is a price for every decision that man makes.
Neo-environmentalism and sustainable development
Nature extracts a price for every interaction that man has with it. So it is wise that man does not defy the larger nature's plan and modify nature only to the extent where the price extracted is bearable. This idea became one of the bases for Neo-environmentalism and its latest form of sustainable development.