The ‘smugness’ of geographers: dismantling the caricatures of philosophies in human and physical geography

Rob Inkpen

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Caricatures of physical and human geographers are both very smug; one in their belief that they have direct and practical contact with reality, the other in the belief that their range of philosophical approaches provides a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of reality. Breaking down these caricatures is essential to configuring Geography as a discipline with something important to say about environmental issues facing humanity. A key role for any textbook on the philosophy of Physical Geography is to start to dismantle these caricatures. The textbook needs to make problematic what seems obvious; it needs to question traditional approaches, the unspoken ‘canons’, on which understanding is built. Engaging physical geographers with the philosophical side needs to be done in terms that are of immediate interest, particularly through the discussion of the practice of the subject. Understanding how practising Physical Geography is an inherently philosophical enterprise will help physical geographers understand the potential of philosophy to improve their understanding of their methods and results as well as the nature of their contact with physical reality.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date9 Dec 2017
Publication statusEarly online - 9 Dec 2017


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