Human Geography, Interactive Study Questions: Chapter 02

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1. How does the philosophical debate of determinism versus free will appear in the discipline of human geography?

The idea of determinism was incorporated into geography in the form of environmental determinism, which is the idea that the physical environment determines human actions and the development of culture and other societal processes. This approach was commonly incorporated into regional geography until about the 1950s. The idea of free will appears in humanist geography through the employment of the philosophy of existentialism, which stresses that people are responsible for making their own nature and decisions, thereby affecting their environments and landscapes.

2. How do the philosophical constructs of empiricism and positivism relate to the concepts used and approaches taken by human geographers?

Empiricism is the philosophy that knowledge results from experience, and hence measurement. Empiricism thus relates to approaches such as cartography and spatially-indexed information in remote sensing and GIS. Empiricism also underlies the human geography concept of location and definitions of site and situation, as well as the concepts of distance and diffusion. Positivism is a philosophy that underlies the scientific method. A combination of empiricism and positivism underlie quantitative approaches and methods.

3. How do the philosophical constructs of humanism and Marxism relate to the concepts used and approaches taken by human geographers?

Humanism is the philosophy that knowledge is subjective and shaped by the individual. Humanists use concepts of place to denote values and feelings associated with a location. They examine regions through culture and feelings, and also examine perceptions of environments. Humanist geographers typically employ qualitative techniques for study. Marxist geographers understand the process of social and economic change through economic structures, such as capitalism. Marxism is expressed through geography in a variety of ways, but tends to be critical of positivist approaches. Marxist geography addresses concepts such as place, region, distance, diffusion, perception, development, discourse, and globalization. Marxist geographers would also typically employ qualitative techniques for study.

4. How can maps be considered both communication and analytic tools?

Maps are used to manage spatial data and describe the location of facts. Hence, maps are communication tools of location, situation, and distance. Maps are useful as analytical tools through their description of relative locations, and the ability to use isopleths and chloropleths to interpret similar phenomena or density, respectively. Maps can also be used as tools to define research questions.

5. What contemporary techniques are used to map phenomena?

Remote sensing, which is the gathering of spatially referenced data and geographic information systems (GIS), which stores, displays, analyses, and maps spatially referenced data, are both contemporary techniques used to map phenomena.