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Science, knowledge and existence: a critique of the epistemological basis of human geography in education.

White, Adrian William John.; (1992) Science, knowledge and existence: a critique of the epistemological basis of human geography in education. Doctoral thesis , Institute of Education, University of London. Green open access

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The academic recognition of human geography as a discipline of knowledge is determined by the definitional rigours of scientific criteria. The development of human geography has been largely orchestrated by the philosophical underpinnings of `normal' science. Logical positivism has prescribed the epistemological and methodological dictums of its terms of reference as well as for the meaning of rationality and social reality. The scientific paradigm otherwise validates and affirms the credibility of human geography as a social science. Many of its presumptions have been adopted from those employed in the physical and biological sciences. Empiricism and nominalism are the fundamental axioms for the investigation of socio-spatial phenomena by the 'scientific method'. Recent developments in geographic thought challenge this view. The emergence of alternative themes in human geography - namely those of structuralism and reflexivity - have appealed either to a Marxist critique of political economy or to phenomenology and existentialism in an attempt to uncover the dynamics of interaction between man and his spatial environment. The pluralistic face of human geography has not only raised a hermeneutic dilemma but also questions the acceptability of 'normal' science and the parameters which it seeks to impose. The ethos of this study is grounded in the presupposition that all the major philosophical positions which currently influence geographical research and education must initially tackle the question and purpose of human existence. Its contention is that the individual social actor cannot be objectified as an impersonal particular within the corpus of geographic inquiry. Nor can he be made subordinate to technico-scientific, ideological or philosophical contingencies. Moreover, the ontological clarification of socio-spatial relations is a necessary precondition for the formulation of an epistemological standpoint and of methodological procedure. Failing this, human geography cannot adequately explain present-day spatial problems and must either resort to some emancipatory futuristic view of 'optimistic humanism' quo, utopian idealism, or concede that pessimism and nihilism constitute the actual epistemological backcloth of its premises.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Science, knowledge and existence: a critique of the epistemological basis of human geography in education.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Human geography education,Philosophy of education,Epistemology,Philosophy of social science,Human geography
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10018842
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