Scientific Realism and Antirealism in Geography


  • Timothy Tambassi Ca' Foscari University of Venice



Philosophy of geography, Philosophy of science, Scientific antirealism, Scientific realism, Unobservable entities


The relationship between (philosophical) scientific (anti)realism and geography is still largely in need of being explored. On one side, the debate on scientific (anti)realism in philosophy of science has led to discussions in and on many scientific disciplines, the list of which rarely includes geographical sciences. On the other side, the geographical debate has outlined its own version of scientific (anti)realism, paying little attention to the literature in philosophy of science. This paper focuses on the geographical literature, with the aim of: 1) showing whether and how the geographical debate is committed to one of the main topics of philosophical scientific (anti)realism, that is: the existence of unobservable theoretical entities; 2) examining the reason(s) why philosophical scientific (anti)realism has been theoretically neglected by geographers. Sect. 2 provides the philosophical framework of our investigation, a framework that, in Sects. 3-6, is used to examine prominent examples from the geographical debate that are explicitly related to ontological analysis. Sect. 7 identifies four different reasons why philosophical scientific (anti)realism remains little discussed in geography. Sect. 8, finally, provides some guidelines to enhance communication between geography and philosophy of science on the topic of scientific (anti)realism.