Philosophy and mapping

C. Perkins, R. Kitchin (Editor), N. Thrift (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


Mapping is, at once, ontological and epistemological. It creates objects, is a set of practices, and is also underpinned by ideas associated with different philosophical positions. These philosophies are complex and interwoven, their popularity changing over time and space. Most people hold the common sense view that mapping is a neutral technology describing an objective world ???out there???, but the scientific philosophies that underpin this view are mutable. Different justifications for a rational approach have been employed in Robinsonian cartography, cartographic communication, analytical cartography, behavioral and cognitive psychological approaches, visualization, representation, and realist approaches to mapping. Social-theoretical alternatives to science are also being advanced to rethink mapping. Criticaland humanistic philosophies offer new ways of thinking about the medium. Social constructivist theory, and structuralist critique informed by psychoanalysis, linguistics, and the Marxist dialectic have challenged the power of cartographic reason. Phenomenological alternatives such as esthetics, and hermeneutic approaches have also challenged scientific hegemony, while more recent post-structural approaches imagine mapping as discourse, or power-knowledge. Nonrepresentational theory has also recently challenged philosophical orthodoxies, encouraging a turn toward action, performance, affect, and relational thinking. There is little evidence yet that the contradictions between these philosophical positions will be resolved, or that change will cease.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherElsevier BV
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Philosophy and mapping'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this