Immanuel Kant Contribution to Geography Notes by NETSET CORNER

Immanuel Kant Contribution to Geography 

IMMANUEL KANT (1724-1804)

Kant was born on April 22, 1724 at Konigsberg (Kaliningrad) in East Prussia (Russia). He was the fourth child of a saddler. He freed Geography from its tight bonds with theology. His famous work are:

[i] De Igne (Ph.D thesis)

[ii] General Natural History and Theory of the Heaven (1755)

[iii] Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Anthropology from Pragmatic Point of View (1798)

Kant being a thinker and philosopher, was a theoretical geographer who was mainly interested in Physical Geography. He pointed out that there are two ways of grouping or classifying empirical phenomena for the purpose of studying them systematically. The phenomena may be classified either in accordance with nature, or in accordance with their position in time and space. The former is a logical classification and the later a physical one.

Logical Classification lays the foundation for systematic science the study of animals in Zoology, the study of plants in Botany, the study of rocks in Geology, and the study of socio-cultural and ethnic groups in Sociology. The Physical Classification gives the scientific basis for History and Geography. History studies the phenomena which follow one after the other in time (Chronological Science), while Geography studies phenomena which lie side by side in space (Chorological Science). According to Kant, History and Geography are both essential sciences, standing alongside the systematic sciences. Without them man cannot achieve a full understanding of the world.

          About the concept of space, he asserted that space is a relative view which consists of system of relations among substance, and spatial magnitude is, therefore, only a measure of intensity of acting forces exerted by the substance. He said space is not a thing or event. It is a kind of framework things and events-something like a system of pigeon-holes or filing system-for observation. Both space and time may thus be described “as a force of reference” which is not based upon experience but intuitively used in experience and properly applicable to experience.

          About the knowledge, Kant’s view were that it may be obtained either by the exercise of pure reason or through senses. Sense perceptions are of two types-those perceived by the inner senses and those by the outer senses, and together they furnish the whole of man’s empirical knowledge of the world. The world as perceived by the inner senses seels (soul) or mensch (man) i.e., the self as perceived by the outer senses in nature. According to him Anthropology studies the soul of man; Physical Geography is, thus, the first part of knowledge of the world.

Kant asserted that History differs from Geography only in the consideration of time and space. The former is the report of phenomena that follow one another and has reference to time while the later is the report of phenomena besides each other in space. History is narrative, geography is descriptive.

          Kant’s views on Geography were broadly similar to those of Humboldt and Hettner. It was Hartshorne who accepted the geography’s basic task was essentially Kantian-Geography and history are alike in that they are integrating sciences concerned with studying the world.

There is, therefore, a universal and mutual relation between them even though their bases of integration are in a sense opposite Geography in terms of earth spaces, history in terms of periods of time (Hartshorne, Nature of Geography, 1939).

According to Kant, the Earth can be studied and interpreted in the following five different ways:

[i] The Mathematical Study of the Earth- It considers the size and shape and all imaginary circles that should be applied on its surface.

[ii] Moral Geography- It deals with the customs, traditions, rituals, atttude, and quality of character of man.

[iii]) Political Geography- The relationship between natural resources, prod ucts, trade population, and government.

[iv] Commercial Geography- This branch of geography examines the reasons why certain countries have a superfluity of one commodity while others have a deficiency- condition that gives rise to international trade.

[v] Theological Geography- It studies the spatial variations in the theological problems in different environments and geographical settings.

          Thus, Kant was keenly interested in Geography and described it as a scientific system of great educational value. He asserted that Geography provides knowledge of man and the world which is of great use for private and public conservation and of great interest to traders of news-papers and politicians.

          The period of Varenius and Kart is known as the “Classical Period of Modern Geographic Thought.”


Key Poins on Immanuel Kant:

[1] I. Kant regarded as “Father of Exceptionalism”

[2] Immanuel Kant important book- ‘Critic of Pure Reason’ (1791)

[3] Kant was the first who provided an early statement of geography as chorology.


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