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Jack Webster: Human Geog. Concepts Draft

Here’s some things I’ve written that address some underlying philosophies of Human Geography. I am wondering whether it’s too essay-like, namely because it’s big blocks of prose? Also, I’m concerned that the philosophies I’m focusing on are a bit outdates. An alternative would be to do a wide sweep of philosophical standpoints (env. determinism, Humanism, realism, post-modernism, marxism etc.) but that would go into less depth, plus I want to save space to focus more on Migration studies. My previous draft also has loads more signposting in it, but I’m not sure whether it’s necessary so I removed those sentences.


In the next section by exploring some of its guiding philosophies and methodological debates, I would like to substantiate our understanding of the discipline of “human geography.” I will focus on two philosophies that have historically underpinned the development of the discipline, “environmental determinism” and “humanism,” as well as consider the role of “positivism” in human geography’s methodological debate. It is important to note that other more recent philosophical standpoints exist and have emerged within human geography; however, I have chosen to focus on these two because they present a foundational view of the discipline in line with the scope of this report.


Environmental Determinism

Environmental determinism is a geographical philosophy that dates back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As a philosophy it argues that humanity’s development is determined by natural conditions and external environmental factors. In this way, environmental determinism is uni-directional, where human behaviour should be explained in relation to environmental features. Two of the most cited environmental determinists include Ellen Sample, who wrote in 1911 that “Man is the product of the Earth’s surfaces,” and Ellsworth Huntington, whose book, Civilisation and Climate (1915), proceeds to explain how climate influences human settlement.



Humanism promotes a concern for individual human experience and the construction of meaning and value.  According to Cloke et. Al, emphasis is given to the way in which human beings perceive, interpret, and shape their human geography. In particular, this manifests in humanist geographer’s interest in the construction of place, the way in which ‘ordinary’ people with ‘ordinary’ lives construct and perceive spaces, places, and environments. Consequently, humanistic approaches begin to reverse the uni-directionality of environmental determinism and consider humans as geographical agents.


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